I was proud of our players in our opening conference win against Wake. Very good football team coming in 4-0 with some momentum. We were very pleased with play, I thought, on the line of scrimmages, rushing for 200 yards and holding them to around 60-some yards, and played really well red zone offense and defense, played really well 3rd down offense and defense.
Ryan as you had mentioned continues to be efficient with the football, make good choices, and players are making plays for him. You see Kelvin Harmon making plays in the red zone, Steph Louis making plays, Bra'Lon Cherry. Matt Dayes had over 100 yards, and defensively I thought we were able to do some things up front which helped our coverage and allowed our defensive backs to keep the ball in front of them for most of the day, and they tested them deep several times, and thought they were able to do a good job of breaking up some passes down the field.
This week, celebrating our 50th anniversary at Carter-Finley and playing against a very explosive Notre Dame offense, a team that made some choices defensively that have helped them, and coming off of a road win at Syracuse. I think it's going to be a great environment, and hopefully the weather will hold off and we'll be able to have a great football game here.
Notre Dame has had some uncharacteristic problems this year, especially on defense, but the one thing they do very well is throw the ball. I just wonder if you can talk about their passing attack and the challenge that it presents.
Yeah. Well, their quarterback, DeShone Kizer, is fifth in the nation for yards of completion. A lot of chunk plays. He's only been sacked twice, a lot of deep balls, and he's got tremendous talent. I think they have the best offensive line that we've played and maybe we will play, a 6'5" receiver, St. Brown, that's averaging 25 yards a catch. His slot receiver is a great returner, too, Sanders, who's averaging 15 yards a catch. They've just got a lot of talent around him, and they're protecting well.
Their O-line are physical, and he's a tough kid, the quarterback. He's their second leading rusher. He stands in the pocket and takes hits and delivers accurate balls. They're committed to throwing deep plays. There's quite a few balls up in the air down the field, and you've got to make plays on them.
Defensively they made some major changes after the loss to Duke that took them a while, but they had a good second half against a pretty potent Syracuse passing game. What do you see on film in terms of defense? Have they changed it, simplified it, and what kind of challenge does that present?
Well, they're doing less, and they're doing it better. You know, obviously the package will probably grow I would guess as it goes, but they were very basic. They're playing a lot more players. They're playing a lot of young guys that are talented guys. Their defensive front is big, and I think they're playing to their strengths, allowing those guys to put their hands on people and two gap.
They played softer coverages. They were playing a lot of press coverage early in the year and giving up big plays, and they're playing a lot more soft coverage against Syracuse, and I don't know if that's all that they're going to be or if that was more because of the deep shots that Syracuse takes, but that's what they put on film in game 1.
To follow up on that Notre Dame passing game, how do you feel about your pass defense and pass rush heading into this game?
Well, it's going to be -- both of those things are very important heading in, and it's going to be a challenge for us defensively. It's a great opportunity to play against, like I said, a bunch of really, really talented guys that are playing at a high level. If we have tight coverage and we have good pass rush, that would help, and they've got to tie together.
You can't just run on a rush and have guys wide open, and you can't have them covered and have nobody rushing. You've got to have your rush and your coverage coordinated. We can't just sit in one thing; we've got to make sure to get them in different looks and use pressure when we need to. All those things are going to be important, tying them all together, and at the end of the day when the ball goes up, we're going to have to make some one-on-one plays on the football with some really good offensive players. I know our guys are excited for that opportunity.
Assessing your pass defense, have you liked what you've seen in those areas this year?
Yeah, I think you can always get better. In the last two games we've pressure the quarterback better. Like I said at the beginning, I thought our pass coverage down the field was really good against Wake. They had completed a couple balls, but we tackled them and got off the field without giving up a score. They're going to make some plays. I mean, they're good. We're just going to have to get them on the ground and line up and play again and try to get some turnovers.
Notre Dame's defense is pretty startling, giving up a lot of big plays and all that stuff. What do you see on their defense that might give you an advantage on Saturday?
Well, you know, they've made changes on their defense, so it's hard to judge the little body of work. There's really one game that reflects what they're trying to be now. You know, they adjusted I thought well in the Syracuse game. They didn't start well, gave up some big plays early, and thought they played really well in the second half. You know, I can't really go off of the other games because they're simplifying things, and it's a different play caller, other than watching their personnel.
But I think we're going to see a defense that plays hard. They're going to be sound. They're going to keep the ball in front of them, and we've got to break tackles and make people miss and do the things that we do.
Talk about the environment on Saturday; hopefully the rain stays away for you guys having a big game down there in that stadium. What's that environment going to be like?
It's going to be electric. Unless Mother Nature puts it where there's lightning and people can't be in there, it's going to be a great environment. People are excited. It's the anniversary of our stadium, 50 years ago to the day. I know it means a lot to our fan base, and they'll represent us. I know they will.
I was going to ask also about the weather, and have you explored and what forecast are you getting and what contingency plans do you have?
Well, they had the ACC conference call yesterday with our game operations staff and Notre Dame's, and I think there's several different options out there, especially if we can't play Saturday at noon, which is what everybody wants to do. That's what we're hoping. Today it looked like the storm turned a little bit the other way, and yesterday it didn't look like it was going to be pretty on Saturday, but now it's looking a lot better. If we can't play at noon, then can we play later in the day or in the evening, and if not, it gets moved to Sunday, and same thing, you start early and how seeing it's going to take to get it in. But I don't see it not being played here in Raleigh or anything like that.