UNC-GT: Locker Room Report

ATLANTA--North Carolina Tar Heel football players talk to the media following their 27-21 loss to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Bobby Dodd Stadium.

Matt Baker

Were you nervous at all today?

I really wasn't. There were a couple of butterflies running back into the locker room just a little bit, but nothing really. I felt like I had started a bunch of games before. I didn't feel awkward.

At times I probably tried to be too relaxed in the game when I needed to be up, walking around, talking to the defense, talking to the offense. I was trying to stay relaxed, and I probably stayed too relaxed. Now that I've got my first start out of the way I will be more comfortable.

What do you take away from this game - what did you do well and what do you need to work on?

Probably making better throws all the time. I made some good throws today but had some bad throws. That's going to happen. Seeing what I need to see quicker is something I have to get better at. It's tough to go in against Georgia Tech. They do so much and move so much to be able to see everything. Sometimes you look at them moving around and you don't see what you have to see. That will come with experience, and I feel like I got better today. That doesn't mean anything right now - it would have been nice to come out of here with a victory.

What were you thinking, down 14?

I knew we could move the ball. We hadn't converted on probably any third downs up until that point, so I knew we could move it. There was no panic from the offense. Like you saw, we were able to convert on third downs more in the second quarter and score a couple of times.

What needed to happen to get the running game going to stay out of some of those second and long's?

I don't know if there was really one thing we could have done differently. We had a good game plan. I think it was penalties, and dropped balls, and bad throws as well that probably hurt us on first down, when we could be second and short. If you get a running game going, it's second and short. We shot ourselves in the foot with bad throws, penalties, and dropped balls. It's tough to get a running game going on first and long or second and long.

Doug Justice

It looked like you guys were putting up a good fight to stop them in the second half but broke under constant pressure there in the third quarter.

We have to get off the field on third down. That needs to be a big emphasis this week. We played really well. I think we played physical. We can take [something positive] away from this game. We can take away that we can play, and we can play well on defense. We just have to do it more consistently and put a big emphasis on getting off the field on third downs.

Did you have any idea that Damarius Bilbo would have the game that he had? Everyone knew about Calvin Johnson, but Bilbo really emerged.

We knew that they had great wide receivers out there. They are athletic as all get out, and Bilbo is a former quarterback, so I've seen over the years what he can do. He's a special player. They've got athletes out there. If you shut Johnson down, you are going to get hit with P.J. [Daniels] or Bilbo. They have a multi-headed attack. They are a good team, and I give them all the credit in the world.

Are you surprised that they didn't go to Daniels a little more once they were up 13?

I don't know what their game plan was. I watched the Auburn game this week and saw that they were going a lot more 11. They were trying to get P.J. here and there. He's a workhorse, and he can be. I don't know if they will try to go to him more later in the season, trying to spread him out so he doesn't get banged up. He can be explosive.

After they hit you with the first two touchdowns, what happened to turn that around?

If you look at those two touchdowns, there are a few things that we could have done. It was just one or two big plays and we are stopping them. We just have to be more consistent.

After that, we said, 'Just play. Stop worrying about what the score is and go out there and do what we know how to do as a defense and play hard.'

Chase Page

Describe what was going on with you guys on third downs today?

It just took us too long to focus. We started focusing in the third quarter and getting off the field when we needed to. We have to have that earlier on in the ball game. We have to execute. You can't wait. We had great focus in the fourth quarter and we executed when we needed to execute, but we need to do that the first series of the game. You can't wait until the fourth quarter when the game is on the line.

Why do you think you were unable to get off the field on third down today?

There is a mixture of things. Honestly, you just have to execute. You have to have to have enough focus and stick-to-itivness to say, 'This is my assignment. I'm going to execute my assignment like I'm supposed to.' When 11 guys do that, they've got nowhere to go. Maybe that wasn't the case. It's hard to say. We have to get better.

Was their run/pass ratio what you expected?

You have to give them credit - Reggie Ball is an athletic quarterback. The way their offensive line blocks and the way their scheme is set, if there is nothing open he can run. He can run those bootlegs. He's a dangerous QB. We just have to do a better job of containing guys like that.

What could you have done better to prevent some of those receptions today?

Obviously, more pressure. Like I said, you have to give credit to Georgia Tech. They had a good scheme. They protect well, they do slot protection, sometimes they keep seven guys in and break people down. I think we had only one sack, two sacks, maybe. We've got to have more than that.

What are you thinking on the sideline when Baker gets the ball with 2:30?

I'm thinking we are going to win the game. I was thinking we were going to win the game when we got the ball back again. You've got to believe. It's no fun to play unless you think you can win all the time, and I thought [the offense] was going to take it down and score.

"Cooter" Arnold

What do you think about getting to start your first college game as a true freshman?

It's exciting being able to start as a freshman, and it feels really good to play in front of these big crowds.

When did you know you were going to start?

Earlier this week.

How did you find out - was it on a blackboard or did a coach come to you and tell you?

They didn't really come out and say it. It was sort of in a question, like if I could, and I told them, 'Yes.'

Who came to you and asked?

Coach Powell.

Was it his decision, Coach Tranquill's or someone else's?

I don't know. I guess it was him, but it might have been Coach Tranquill.

Had you ever had the thought that you'd start at any time in the pre-season?

I didn't really think about starting. I just wanted to get out there and run everything I'm supposed to do and get everything down.

Why do you think you started?

Barrington and I, we both do our hardest. I guess they just saw some thing that was a little more - I don't know what was going through their heads when they chose me.

Everyone talks about "game speed." What was it like?

Game speed is pretty fast. In practice you have time to do everything. In the game you don't have all that time. You have to get the play, get out there, get set up, and go.

Did you feel comfortable out there?

I felt pretty good about everything I was supposed to do. On the plays I was in I knew exactly what to do. I think that was pretty good.

It seemed things got clicking for you early.

That felt good to be able to come out my first game as a freshman and get a couple of good runs. I have to give that to my linemen. They did their jobs and opened holes for me - and the fullback Rikki Cook.

Jacoby Watkins

What was it like out there today with not just one receiver but another one feeding off of the first?

I was impressed with Reggie Ball. He has really improved from last year, throwing the ball. I knew they were going to throw the deep ball; you just have to go up and play the ball with him. We played hard on defense, but they made some great plays on offense - great throws and great catches. That happens in football.

What does he do better this year, as opposed to last year?

He looks off now. Last year, you might just see him drop back and throw the ball right up. He does it still on occasion, but now he is looking off to Bilbo, looking off to his slot receivers and running backs and dropping it off on screens. He's a much better quarterback than he was last year as you would expect when you get older.

What is it like going against Calvin Johnson, player against player?

That's what you want as a cornerback. You want to go against the best receiver. I went out and played as hard as I could. They made some great plays. He's a great receiver. I told him after the game, 'Good game.' I think it was a push off, but it was a great call. They made the call, so - they didn't make the call, so what could I do? Wrap it up, and let's play ball.

How do you think the front seven did in getting pressure on Reggie Ball?

Our front seven did much better. We've got a lot more depth now and more experience and they - we weren't blitzing as much and we were making more mistakes in the first half, but we cleaned it up. We have to do more of that next week against Wisconsin. We have to go clean up where we made mistakes. It was the opening game and we made mistakes, but we played hard. That's what I'm happy about - we played hard the whole game.

What happened on that touchdown against you?

It was a deep third, I was trying to get my linebacker lined up, he snapped the ball quick play. It was just a great throw and catch. I fought with him to get the ball out. I was right there, but it was a great throw and catch - that happens. You just have to come back and play ball [the next play].

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