You hinted at it during the week, but that was a high-quality San Diego State that you faced on Saturday night.
“We knew they would be a good football team. I said that; I don’t know if everybody believed it, but I told you that they were going to be good. I knew they were going to cause some problems for our offensive line and that happened throughout the game until we kind of settled down in the second half a little bit and got going. They ran the ball better than we thought they would on us, and we had too many missed tackles to be able to stop the run effectively.”
How did your coaching staff try to keep the offensive line focused throughout the game?
“We were nice to them… If you looked at some of their faces, you would have wondered if they had ever played the game before. They were shocked at the movement and all of the things that were happening. It took them a good half to just settle down and once they did they started getting a better grasp of it.”
What was the difference offensively in your mind between the first and second half?
“I really believe it was those guys settling down; that’s all there was to it. You’re talking about a young center that’s having to make all the calls and he couldn’t tell what the defense was, and he was in shock, and the other four have to feed off what he says. It created a problem for us, and it wasn’t until he settled down, and we got a little more consistency going, that it opened up things for everybody else.”
It seemed like your pace was particularly effective in the second half in wearing them down a little bit.
“We’re a very conditioned football team. Our strength staff did a tremendous job this summer and through fall camp. These guys are in great shape, and we really feel like we’ve been in better shape than both teams we’ve played. And we hope that continues through the season.”
After running more than 90 plays in the season opener, that play count was a lot lower due to San Diego State taking its time snapping the ball.
“We knew they were. They were going to try to give us fewer possessions, and they did. It worked in the first half, especially, until the offense started getting some consistency and started moving the chains a little bit. We got rolling and we could provide some type of tempo. When you’re going three plays and out, you can’t get any kind of tempo, any kind of consistency, and so we did that in the second half and it wore them down.”
It seemed like Marquise Williams’s legs were a critical part of the offense in the second half.
“There was a draw play that they aligned to a certain formation in a certain way that he had a pass-or-run-the-draw option, and every single one of them they gave him the coverage so that he could run the draw, and it was effective for us. He picked up some good yardage and then one time he just pulled the ball down and went and got a good 3rd-and-long and picked up a first down. He really did a very nice job in the second half. Again the offensive line started playing a little more solid. They still blitzed as much as they had in the first half, and I’ll tell you, the backs really did a tremendous job in pass protection throughout the game, and that was big for us.”
On the penalties:
“We ran into the punter when we came after him that time and then we also had a personal foul at the end of a play when we had stopped them on third down. Both of those drives ended up resulting in scores, and again, we have to eliminate those. The easy thing on the punt block would be just not to call it in that situation, or just don’t call it at all, but that’s not who I am. That’s not the way I’m going to call a game. When we feel like we can get it, we’re going to go after it, and I’m going to expect our guys to do a better job.”
A lot of people are asking about the 3rd-and-1 play call down near the goal line at the end of the game. What went into that decision?
“Just a poor call on my part. That’s all I’m going to say. Poor call on my part.”
Why do you feel like your team has been so much better in the second half compared to the first half?
“I wish I could figure that out. We don’t plan it that way. We really want to start fast and come out and establish ourselves as a team, but that hasn’t happened in both games. The good thing about it is that we’ve played really well in the second half, and we’ve been down in some of those situations, and our team has fought back in both of those situations. That says a lot about our football team.”
How do you try and make up for the loss of right guard Landon Turner for however long he may be out?
“Well, you won’t. It’s not going to happen. You have a true freshman in there now. He’s not going to be Landon Turner by any means. He just needs to be himself. That may limit some of the things that we do and what we can do, because you can only do things [to] whatever your lowest common denominator is. And in his situation, being a true freshman, it’s not fair if we try to put things on his plate that he can’t handle.”
Who do you look to for leadership along the offensive line now?
“Coach Kap. I mean, really. Jon Heck would be the next guy that has probably the most reps, and he’s a redshirt sophomore. So, it’s the one guy that had experience and now we don’t have that. But, those other guys have gotten experience this season, so the way we look at it is it doesn’t really matter whether you have experience or not, we’re going to play and you’re going to have to play well.”
How do you sell the in-state guys about staying in-state, and how big of a selling point that is for you to those players?
“It’s a huge deal for us. And we’ve been doing it since they day we stepped foot on this campus, and we’re going to continue to do that every day. It will get better. It’s gotten better since we’ve gotten here. It’s improved every year, and we’re going to continue to work on it. That’s selling the vision of what we have, and also at the same time, making guys understand that they can come to the University of North Carolina and get a world-class education and play football at the highest level and reach all their dreams and goals. And if they can do those things and they can realize that here, then why would you go anywhere else?”
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