Coming off a very hard-fought game with Florida State. Our guys I thought were well prepared by the staff and I thought they did a nice job buying into the game plan, really played well.
Two or three plays in the game, as in any game, that comes down to the wire that you got to make to win, and we didn't.
Another opportunity this week to go play Syracuse, a very explosive offense, very unique offense. Do it on the road. Looking forward to that opportunity. I know our players are, as well.
You mentioned a couple missed opportunities. How do you not allow that to beat yourself up with regrets over what might have been had plays gone the other way?
It definitely tests your faith. It does. I think as a competitor you have to understand that you're being tested and you have one of two options: you can fight harder or give in to it. We're choosing to fight harder. I think that's the only thing that we can do.
We've made a lot of progress in a lot of ways, but we still haven't put away teams when we had them on the ropes all the time. Going into the season, if someone would have said, You're going to outplay Florida State, Clemson, Notre Dame and have a chance to win all three games, I would have been excited about that.
When you get there and don't get it done against two of them, there's no moral victory there. There are positive things that are happening here. The guys see it. They know if they stay on track, great things are going to happen, the dam is going to break. We're getting closer. There's progress, there just isn't pleasure.
How has this season tested you as a head coach?
It's challenging. When you go into a locker room after you lose like we did against Louisville, that's different. When you walk in there and you have 72 guys that are heartbroken, it's challenging. It's challenging as a coach. That's why I love the profession. It puts you in a position where you got to be your best for a lot of people.
I believe that character shows up in the hardest moments of your life. It's easy to be a great leader and great person when everything is rosy and good. I know I'm getting better from this. I know our players are getting tougher because of this. In the long run we're going to have a bunch of very mentally tough people in this program because of what we endured. It's just staying the course to get over the top now.
How do you find the words to tell your team when they go through tough losses?
You just tell them the truth. You just tell them the truth. You tell them how you're feeling. You let them talk about how they're feeling. You go through it together, support each other. You don't point fingers at any one person. None of the things that happened in our games were intentional. No one intended to miss a field goal or drop an interception or line up the wrong way. It comes down to detail, execution. The guys know it. The coaches know it.
I think there's nothing phony about it. You just got to be about who you are.
You mentioned the field goal. Are you going to move forward now with another starting kicker?
Yeah. Haskins will start this game. He was the starter in our ECU game. Missed two. I replaced him with Kyle. Kyle was doing well for a while. After the Clemson game, I told him I'd give him another opportunity, I wasn't just going to turn on him.
If he struggled again, I'd have to go back to Connor. I told Connor the same thing, that he's going to get another chance. When the opportunity came to get his helmet on and make a kick, he did that. I'm proud of Connor.
I know Kyle now will embrace his role as our kickoff guy and help our team the best that he can.
I know this season you've had some disappointments. There have been parts of your team that have played very well throughout. Talk about that, the areas you're most proud of.
I think our run defense has been outstanding. To hold Dalvin Cook to 60-some yards was an accomplishment. That kid is a phenomenal running back. I think Coach Trickett is a great O-line coach at Florida State. That's been consistent through most of our season. That to me is very special.
The way that our receiving corps has improved, we're making a lot of plays down the field, a lot more explosive in the passing game. Those two things have definitely improved on our football team.
With Syracuse's quarterback situation kind of up in the air right now, not sure who the backup is, how has that affected the way you're game planning for the game?
It hasn't. We're assuming he's going to play until they say he's not. Even if we were pretending the other two guys were going to play, there's not enough film to know what's going to be different.
You have to go in there and plan on seeing Dungey, defending all the things he's been able to do. If somebody else comes in, like in any game, you'll have to make adjustments.
Facing the team that you're going to face this Saturday, what kinds of concerns do you have with the offense they have?
Well, they run a tremendous pace. We're having two huddles of scouts going against our defense. They're having to play at as fast a pace as we can replicate.
Syracuse has tremendous receivers. They were good last year. I mean, Ishmael was really good last year. Estime was really good last year. Then they have the transfer, I don't want to mispronounce his name, but he's a great player. It's a group of four wide receivers that really play fast and understand how to run routes and catch the football.
They get the ball out quick. That's what concerns you. Even if you feel like your D-line can do some things against their O-line, it's getting there before he gets rid of it. Your coverage and rush have to match up and give yourself enough chances to hit the quarterback and create some interception opportunities or force fumbles.