Excited to be 3-0. It was good to go on the road, get a win, play the way we did. Really proud of the focus of our team, the leadership of our team, the way they approached the trip to Tampa against South Florida, a team that forced nine turnovers in two games.
We took care of the football. We were able to control the line of scrimmage. Offensively the 300 plus yards rushing. Defensively holding them to 70 yards. They had a running back that was averaging over 200 a game. That was a good performance on both sides.
Need to get better in the kicking game. Felt like we didn't put our best out there, particularly on our punt return unit. Need to be better there.
But I was proud of the outcome of the game, the focus of the players. Come home for our last non-conference game this week against Presbyterian who had a big win. A team that runs the football very well, well-coached football team. Get ready for a very heavy Florida State, Clemson back-to-back after this week. We know this is a week to stay focused and work on the details that we need to work on before we get into that slate.
Just looking at the progression of your defense, after two weeks of giving up big yardage against an option team and passing team, to come back and play such a dominant game, what changed in that equation?
Well, in the first game, aside from six plays, we held a team that is averaging 530 yards a game right now, we held them to 2.5 yards per play. After the first game I thought we need to get these big plays off the film. There were six plays that amassed 200 yards. That was the disappointing part of game one for the defense.
In game two it was the opposite. We didn't tackle well the entire game until the fourth quarter. Doesn't matter what kind of team you're playing, you have to be able to have that fundamental be a part of what you do.
It was embarrassing. The guys did a great job of locking back in and focusing. We're young. I think it was a huge learning game for a lot of young players. The way you practice is the way you play. They got to chase the ball, get there, have bent knees, play with good angles.
We were over-running the football a lot in that football game. Just felt like we locked back in. That's part of being freshmen and sophomores. We're playing 51 of them. Just teaching those guys the lessons. Sometimes you have to learn it on game day.
Last year you had a tough start, injuries had a lot to do with it. Things didn't go well. The season got away from you. You had one close call, but got it going. You're 3-0. What is the difference in terms of building the season based on that?
There's a lot of differences between this team and last year's team. It's a different year.
We have a quarterback that's completing 70% of his passes. We have three running backs averaging five yards a carry. Been playing with the same offensive line for three weeks. We couldn't say any of those things last year about our offense. So there's a lot of improvement.
Some of it is because of health. Some of it is because we recruited well, have competition, more talent. Some of it is just because in the off-season our guys really worked hard and got better.
All those things are a part of the equation. I think year two with the staff helps for the players. They know the system better.
What we went through, everyone wants to talk about it, but it made us better. It made us tougher. It made us more resolved. It made our off-season very focused. Sometimes you have to go through tough things to get where you want to be. I inherited a team that didn't have a lot of talent, we had a lot of injuries. We had to overcome that. The off-season was really good for that.
We have to keep working. We're a long, long ways from being a great football team. A long ways. I'm happy to be 3-0, but we have a lot in front of us here that's big.
A lot of times coaches are well ahead of the rest of us because you see your team every day in practice. Who are some of your defensive players that are beginning to come on for you and provide you the kind of play you've been looking for?
Rodman Noel, linebacker, has been playing well for us. Jack Tocho, one of our corners has had three solid games in a row. Hakim Jones, a free safety. Those three guys have been very steady. Art Norman at defensive end, a well-known name.
Kentavius Street is getting better. He's a guy starting to play fast from practice. Pharoah McKever is another young guy that has started to make some plays for us.
Cherry seems to have a lot of versatility carrying the ball and as a receiver. Can you discuss what he gives you in terms of flexibility.
Bra'Lon is a good ball carrier. He's a good athlete. You get the ball in the hands of your players, let him make plays in space.
He came in here around 169 pounds. He's about 195. He's able to run through people. He's playing with confidence. He's been a benefactor of some good play calling, too.
We handed the jet off to him Saturday one time and nobody touched him for 20 yards. He did his job. The guys blocking for him did a really good job.
The scheme right now with the quarterback throwing it well, the running backs playing downhill, those jets are difficult. You have to kind of pick your poison at time. Bra'Lon has taken some advantage of some opportunities.
Bo Hines is a true freshman. I know you had him in spring practice. Talk about how he's coming along, what you see from him.
He's just really consistent. Bo runs good routes, has sure hands, plays hard, is where he's supposed to be. It's nice to have a guy like that. He's always going to be where he's supposed to be and he catches the ball well.
After the catch, he's not super fast, but he's fast enough. He runs away from some people just because of his stamina and how hard he plays.
It's nice to have some consistent ball catchers.