Frank Spaziani – Boston College
Opening statement: By now, the freshman (Dave Shinskie) is not a freshman and he has played and has the experience. One thing that happened (Saturday) is that, as a team, the line is moving forward but we still have some injuries that are falling backwards. We are a team that is very fragile, but collectively, can win every game.
On how true freshman QB Dave Shinskie played:
It is concerning. He started nine games and some of the mistakes can’t be repeated or else we won’t be able to win.
On if he saw anything different from watching the game film:
It was no more frustrating than (Saturday). When you look at it again you have the rearview mirror benefit. You start to look back and see what you would have done differently and why you would do something different, but that happens every week.
On not being able to win the division title:
We’ve always approached it as a 12-game body of work and that’s what we will be judged on at the end. Granted, there are numerous goals within those 12 games that you will be judged on.
They look physical and obviously well coached. They’ve always had a plan for us and they understand us so I wouldn’t expect anything but a tough ballgame.
On Maryland QB Chris Turner:
I think we’ve been able to control their running game and made them throw the ball. I think they have an understanding of how to attack us and he is a pretty good passer.
On if true freshman RB Rolandan Finch will be able to practice soon:
That is up in the air. I believe they have to do a couple other tests before he is allowed to get back out there. He is a definite no today.
Dabo Swinney – Clemson
Opening Statement: I was a great win last week, I’m proud of our play in the conference this year that included the Atlantic Division championship. That’s a great accomplishment for our team and our staff. I’m really proud of those guys.
We’ve quickly turned the page to South Carolina. Our players have bounced back. Last night I thought they had good spirit and good focus. Today will be a critical day for us from a preparation standpoint. We’ll get a lot of our heavy work done today and tomorrow.
We’re excited about this game, it’s always fun to play the rival. It’s something that is important to this state and this program. It’s a neat thing and it’s fun to be a part of it. For us, it’s next game and the next goal. That’s how we approach it.
We’ll prepare the same way today, tomorrow and Thursday and game-prep on Friday before traveling to Columbia. We’ll have our normal Friday night and Saturday morning and then go play. The next goal for us is to try and win our state championship. That’s 100% of what our focus is on.
Offensively for them, they’ve really done a lot of things throughout the season. From a defensive standpoint, preparing for them is a challenge. They’ve been very multiple. One thing that jumps out is that (Stephen) Garcia has played well for them. He’s really had a good year, you can tell he’s grown a lot as a player from where he was last year. It will be critical for us to get after him, just like all the other quarterbacks we have played. He’s a good player, he makes them go. We have to do a good job of keeping him in the pocket. He can run, he’s fast and we have keep him contained.
Something that’s critical for us every week, especially when you play a team coached by Steve Spurrier, is to contain their running game. If they can get a run game going against us, that makes it difficult. We have to do a good job against the run. They have several guys they’ll roll in there. That goes for us to win against the point of attack.
Our defensive line has to win up front. That’s a key for us in any football game, but in particular for this game. They’re much improved on the offensive line. They’re tough guys, they’re playing hard. They’ve had some battles they’ve been in. We’ll have to win up front to have a chance. They’ve had an open date. We’ll have to prepare for the wildcat, especially after watching us last week they have probably drawn up a bunch of trick plays. I would. They all seemed to work last week against us. We’ll have to do a better job of just playing assignment football and doing your job before you go do someone else’s job. And being disciplined with your eyes and covering your guy.
They throw a lot of deep balls, so that will be a factor in the game. I think that our secondary guys know that, they do it every year. We’ll have to do a good job of defending the deep ball.
They are talented defensively. They were very good last year, since Coach (Ellis) Johnson came in there. Ellis and “Whamee” (Lorenzo Ward) have done a good job with this defense. They play really hard and their safeties are good tacklers. The corners are young, but talented. They have gotten better over the course of the season.
They are very disruptive up front. Ladi Ajboye is a heck of a football player inside, a guy you really have to account for. Eric Norwood is as good of a player as you’ll have to play against. He’s all over the place. He makes a lot of instinctive plays on the football field and they line him up in a lot of different places. Our kids are very familiar with them and I’m sure they are familiar with us, so there are no surprises there.
They’ve added some linebacker depth this year. They’ve added some junior college guys that have come in there and given them some depth. We’ve got to win up front. We have to be able to run the ball. That makes things go for us and allows us to have some balance.
Special teams is usually a factor in this game, at least it has been the last few years. Whether it’s a kick or a blocked kick or a return, usually special teams is a big factor in this game.
