Were you on the field-goal kick team, and if so, what did you see?
Yes, I was. I looked up and saw the ball was low. I believed in Orner and thought he could do it and it came off low. I was surprised it wasn't blocked because, from my point of view, it was cruising [right] above our heads. But it had the distance and found its way through the uprights.
What were your emotions when you saw it go through?
Huge relief, joy--the season has been so hard for all of us, especially the seniors. There have been a lot of trying times. You can't find a better way to end the season--beating Duke on a play like that. It doesn't get any better than that, right there.
What does keeping the Victory Bell mean?
It's got a place in our locker room. This is the 13th year now. We have to make sure it stays there. The locker room would feel weird without having it in there.
What did you think after Duke scored to take the lead, 21-20?
We knew we had to drive it down and get a field goal. We had been moving the ball well on them. We just shot ourselves in the foot all day long--no surprise there--but we knew we had to get it down there.
What did it mean to have Darian back?
It meant a lot--not necessarily talent-wise, because C.J. is very talented as well. Darian is a big part of our offense, his leadership ability, his charisma, and how he holds himself on the field was a boost.
What was the footing like out there? I thought you may have slipped on the first one because it was so short.
The field was kind of muddy, but my cleats were holding really well. On the first two, I left my hips open, and I didn't focus on what I had to do to get the job done. I think I took some stuff for granted. I may have been a little overconfident. I had a really good practice on Thursday. I didn't miss any field goals. I might have been a little overconfident going into the first two kicks, and then I got a reality check after the extra point.
Everybody just came up to me saying that it was going to come down to a field goal. I've had dreams the whole year that, sooner or later, I was going to kick a game-winner. I also had a dream that I was going to miss an extra point. Both came true. I'm glad the second one came true, after the first one.
When I went out, I wasn't thinking about anything. All I kept hearing was John--John Lafferty kept saying, "Just keep your head down. Man, this is going to be fun when we win." That's all he kept saying: "Man, this is going to be fun. This is so much fun."
Everybody was supporting me a lot. That's just how everybody is. After I missed my extra point, they said they were 100 percent behind me and they wouldn't want anybody else kicking besides me. As a kicker, that's what you want--all the support. The coaches too... They had confidence in me and my ability to take care of the job today.
After you kicked it, did it seem like an eternity before it went through?
I didn't really hit a good ball, compared to the balls I've hit this year. Today was kind of the worst day of hitting balls for me. I didn't really hit a good ball. I kept my head down as long as I could. I looked up, and my follow through was straight. Then, I looked up to see where the ball was, and it was low.
I knew it was straight, but I was like, "Please have the leg." I just kept looking at the referee. He put his hands up and I was floating--floating down the field.
Did you plan the run down the field afterwards?
I had a dream I was going to kick a game-winner at [Kenan Stadium] and run out the opposite side of the stadium and all the way down to Franklin Street. I said to myself that it would me nice if I could run through that [inflatable Duke] helmet after I kick the game-winner. I was floating.
What did you think when Duke kicked the extra point to take the lead, 21-20?
At first, I was down a little bit--I have to be honest. Then, I kept saying to myself, "You're going to get an opportunity. It's not going to end like this. It shouldn't end like this. The next kick is the most important. Nothing else matters. If I make this, nobody else remembers what I did [before]. You have to do this. There is nothing else to it. This is what you live for. This is why you are a kicker. This is what it's all about."
Does this make transferring worthwhile?
I think it's the icing on the cake. Granted, this year I had a pretty good season and the coaches have given me a lot of opportunities, but this is the icing on the cake. A lot of people in Michigan didn't think that I could kick at a Division I school. I knew I could. I knew what my dream was. I just kept working every day. Over the summers, we worked our butts off, went to camp and kept following my dreams. Soon as I made my first one, everything kept falling into place. I started riding the wave. Today, I had a pretty bad day, but I finished off on the right note. I said, "Do I want to miss my last kick and have that eat at me for the whole [off]-season, or do I want to make it?"
Did you see the students climbing up on the wall, about to rush the field?
I didn't really see it, but when I was warming up, I said, "Don't let these students rush the field." I saw a couple more security guards coming down, and I said that I'm going to do everything I can to keep them from rushing the field.
When Duke scored and kicked the extra point to go up 21-20, what was your mind-set heading back out on the field?
We had the game under control. I told them that big-time players make big-time plays, and that's exactly what we did. We went out there and executed.
Do you think Darian's return was a big lift?
Oh, yes. It was a big lift, especially for the offensive line. Our first series we were ready to go.
Other than the actual plays he makes, what does he bring?
It's like a great inspiration. It's like a family gathering in order for us to take the next step to make plays.
What was going through your mind on fourth-and-four with eight seconds left--was that play for you all the way, or was it a read?
Nine times out of ten, when we call that play it's going to me. Plus, they were in a press [defense], so I knew it was going to me. I knew I had to use my techniques--outside release and cut back in--and catch the ball. He threw it low where nobody could get the ball but me.
How does it feel to be taking the Victory Bell back to Chapel Hill, and what do you guys do with it?
We put it right back in the locker room. Before we go in the shower, we go ring it. Everybody dances around naked and just... (laughter from media drowns out the last few words.)
Where were you when Orner's kick went up?
To tell you the truth, I don't know where I was. I was behind the [bench] facing the other way.
So you weren't looking?
Did you have your eyes closed or were you watching the crowd reaction?
I was watching the crowd reaction. When they jumped up and down, I jumped.
When did you know you were starting?
I found out for sure this morning, but towards Thursday and Friday I kind of had a feeling that I may get the nod if I was feeling all right on Saturday morning.
Jawarski Pollack said that when you were injured you said you were coming back before the end of the season. Was that your plan all along, and how sure were you that you'd be able to?
That was my plan. I'm an optimistic thinker, and I feel like I'm a quick healer. In high school, my senior year, I had a similar situation where I broke my leg and came back. I never count myself out when it comes to injury.
On the drive with your touchdown run, you really kept your composure. You shed a tackler on what could have been a sack and then you completed the pass. And then on your touchdown run, you dropped back, surveyed the situation and decided to run it. With the time away from game play, you could have panicked. Why were you able to keep your composure?
I think I got all the jitters out in the first half. I was kind of rusty early on, but once I got settled down and I knew what kind of looks they were giving us, I just took what they gave me.
In the time off, was there anything that you learned from listening on the head set that you used today?
Definitely--throwing the ball to the backs. Even though it was a big play in the first half with Willie [Parker] breaking that long run, if you look at the backs and make teams respect the backs, that will open up the plays down field. That's what happened.
What about the slant call on fourth and four?
At first that wasn't the call. But the kind of look they were giving us, we just wanted to find a play where we could get Sam isolated and let him use his ability to get open, and that's what happened.
What were your feelings when you saw the official raise his hands on Orner's kick?
It's a great feeling, such a perfect ending for me to come back from injury and get a victory in that kind of fashion.