It’s good to end the season at home with a victory. With 17 seniors in that locker room, it is really important that you send those guys out at home with a win. Thirty-one victories for those guys so far. The first [UNC] team since 1993 to win six home games, so it’s pretty big. These guys are going to their fourth straight bowl game, so they’ve accomplished a lot. Obviously guys like Dwight Jones, with his catches today, he becomes the catch leader at Carolina. And Gio Bernard breaks Amos Lawrence’s record for rushing as a freshman. That is pretty impressive stuff. Bryn Renner tied the touchdown record today, so a lot of good things happened today. Probably the most important thing is we won the game. We’re 7-5 with a chance to be 8-5, and we keep that bell. That’s huge for this university.
On getting credited by Gio Bernard for helping guide team to a bowl:
It means a lot. Obviously as a coach, you want your players to respect the job that you do and how you do it. It means a lot coming from a guy named Gio, who has a lot of big-time character and I think an awful lot of.
On Quinton Coples:
Quinton has been a guy, since he’s been here, who has gotten a lot of slide protection to him in the passing game, a lot of doubles. We worked it this week. We felt like moving Quinton inside would give him a chance to make a few more plays. I don’t think they knew he was going to _ obviously they didn’t know he was going to be inside, so it’s hard to slide the protection to a 3-technique. So it enabled him to make some more plays and have some more production today.
On Dwight Jones:
Dwight, for maybe the last month or so, you could just see that he has cherished every day that he has been out there on the field, whether it’s been the practice field or the game field. Every day he has come to work. It’s been, ‘I know I want to make sure I give everything because this game isn’t promised to you,’ and you could tell that in his eyes. Every day we go in that locker room, Dwight is the guy. Dwight has become the guy in that locker room. He doesn’t say a whole lot. But when Dwight talks, there are a lot of people in that locker room who listen.
On defending Duke backup quarterback Anthony Boone:
We expected it some, but we expected it more in a wildcat situation moreso than an actual quarterback running the offense. We knew if he was going to be in the game at quarterback, it was going to turn into a little bit more quarterback-run type of game. So we had to just go back. We always have a package for spread, so it gave us an opportunity to go back and use that package. A couple of times we didn’t execute well early on it. But I think once we got going, we got a feel for it. We felt like if we could get some pressure on him in the passing game, we would have some success. And that last drive they had, I think it showed deep in our territory.
On UNC’s response to Duke’s scoring drives with points of its own:
We just needed to get tempo. We just needed to get back and start running our plays and running with tempo. I think we did that on the 91-yard drive. We just got in a rhythm on offense, and we’ve been seeking that a lot this year. We got it in a very important time during the ballgame.
On what UNC’s players have accomplished in the last couple of years under tough circumstances:
These kids are tough mentally and physically. They mean an awful lot to me. They are resilient, they work their butt off every day, they try to do everything we ask them to do.
On what it’s been like coaching this team:
It’s been a blast. It really has. It’s been fun, it’s been a lot of fun. They didn’t bat an eye one bit. They came to work. When we started camp, it was like, ‘OK, here we go.’ I didn’t know how they would react initially, but they just kind of came to work. Once we got three or four days into it, it was like, ‘OK, here we go.’ They’re going to respond. As coaches, we had to respond because they did. Again, I’m as proud of this football team as any that I’ve ever been on.
On getting a game ball from the team:
It was just a moment in the locker room. They just wanted to show appreciation for me stepping up and being the head coach. It was really nice. I appreciate it very much.
On what Bryn Renner said during the game ball presentation:
It was more one of the coaches, and Bryn was involved a little bit. He wanted to do it. I know he was behind it. It was more just an appreciation for the job.
On Giovani Bernard:
I knew last week when he got the concussion. At halftime, he was hot. He wanted to back into the game. I knew this week in practice, you could see it in him that he was expecting to have a big day. Thirty carries and 165 rushing, that’s pretty impressive for the young man. You have to credit that offensive line, the tight ends, the offensive coaching staff for devising the game plan to allow him to do the things that he did today.
On UNC’s running game helping its passing game:
We say it all the time: If you can run it, you ought to be able to throw it. You have to be able to establish the run. If you look at that ballgame, there were eight and nine guys up there close to the line a lot. When that happens, you ought to be able to throw it a little bit. I think it allowed us to get some one-on-ones in the passing game.
On emotion and late hits in the game:
In these games, a lot of emotion happens. As a coach, and guys on this team, we always talk about moving to the next play. Obviously there are times out there when you get upset with calls, but you’ve got to move to the next play and play the next down. No matter where they spot that sucker, you’d better move and get ready to play that next down. I think our kids were able to do that tonight. They didn’t harp a whole lot on some of the hits and all of those things. It was more, ‘OK, let’s get ready to play the next play.’
On how Ryan Houston ended up on the punt return team:
We felt like he needed to be on there this week. Ryan has shown us for the last two years that he had some ability. We actually had him on the punt return because we thought we had a block opportunity. He had done it in practice for two years as a scout-team guy, so we wanted to get him on it this week.
On whether he will go out recruiting on Sunday:
No, I won’t. But the coaches will be loading up, getting ready to head out.
On how big it is to be 7-5 vs. 6-6:
It’s huge. All we wanted is the opportunity to win eight. We stepped in to this week, we said, ‘Let’s win seven. First things first. Then let’s see if we can get to a bowl and win eight.’ Again, you try to do things ‘first things first.’
