Give Ted Roof and his group a lot of credit for playing very well today and the last few games, with the exception of the Clemson game. Give me all the credit for not having a football team ready to play the first half. I'm very disappointed. I never thought that would happen, but it did. Fortunately, we went out and played a little bit better in the second half and made it a ball game. You can't win many games with one first down in the first half, and you can't win many games when you give up so many yards rushing--we've done that all season. It's a disappointing way to end a disappointing season--simple as that.
We will regroup and--once again, before you ask the question--I will tell you that we will look at everything we've done this year, starting with me and evaluate what we need to do to do it better. It's not good enough; it's not even close to being good enough.
I do want to say that I really want to thank all of the Carolina football family and all the Carolina football fans that were very evident, very present out there today, both in our Old Well Walk and in the stands. I'm very disappointed that we've let you down. We will not stay down though. We will get right back up starting tomorrow. The 2004 season starts for me tomorrow.
Any ideas why the offense looked so out of character in the first half?
Just one break-down--when you play offense you really must execute as a group extremely well. In order to play defensive football, in order to stop the run, you also must be able to execute well. We did neither of those in the first half, and it's just a big surprise. We did not run the ball as well, the quarterback probably didn't throw as well as he'd have liked to in that first half. We only have one first down. Five carries by [Ronnie] McGill is not good. That's not a good situation to be in.
We can't afford to let our defense go out there and play--we had some field positions and kick-off returns by Mike [Mason] and [Michael] Waddell that put us in great field position to make something happen, and we weren't able to get it done. We needed to make a play and change some of the negative momentum that was taking place, and we just weren't able to do it. I don't have an explanation for it. I would never believe that would happen to our offense because our offense has been playing quite well.
It seemed like you made some adjustments at halftime because you came out and played much better. Can you let us in on what those were?
It was just a matter of focus and concentration and getting some energy to go out there and play. We did a couple things, but I know this: we were basically executing our game plan, which we failed to do in the first half.
What did you say at halftime?
What would you tell a team at halftime when you are getting beat like that? It was embarrassing, and it's no way for this team to finish a year that's been very difficult anyway--to finish like this in this very important football game. Thirteen years we've been beating Duke--13 years. It's embarrassing to play like that, and basically that was it: 'You can go back out and hang your head and continue to play poorly, or we can go back out and try to make a game out of it.' And I think our kids rallied to go out and play a ball game.
Is this program better than it was a year ago after the last game?
I think so, I really do. I think that we have a lot of young players that are going to become good players because they are talented and they've gotten a lot of great experience, and I think they'll be that much better next year.
When you go out recruiting, in general, what do you tell them about where the program is?
I start with the University of North Carolina and it's strength. This is not just about athletics--it's about winning, no doubt about it we want to win. We are not that far away. We all know--anybody who has watched us play--that we've played very competitively this year. We've been a lot closer to winning football games; we've gained some confidence throughout the season by the way we've played and by the way we've matched up against certain people. That' is encouraging, and I'm greatly encouraged by that. That is what we tell all the recruits that want to visit this great university--great education, great campus, great people who work here in academics. You get an outstanding education, and you have an opportunity to be part of something special. You have an opportunity to be part of the solution. We are that close right now, and we are going to make it better next year by getting another great recruiting class.
Do you tell them that the program is still in a position where they can play quickly?
Absolutely. There are a lot of players who can come in and help us out. We are a very young team. I don't think we are going to get younger next year, but there are certain positions where we need more speed, and I think they are fairly obvious to see. We need better speed, particularly on the perimeter and in the secondary.
It's got to be tough to hold it all together if you are losing. Do you feel like most of your players are on board with you, even through the losing they feel positive about the future?
We've had great practices all year. There has been a lot of enthusiasm as we've played all these games, all these tough losses. There has been a great deal of competition; there has been a lot of enthusiasm out there on the practice field. The senior group, which I am very proud of their efforts to try to win a bunch of ball games this year. They have to go out as the team that lost to Duke, and I'm part of that. I don't like that. They have to leave with that legacy. We have to work hard to get that [Victory] Bell back for them next year. We have a long wait for that, but we are not going to wait very long to make things better in this football program.
Aside from recruiting--everybody wants really good players--from a coaching standpoint, what's the biggest thing you see that you all have to do to make some type of leap forward?
We have to execute our defense a lot better. We have to continue to improve upon our offense by continuing to run the football some. Defensively--it started with Florida State--perimeter play was not good enough. That's part coaching and part that we have got to get more speed out there.