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Listen to Audio (4:10)
Did the seniors get together and talk to everybody and say, "Listen, this is a tough time. This is a bad situation. Lets stick together"?
Each individual senior, with their position groups, we talked to the guys. I talked to my guys, and I just told them that we've got to keep this thing together, 'cause it can get out of hand.
This kind of situations you can have players who really don't understand the circumstances and things can escalate and get out of hand, but I think the seniors did a great job this week, and I think we'll continue to do a great job of keeping things together and just keeping our focus solely on football.
This is the 24th-ranked team in the country, and you all could have won this game.
Ah, we had them on the ropes. That right there goes to show how good this team really is, you know. It is sad to say that it is the one or two plays over the course of a game and we go back and say it over and over again--statistics show that when you have a punt blocked in a football game you don't win. That was early in the game, but still it was seven points that if they didn't have it would be a different ball game.
Why is this team1-7, because there is some talent out there?
If I can tell you that I would have changed it; we would have changed it. If we knew why we were 1-7, it would have been changed, and we wouldn't be 1-7, so you really don't know. We come out and prepare hard every week, we come out to play football every week, we want to win.
We don't go out there to say, 'Hey let's just give this one up' or 'Let's go out here and take another L.' That's not what you want to do--not as a competitor, not as a football player or football team. I really don't know. We fight hard, we play hard, we prepare hard, and sometimes the football gods don't work in our favor.
A lot of people were wondering what the feelings going into this game would be--if you guys would show up for your coach, if some would quit. You guys were a team out there that wasn't going to quit today.
But that's been us before these circumstances. We've been a team that's been together. We haven't quite been able to put things together this season, but we've been a team that has prepared very well all week long. We have been a team that has come out with a goal and a mind set to go out there and compete each and every game.
Just because of the circumstances--like I said before--we still want to go out there and play football. If the circumstances hadn't happened, we still want to go out there and play football. It's just an added thing to push you. If you feel you didn't have any more left, you can say, 'This one's for Coach.' But as a football player and football team you want to go out there and compete at the highest level. That's what this game is all about.
Did you think on that last drive, "This is the time, this is the time--the whole year's frustrations will be put behind"?
I just said [that] the stage was set. I kept saying on the sideline, 'The stage is set, the stage is set,' and you just kind of felt it, and you were saying, 'The football gods are going to go in our favor tonight. The football gods are going to go in our favor tonight.' I just kept saying, 'The stage is set.' Let's go out here--and the fans came out.
The fans were extremely great tonight. I've been having dreams all week that we would come into an empty stadium, and the fans came out and supported. They were at The Old Well Walk. Thanks [to] the fans. They came out and supported their butts off tonight. They were into it, they were cheering, they were loud. The stands were packed, and that is the kind of thing where you want to pull these games out for your fans. You want to pull these games out for your program, your university, for yourself, and we just didn't.
When it didn't happen on that last drive?
A-h-h-h-h-h-h, it's like 'Here we go again.' It's like that--AH--we get right to the door step, and we are denied. It's like getting right to the basket and Shaq[uille O'Neal] coming and blocks you. You think you've got it, and it's stripped right from under you. And it's sad, it's sad, and it can weigh on our conscious, but we fought hard--they just fought a little harder. We made plays--they just made one or two more plays than we did.
Is this the toughest one to swallow this year?
Losing is tough to swallow, period. I don't think there is ever a loss that's easy, to understand that are easy to take, but this one has some kind of--we were right there. This was the 24th-ranked team in the country, and we had the opportunity to go and pick those guys off, you know. I thought we had a good scheme, our defense played well, our offense played well, even with the rotation of the two quarterbacks, and it is right there for the picking. It just got out of our grasp again.
Listen to Audio (3:14)
In high school, I used to play around. After practice I used to play around, throw a couple balls, but that's about it.
Did you ever catch a pass in a high school game?
How were you approached as far as making the move to tight end? Did you approach them, or did they approach you?
They approached me, actually. They told me I was going to play a little tight end this week, and they said I was going to get the opportunity to play. Any opportunity I was grateful for. I decided to take advantage of it, just catch every ball. I did that.
How did the two tight end offense open up the running game?
Man, it was great. It killed Wake. We had everything going in two tight end [offense]. We just have to make more things happen. We have to execute. We just have to win, man.