We’re pretty healthy going into the 12th game of the season. It’s important that we have them fresh and ready to go, especially since they are coming off an extra week of rest. We have to make sure we are ready to roll. It’s all about execution. We just want to finish strong and keep getting better.
Q: As a person that isn’t from the state, what have you come to learn about this rivalry?
Swinney: It’s a great rivalry. It’s very similar to what I grew up in. It’s a game that means a lot to the state on both sides. They talk about it all year. It hasn’t had quite the national effect as much as maybe the Alabama/Auburn game has had. Those two teams are in the same conference, the same division, so a lot of times that game is for the SEC Championship or a higher ranking. This game historically has not had as much effect on a national scene with rankings and championships and things like that. But make no mistake, it doesn’t take a backseat at all to any rivalry from a fan base standpoint and people wanting to win. It’s a great rivalry. It’s good old fashion bragging rights and it’s a really fun game to be a part of.
Q: There are a thousand decisions that can be made in a ballgame. Do you think you’ll make any decision during the game, whatever it is, that you might make different this week because of the Georgia Tech game next week?
Swinney: Not at all. This is the biggest game of the year. We want to win it. Why play a game if you don’t want to play to win? It’s a chance to win our ninth game of the year and it’s the opportunity to win seven in a row. We’ve practice, we’ve met, we’ve put a lot of time getting ready for the ball game. If it went our way and we are in the fourth quarter and we feel like we have the game in control we might take our big guys out and rest them, that’s about the only thing I wouldn’t go into this game thinking anything otherwise.
Q: Talk about the game a year ago and how it helped to solidify your future here. Swinney: We had to win it just to go to a bowl game because we had two 1-AA teams on our schedule. It was a big, big game for us. It gave us seven wins and it certainly didn’t hurt my chances of getting this job. I was happy for the seniors because it was their last home game and it’s always nice to see them be able to finish their career with a win.
Q: Talk about emotions being high for this game and keeping emotions in check.
Swinney: The most excited team doesn’t win, the most emotional team doesn’t win. It’s the team that takes care of the ball. It’s the team that wins on the point of attack on the defensive line and the offensive line. It’s the team that plays the smartest. That’s really what we talk more about. We address the fact that our guys will be excited to play. Let’s channel our energy the right way. We don’t play until noon on Saturday, so let’s stick to our daily focus and attention to detail.
Q: Kyle Parker’s development this year has been remarkable. How does Kyle Parker compliment your other skill people?
Swinney: For Kyle it’s about preparation, decision-making and leadership. Those are great qualities for in a quarterback and that’s where he has grown most. It is very critical. He has learned how to prepare the proper way, which has led to better decision-making on the field. Because he’s had success, he’s gotten the opportunity to be a leader even though he is a freshman. He’s taken full advantage of that. He has proven that he can make all of the throws.
He handles his emotions very well. He doesn’t let mistakes haunt him. He moves on. He doesn’t let success get to him. He just plays. That’s probably the biggest thing that has allowed us to have the threat and be a balanced team, which is what we try to do. They load up to stop the run, they’re vulnerable because we’ve got good skill players. Somebody for them has to cover. Kyle has proven he can beat you, so that has helped us a ton.
Q: How much is Coach Stallings still mentoring you? How much do you seek his advice?
Swinney: I talked to him Georgia Tech week and then again after the Maryland game. He called me after the game. We had a good talk. I went out two Sundays ago for coach Jack’s funeral with Woody McCorvey and Danny Pearman. I had a good visit with him. We had just played Florida State the night before.
We hadn’t been there 30 seconds, I walk in the door, and he says, ‘Come here, I got to show you something.’ We sat down at the table in his den. He had it on his mind. He took a piece of paper, flips it over, and he goes back to coaching and talks about formations. He had a thought on his mind about stopping the run. He’s like, ‘I gotta tell you this. It’s going to win you a ballgame.’ He drew it up. I told him it looked good, folded it up and put it in my pocket.
Q: After you lost to Texas Christian, C.J. said this was a top 15 team. People thought it was an absurd statement. What’s that say about the team and CJ’s believe in it?
Swinney: Our team has believed all along. We’ve been about the right things. It’s been a very unselfish bunch, a close group and a very accountable group. They knew that TCU is a good football team when we played them. We knew we had an opportunity to win that game and you see where TCU is ranked and you see where Georgia Tech is ranked. Our kids know we’re as good as any team. That’s important, that’s a big part of it that your team believes that they’re good enough. That’s 75% of the battle. You don’t necessarily have to be good enough, but if you believe you are good enough you have a chance. That’s been a real key for this team. They believe in themselves and each other. They really care about each other. All that ranking stuff just doesn’t matter.
