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No loss is any fun, and this one wasn't, either. It was a difficult loss because I really believed that we'd win just like everyone else on that sideline of ours believed it. Once again, it just shows you how close [we are] to getting to where we want to be. We are one or two plays away from winning this football game. These kids played their hearts out. You can't ask for any more effort.
We played a good football team. They were very physical up front. We knew that going in, particularly of their offensive line--and their inside tackles on defense. They are physical and played hard against our guys. They gave our guards fits. And, of course, their offensive line gave us fits with the run game and some of the misdirection stuff. They've had some difficulty in trying adjust to and making those right fits.
It was great to see them play hard in the fourth quarter. It was great to see our team block a punt. I was extremely pleased with the way our special teams stood up to this challenge, the great Virginia Tech special teams. We certainly, I think, played with them or better.
It was a total team effort. We had a chance at the end. It's a shame we couldn't make one more play there because I really believed we would, and everybody else did. Tough loss for these kids. They are down. Big win last week; now they are really down right now. We are just going to have to pick it back up because we have got a two-game season now. We still can make something special out of this year if we get ready to go, prepare well next week and go over to Winston-Salem and play well.
Was that right at the limit of Connor [Barth's] range?
There was a little bit of a swirling wind from the beginning until the end of the game, which we knew about. I've seen him hit 57-yarders. He loves to go 57. When we first got together at training camp, he set the ball, about three days in a row at 57. He missed a couple, and then he started making them. So he can make those. When the ball took off I thought it was in there; I really did. I'm not sure how far it fell short, but, once again, there was a little bit of wind up there that knocked it down.
The last two games have been battles against Top 20 teams. What are your thoughts about that?
Once again, it shows you where this football program has come [from] and where it is going. To be in those games in the fourth quarter--I don't think anybody thought we would, but we did, and we had a chance to win this one. You've got to come up with one or two more plays. That's the kind of opponents we've been playing, and I think--once again, this is the way I think--when you play those kinds of teams and you have a young team and you have some experience--we have some experienced guys and some young guys--hopefully the young guys can learn from the experienced guys how to play and finish those games. We were one or two plays away from finishing this game.
What role do you think penalties played in this game?
It looks like we have here seven; we are one of the least penalized teams in the country. Seven isn't many, but they kind of came at critical times. The two third-down penalties on the first drive are obviously ones that really hurt us. I'll be curious to watch them both. Once we start the second half, after we get the ball back, we have some penalties that set us back and changed field position. I'll be curious to look at those also.
Don't like them, and we've been really good at that. It's one of the reasons why we've had some success is because we've been penalty free, smart, and disciplined. We had seven on the game--that's what is shows here--couple-three at the wrong time which really hurt us.
Don't you think the sack on the last drive was a big play?
Huge play, great pressure--their defensive tackles put some pressure on us. Darian [Durant] was about ready to throw downfield, held off, then was going to throw it to Chad [Scott] and decided not to. What are you going to say? That guy is a great player--I'm talking about our guy, Darian Durant. He made a lot of plays today--a LOT of plays.
What are your thoughts about Chad [Scott], his three-year experience here, and how he has matured and learned things that aren't just about football?
Well, he had a lot going for him coming in here. He chose to transfer here. He was a mature kid from the beginning. He had to sit out a whole year with the transfer, like what we are doing with Barrington [Edwards] right now. He has a great attitude and is a quiet young man. He's not one of those guys who goes around and beats on his chest. He's not real talkative; he's just a guy who likes to get things done.
He's an extremely good student with tremendous character. He will be a very, very successful person and getting a degree from North Carolina will make him even more so. He's got a tremendous amount of pride, and boy has he played well. He's been given the rock and he has taken care of it. I have used the expression around the players many times about sawing wood. He saws it and brings it. He has really delivered for us the last couple of games.
On the final play, usually on pass plays you are looking for a first option, second option, etc. What was optimal?
The progression was the over route. I think he came off that because it was covered. He was going to dump it and didn't feel as if it was time to make that throw; you've only got so much time.
And the over route is?
It's where the inside receiver runs 10-12 yards across the field. It was third and about nine.
Was it more the holes [Mike] Imoh was getting through today or was it Imoh?
Imoh is really quick; he's really a quick back. We did not respond as well as we needed to in terms of taking care of some of the misdirection stuff. The quarterback made some plays for them early on. I thought we were entirely too soft on our coverage, we didn't tackle very well, tackle the catch, and that has got to be addressed. And we will. We have to be more aggressive.
What was the decision-making process on the last play this week, trying to go downfield, rather than running it like you did against Miami?
We run plays that we think are going to be good for what we expect in terms of coverage. It was third and nine. We needed a play to get about nine yards; a draw will work on occasion, but a better way to handle that down and distance is to throw.
You still have some opportunities with this team in your last two games.
That is precisely what I talked to the football team about. We are down to a two game season now, and we still have some opportunities out there. We have to go on the road against a team that has won some ball games against us and other teams, Wake Forest. We have got to be extremely prepared. I'm not sure if they played this week. They have a bye week. They are off so they will be all healed up and healthy, ready to go, roaring to go. We've faced a couple teams after bye weeks, and we haven't handled it well. They have really handled us.
It's in our hands. We need to get extremely prepared to go to Winston-Salem. As I have all season, I'm not looking past the next game. I only care about this one. It will be a battle. They are a team that is always very well prepared; they execute extremely well. That's what we'll require in order to have a ball game over there. We've played some really tough teams on our schedule this year. We've played a ton of Top 20's. Now we have team that has played extremely well against us. That's very dangerous.
Did you think they might be vulnerable to a punt block, or did you just break free?
Every week we have a punt block that is in there. Web said to me right there on third down, 'Do you want to go for it?' and I said 'Absolutely, let's do it.' That is a big, big play for us. Our kids, on special teams, were really playing hard. Like everybody, they are playing hard. We had great execution on that play.
Was there any thought about going for it on fourth down [on the last drive]?
Fourth and 20? No.
Is the feeling walking off today any different? Some of the other losses weren't this close.
We had a tough loss in Tallahassee. We were in that football game too--maybe not at the very end, but we were in that ball game until about midway through the third and fourth quarters.
That's a difficult way to lose. You just lost to a good team. It's the last game for the seniors--that is what is toughest for me. The last home game and they were that close to pulling off something really special. That's a good football team we just lost to. They are very, very physical, they are very, very established, very, very mature and experienced. We had a chance to win it.
How proud are you of your seniors?
I am extremely proud of those kids. I put them up in front of the team at the hotel this morning, that's how proud I am. I put them all in front of the whole football team to express my gratitude for what they've done here in this football program. And then I asked them if they wanted to say anything. Darian Durant spoke with the group and asked for great effort today because some day those guys will be seniors and they will understand exactly what it feels like.
Those kids have been through an awful lot over the last two years. They've had mud in their face, people said things about them and us. So they take a lot of pride in what they are doing here. I am very, very proud of those seniors. We need to get them back up. At 12 midnight tonight this game is over with. Let's get on with the next one.
Can you talk about the growth of the many young guys and the team as a whole the last two weeks. This is back-to-back games where you won one and had a chance to win another, and it hasn't been that way all year in back-to-back games.
Well, we're going, which is what I said would happen--that we are getting better. We are learning how to win and how to play these great opponents that we are playing. If we continue that way then we are going to be a good football program, a good football team. We have two games left. I said all along that we would get better. To see us play well in the fourth quarter--I think they had like 26 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter--that's good, particularly since they wiped us out in the firs three. There are a lot of signs positive in nature. Those are the things--you guys know me--that I dwell on, not the negatives.