“Good first game and great to get it under our belt. You go into the game as a new head coach in your first game and you want to make minimal mistakes and you want to see communication good on the sidelines. You don’t want to have mistakes in substitutions and you want to take care of the football – all those little things. Other than turning the ball over twice I thought our guys responded very well from the beginning of the game and all the way through. I was proud of the way the played today.”
On establishing an identity today:
“I think we started to. I don’t know if one game will establish the identity, because there wasn’t much adversity for us in that game and until we have to face some adversity it is hard to find out who you really are, but we started to.
“I told the defense, it’s hard to get a shut out against air these days, so you got to give them a lot of credit for what they were able to accomplish. Other than a couple of mishaps offensively I thought they played pretty good.”
On Gio Bernard’s injury:
“He could’ve gone back in. There was no reason to put him back in though.”
On Bernard’s play in the first half:
“That was exciting for me, because that was the first time I’ve seen him play in a game. You guys have had that opportunity before. I’ve seen it in practice, but until you get to see it in a game, until you get to see him really light it up you get to see the burst that he has, the explosiveness. That was a lot of fun to see. A lot of fun for me and I’m sure for the entire Tar Heel nation.”
Was this as smooth a debut could have expected?
“Obviously we could’ve not turned it over two times and we had three penalties, so it could’ve been smoother.”
On Bryn Renner’s performance:
“I think Bryn really did a nice job of managing. I think you’re going to see some improvement for him from this game to the next game though. There were some tempo situations where he wasn’t moving quick enough. I thought the offense was lined up ready to go and he wasn’t moving quick enough, so we’ll get those things straightened out. Again, that was his first one. He really did a nice job of managing the game and took care of the ball. The one pick was actually a bust on a route and so we’ll get that corrected and we’ll keep moving forward.”
Did you play at the pace you would like?
“Early on we did, yeah. I think with about three minutes left in the third quarter I told them to shut it down. You still got 74 plays in and… Blake [Anderson] gets mad at me because I tell him to shut it down and he really gets mad on the phones and he stays mad the rest of the game and he’s probably mad right now, but we wanted to move on and get out of the game. It was time to move on.”
What is the process once you ‘shut it down’?
“We try to run some clock off and we don’t let [Marquise Williams] throw the ball very much. We don’t let [Anderson] stay as balanced as he would like to be and he gets frustrated because I put handcuffs on him and I understand. When you’re running an offense you want to see them excel and he want’s to get [Williams] as many good reps in a game as possible. The game had just gotten out of hand at a certain point and I didn’t want to do that.”
How special was today for you?
“It was awesome. It was awesome from waking up in the morning in Chapel Hill to finishing this game off and to have my family here to be able to see it.”
Did you have that lump in you throat?
“No doubt. It started in the stomach last Sunday and it was, for kickoff, I promise you it was in my throat or even higher maybe. As soon as we kicked it off it was done. I can’t say enough about the way the kids responded. There were very few mistakes for a first game and that means you got to give credit to the staff. That means that they left no stone unturned in their preparation. They did a great job of preparing these kids and that’s not easy to do. You look at other games across the country in the last couple of days. There’s a lot of mistakes being made. I’m very proud of the way the staff prepared these guys.”
On the defense and Sylvester Williams in particular:
“Sly is a dang good football player and he was one of the seniors that spoke to the team last night. In those situations the seniors get to talk about their life and how they got to where they are today. What happened in their life? What kind of adversity did he have to overcome to get there? He has an amazing story. If you guys don’t know it, you need to find out, because I’ve been doing it for 26 years and it’s pretty amazing. For him to be in North Carolina and Chapel Hill and do the things he’s able to do is pretty impressive.
“The defense overall I think there were a couple of third and longs that they gave up that they’d like to have back, but other than that they were pretty dominating.”
Did you see enough today to ease some concerns at punt returner?
“I’ll never be in a situation where I feel comfortable about things. That’s just not my makeup. I am glad we got three guys back there, got all of them some opportunities to see what they were and how they were going to react in those situations.
“How many of ya’ll have returned a punt? I’m still waiting. You know what it’s like when you stand back there in front of however many thousands of people and your head is up in the air and you know there’s eleven guys that all want to take your head off and the ball is moving around up there... And to see all of them handle to ball very solidly back there was impressive.
“And Roy Smith. When was the last time Roy Smith touched a football in a game? I don’t know. I don’t know when that was, but to get out there in that situation and make some plays with the ball in his hands I thought was very impressive.”
Did you give out any game balls after the game?
“No I didn’t do that. No.”
Going forward, how do you identify areas to improve?
“That’ll be easy I assure you, because when we get in on that film we’ll dissect every single play and every player. There were plenty of mistakes out there. I know from the naked eye it looks like ‘wow’, but there were plenty of mistakes in that game. There will be plenty of butt chewing I assure you. Our guys will know we that we got to get a lot better and traditionally you make a lot of improvement from your first game to your second and I hope that happens, because we got to be better than we are I assure you."
Was Elon a good team to face the first game, because there was not a lot of adversity?
“It doesn’t really matter. That’s who we had to play so whether it was good or not, all I wanted to be at the game is we wanted to be 1-0. And so we’re 1-0, so now we got to take all the things that happened in this game and hopefully learn from them and you’re right. We didn’t face much adversity in this game and I looked for ways to try to create some adversity and that was hard to do. We’ll continue to create as much adversity as we can during practice and I assure you it’ll be coming around the corner this next weekend.”
How deep in the playbook did you get?
“Not very much. We were as simple as we could possibly be. The whole deal was, hey let’s go out there and let’s make sure we know what to do and let’s let our guys play and let’s let them play fast and let’s let them fly around, be smart, fast and physical and that’s what we did. I think our coaches did a nice job with the game plan, but that was as simple a game plan as you’ll ever see from us.”
On the highlight catch by Quinshad Davis along the sideline:
“That’s who he is. Those are the kind of things he’s been doing in practice. I would’ve loved to see him have an opportunity on that fade ball down in the end zone on [the north end] with Marquise throwing it to him. We try to tell the quarterbacks nobody ever catches one that’s overthrown, so if you’re going to do anything under throw him and give him a chance.”
How pleased were you with the secondary today?
“Every time I looked up Jabari [Price] was making plays… Let me tell you… [Elon wide receiver Aaron Mallette] is a dang good football player. I promise you that kid could play anywhere in this country. He had 116 catches last year and on film he was scary. Our secondary did a really nice job.”
What kind of adversity did you try to create?
“I couldn’t come up with any. We only had three penalties so we really didn’t get behind the chains. I made Blake run the ball on third and long one time, so that increased his anger with me, but overall it was good.”
How much credit do you get for the punt returns today considering that is your thing in practice?
“I don’t get any credit. It is my unit and I do take a lot of pride in it. It’s the one thing that I really get to coach. I’m around the offensive guys, but I don’t have a position to coach. I’m just stepping on toes all the time, but the punt return unit is my unit so I get to coach them and we talked about making a game changing play in this game and being the unit that gets to do that. Fortunately they made some plays. It’ll be interesting to see on film.”