Excited to be home, playing Syracuse, military appreciation day here, and we'll have a lot of military in attendance, and an important day for our program to honor what we consider to be a major part of our state, with Camp Lejeune and Ford Bragg being in the state of North Carolina, it's a really great opportunity for us to play for them, and excited to have a chance to be back in Carter-Finley.
Six of our last eight have been on the road, so we get two whole games back to back, which we haven't had since September.
So excited for that opportunity to finish our season here and have a great opponent that we'll have to play this week, came off a tough loss to a really good Clemson team, obviously, but I thought Syracuse really played well last week and presented a lot of challenges to their defense with their option game, and their quarterback Mahoney had a heck of a game and a lot of explosive plays in the run game.
We'll have our challenges defending their offense, and offensively for us, you know, we need to be able to get back to being balanced like we've been but having more explosive plays, which the previous four games we've been able to have which had helped our scoring offense. So we need to get back into that mode and look forward to the challenge of playing Syracuse.
I just heard your opening statement in reference to Zack Mahoney. Can you go into exactly what concerns you about Mahoney coming into this ballgame?
Well, I mean, he's played in an LSU game and a Clemson game against two really good defenses and played well, played confident on the arena and the stage that he was put into as a third string quarterback didn't faze him.
He made a lot of big plays. He had a scramble for about a 40 yard run, he had a couple option runs for touchdowns. He doesn't look like a guy that's been sitting on the bench for most of the season, and he's athletic and understands how to run their system.
You can see that. There's a lot of reads that go into the triple, not that they're running the triple the whole game, but when they do he's got to read it in and sometimes he's got to read the next man in coverage, so you're going from a dive read to a pitch read, and you can see that he does it pretty well.
Their backs along with him complement him. They have a lot of explosive runs against Clemson, and everybody knows how good their team speed is.
I wanted to follow up on Mahoney. It seems like when he's in there they run for option, more triple option type stuff. Is that correct?
Well, he's only been in there for one full game, so going off of last week, you would say yes. I just don't know with one game's worth of four quarters of film if that's what we're going to see, but basing the Clemson game on his only full game, you'd have to answer that yes.
My thought was that -- I mean, coaches talk about how difficult it is to prepare for the option with one week. Is that the case here, or is it just a normal preparation week?
No, I mean, it's different.
You can't have as many pressures. You've got to play more base defense. They're not running Georgia Tech's offense where you're getting all the fullback dives and everybody cutting everybody and all that. But there's a lot of elements to triple option that come out of the same family, where there's a dive, there's the quarterback and there's the pitch, and sometimes they're leading up on your pitch player.
You've got to do a really good job of playing fundamental football and tackling in space.
I wanted to ask you about special teams. It seems like some of the best return guys in the ACC are going to be in this game. Can you talk about that element of the game and how important that's going to be?
Yeah, I mean, the field position that comes out of those units and the momentum, it's a wide-open exchange of field position on the special teams play.
You're getting to see the number one kick returner with Nyheim Hines against the No. 1 punt returner for them with Brisly, and then Cherry being second or third in the league in punt returns. It's going to be a big deal, who can have better coverage, better kicks, better hang time and who's block -- the return units are going to be better at springing those guys. That's going to be a big part of the game.
Could you talk a little bit about your linebacker Airius Moore, he's ranked high statistically particularly within conference games?
Yeah, he's an active linebacker that can do a lot of things. He's very explosive. He's a good dogger, a blitzer. He sees things quickly and reacts. He's not a guy that waits around to figure out the play. He makes very quick decisions, and he's really strong, so he can get off a lineman.
One of the things when you're a short linebacker, you've got to be able to take advantage of that by playing with good pad level and getting under pads, and he does that. He really brings a pop with him.
How tall is he exactly?
He's probably 5'10".
Is he the kind of guy that you look at and say, well, I'm not sure he can be a linebacker or do you just wait and see how he produces for you?
No, we recruited him to play linebacker, and that's what he's doing. He's done a great job.