We’re excited to come home from a great road win for our team against a very opportunistic defense. We knew that taking the ball away for us defensively and protecting it against them offensively would be the key to win that game.
Our key to victory was turnover margin and rushing offense versus rushing defense, and when you break those two things down we had three takeaways in the football game which were huge- one of them for a touchdown and we held them to 38 yards rushing to 37 carries. They averaged .24 yards on first down running the football, and when you do that defensively it helps you immensely offensively with your third down success and its an area we have struggled. Out of the 16 attempts they converted on six of them, two of them were pass interference calls.
We’re proud of our rushing defense and proud of our takeaways and proud of our offense protecting the ball. Last year they ran for 300 yards on us and it shows the improvement we are making. I think our defensive line played really well in this football game; I was really impressed not just with when we played base but the way those guys got off of blocks, and the way that they were disruptive with the linemen. We had 21 tackles in their backfield when our goal was 10 or more so to get 21, with eight sacks was a great performance by our front. When we added backers and nickels they were disruptive as well.
I was proud of our coverage from a soundness standpoint. They had some gadget plays and reverse passes and double move passes but we were in a really good position. We have to find a way to play a fade ball better at corner- that’s one area of emphasis we’ve had and continue to have. Offensively we were downhill in the run game and ran the ball effectively. We will continue to find more ways to get more chunk yardage- that’s one area we need to get back to. We’ve had success in some of the earlier games and against Louisville and Florida State but we did not in this past game.
Our red zone defense continues to improve. We're in the top four in the league there, and that’s probably the best thing with the disruption that we are doing right now. Our third down defense was better... Pharoah (McKever), Art (Norman), B.J. (Hill), Mike (Rose), and Thomas Teal is playing his best football I’ve seen from him. Josh Jones played a solid game and Dravious (Wright) played his best game.
The most outstanding performers though were our punter and kicker- I’m really proud of them.
It was fun to get that win on the road, its an ACC division win and hasn’t been something that has happened a lot in the program and something we want to build towards a championship as a program and the ability take what you do and go on the road and play discipline football- play physical, play good special teams and stop the run on defense. We would love to score more points but the offense scored when we needed to and protected us from field position and turnovers. I’m proud of everybody it was a team win and we get to come home for homecoming and play against a great Georgia Tech team.
Georgia Tech on offense is explosive and very good; they’re the No. 2 scoring offense in the league and No. 1 on rushing offense, total offense and pass efficiency offense, turnover margin, time of possession, and their quarterback leads the whole thing. Justin Thomas is a really good player, averaging 5.3 yards a carry. Their fullbacks are their next leading rushers, so we have to stop them. They have two big receivers; they’re averaging 19.8 per catch combined, which leads the country in yards per catch. Our defense has a huge challenge in this game, and our offense needs to step up and help us this week. Defensively when you can steal possessions, turnovers are huge against a triple option team.
If you can get a couple of extra possessions with some takeways and some special teams plays that would be a big part of this if we can pull it off.
On Pharoah McKever at Syracuse after suspension:
I think everyone has had an issue in college and if you were punished for it you probably learned from it. That’s a part of going college, you go from being a young man to a man. Those guys made a mistake, they paid for it and they were really embarrassed. I told them during the off week to help the football team on the scout team and they all did. They came back and I told them they owe this team with their play and a lot of those guys did. A lot of those guys made plays in this game to help us win.
We’re past it now and as far as Pharoah’s role in the game, he had a really good two weeks of practice during the bye week. He hadn’t been getting a lot of work because some of the teams we were playing he was struggling against their offensive tackles. He’s still getting stronger and getting used to playing in the field and as we move to be of more and more pressure.
I told Coach Nielsen I wanted him to play more and if he makes mistakes he can blame it on me because he’s going to make mistakes... Art, Mike and those guys are going to be more error-free because they’ve played more football.
Pharoah makes a lot of plays at practice and he scored three or four times on our scout team at practice last week on similar type plays. So I called him Wednesday night and I told him he was going to be playing more. He was at the library studying, and said he was excited about it and that he had my back. I’m happy that he played the way he did.
On getting ACC win for team confidence:
There’s no doubt that when you win everything feels better. I think the fact that it was a road win is something that gains momentum for the future of the program, and the fact that it was a win period gets you one step close to bowl eligibility. The conversation of an ACC win also dissipates and is now one less thing they have to hear or talk about.
