This one was a lot closer than anyone expected.
(Laughs) It's a rivalry game. You never can say it's closer--it was a close game. We didn't expect it to be that close. We kind of took ourselves out of the game early in the first two drives with stupid penalties. We had too many personal fouls. We pretty much gave them their first two drives. Kentwan [Balmer] and Kyndraus [Guy] getting personal fouls--that's 30 yards right there automatic. After that we got into a rhythm on defense. We decided to do our job and we pretty much shut them down after that.
Can you just throw the records out when these two teams meet and expect a close game?
It was their last game of the season; they had nothing to lose. They threw everything at us--double reverses, double reverse pass, they brought everything in the arsenal out there to beat us. That's how it is. Usually, it is the last game for us too, so when it comes down to the last game you can just do anything you want to win, and that's what they did. We just came out on top.
What with all the pushing and shoving? There were a lot of penalties in this game and a lot of talking.
There was a lot of talking at the beginning. They were [taking] late shots, and sometimes we retaliated. We shouldn't have--we know better than that. With Kentwan, he didn't retaliate the first time a Duke guy grabbed his face mask, but the second time he retaliated. Unfortunately, the referee only saw Kentwan's reaction. That's the way it is--they always catch the second man.
Talk about the defense in the last quarter.
We just had to step up and play. The defense, we love to be on the field. That's something we like. This was my last [home] game; I wanted to play as much as possible. I was loving the fact that we had to go out there and we had to get the ball back for the offense so they could win the game. I was loving that the game was on our shoulders.
Did you all underestimate Duke any?
No, we didn't underestimate Duke. We knew it was going to be a tough game. We knew they were coming in here with every intention to try to win. They came out here focused and ready to go, and they gave everything they had. We knew they were going to, and we knew we were going to have to fight to win this game.
What happened on the goal line stand when they started 1st and goal on the four yard line?
That was a big stand. Without that stand they probably would have won the game. That last play I was at the line and came over the top and D-Mapp and I stopped him before he got in.
Some of the quotes from the Duke players leading up to this game about how you painted the Victory Bell last year and how you don't respect them suggest that they were taking this game personally. Did you get sense?
Yeah, I thought they took this game personally. Every year we take the game personally too. It's a rivalry game. We don't want to lose the bell. When we lost the bell that year it hurt. I think the whole team was devastated, and we didn't want to have that feeling again. We knew we were going to have to fight for this game in order to have a chance to win the bell again.
More to the point, do you think that is where some of the extracurricular stuff came from, the pushing and talking?
I believe that's where it came from because it started at the beginning of the game. After every play everybody was pushing, shoving, talking, continuing through the whole game until we finally calmed down on defense. We knew we were better than that. They kept doing it, but we stopped. We knew penalties hurt us early.
Were you surprised at the way Duke came out today?
We knew they were going to come out like that. They did that last year at their stadium. The defense did a good job of getting turnovers and hitting the quarterback like we always do. At the same time, we have to respond to the adverse situations like giving up a fumble down there [inside] our 10 yard line--we have to stop them. We have to continue to get better.
They got a big-time reverse for a touchdown. We actually called a blitz that hit the reverse right in there, but we did a bad job of reading it out so--we are going to continue to get better. I know it is the end of the year, but I'm looking for this defense to be outstanding next year.
What happened on your interception on their last offensive possession--were you playing a little zone there?
We were doing a match-up man concept, but it worked out well. There was somebody going to be underneath that route and somebody over the top. We kind of knew what they liked to do with their quarterbacks--they have progressions. I just thank God for allowing me to catch the ball when I did. The defensive line did a good job the whole day of getting pressure.
On their possession where they had first-and-goal at the four yard line, were you surprised that they didn't kick the field goal?
Ah, nah. I hate to sound cliche', but it was their Super Bowl. They would do anything to win. I wasn't surprised at all that they didn't for the field goal. A lot of teams test us like that. Last week Maryland did the same thing and went for it on fourth-and-goal. We did a great job of responding. Against Maryland we had the option stopped, but we didn't fit the tackle right. This week we did a great job on goal line situations.
Did you get the sense that Duke took this game personally?
I just know in the papers this week they were talking a lot about beating UNC. They did a great job of coming out here and--like I said, the first half we held them to 80 yards but they had 14 points. They really got on us in the second half doing a lot of different things. We missed a couple of tackles here and there. It was there Super Bowl. I hate to say that, but it was their Super Bowl and they came out like it.
What do you remember about the call and the play where Durrell Mapp made the stop on the goal line on fourth and goal?
It was a regular pinch where all the D-linemen are submarining. Durell Mapp does a great job of getting depth where he comes downhill screaming, and that is what he did on that play. He got five, sixth yards deep in the end zone and came down screaming.
On the first drive when you lunged for the end zone and your helmet got knocked off, did that sort of set the tone for some of the extracurricular stuff?
Yeah, I think it did. The refs were trying to hold back three of our offensive linemen, but there were no Duke players in there. There was one offensive lineman on the ground, there was me, and there were two of our offensive linemen standing up. The referees were holding them back like they were going to fight, and they were just trying to pick me up. Everything else happened and that got us all fired up. It set the tone for a scrappy game, and that's what it was.
After you hadn't been able to score all through the second half, they scored to go ahead 21-17, and you knew you had to have a touchdown to win, what were you thinking?
Like you said, I was thinking, 'We have to score a touchdown.' You don't need to get it all at once. We practice the two-minute drill--that wasn't a two-minute drill--but we practice those situations twice a week. We put some time on the clock and say that we need a touchdown or a field goal. It's the same thing--you don't go for it all at once. We had plenty of time-outs if it took a while. You have to chip away at it. It was tough because we didn't have any backs on check-downs, so it was tough to drop it off. We had to throw it downfield, and we were able to open up some passing lanes.
When the touchdown to Jesse Holley was called back did you feel like you had to start over again?
That stuff happens. It's the referee's responsibility to make the call and you have to go with what he calls. It's like, 'All right, let's go back out.' We have to get into the end zone one way or another. This one didn't count, so lets find another play that will put it in the end zone.
What was going through your mind after Ronnies fourth-down run when they had to measure because it was so close?
'I hope we get this,' is what went through my mind. That's about it. I went over there and was thinking, 'This doesn't look all that good,' but I reminded myself that a lot of times it doesn't look good from the sidelines because the chains are wrong. I kept telling myself that. 'Once they bring the chains out it will look closer.'
It came out and there was a lot of snaking [back and forth] by the chain. It was close and I thought, 'Uh-oh,' but somehow [the slack] disappeared quickly.
How close was it?
We probably needed that much (holding thumb and index finger about two inches apart) and we got that much (holding thumb and index finger about two and one-half inches apart). We probably needed two inches and got two and a half inches.
When Ronnie McGill finally crossed the goal line on the last touchdown, was there more a sense of relief or celebration?
A lot of both--relief as in, 'We got this one; it's in. This drive is over.' There was not relief as in, 'Oh no, we might lose.' As an offense we did what we had to do; we marched down the field and scored, so that was a celebration also. There was some of both.