Going back to the win we had over wake this weekend, it was a great moment for our senior class. I felt like all three phases came out and played well. Defensively had seven three-and-outs in the first nine drives and held them to 50 yards rushing on the day. Offensively we were able to average 7.9 yards a carry and go over 350 yards in rushing, didn't turn the football over. Our punt team did extremely well. Wil Baumann had a great day for us, a lot of big hits in on coverage units. Dakwa Nichols had a couple really nice hits.
It's always an honor as a coach to send your seniors out with a victory the way we did, and it gives us great momentum going into a bye week as we get ready for our rival.
Look forward to going to Chapel Hill to play that game in two weeks, and on Jarvis, just really proud and thankful that someone recognized what he's done with the three ACLs. With that, I'll open it up.
Looking from last season and the struggles there to this season and being bowl eligible, you brought up the seniors and how happy you are for them. Just talk about what growth you've seen on the team in a year's time.
Well, we're scoring more points, we're running the ball more effectively, and we're playing a lot of young guys that have improved throughout the course of the year. We're playing very sound on our special teams, and I think that's been consistent throughout the season and need to stay that way, and field position football has been good for us.
But this last year it was hard to find a rhythm of the number of injuries that we had, and the rotations that took place throughout the year at certain position groups, the O-line, the quarterback, and we've been able to stay away from having that type of problem, and that helps for any football team. I think we're another year into our strength and conditioning program, and we've been a better four-quarter football team. Last year we were able to stay in a lot of games and not finish games in the fourth, whereas this year we've been able to get into close games and put them away.
So just a lot of growth in a lot of areas. I think also just having the second year with the staff, with the players, the terminology and all those things is a lot easier for them in year two than it is in year one.
When you look at the seniors, I know that you had talked about it before, just what they've meant to you and going back to your time-- you're going to finish the regular season on the road, but just what the senior class has meant and how you felt that senior day went and obviously the victory and what it means for them. Just go off of that and really look to them and speak on them a little bit.
You know, it means a lot. These guys obviously weren't recruited by me, so it's hard when you're going to a school to play for one coach and then you finish your career for another, and I thank them for buying into the program and being good leaders, and not only leading but some of them are just playing great football.
And senior day, we had Tony Creecy had a great run and scored a touchdown, and Bryan Underwood had a huge reverse to open the second half and scored a touchdown, Thomas Teal continues to play well, Art Norman, and just you go down the list and you see seniors playing their best football for us, and T.Y. McGill had a good game. It means a lot to see your seniors play their best and to see them happy on senior day and excited about an opportunity for a seventh win against a rival.
Have you ever had an open date this late in the season?
I don't know if I have. I'd have to go back and look. It's been a while.
Well, obviously it helps physically, I mean, I'm sure this time of year you're like everybody else, you've got a lot of banged-up guys, but aside from the physical aspect of it, is it good that you've got an extra week to prepare for North Carolina or does it break the momentum of the team?
Yeah, well, I think it's good to have extra time for anybody. I think that all coaches will tell you that they would welcome extra days to not only prepare but to kind of mentally just hit the button and reset and take some of the pressure off of the kids, where we were able to give them a couple extra days to catch up academically and meet with their teachers. They're only in their last three weeks of the academic semester, so there's a lot of final things finishing up for them in the classroom.
I do think it's good for them that way, for the coaching staff. For us it's weird just because we had one in week nine, and then we're having another one here in week 12. Back to back the way they are, usually you'd like to have more separation in your bye weeks, but for us, we'll welcome any one we can get any time of the year, and this one gives us a chance to watch Carolina play Duke tomorrow night and get a couple extra days of practice in before we get into that week.
You mentioned that Jarvis had three ACL surgeries.
Have you ever been around a player who's had that many, and how has he coped with that and gotten himself back on the field?
Well, it's a testament to his mental toughness and his desire to play the game that he loves. No, I have not, to answer your question. I've had kids with two, and that's actually pretty common.
A lot of kids that have one on their left will end up having one on their right. Sometimes you're just built that way. But the third tear is very uncommon, particularly to see a guy come back from it. It's a testament to his rehab, to our doctors, and to his mental toughness because a lot of guys wouldn't do it.
It just says a lot about his character and his upbringing and how he fights through everything, and I think he takes things the way he should. He doesn't take them for granted. He really respects the game and loves the game.
How much has he been able to contribute this year?
More off the field with leadership than on the field, just because of the soreness that he deals with, but early in the year he gave us some really valuable snaps, and as the weather gets colder, obviously that's harder on a guy's knee. I'm hopeful. He had a sprained ankle coming out of Georgia Tech, and I'm hopeful he'll be back for this one, because I know it's important to him to be on the field against Carolina.
I just want to follow up, in terms of building this program, how important is getting to a bowl in your second year as far as accomplishing what you want long-term?
It's critical. You know, I think it may be more so for us than others because of our youth, just getting those guys that extra 15 practices to develop. We're going to get two spring balls now for our red-shirt freshmen and our freshmen that are playing.
That is so big when you talk about their development, and they're going to get so many more repetitions. It's in the thousands, when you talk about how many practice reps you're going to get in 15 practices. It's in the thousands.
Those are reps that we desperately need. I think from a recruiting standpoint, it shows all recruits the progress that we're making, and when they're trying to choose us over maybe an established team, that's important, because everybody wants to play for a winning team, and they know my history and that I've built programs and been a winner, but I can say it all I want.
It's still about is it happening, and it is, and the way it's happening I think is important, too, because we played a dominant performance I think last week, and they can see all three phases getting better. It's not just one side, and that's huge, when you're talking about offense, defense and special teams recruiting.
How long after you got to Raleigh did you learn what the UNC game meant to your fan base?
Day one. Day one. Opening press conference that was one of the greetings I got was, Coach, I can't tell you how excited I am you're here, and by the way, beat UNC, and that was one of the first handshakes I had.
I get it, and I've been fortunate to be in some big rivalries, being at USC against UCLA, being at Wisconsin against Minnesota, the Kansas-Missouri Civil War goes way back, and even Montana-Montana State. They were all huge things to those states and those universities, and this one is no different.