There are a lot of positives to it and the best thing about it in my opinion was how much of a team win it was. The defense did a great job of keeping the team in the game, the special teams did a great job of helping the defense with field position and the offense scored and didn’t turn the ball over. Together there are a lot of great collective things that we can take from that football game.
On running backs getting touches:
They all want the ball more but I think now they’re all a little beat up and they appreciate what we’re doing. They just want to win and that’s the biggest part of it. You have more, “I want it more,” when you lose probably than you do when you win. I think its just trying to use the skill sets of our guys the best we can and keep them healthy and you’re seeing a lot more two-back formations with those guys in the game because of that.
On scout team this week simulating Georgia Tech:
Its impossible to simulate it; were going to give the looks the best we can but you can’t simulate the speed the looks come at you and we’re not going to go out there and cut our guys for three days and get them beat up going into the game either.
You have to practice the fundamentals of defeating the cut block and you have to play the blocks as enough but you can’t hurt your players either getting ready for a game like this. It’s difficult and the biggest thing you worry about is the transition of the first quarter of how fast the stuff comes at your guys. Most teams you see struggle early and then settle in and if you can find a way to start fast against a team like this it changes the whole complex of the game.
On Wil Baumann:
I credit his work ethic. He really struggled last year on pooch punts; he wasn’t Aussie style kicking the pooch end-over-end.
It's something our kicker had done at NIU and I asked him to research it in the off-season and see if he could do it. He talked to several guys that do it and practice it, he did it all spring and summer and he has really become good at it.
So I really credit him for working on his game and his craft and it’s made him a more complete player. He’s really driving the ball when we need him to and he’s using his touch. He had a tremendous football game Saturday and that the best I’ve seen from a punter in a long time.
On efficiency of offense:
I think you know that your possessions are so precious on offense- you can’t go three and out and you can’t turn the ball over, and if you find a way to steal a possession or two and takeaways their special teams plays then you really have a chance to do something. Turnovers that you force in this game are so big and turnovers you get back are killer.
The offense knows this and the pace they play at is important too. I think that’s the reason we have been able to huddle and then no huddle and change tempos because if our defense is out there for a 14 play drive we can’t go three and out in 30 seconds. At the same time though they’re not practicing against a fast paced offense like ours so we have to use that tool when we can and at the same time be conscious our defensive kids have been on the field.
On defensive differences from Old Dominion to last two games:
Disruption in the backfield is the biggest difference. There was a lot more pressure in Louisville and Syracuse’s backfield and that’s helps our coverage immensely. We still struggled on a couple of fades but overall we’ve defended the pass better and have a lot more disruption in those two games.
Coach Huxtable and his staff have done a nice job of looking at what we’re not doing well and it comes down to tackling. When we’ve tackled well and have created disruption in the backfield we’ve played pretty good defense. We’ve gotten a lot better in the last two weeks.
On learning form Georgia Southern game:
It’s totally different blocking schemes- Georgia Southern is zone blocking and blocking power schemes and their lineman are on their feet. These guys (Georgia Tech) are scramble blocking and cut blocking.
There are a lot of differences but both of them are option that’s the same. Being able to get off of blocks and add players to the ball is similar for both.
Georgia Southern is a very difficult football team to defend and so are these guys. Nobody has stopped Georgia Tech so we have a great challenge this week, and I cant wait to play them.
As a former defensive coach, playing these offenses really test you. It’s very difficult but its also very rewarding when you stop a team like this if you can make that happen. So were really excited about the opportunity to go up against them.
Thoughts on upcoming games:
On Sunday we talked about what’s ahead- we have homecoming, which is an important weekend for our university, and follow that up with an in-state game with Wake Forest and get a bye week and then play our rivals.
So there are three really important and meaningful games coming up and if we can just continue to get better each week; that’s the focus of what we need to do and if we do that I think we can win any game. We’ll worry about the last two after we get through this one though.
On T.Y. McGill:
He is playing this week, he’s back with us and as far as where he is we’ll see him practice with B.J. Hill and Thomas Teal. They are playing really well and it helps a lot to get him back because Monty is still banged up.
So getting him back in the rotation will help us a lot on defensive tackle.