In the middle of the bye week last week we had a chance to get some guys healthy and I'm really excited the ACC moved this game to the end of the year. It's great for the rivalry, and it's a great rivalry.
I think the distance between the two schools makes it special, and I've been in a lot of these kind of games, and they are always heated. Regardless of the team's records, these kind of games are going to be huge games for both schools.
They are coming off a big win at Duke and are very explosive on offense... top three in almost every ACC statistic on offense. They are doing some nice things on special teams as well. It's a big challenge for our football team... 104th meeting and anytime you're in a game like this, as a coach it's a pleasure to be in something that's bigger than us.
We've had a great week. Some guys have got healthy. Kentavius [Street] was able to go yesterday, and we were happy to have him out there running around. Jarvis [Byrd] is still questionable, and Alex Barr is possible. Hopefully we'll have him back, we should know more tomorrow.
When you play a game like this there are a lot of motivating factors. I know our guys are excited. I'm sure they are too. There's a lot at stake... both of us are bowl eligible, but you're playing for an opportunity to maybe move up to which bowl you'll be in.
Excited about the opportunity and challenge and look forward to being on the field with these guys on Saturday.
At the end of the day, how different is 6-6 from 7-5?
I don't know. I'm not sure. Obviously beating them makes the seventh win pretty special, but our goal is to get into a bowl game and win the bowl. One of our goals was to beat everybody we play in-state, and that's another part of what this is.
The key is getting these extra practices and building on what we've done so far, from last year to this year.
Obviously, who wouldn't want to have seven instead of six, right? But, it doesn't define the improvement we've made. I think it will definitely help, as far as the rivalry goes, for us.
After the game last year, that's as much as we've seen from you, in terms of anger. Do you try to remind them of how last year's game ended?
Like I said, there are a lot of motivating factors. That's one of them, for sure. There's a lot of motivating factors when you're playing a rival.
As coaches we're always looking for things to talk to our players about from a motivational standpoint, and that's not one you really have to mention. The pictures say it all, and there's been plenty of those, thanks to you guys in the media. The guys have seen them.
Hakim [Jones] was in here and said that if you hit Marquise Williams a few times he hesitates, and basically almost quits.
Hopefully Hakim brings it then.
It's rivalry week. Things are going to be said. I'm sure both sides are going to have comments, and I'm not really worried about that.
I think Marquise is a really good football player. He's one of the best quarterbacks that we have faced, and he's doing a lot of things well. He has some good weapons around him, and he put them on his back last week. I know he turned the ball over a lot, but he made a lot of big plays in their game.
He's a good football player, and we're going to have to hit him, and hit him, and hit him if we want to get him down because he's a big guy that runs hard. They do a lot in the quarterback-run game with extra blockers for him. He's a good football player and they do a lot of things to make him a big part of what they are doing in the run game.
Is there a belief you can't do that two weeks in a row, what North Carolina did last week?
I don't know. I understand where you're coming from, but I wouldn't expect an emotional let-down in this game from them. If it happens, it happens, but I wouldn't anticipate it.
I know there is no love-lost between these two schools, and our players and their players want to equally beat each other.
Special teams have played a role recently in this series. Have you stressed how that can be a deciding factor?
Well there are three phases in the game, and they are all really important. In our two conference wins this year we played really well on special teams. In those two games they were a big part of our field position.
They have a dynamic returner in [Ryan] Switzer. He's a guy you have to be worried about and our punter is really, really good. He has to be a weapon for us in this football game.
We have to do a great job covering, and so do they. I know that Dakwa Nichols hasn't broke out yet, but he's a dynamic runner back there for us as well, and I'm excited to get him a hole on our kickoff return. They do some good stuff on their kickoffs, guys looping... they play hard.
It will be a huge part of the game, no doubt.
Did T.J. Logan playing well against Duke change your preparation?
You are never going to ignore the running back. You have to be gap-sound on all of their plays they have. They do a lot of things that are read-plays so if you are chasing, you are going to get the quarterback keeping and if you are sitting then you are going to get the back. There are a lot of plays where who gets the ball is based on how you defend it.
We are very aware of T.J. Logan and he was a great high school player as well. A lot of our players know him. He is a good football player. Whether it is him or Marquise, they have got good weapons around the field and they hand the ball off to Switzer on the jets. He gets his hands on the ball quite a bit too.
What do you make of the UNC defense?
They had a good game against Duke, there is no doubt. For us that is really what you look at. There is a team--how have they improved or not improved and where do you find weaknesses? Are they fixing their problems? I know that they've been ripped a lot in the papers this year defensively. You can see that their coaches and their kids did not quit. They had a heck of a game last week.
They do have good personnel and they play hard. They tackled well. In the game against Duke, they were able to create three turnovers in the first half, which I think built some confidence in what they were trying to do last week. For us, it is about starting fast and maintaining it throughout the game.
I do think we can run the football effectively against anyone we play. We've shown that and that is going to, if we can get our balance, that will be a big part of our success if we have some against their defense.
Have the freshmen that have played this season matched or succeeded your expectations?
I didn't really have a goal written down on how well they would play. I was just hoping the ones that we did play would continue to improve. You hate to play a guy and you get into game three or four and figure out he is not ready. I don't think that has happened. I think our freshmen that have played this season have gotten better.
B.J. Hill, Kentavius [Street], Bo Hines, Steph[on] Louis... you see these guys getting better and better in the games. We have had a lot of production from that class. In a couple of years, these guys are going to have 10 extra games experience for them, which is big.
So at the end of the year, the biggest thing that I am pleased about is the steady improvement we have gotten from those guys and how they've handled it, because it is a lot for an 18-year old guy. It is a lot to play in that many games. To have the role that some of them have is pretty impressive.
How do you get your guys ready for the UNC offense?
They have a lot of plays and they do a good job of checking into things based on looks. And then, obviously, they have the ability to go up-tempo. The biggest thing with any offense is that it starts with your O-line and your quarterback. You see both of those--particularly their quarterback--is playing very well. They are balanced and they have got big targets, three guys that are over 6'4" at receiver. You have got a slot receiver in Switzer and you have got a rotation at tailback, so [Williams] has weapons.
Systematically, it is not much different than some of the other teams we have faced, it is just that he has got really good people in those spots are him and he is playing really well at quarterback. So, it is a challenge. They're scoring 39 points-a-game for a reason. They do some good things on offense.