What a difference a week can make sometimes. I know this: I'm very excited for our players, I'm excited for our coaching staff, and I'm really excited for our fans. They were into this ball game and kept staying in the ball game the whole time. People can say what they want--they were out there cheering for us the whole time, and I really appreciate that. It's nice to win a second game at home for them too. But I'm really, really excited for our football team because they had some adversity in the first half, and our defense was able to stand up a little bit and that's encouraging.
I'm hopeful that we don't keep turning the ball over like that because that hurts us really hard. But for them to do that and play hard and play pretty sound football in the first half was really exciting. And, of course, I'm always excited when we run the football like we did. Jacque Lewis had a terrific night, and he'll probably be named game captain. He really showed up.
Jacoby Watkins--that's two big plays by him. The jump ball with Calvin Johnson, that's huge. That guy has been making play after play after play on jump balls, and Jacoby came up wit it.
It's good to see our kick-off team not even have to cover. That was exciting. Just keep putting it through the end zone. That's terrific; that's the best kick-off coverage you could ever have.
We are please with getting a win. We are pleased with the way we won in that three years in a row we've played Georgia Tech fairly tough into the fourth quarter and come up empty--three years I a row. This year we were finally able to pull one out against them. That's a tribute to the players and the staff. Hopefully, we can build on this and continue to learn how to play this game at a high level and make plays when we get opportunities and continue to build the defense.
How big was it to hold them to field goals on their first two drives?
That's really big. You guys have been around here long enough--that hasn't happened a whole lot, so that was pleasing.
What are your thoughts as you were walking off the field watching your guys being able to jump around and celebrate with your fans?
I'm excited about that. I think it's terrific. I feel very good about it that they are able to do that. That goes without saying, doesn't it? Once again, this game is over now, and as exciting as it is to win a football game, we have to get back to work. We'll start tomorrow with the staff at 7:00 a.m. and the players will have the day off. I hope they enjoy it. I felt like a couple of guys grew up tonight, and I'm anxious to watch the tape and then see that they did. That would be neat. That would be good for them; it would be good for us.
Some of the players said that you elevated the intensity of practice in terms of hitting in full pads Tuesday and Wednesday and then half-pads on Thursday--more than you normally do--and kind of complained about it, but it seems like it paid off.
They didn't complain to me. If they do, I don't care when it comes to that. We needed to get out and have some physical contact this week. The intensity did pick up, and our practice tempo picked up. That's what we needed to do. That's how you have to practice. That gives you a chance. If you don't practice well, you can't play well--such as what we did last week.
Is this win comparable to the 2001win over Florida State, with your backs against the wall?
In a couple ways--I talked to the football team about that, as a matter of fact, this afternoon. In 2001, we had three straight losses--tough losses--and there were a few guys who stepped their level of play up. A couple guys came closer to being a man. I mentioned that to them right before we departed to come in for the Old Well Walk. That's when I talked about Jacque Lewis being a guy that I think is going to be a great man someday.
You look back, Kory Bailey and some others on that team--Sam Aiken and others--stepped up their play against Florida State in a tough game at home. Three straight losses and everybody saying that we have no chance, and we got some things turned around a little bit in that game. I think some guys that we wanted to see happen grew up a little bit today, and that good. See if we can do it again next week.
Who were some of the players that grew up tonight?
I think Jacoby Watkins is one. I think that Jacque Lewis having a game like he had was terrific. I think the offensive line, without Skip Seagraves, did a very fine job. I think the special teams kids out there covering the punts really covered extremely well, really well, and I'm excited about that. I'm really looking forward to looking at the film to see if our defensive line grew up a little bit.
The players said you got the game ball.
Jason Brown got up on a stool and gave me the game ball, and I, in turn, gave it to Dick Baddour. We'll cut it in half and have a half a ball each. It's really a team win. Our strength coaches did a great job this week too. This team had suffered a very difficult loss at the hands of Virginia, and they responded well. It took everybody in our building to help with that.
Will you go full pads this Monday?
We didn't go full pads on Monday last week. We did it Tuesday and Wednesday.
Will you do the same routine as last week?
I don't know yet. I don't know.
Are you pretty happy with the defensive play, except for one or two arm tackles down field?
I'm much more pleased with the defense than I've been in two years. I just hope we can grow and do it again. That's what this business is all about--doing it again, being consistent.
How is Ronnie McGill?
We'll find out more about that tomorrow. I don't think it's a serious injury. I think he tweaked his ankle a little bit. I think he was about ready to come back, and we decided not to bring him back. We had Chad Scott who sucked it up a little bit. Chad had a shoulder injury last week and practiced some during the week. I'm really proud of that kid too. You talk about being proud of a kid getting in there and doing quite well. That was good.
Have you see Jacque run with more determination than with tonight?
Jacque Lewis, if you've heard me before, Jacque Lewis is a good football player. He does a lot of things for us. He just stepped up even more today, particularly with the run game. But he is a tough kid, he's a good blocker, he is our best over-all back. I've said that very consistently since the last couple of years.
How did the defensive linemen do today?
I'm anxious to see the inside tackles play. I'm going to see Jonas [Seawright] and Khalif [Mitchell]--it's hard sometimes from the sideline. But I think they must have--I think Khalif Mitchell probably played much better than he has. He's still a very, very young player. That's his third start of his life. Hopefully, he can learn from that.
Did you see the confidence of your defense grow early in the game? It looked like you could see it start to believe in itself.
You sense that, and if we can watch the tape and see that some really good things happen, then we can really exploit that into building our confidence. If we get some of the same old things--getting cut, put on the ground, cut off--then we still have a lot of work to do. We have a lot of work to do with this football team. I think I've been saying that pretty consistently. We just keep growing a little bit here and there, we have a chance to be a pretty good team at some point.
How important was Darian's leadership tonight?
I think Darian hung in there really tough. I thought he was very cool and poised throughout the game.
Did you say anything to the defense after that first drive?
It was very encouraging for them to hold it to three. That's big, that's huge. That's big at the college level, high school level, pro level, to hold somebody to three. And then the big thing was when we threw the interception and were able to hold them to three there. That was huge.
What adjustments did you make at halftime? The firs three possessions of the second half, your offense moved the ball.
Gary [Tranquill] and the staff got together, and it was just a matter of staying with our plan. We had a couple opportunities to make a couple big plays, and we had a couple close passes in this football game that were just a little bit out of reach or one-handed or whatever. But I think it was sticking with our plan, getting the players to understand that this is what we are going to be doing: the same thing we came into this game. Don't lose your composure when they blow up a couple plays with the stuff we're doing.
Was this past week the toughest you've dealt with, and could you describe the emotion or, perhaps, the release that you feel right now?
Even when I say I'm not relieved, people still put it in the paper. So you guys go ahead and say it if you want to, but I work the same way each and every week, and I really do believe in this football team and these players. I've been saying that too. I said that last week, after that game. I was upset with that team, and I was upset that we lost the way we lost, but I didn't stop believing in them.
Did you do anything special to create turnovers tonight?
Forcing some third downs--and on third down they were like 5-14. Forcing third downs was good. That's how you make plays. And I think you saw to a certain extent that we are a little faster team. We had more people to the play. I can count, at least in my head, one missed tackle on the perimeter after one of those quick hitches. Other than that we were either tackled the hitches or we got a lot of people to the ball. That's what you need to have.