Excited for a lot of reasons. It's Senior Day, which we have ten seniors that are very deserving of everything that we have as coaches and teammates. To send them out in the best fashion we can. They've spent a lot of time and effort and a lot of sweat. Excited for them. A bunch of guys that we're going to miss and have really worked hard.
We're going to do that, obviously, against our rival, a crosstown rival here. So it's a special game in that too. Being in this game now going on three years means a lot to our fan base, means a lot to their fan base. It's a lot of fun to be a part of it. Great football team we're getting to play.
Coach Fedora has done a really good job and Coach Chizik. They're explosive on offense and stopping people from scoring on defense. Their quarterback is playing good, and he's got big play guys around him.
It's going to be a tremendous challenge for us, and we're looking forward to the opportunity to play him.
UNC has put up 295 points this year and allowed 156. Those numbers are not too far off by the numbers put up by the Clemson Tigers. I'm not trying to pry into your game plan any because, trust me, I tried to coach flag football league one year, and I quit after the first game. But in reference to that explosive offense, do you just, as a coaching staff, just pick your poison and try to focus on containing the pass and the rushing game or just focus more on shutting down one of the attacks, if that's even possible?
You sound like we shouldn't even play the game.
Oh, no, I'm just saying, do you just --
No, you don't choose your poison. You play hard and play smart. You play physical. You play tough. You be aggressive and play as best as you know how. If that's not good enough, it's not.
We've played some good offenses this year, and they're one of them, there's no doubt. We've played Clemson. We've played Florida State. We know what talent and speed and agility and good backs and good receivers look like.
So we're excited to play them. We know it's a challenge, but we went into this game last year and they were really good on offense in that game, and we played well. We've got to do the same thing. We can't give up big plays. We've got to tackle well. We've got to disrupt their ability to get in a rhythm because it's a rhythm offense.
It's a big play offense, and it's a lot harder said than done to get that finished. But our D-line is disruptive. They've got to block us, and we've got to do a really good job in coverage of keeping them inside and in front.
I wasn't by any means trying to discredit your team, Coach. I'm sorry if I offended you with that.
I'm not offended. You've got to try harder than that.
I was just putting the numbers out there. Also, Gavin Locklear, I know he came and earned a scholarship this year. How have you been, I guess, looking at his progress? I heard his name called a few times last week while I was watching the game.
You bet. You know, Gavin is a guy that shows up to work every day, does what's asked, gets the most out of his ability. He's very dependable.
With all the different things we've been doing with Nyheim, he's increased his role. Obviously, when Nyheim is playing running back, it creates a depth chart change in the slot, and he's been able to take advantage of that.
As a team, I know you all are not going to have time to go anywhere for the holidays, of course. What do you usually do with your family as well as including the team?
What we do is Wednesday we take the team out for a really nice lunch and go have a big Thanksgiving meal together after practice with all the players. Then we come in really early on Thursday morning and get our work done with the guys. We allow them to go back to their homes if they live in state and take teammates with them if they don't.
They'll come back, obviously, Friday afternoon when we go to the hotel. But 70 percent of our team is in drivable distance. So a lot of these kids will go home for Thanksgiving.
Same thing with my coaches. I'll bring them in early on Thursday, get our work done, and be home in time to have Thanksgiving with our wives and children.
Obviously, North Carolina did not put up as many points last week as they had in recent weeks. Can you guys take away anything from that, the Virginia Tech defensive game plan, defensive approach, to kind of have a similar success with that this week?
Yeah, you've got to be disruptive, and you've got to tackle, and you've got to create take-aways. They were able to do that. Virginia was able to do that. There's some teams on the schedule that have played them well, and there's some teams that haven't.
I'm sure they would tell you a lot of times it's about them. Sometimes you don't execute as well. Our job is to make it hard on them, and they have to do it perfect. As a defense, we've got to do a really good job of being sound and playing better fundamentals than they do.
That's how you play well on defense. You play good football fundamentally. You play hard. You play together. That's what we have to do. Virginia Tech's done that the last 25 years. It wasn't a surprise they played well in that game.
Is there anything you guys need to do better or differently against this marquee team this week as opposed to some of the high quality teams you've played in recent weeks?
I think we've just got to play four quarters of football. We've played well on defense against Florida State and Clemson at times. You've got to do that for four quarters to win a big game. That's the biggest thing we've got to do.
Dave, I'm just curious if you guys will go back and rely on the game plan that you used last year against North Carolina, considering there's a lot of the same players that they're playing on offense particularly.
Well, you've always got to look at how you've played them in the past. They are doing some things differently. So you've got to make sure you're putting your guys in the best places to make plays. Things that they've done different have offset some of the things they used to do tendency-wise. So we've got to make sure we're not, hey, it worked last year. Let's do it again.
Why it worked is because we played hard and we got off blocks. We were really good at keeping him in the pocket and not letting him run around. We tackled well and stayed on top of deep routes. That's why our game plan worked. There wasn't any magic in it. It's how the players played. We've got to give them a similar plan where they can play fast, but it won't be all the same. It can't be because they're different on offense than they were in some subtle ways.
There's always staples that every offense has, but the change-ups and different things they're doing has made them better. Their ability to run the football has changed them some too.
When did you first hear of Coach Shafer's firing? And what was your initial reaction?
I'm not going to talk about that.
And in terms of going into this week against North Carolina, what do you got to do to shut down their potent offense?
Like I've been saying, you can't give up big plays. You've got to stop the run. You've got to do a really good job, like you do against anybody, of creating big plays. Not allowing them to have chunks, getting in their backfield, getting them off schedule.
No-huddle teams are all the same. They're trying to get that first first down so they can go fast. If you can get three and outs and take-aways and give your offense a chance to keep it away, that's big.
Coach, just one thing for you. Nyheim Hines is really -- can you talk a little bit about how he's developed into a weapon both for your team on special teams but also on offense and what his speed does for your program.
He started the year out kind of as a bubble screen, jet return type kid. He's really developed into a receiver that can run routes and catch the ball. He's always been able to run with the ball in his hand, and with Shad Thornton's dismissal and Matt Dayes' injury, we've been able to create plays for him out of the backfield to get him the ball more, and he's really taken advantage of it.
Everyone knows how fast he is, but he's really, really strong. He breaks a lot of tackles. There was one point in the game Saturday where six different guys missed him. They weren't just jukes. He's running through people. So really excited about his progress and his confidence level and what he brings to our team.