“What a game. I give those guys credit on the other side; they played a heck of a football game. We were fortunate to find a way to win. I’m proud of our kids because they did find a way to win. We did not play a really good game in probably any of the phases, but we made enough plays to win a football game and that’s what it boils down to.”
What were the final few minutes like for you?
“Wild, hectic. Proud of the kickoff team, they had prepared that for a few weeks and they executed it. And I told them if I call the thing it has to work, and they did it. And I thought the offense did a nice job of eating up four minutes, and they did a nice job of that.”
Was that your call on the onside kick?
“They said, 'Do you want to do it?' They wouldn’t have called it without me, I assure you.”
Was the thought process not putting your defense back on the field?
“It was more, throughout the game they were saying, 'Look, it’s there, it’s there.' And then they said it again, and I said, 'You know what, it’s the right time to do it,' and it worked. If not, you would be crucifying me right now. But they did a nice job. And I had confidence that the guys would get it done, and that was the key. If it was 50-50 in my head, I probably wouldn’t have done it. But I really felt confident that they would execute it. Ron West coaches that group and they have been working hard on it.”
On Mitch Trubisky coming in and throwing the touchdown pass:
“I’m happy with what we’ve been doing with Mitch. I know a lot of people think that we’re idiots, but I think it paid off for him in that situation. He went out there he was calm, he knew what he was doing, and he executed the play and threw a touchdown pass. It was good for him and all the work he’s put in. And those players talking about it in the locker room afterward; they were all over him. It was a great play by him and he executed, he never blinked.”
Did you consider calling a timeout in that situation?
“Thought about it, I did.”
What was the overriding factor?
“I thought Mitch would go out there and execute, I really did.”
Did you think they were looking for something a little safer than that?
“I knew what we were calling, we’d already made the call. And when we said Mitch was going, I said, 'That’s good, he’ll be fine.' He knew the play and he executed it.”
On Mack Hollins's role:
“The guy just makes plays is all he does. It doesn’t matter what we ask him. He’s on the kickoff team, the punt return team, the punt team. What’s left? Whatever one I didn’t say, he’s on that one too. Kickoff return? So he’s on three of the four. If you want a play made, you can go to Mack and he’s going to make a play. He’ll find a way to make a play. He did that last year on all of the special teams, and now he’s doing it at wide receiver, and he’s still doing it on special teams. And Tommy, those two great punts in that situation, two great punts to pin them down there like that.”
Des Lawrence made a few big plays:
“Des is just growing and growing. Young kid, and getting better and better like a lot of these guys are. Again, I don’t think there is anybody on the team who will tell you today afterward that they played a great game. Mack might tell you that, but Mack will tell you that all the time. None of them are going to say that. But what they did was they did enough to win the football game and that’s what is important. And we need to learn from it, we need to grow from it, we need to correct the mistakes, and we need to play much better in this next week. No doubt about it.”
How big is it for you guys to win a game knowing you didn’t play your best, and that every game is a must-win for you?
“I think it’s really big. We talked about that going into last week’s game versus Georgia Tech that we’re in the playoffs basically, that’s what we’re in. Our guys are confident, they feel good about where they’re at, they know on the outside nobody believes it, but that’s ok. We only need the guys in that room to believe it, and they’re believing it. I was so pleased with offense talking to defensive guys, about 'don’t worry about it, we got you, we’ll be all right.' Defensive guys saying it to the offensive guys when they were struggling. We’re starting to grow and grow as a team, and that excites me about the future.”
Can you speak to your defense having a lot of big stops in the second half?
“I think you said 130 yards in the second half and two turnovers. First half, it wasn’t good and they came back out and stopped the run. They really did a good job against the run in the second half and made them throw the football, and played the game plan the way that we wanted to play it from the beginning , we just didn’t start until the second half.”
Can you talk about the field goal kicking situation, and did you ever think about changing kickers?
“No. I put him out there on the last one to kick it through. I felt like he was going to put it through the middle and we were going to win the football game. He was struggling, but he’s also the same guy that kicked that onside kick. I mean I had the confidence to do that, and that was probably a little more important at that time. Hey, some days you just don’t hit it right, it’s just the way it is. But he’ll be fine, he’s got confidence. He was ok on the sideline, I talked to him and looked him in the eye, he was good. Hey, he just didn’t hit them.”
Does it mean something to these guys with all the attention given to Marquise, that he wasn’t on the field for the big play?
“I don’t think we have anybody that’s jealous of anybody on this team, or worries about that. We’ve got a really good group of guys that really just want to be successful, they don’t care how it happens, they’re fighting and scratching and clawing, we’re behind the eight ball and they just kept fighting. And let me tell you, when I mentioned Mitch’s name in there, Marquise was the first one off the ground. He was so fired up for him for him, those guys are close. They pull for each other; it doesn’t matter who is on the field really.”
Whose idea was the onside kick?
“Ron West. He’s the one that said it was there.”
What were you seeing from UVa that made you think it was there?
“Their alignment. Their alignment and the way they were dropping out of it in those situations. Georgia Tech ran one on us last week, and it was the other way around and we got it. We just felt like if we could get it in that situation that might be the thing that breaks their back.”
Did you know they had 12 men on the field, and how good did it feel for it not to be you?
“No, I didn’t know it. A lot better than it would’ve been if it was us.”
On the offense:
“I’m not sure offensively when we looked good, actually. We made some big plays. But if you really watch us offensively, we had no consistency. I don’t think the offensive line played well at all. That’s not getting on them, that’s just not who we are up front. They’ve been getting better and better every week, and we need to figure that out, and see what the problem was. Part of that might be what Virginia was doing. They’ve got some players over there on that defense, they’ve been playing much better all year.”
On his team facing adversity:
“We talk a lot about adversity, and overcoming adversity, and not blinking in the face of adversity and knowing that it’ll happen. If you keep playing and keep playing hard, and play harder than your opponent you can overcome anything you really can. And if we’ve got 72 guys who truly believe that, it won’t matter what anybody else thinks, it’ll work.”
On the Lucas Crowley injury:
“I don’t know. Rolled his ankle or something, I don’t really know.”
On the Nazair Jones interception:
“I actually didn’t see the pick, I was looking somewhere else at the time until everybody started yelling and I saw him running. I saw the screen setting up. He’s 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds and he’s mobile. That was big, because I know screens were a big part of that they’ve done in the past and I know our guys worked really hard on it, so it was good to see them execute on that from their work in practice.”