“Just a hell of a ballgame tonight. You know, Clemson was the better team tonight, and they did a heck of a job. Our guys fought all the way to the end and felt like we were in it all the way to the end, and proud of the way we played.”
Larry, any comment about the offside call that was made on the onside kick?
“I had a chance to look at it, and they missed it. They were wrong. That's all I'm going to say about it. They were wrong.”
What were they able to do so effectively running the ball?
“I mean, they've got good players. You know, and between Gallman and Deshaun Watson, I mean, they stretch you with their receivers, horizontally, and created seams in the defense, and if you don't fit exactly where you're supposed to or you miss a tackle, they're going to have a big play, and that's what happened. Those guys made plays when they needed to. They broke tackles and made some people miss, but they both did a heck of a job.”
In a game like this when you've got two really good teams, two really good quarterbacks, good players at every position matching up with each other and obviously a close game like that where at the end you had a chance to win, now that you can -- obviously you'll have more time to reflect, but what's your overall thoughts on -- have you thought about one thing or a couple things you could have done differently in this one?
“Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of things. We had a tipped ball down there that we were going in in the red zone that we were going to score a touchdown there on that throw and the ball gets tipped and they get a pick out of it, and that's on the 3-yard line and they take it back and go the entire distance there. So that's really a 14-point swing.
“So yeah, there's a lot of things. There's some things that I'd love to do differently but you don't get to second-guess yourself. You guys get to do that in the paper but we don't get to do that really, so it is what it is.”
With the way the game ended, with the offsides penalty, how much more difficult does that make it for you knowing that you should have had a chance that you didn't get?
“Yeah, I don't know if we would have gone down and scored, but it was like a minute and eight seconds left on the clock and we should have had the ball at about midfield, and the way we had moved it the last couple series I would have felt pretty good about that.
“It isn't going to change. It doesn't matter one way or the other, so I'm going to have to swallow it like a man and just take it, and that's just the way it is. We came up short. That doesn't take anything away from what Clemson did tonight because they're a dang good football team. They're the No. 1 team in the country and you've got to give them credit, and we'll be pulling for them.”
Coach, is it too soon to tell if Sam Smiley could have improved anything on the defensive end?
“Well, I mean, obviously Sam was our starter, and yeah, we would have loved to have him, but it just doesn't work out that way. He went down, and the next guy stepped up. Dominquie I'm sure played well. I don't know how he played in the game.
“But you'd have loved to have him, but it just doesn't happen that way. Guy goes down, next guy has got to step up. Everybody has got to pull up their boots a little higher and they've got to make it work. I mean, again, our guys played hard tonight now. They played hard. Did everything go the way we wanted it to? No, but they played hard and I'm proud of the way they played.”
Thought process in the fake punt?
“Well, I thought it was there and we didn't execute it. You know, we just didn't execute it, and that's -- again, we were playing really well in all our special teams units and we had a good fake, and it was set up and it was there. We just didn't execute it. We didn't get it done.”
Larry, on the onside kick were you pinpointing a particular area or a particular player to kick it at there?
“Well, it's based on some things that we're looking for, so I'd rather not tell you that because we may need it in the bowl game, so I'd prefer not to tell you.”
The storyline this year has been about grit, and you talked about how when you were down by 21 at Georgia Tech, nobody really panicked. Was that the same situation tonight when you guys were down 19? Was there any change on the sideline and how you were approaching the game?
“These guys, yeah, they wanted to win and they're in that locker room right now, and there's a lot of tears and a lot of hurt, a lot of pain, but the fun thing about this group is what they've got inside of them, and they never stopped fighting, and they never stopped believing. The way they were scrambling around on those last two onside kicks, you could tell they believed if we got that ball we were going to win, and they knew that was all we needed to do.
“So their effort was tremendous all night, and they do, they've got a tremendous amount of grit and really proud of the way these seniors led this team this year.”
With the timeout or with the challenge there on that second onside kick were you confident that you guys had recovered it?
“No, I wasn't confident. I wasn't confident at all, but I wanted them to take a look at it, and I was really more upset about the previous one more than anything.”
What about saving a timeout?
“Yeah, probably that would have been good to do.”
Obviously you guys were very -- it's been a while since you lost a game. You were really confident coming into this one. You're still going to a really good bowl game. How do you keep that confidence level up after this loss?
“Oh, our guys, there won't be a confidence problem. Our guys believe in each other, and they believed they were going to win this game. They really did. I mean, the way they talked, it was going to be an upset if Clemson won. That's what they believed.
“And so they got plenty of confidence. This isn't going to affect their confidence. Did we play as well as we wanted to tonight? No, but I promise you it won't hurt their confidence.”
Your new contract was announced today, the extension. What does this season and making it to the ACC Championship mean for you and the program for the future?
“Well, I think just for our program, I mean, the future is extremely bright, and I think our administration sees that this program is going in the right direction. They know what we've overcome, and I think they're probably pretty excited about it, also, and I know our players are and I know the other players in the state, they see it and they're excited about it. So it should be some more fun in the future.”
Talk about that interception against Watson. Did you see anything turned to North Carolina's way with that big interception in the third quarter?
“Yeah, every time we get an opportunity to get a turnover that's a big deal. It was really a big play, and then we took it in after that and scored, I believe, on that series, so that was huge. That's what started getting our momentum going, and guys -- I just encouraged our guys because they weren't going to stop believing.”
Could you actually comment on the contract?
“I don't -- I was really more concerned about the game, and so I would have to talk to my guys to find out what all happened.”
It was announced today, North Texas announced that Seth is going to be the new head coach. Just your thoughts on that and the task of hiring a new offensive coordinator?
“Yeah, you know, Seth Littrell, I can't say enough great things about what Seth did. Seth came into this program and he was the new guy in that room. You know, we asked him to come in and learn our offense and learn our terminology and not step on any toes while he was in there and lead that group, and he did that. He did a tremendous job of that, and there's no doubt in my mind Seth is going to be a great head coach. He's ready for this, and he and his wife Becca, they've been unbelievable parts of our staff and we hate to see them go. But at the same time it's extremely exciting, also, because he's reaching a dream that he's got in his life, something that he's dreamed about once he became a coach, that he wanted to be a head coach, and he had this opportunity and he felt like this was the right one. It was a tough decision for him, I can tell you that, because he battled it for a while trying to decide what to do because he loves it here so much. He loves these players and he loves what we do.
“So going forward, we'll take our time. We won't be in any hurry. I can tell you the offense isn't going to change, so no matter who we bring in, the biggest thing is the next person is going to -- he's going to be able to adapt to what we do and maybe bring something to it and add to it, but he's also got to be a person that loves kids and wants to help develop these young men into full-grown men.”
Is he going to coach in the bowl game or is he leaving immediately?
“We have not even -- we haven't talked about it yet. We actually -- Seth didn't want to talk about the situation and I didn't want to talk about the situation. All we wanted to talk about was Clemson, and that's all we did.”