David Cutcliffe – Duke
On the senior class, which will play its final game at Duke this Saturday:
This group has endured some difficult times. Thank goodness they’ve been able to celebrate some good times. Their contribution to Duke football will be more significant over a period of time, because it’s not just what you do on Saturday. It’s not even what you do on the practice field alone, and they’ve done well there. But they’ve gotten high marks in their conditioning work, their summer passing work that they set up and organized themselves, and in their commitment to excellence, academically and socially. This group, they have been amazing. They are champions, and they’re champions in many ways. That’s the most significant thing for us this week.
On the upcoming game against Wake Forest on Saturday:
This is a big ballgame for lots of reasons. Everybody’s aware that we have a chance to go 6-6, which is significant. I think it’s just significant in so many ways that these guys go out playing well. We’re going to be very challenged by a team that has had an open date and an opportunity to get rested and heal a little bit. (Wake Forest) has played really good football all year long. It’s a big challenge with them.
On the changed schedule, which no longer has Duke vs. North Carolina as the final game:
The schedule was adjusted so that we’re not playing North Carolina last, but as they put it together, they put another rival game there. It should generate a lot of interest. From what I understand, they’re calling for about 55 degrees and sunshine, which should be an absolutely perfect day for college football.
On recovering from the loss at No. 20 Miami:
I think having a rival game to come back to is huge. We had our head in the sand a little bit after (the loss to Miami), and our seniors handled that. Our practice, I thought it started a little bit quiet. But man, when we started hitting and competing, it finished on a really strong note. I think that has a lot to do with our players coming out and feeling better after a day’s work.
On Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner:
He is extremely accurate. He’s got nice arm strength, and he buys time extremely well, which is what he does as well as anything. He makes you pay when he buys time. A lot of guys buy time and then panic, but he buys time and makes plays. He’s done that his whole career. I watched him when he was young and I was at Tennessee, and I was impressed with him.
On learning something from Duke’s last three losses:
That is what growth is about. What you learn is you watch when players are made and when teams assert themselves and win games. Against Georgia Tech, in the second quarter, we missed a chance to make that game 21-17, and then they turned it into a 28-10 game just like that. There are places and times in games that you can win football games. North Carolina did it to us on a long drive in the fourth quarter after we failed to convert a fourth down. That’s a heck of a football game. You see that that’s how football games are won. When opportunities to win present themselves – look at Tiger Woods, great tennis players – when they find a defining moment and a time to win, they go win. That is what we have to learn and define at Duke. I’ve seen our basketball team do it time and time again. I think it’s really something that our players have seen and understood.
Bobby Bowden – Florida State
About the character of this year’s team:
They’ve hustled hard. You can watch on film from the Maryland game when their guy intercepted the pass, we had 10 guys just flying to catch him. Some of them didn’t have a chance by they were still trying. In fact, EJ (Manuel) got up off of the ground and chased him and stopped him around the eight or nine yard line.
About EJ Manuel’s performance overall vs. Maryland:
EJ’s performance overall, was, I’d say, excellent. He had three interceptions but we felt like with two of them, if the receiver would have done what he was supposed to have done, they would not have occurred. He threw one interception when he threw the ball a little bit late and they got it but what happened at the end of the game – he led us to victory.
About how most of our games have come down to the last possession:
Our games have all been close. Every game has come down to the last two or three minutes. We’ve won four of the last five but of course, at the first of the year, we won what, two out of five and so we’re doing better.
About clinching bowl eligibility:
We had to have that game for bowl eligibility because you’ve got no idea what’s going to happen against Florida. All you know is that they’re the No. 1 team in the nation and you’re not ranked and so it’s going to be a tough ball game.”
About EJ Manuel going in and playing in the Swamp:
He’ll (EJ) never play in a more harsh environment than playing in Gainesville. Clemson would be just as bad but he didn’t hardly play at Clemson. This will be another part of the learning process for him. The first was learning to play away from home, the second was learning to play in Tallahassee and coming back when you’re behind and now, he’s going into Gainesville in one of the loudest stadiums you’ll ever see and play a team that’s No. 1 in the nation. What a challenge.
Q: Talking to your players, it seems like they’re confident that they can play with Florida.
Bowden: Well, you know, the kids have played all year. It’s just the dad-gum mistakes. It’s just like the little pass they were throwing out there in the flat. Now you’ve got one guy out there. All he’s got to do is approach from the outside and turn him back in to where everybody else is. No, we approach inside out, the guy runs past you, and now he’s gone. We have to catch him. I think that happened two times. And I think we finally got it straightened out. But our kids do hustle. What would be sad is if you were playing and your kids ain’t trying. That would be awful. But the kids are trying hard. It’s just dad-gum mistakes. We’re not making as many but still making them.