On catching three touchdown passes:
I’m not sure you can even dream this up, to finish like that. It’s very special. To finally come out and finish playing my senior season, it’s a very special moment.
On how he found open space in the end zone:
It was just my technique. Playing football, you can’t be just fast. You have to work your craft. I’ve been working on my craft since I came here, and Bryn made some great plays and put the ball on the money for me.
On answering with a score after Duke cut lead to 23-21:
It was big for us to get that momentum back. We had the momentum going early in the first quarter, but we kind of lost it. To get that back on that drive was big for us.
On Bryn Renner’s performance this season:
I’ve been so impressed with Bryn. He’s going to be a great quarterback here. He’s very young and has a long way to go, but I can see him doing very special things for this program.
On breaking Hakeem Nicks’ record for single-season receptions:
It’s special to break a record of Hakeem. He was a great receiver, and I learned so much from him here. To be able to vault him in the record book is pretty special.
On his one-handed touchdown catch:
That’s a play that we installed this week where I lined up at tight end. I told my coaches, ‘Y’all going to try to have me playing tight end? I’m not at tight end.’ But I just came off the ball, and Bryn made a great throw. I was able to stick my left hand out there and make a play.
On how special it is to beat Duke:
It’s very special. We didn’t want to be the seniors with the bad legacy left, the team that lost to Duke. So to beat them was very special for us. We were able to keep the legacy going.
On the future of Everett Withers as UNC’s head coach:
We never really think about that. He’s our coach right now, and he’s the guy who’s really helping us out. He’s done an amazing, amazing job this year in keeping all this adversity out of here. He’s done a great job. Hats off to him. He stepped into a pretty tough spot, and he did an amazing job.
On sticking with the running game:
I think it was just something that Coach Shoop had in his mind. He wanted to run the ball. Coach Withers constantly talks about ‘run the ball first,’ and it’s something that helped, and it worked. That’s the main thing. We come out to win.
On his 48-yard touchdown run:
All game, up until that run, me and their safety, I think it was No. 40, he was coming down. The scheme that they were running, they had a guy who was always free and open. As soon as I saw him make the wrong read, I knew it was a touchdown from there on. It’s something that I pride myself on. Sometimes they’re going to slip up, and you’ve got to capitalize on their mistakes. That was one of their mistakes, and we got a touchdown out of it.
On UNC’s running game helping its passing game:
Bryn and I always talk about it. We talk about how running the ball is going to help us open up the passing game. Coach Withers always talks about it, and everybody on the staff always talks about how the run game is always going to open up the passing game. I think it showed out there today. The playaction really hurt that defense.
On how comfortable he felt in the pocket:
The line gave me a ton of time. They played great. Running the ball helps. Gio had that run in the first half that was huge. And then really just giving the ball to Dwight Jones. He’s a special player and did a great job.
On throwing three touchdown passes to Dwight Jones:
We talked about it early in the week. We really just wanted to give him a good senior day. Dwight is a special player. He set the record for catches in a season. He’s a special player. But it’s not hard to throw him the ball because he’s always going to catch it.
On Dwight Jones as a target:
He’s so big. He made that one-handed catch in the end zone, which was huge. He’s easy to throw to. I know he’s going to come down with it every single time.
On Giovani Bernard as a runner:
He just slides. He literally slides behind our line. We’ve got two big guards and two big tackles, and we’ve got a great center, and he just does a great job of finding that hole and finding 10 or 12 yards.
On how he has played so well this season:
I’ve had a lot of help around me. I threw it to Dwight three times, and he scores three touchdowns. We take pride in getting the ball to these receivers and handing the ball to Gio. They’ve done a great job. And my line is great, the best in the country.
On whether UNC’s score to go up 30-21 took the life out of Duke:
I think they gave us a great ballgame the whole game. But when we made it 30-21 with that drive, we could feel a sense of momentum. Football is a game of momentum, and if you have the momentum, it’s going to be easy just to build off that. So definitely that’s what we tried to do. But they’re a great team, and you’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They’re much better than their record says.
On having Giovani Bernard and Dwight Jones on his side:
I came in this season knowing they were going to be special players. But then ending it tonight with what they accomplished and what they did, to be the quarterback of this team the whole year, I was really blessed to have both of them.
On beating Duke:
It’s a great victory. It’s a rivalry, and Duke plays us tough every year. So it’s a great victory.
On how nervous UNC got when Duke cut lead to 23-21:
There was plenty of time left, but we knew it was three plays. We gave up three big plays, and we can’t give up big plays as a defense. We had to tighten down.
On Duke’s two big plays in first half:
They had two big plays. We had to tackle in the open field _ that’s what we have to work on. We gave up two big plays. Other than that, we felt like we played a good half in the first half.
On the difference of defending Anthony Boone vs. Sean Renfree:
It was different, but we practiced for both quarterbacks all week.
On what it means to send seniors out with a win:
It’s tough. You grow up with those guys. When I came in as a true freshman, those were the guys who were my big brother and looked over me and whatnot. So I’m just excited to get the W for them. It’s a great feeling.
On defending Boone vs. Renfree:
They’re two totally different quarterbacks. We had the zone read in with Boone at quarterback, so we had to adjust with that.
On Quinton Coples dominating up front:
Coples played well. He played great. In the back end, it’s always great to get that pass rush so the ball will come out quick.