Had a good week with the guys last week in our bye week. Had a really great chance to go back and look at our first six games, good and bad, and talk a lot as a staff, talk a lot with our players, get some guys healthy that we needed to get healthy.
We've had a great weather week here so been able to be outside and get a lot of good work done in our preparation for our rivalry game with Wake, a game that I know has been mentioned has been lopsided as far as home and away teams, and obviously I know both teams are out to get a win this week. It'll be a hard-fought game, and look forward to going down there and playing in it.
With that, any questions?
Even after the blowout win by the Heels over the Deacons last week, the Deacs still rank in the top 30 in total defense. What is your primary concern going into this game in regard to the Deacs' defense?
Well, you know, they're very sound. I think their kids understand the system and they play hard. They don't beat themselves.
You've got to earn what you get against them, and obviously UNC was able to have some explosive plays that against any defense is going to hurt you, and so in our game last year we were able to get a few explosive plays and we were able to run the football.
Obviously for us it's turnover margin is a big deal when you're playing against any defense that you respect. But I think Coach Cohan, their defensive coordinator, does a really nice job, and they're in the second year in the system, so you can see the growth of their players. But they are a very sound defense that plays hard.
And also, up to the point of his ankle injury in the third quarter, quarterback John Wolford looked pretty impressive against the Heels. I do realize you're preparing for both just in case Wolford is not able to play Saturday, but what are your thoughts about his play so far this season?
Well, I mean, similar to what I just said, second year in the system, he's playing with more confidence. I think he gets the ball out of his hand quick and distributes it to the right person. They have a lot of run-pass type plays where the running backs are running a run and the receivers are running routes and he can choose off a leverage what he's going to do and I think he understands what they want from him.
He's got good enough agility to make some plays on his feet. They do a good job schematically spreading you out and using some jets and misdirection. I think any time you have a second year player at quarterback, you're going to see growth, and that's what you're seeing.
How important is the bye week, not just from a physical standpoint of correcting mistakes, but as an ability to reset, as you guys get the guys thinking positive again after two straight losses?
I think any time you have a bye week, it's a key week for your guys. Any time you have a bye, whether it's a buy after a win or a loss, the accumulation of reps, the guys started up here in August and it's a long grind for them, not just the physical part of it but the mental pressure that goes into the game and the competition and the academic load for some of them. You know, they're freshmen or sophomores and it's just new, going through that much at one time, so a lot of that, being able to decompress a little bit and giving them some time to kind of catch up and get some rest. I think it's really important. Whether you're winning or losing it's a big deal.
For us physically, we had some guys on offense in particular that really needed to heal, so it was an important week for them. We're not 100 percent healthy, but we're more than we've been in a while.
I asked Coach Clawson about rivalry in the sense that Wake is one of the two in-state teams that you play every year. Just how significant or different is it in a rivalry game?
Well, I think, you know, the bragging rights that are involved in any of those games are important for your fans, for your administration, obviously for your players and your coaches in recruiting. I think not to make too big of a deal of it.
I think sometimes that goes against your focus. We obviously are going to talk about our opponent. We're going to stress the things that we need to stress, and I do believe in talking about the history of match-ups and how much of a privilege it is to play in a game that's been around 109 years. I think that's important to talk about.
I've been in programs where they make the rivalry game such a big deal that the guys play tight, and that's not what we're going to do. We've never done that, and every game for us when you're trying to develop your program and get to bowl games is an important game.
And I also -- you mentioned it but I have to ask again, the deal with the home-road split in this series, it just seems so bizarre --
Because these are snake pits that you've got to go into, and you're going to have a lot of your fans there Saturday. I mean, is there any reason that you guys have dominated them in Raleigh and they've dominated you in Winston?
You know, I don't know. I'm sure Dave said the same thing. I've only been involved in two of the games out of 107 that have been played.
I know when we went down there in year one we had a lot of mistakes. We had a lot of penalties. We turned the ball over. We were pretty beat up at that time of year, and they played well. Last year was kind of the opposite...I thought we were explosive, we were physical. I think any time you're playing a game, home or away, it comes down to your focus, and for whatever reason, the last 12 years the home team has had better focus.
We've got to get back to being a great focus team on the road, which we've been able to do most of the time here in the last 10 games, but last week or two weeks ago, obviously we lost focus in the second quarter. For us to turn the tide on the deal, it's going to be about execution and making more plays than they do.
Their top receiver has been their tight end. Defending a team like that, he's been the top receiving tight end in the league, how difficult is it defensively to take that away as opposed to a wide receiver?
You know, just kind of depends on what they're doing. I mean, some of the catches are -- they're doing a good job with rub routes on man-to-man. He is looked for.
He is featured, and he's a big part of their passing game on 3rd down and in the red zone. You need to know where he is. You need to recognize splits and formations and you've got to play aggressive coverage. You've got to have a good pass rush, obviously, and those underneath rows hands up by your front.
But if you're going to look at a guy as much as they look at him, he's going to make some plays. You've just got to limit what happens after the catch and try and do a good job playing aggressive coverage with him.