This will probably be the biggest challenge that our football team's had this season. When you go on the road two weeks in a row playing against a very, very talented football team, when you start watching film, obviously, Miami, there's really no apparent shortcomings or weaknesses.
Their offense is talented with wide receivers and an experienced veteran quarterback and talented good runners. And the defense and defensive line is as fast and athletic as any team that we've played this entire year, and a secondary that's playing extremely well.
We have very dangerous returners in (Travis) Benjamin and (Lamar) Miller. They've had a very challenging schedule. They played the No. 1 team in Ohio State, and then an additional loss to Florida State that is conceivably one of the top teams in the nation. So it's a huge challenge for our football team.
What is it in the past couple of years against Miami that you guys have done so well that you'd like to continue this time?
Well, I think that in all of the games previously we've been very fortunate with some of the things that help you win games. We haven't turned the ball over much against them. That part of it obviously helps you against any particular opponent, but especially against somebody as talented as Miami.
We've been the beneficiary of some turnovers. Those obviously continue to help you. We've tried to minimize, as we do with every opponent, big plays and that's worked some of the time.
There's been some things that we've given up. We gave up a reverse and a punt that was a huge play a couple years ago. We've given up some big runs, but fortunately we've been able to kind of keep them out of the end zone. We hope to keep trying to do fundamentally sound things from a football perspective.
T.J. Yates has played very well when it comes to the turnovers with only one interception so far. What do you see from Miami's secondary that might present challenges for him this time?
I think any time a secondary is having a huge amount of success, it probably starts up front. You can take four superstar All-American secondary guys, but if the quarterback's got all day long to throw the ball, those guys struggle. But in Miami, they've got really good defensive linemen, guys that are putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Their linebackers, when they choose to add those guys into the pressure package, guys like Sean Spence are extraordinarily fast. He's a good blitzer, and he can add to that potential pressure package. Any time that you do that, then you give talented players like Miami has, you give them lots of opportunities. That's what you see. And they've got good players back there. (Vaughn) Telemaque's an outstanding player. It's a combination of a lot of things.
I think people down here in Miami would be interested to hear how you have been holding up during a very trying season. I'm just wondering how you've been able to handle the crises that you seem to be facing week after week?
Well, I think obviously I've got a great wife and a son. There's good people here. I really enjoy our players. I enjoy the fact that faced with all the adversity that we've been faced with, the kids have maintained a positive attitude. They keep trying to work and play the best of their ability.
Obviously from a support standpoint, I've always had friends that I rely upon. Both people that are outside the coaching world, outside the coaching circles and stuff that are just life-long friends. People that love you and care about you and encourage you.
I've got to be honest, I think some of it has certainly got to be that you've got to have a strong spiritual faith. When tough times come, you've got some way to be able to try to make sense out of sometimes the senseless.
As a follow-up to that, you've had such an impeccable reputation. When you look back on some of the things that have occurred, do you question your character judgment with some of the people that maybe have let you down?
Well, obviously some of the stuff that we've been going through is an eye-opening realization of how do some of these kinds of things transpire? As the head football coach, you're always, regardless of what the trials and tribulations are, you're always looking at ways to look at what you're doing. Is there a better way to do it, what can you learn from it? Someone asked a question a couple of weeks ago if I was on the outside as any of the other Division 1 programs and looking at the things that are going on here, from extra benefits to agents to runners to financial planners and all those kinds of things, what would you be trying to do? Use it as a learning experience, because we do that. We look at other programs that are going through issues over the last years that I've been coaching. We did it at Miami, we do it here. We try to use somebody else's learning experiences for ways to make our program better, and that's what we're doing. We're looking, whether it's academics, whether it's do we need to do more education of our players? We've done a tremendous amount of bringing parents in and talking to the players about extra benefits and stuff.
Probably one of the things that I wish we would have done more was maybe educate kids at a younger age instead of maybe waiting until kids are rising seniors that are potentially draft eligible, we've obviously started this year trying to educate the freshmen, educate the sophomores, because one of the players that, unfortunately, was dismissed from the program was a kid that was just a sophomore. He had only been on campus for basically 18 months. It's an opportunity for us to look at what we're doing and try to do it better.
Is it still extra special to play Miami where you did so much good stuff or are you far enough removed from the situation down here now that it's just another game?
No game is just another game. It doesn't matter who the opponent is. Every game, a conference game. Obviously, Miami is a place that I spent a significant amount of time as an assistant coach and as head coach.
I've got an awful lot of respect for the program. I've got a lot of friends in South Florida and people inside football and outside of football. To say it's not just another game, if you followed any of my coaching probably for the last several years it sounds like coach speak - but it's clearly true. It's the next game. You've got to play this game as well as you can, and regardless of the outcome, if you've got no regrets about how you prepared in practice, then you have to move on to next week.