This team has put together consecutive wins over quality opponents, something that hasn't happened in a while.
We are changing the culture around here. Hopefully, you guys will start to give us a little bit of respect. We want to come to work everyday and work hard. Coach Bunting has implemented a good system. We have players around us that are running the system. We have great seniors and great underclassmen - we are talented all the way around. Now we are starting to show it, starting to peak at the right time.
What happened on your touchdown play?
I caught it, made on guy miss and ran. I saw pay dirt and wasn't getting tackled for anything. I've been [waiting] a long time. We have a little joke among the wide receivers: 'Welcome to the club - the Touchdown Club.'
Jarwarski [Pollock] is in the Touchdown Club, D. Mitchell is in the Touchdown Club, Wallace [Wright] got in the Touchdown Club. H--l, [Brandon] Tate got in before I did! It was my turn to get into the club. We are still missing one. We have to induct Mike [Mason] soon. Everybody wants to be in the club, and we just want to continue to work hard. The more points we put up, the easier it is to win games.
As it turned out today, the passing game sort of had to carry you.
We try to have a balanced attack all the time - run a little bit, pass a little bit. We wear guys down in the first half with the running game a little bit and then we come out in the second half - Matt didn't throw as well as he wanted to in the first half.
I just tried to encourage him and keep him in the game. I keep telling him in his ear, 'You are the leader and you run this team; you are the man and without you we don't work - this engine doesn't run.' He stayed composed and got it done and we made plays on the back end.
While the first couple of games it seemed that the wide receivers had toaster hands, now that group is making some plays. Is that something you all talked about?
Yes, we addressed that issue in practice. We work everyday on distraction drills. Our focus now is to look every ball in before you turn up the field. You have to catch it first and then make plays. Once we get back to doing those things that we did before as great players everything else will take care of itself.
We work everyday on catching the ball first and then exploding five yards up the field to simulate game-type situations, even when it is a walk-through and stuff like that. That is behind us and we are looking forward now.
Missing a couple of field goals against NC State can be chalked up to one bad game. Is it now a pattern with the misses today?
Nah, it just happens sometimes. You just have to keep working and good things will happen. You have to work through it.
Have you been able to identify what it is that you are doing wrong?
It is mainly my approach to the ball - I'm kind of too fast or I'm trying to work my plant foot a little bit. On my third field goal, I hit it well and worked everything out so I should be fine from now on.
Did Coach Bunting say anything to you when you missed those field goals?
It just stinks when you don't put points on the board. The offensive line works so hard and the whole offense works so hard to go down and then we don't get any points on the board.
I just have to get my confidence back from my coaches; they have confidence in me. I just have to keep confidence in the team.
Do you play golf?
Yes, a little bit.
Is the mental approach at all like golf?
It's really similar. You have to go out there thinking you are going to make it every time. If you know you are going to make it you usually do. You have to visualize the ball going through the uprights. I've been a little unconfident lately because I've missed a couple. That hasn't happened to me that much, so I have to work through it, keep working hard in practice.
Their quarterback was inexperienced. Did you all talk about that?
Most definitely. We wanted to get after him early and let him know that we were going to be here all game. He is very talented, he's fast and swift. We had to get 11 hats to the ball. We had to let him know that every time he stepped up there that there was going to be somebody waiting for him. One of our goals was to get hats on him, make him feel the pressure, try to shake him up and get him off his rhythm and get big turnovers.
You allowed some teammates to make plays today by making plays of your own, the deflection that led to the interception and you caused a fumble that allowed a teammate to recover it. Why were you able to make those plays today?
Every time I'm on the field I want to make big plays and I feel like our whole defense has that attitude. With me, every game I tell myself to go out, do things right, to play my heart out, to play for the love of the game. Those are the things you have to do to make those plays.
That's my whole focus - I studied the film, I looked at the game, and I assessed what they were going to try to do to us with Coach Thigpen and Coach Sanders. I knew what to expect, what things they were going to throw at us. I put myself in a position to make plays, expecting what they were going to do.
So did you know what they were going to do before they did it?
No necessarily. We felt like we knew their offense pretty good - but not all the time. They threw a couple of surprises at us. They went unbalanced a couple of times, and they ran a couple of plays on us that we hadn't seen before.
But overall, as a defense I felt like we were very well prepared for this game. We practiced really hard this week, we stayed in the film room as a defense, and we did the little things. We practiced our technique, got in our gaps, played our defense fundamentally sound. We did the right things and made big plays.
How much did you all talk about the Utah game from last year and was it a motivator?
Most definitely. We didn't talk about it much this week, but everybody, in the back of their mind, was thinking about coming out here and DOMINATING, coming out here and making a statement against this offense that we were not just going to lay down and let them walk all over us, especially in this stadium. That was always a factor, but we didn't talk about it.
Every week we prepare very well, and I think that has contributed to our success partially. Those little things like that are factors, but we are trying to go out there and do things right. We are trying to get turnovers, make big plays, and do those things that are often associated with great defenses. We are doing those things to achieve our goal, which is to be one of the top 10 defenses in the nation.
The last couple of games teams have come out and had success against this defense early in the second half. Why do you think that is?
Ahh, I mean we just come out - I can't really say on that one. I understand where you are coming from because against NC State we gave up a touchdown early and in the Utah game we gave up a touchdown after half.
We just - I don't know. Even though we did give up points, we looked at ourselves and said we were not going to get down on each other. We were not going to give up any more [points]. We said, 'That's enough,' and we believed in each other and we went out there and got our job done. We might have given up seven points or 14 points or whatever, but we were not going to let that cause us to go on a downward spiral or go into s slump. We were going to play our game, do things right, and get turnovers. We want to be known as an aggressive, smart, fast, defense.
After struggling in the past, the defense seems to have come together this season. What is the difference?
They have grown up. There are not any new players on that defense. The defensive line has grown up. I've said in the past that if you can have a quality defensive line and have depth, you are going to be a good defense. We finally have some depth and some quality. Some of the young kids have matured and finally stepped up to their potential, and you see what has happened because of it.
You talked about not panicking last week against NC State down 10 points. It wasn't double digits, but did you see a similar situation this week, since you knew you were going to have to score again to win the game?
Of course. We just go back about our game plan. That's football. You have ups and downs. There is no reason to panic. We know we can score points as long as we don't shoot ourselves in the foot. That's what we did - didn't panic, kept to our game plan, and marched down the field on our second possession and scored - I think it was the second possession.
Was there a concern at halftime that you were moving the ball but not getting any points?
I wouldn't say there was a concern. You know you can move the ball, so you are not concerned about that. We just need to stop shooting ourselves in the foot and start scoring in the red zone.
This has been bad. You are not going to beat too many teams - thank God for our defense's five turnovers for us. We need to execute better in the red zone.
Is there any one thing in the red zone that has gone wrong?
I can't say right now. We are going to have to look at film tomorrow and figure it out. I don't know.
What do you think about the offensive line's improvement?
They are the same as the receivers. We know they have talent, and they were able to pick things up and bounce back. They have played great the last couple of weeks.
Did the NC State game give them confidence for this week?
I don't think they are guys who NEED confidence. They walk with confidence everyday. They know they are talented. I didn't panic about them. Everyone wants to talk about how 'The offensive line can't protect Baker,' but I was not concerned at all.