"Obviously there's significant challenges every time that you play any football game, but certainly a couple of the major ones with our football team this week is obviously is the challenge of itself against Duke a football team that David Cutcliffe has built improving every single season. Statistically they're better, athletically they're better, and fundamentally and schematically they're a better football team. That in and of itself provides a significant challenge. Obviously, two very disappointing losses, and so emotionally and psychologically this will put our football team very much to the test of just bouncing back and playing to the very best of our ability this week."
Your team obviously, as anybody can imagine, was devastated after the game on Saturday with the way it played out. Do you think as you get with them today and the next few days you really have to build their confidence a little bit before this game against Duke?
"I don't think it has anything really to do with the confidence aspect. I think our kids looked at the film on Sunday and they competed. They played hard. The effort was good. The execution at times clearly wasn't as good as it needed to be. You can point to any number of half a dozen or so plays that -- containment on a big scramble, batting the ball out of the back of the end zone instead of back into the end zone on a fourth down completion for a touchdown.
"You can look at some of those plays and say here are things that obviously affected the outcome of the game. Covering the punt. Giving them an enormous big play in the punting game. So I don't think it's a confidence factor. It's just more of an execution of guys being responsible, doing your job. Our kids are going to play hard. They're going to compete. They've done it every single game for 11 games, and I don't expect anything different this Saturday."
Do you ever mention to your team if you win you can achieve X? Or obviously you always talk about winning the game, being very focused on it, but do you ever address, if we win this game we could go to certain bowl game? Have you ever said that with the team?
"Not really. Because truly the bowl, there were times it looked like our record indicated that we were going to get a particular bowl bid. And there's a lot of things with the exception of the Orange Bowl and maybe the Chick-fil-A Bowl there's an awful lot of lobbying and things that go on that have almost little to do with whether you've won the game, lost the game, what your record was.
"We had a better record than Clemson a couple of years ago, and they got an opportunity to go to the -- in spite of the fact that they played two 1AA teams, and they got a chance to go to the Gator Bowl. So I've never really ever bought into it much. This is more about it's a chance to have a winning season, it's a chance to finish on a regular season, win another ACC game against somebody that's clearly a backdoor rival."
I was curious, coming off back-to-back losses, obviously disappointing, are there several things you need to see better from your team this week, or do you just write those off to we're playing two of the better teams in the conference?
"No, our goal, obviously -- and this has been a long-held adage of mine -- you want to improve every week. You're kidding yourself if you look at game tapes from the previous week and you don't recognize areas that you're not getting better at.
"If you continually -- one of two things. Either we're not coaching well enough if it's habitually we're making the same mistakes and those things are getting you beat, and you've got to fix those things. If it's things that schematically is sound and it's just the execution, you work on the execution. And I'm not a big believer in, well, you just chalk it off to playing against good teams. We expect to get better every time we go play."
Carolina has kind of dominated this in recent years. It hasn't always been like that. During the week do you talk about the victory bell? Do you bring it out to practice? Does it even come up, that sort of tradition you have of swapping that to the winner?
"I know it does with the players, because obviously they know about it. But I think during the course of the week, I mean, you're obviously so focused on practice and preparation, you're not dealing a lot with distractions and things. Kids know that this is a long-standing rivalry. They know the kids well. It's almost impossible when you're 10, 12 miles away you don't run into each other socially and out in public. And clearly it means an awful lot to the kids to win the game."
Do you ever go ring it at all, have you ever done that. Have you ever gone and rung it just to do it?
"Me personally? Absolutely. The team does. And it goes to practice on our last practice of the week on Thursday, and it goes to Thursday's practice. At least -- I can't tell you historically traditionally prior to me being the head coach, but it has for the last three years. We've taken it to our last practice before the game on Saturday."
You take it to the last practice and the players ring it and you ring it, too?
"I think several people have rung it. Mostly I think it's kind of the seniors that have done the majority of it."