What is the mood around the team now that you have had a little time for the decision that Coach Bunting will not be back next year to sink in and look towards the remaining games in the season?
For us, we understand that it is a business, but we definitely are going to miss him. He cares not just about Carolina football, he cares about us as players. He did a lot of things to help us, encourage us to get [good] grades, be good people, be better people. It's hard to see him go.
As far as keeping on playing, we try to play games for him, not just for ourselves. We try to put it in for him. I'm sad that we lost today.
Joe [Dailey] was just saying that after the announcement it was almost like the pressure was taken off the team and you guys had one of the better practices that you've had over the weeks of practice that you've had. Do you buy into that?
The announcement that I was--?
After the coach's announcement. He said that took some pressure off.
It didn’t necessarily take the pressure off. The thing was that we decided, 'Who are we going to play for now?' We're going to play for us. We have nothing to lose. We were 1-6 at the time that he told us. We had nothing to lose, so we had to sell out and just practice hard. We had good practices this whole week. We just had to sell out, and we did that during practice. We tried to do that during the game.
Was there a combination of factors, playing an in-state rival that you've had some good games--that and the coaches, did that give you guys and extra edge today to play one of your best games of the season?
The thing was, I wanted to play hard regardless. They moved me to tight end to block, and I wanted to show them. You only get one shot, and I wanted to block as hard as I can and execute plays that I knew I was doing, and catch that pass.
Listen to Audio (4:01)
Can you [encapsulate] what this season has been like to play so well at times, to come so close, and to have it slip away?
That's a great observation. I didn’t look at it like that, but of course--like I said, we were so close but so far at the same time. We'd love to have the win, but we can't do anything about it now--just look at the film to see what we did wrong and right to try to minimize the mistakes we made so we could come out with the win.
Can you talk about how you guys handled everything this week? It was a bizarre week for you, I know.
We handled it pretty well. Of course, we had a lot of reporters around and distractions, but, like I said, all season we had a lot of critics out there saying were weren't going to do good this season, blah, blah, blah, and obviously we haven't, but we just put our shoulder to them and not listen to them and worry about us as a team, and of course our fans but more so us because we are the ones playing.
Were you guys feeling the weight of the situation surround Coach Bunting before this week, and if you were, was it a little easier to play today knowing that was no longer an issue?
Nah, we didn't feel the weight. Like I just said, I thought he was going to be our coach. Next year is my last year, and I was looking for him to be my coach for years to come, and that's what I thought. Of course, when we heard the news on Sunday night it kind of hurt his emotions, but he told us don't worry about him [and] it's about us as players. That was my mentality all week as players; we should go out there and just play like nothing happened before. Of course, it's hard to do that, but at the same time we made all the good out of it that we possibly could--that's play hard.
Are all losses equal, or is it more difficult to be in the game the whole game and come down to the last few seconds and have is slip away?
Well, of course, all losses are equal, but I don't know. Today, it's a loss, but like you just said, we came so close but so far. And of course it's going to hurt, it's going to linger on a little more because we see what we see what we could have [done] and should have [done], but, like I said, we are going to watch the film and capitalize on mistakes, go out there and play hard.
Now that you know Coach Bunting will not be back and that decision has been made, you all have, as a team, had a chance to let that sink in a little bit. How is the mood of the team, looking to the remaining games on the schedule?
Coach Bunting, he's a great man, and I look up to him a lot. He basically just told us to go out there and have fun. That's all he wanted us to do. He said don't worry about him, just go out there and have fun. That's what we did all week, and I think we, as teammates, wanted to give it to him since it will be our last five games with him--give him all we've got. That's all he asked for. Of course he wants to win, but as long as we give him all we've got, he's pretty happy with it.
Talk about the third downs--like he was saying earlier, to come so close it looked like you played good defense today. It just came down to third downs, and they always seemed to pick it up by a yard, half a yard, two yards, something like that. Can you talk about it going like that on third downs?
Of course that's not what we wanted. We always want to get off the field on third down. That's a pretty obvious question. We want to get off third down, [but] we couldn't. We just had to stand up. We couldn't just bear down like we did early on in the season on third downs and melt down. We just had to stay strong, and I think we did a pretty good job of that. But as you see, we don't have the win, we don't have anything to show for it.