Q: How much is this game against Florida going to be a measuring stick for how much progress you’ve made; understanding that it might be a better measure if Ponder were playing?
Bowden: That’s a good question. Ponder would know exactly what to do with it. Manuel might have to struggle more. When you’re playing the No. 1 team in the nation, it’s not a good idea to struggle.
Q: The last two years vs. Florida have been pretty one-sided in this game.
Bowden: Two years, they’ve ripped us. And the year before that, they beat us one touchdown. They were national champions. But I imagine they ripped everyone else the same way, didn’t they? I imagine they beat those other teams about like they beat us. But we’ve just got to go out there and play the best we can do. That’s all we can do. Play as hard as you can.
Q: You going be glad this is the last time you see No. 15 (Tim Tebow)?
Bowden: Yeah, I really am. Because he is so good. The question is, what will they do without him? What would Texas do without [Colt] McCoy? You see what Oklahoma did without their guy. One great player can make a lot of difference.
Q: Last year, you said that Florida had better players at a lot of positions. Do you feel now that with some of the young guys you have that you’ve closed that gap a little?
Bowden: We’re getting closer. Next year, we should be neck and neck. That little freshman that ran them two touchdowns yesterday – [Lonnie] Pryor – we didn’t even know if Pryor would play this year. The kid has played real well for us. So yeah, I think we’ll be able to compete next year.
Q: You’ve had cycles where you’ve just dominated Florida. And they’ve had cycles where they’ve beaten you. Is it never easy?
Bowden: No, it’s never easy. Now, you take our team right now. Our offense is playing as good as they used to. They’re playing as good as they did back when Charlie was here and Weinke ? they’re playing just as good. It’s just on the other side of the ball, we’re having a hard time stopping people.
Q: Do you feel like the talent is improving on defense with Greg Reid and Jacobbi McDaniel and some of those young guys?
Bowden: It’s getting better. Reid, with a good spring under his belt, should be a starter. We’ve played Reid some. He’s been beaten a couple of times on takeoffs – that’s what freshmen do. But his talent level’s going to be close to some of those other good corners we’ve had here at Florida State.
Q: Do you think the new defensive coordinator will have a lot to work with?
Bowden: Well, you’ve gotten more experience. Our biggest liability this year was the secondary. We knew that. I said that first thing. You lost [Myron] Rolle and you lost a couple other guys.
Q: What do you think it would take for you to beat Florida? Would it take a perfect game?
Bowden: Oh gosh, yeah. Ain’t nobody gonna beat them with an imperfect ballgame. They’re too good. We’d have to play the very best we can play and they’d have to turn the ball over. Upsets are caused by turnovers. When two good teams play, maybe it’s a little different. But when No. 1 is playing somebody that’s not ranked, then the only thing that neutralizes it is turnovers.
Q: Is there anybody on your ballclub that would start on theirs?
Bowden: Oh gosh, I would think so. Yeah. You know, that’s the thing people don’t understand. When you have a great year and you’ve got a good team, maybe it’s one guy that ties that team together. Now here’s another team over here that’s not having a good [year], it don’t mean all their players are bad. It’s just that one guy that can do it. ? When we play Florida, do we have some guys as good as theirs? Yeah, I’m not going to break it down position by position. But yes, we’ve got some good players too. We’ve just been making more mistakes defensively than they have. If you had Ponder with this offense healthy, we could play with about anybody. North Carolina was what, the No. 2 defense in the nation? Miami’s got a pretty good defense.
Q: Is the trick stopping them?
Bowden: Tebow can throw it, he can run it. You can get a hold of him, but you can’t get him down. He can still throw it when you’ve got a hold of him, he’s so big. He’s good. And he’s got a good supporting cast. But their defense is good too. Their defense has played mighty good.
Q: When you first got here, you talked about needing to beat Florida to prove that FSU could compete. Because of this cycle they are in where they have been so good, are there any similarities to where you want it to be with this program — how you want to beat them again?
Bowden: I think that’s true. Auburn has to beat Alabama. Georgia Tech has to beat Georgia. Sometimes it goes in cycles. Sometimes the home team wins. Florida and I did that, it seemed like. Then there were times we beat them four in a row and they beat us five or six in a row. It will change. Nothing lasts forever.
Q: How impressed are you with what Jimbo has done with E.J. and Ponder?
Bowden: I don’t know if anybody can prepare a quarterback better than he has Ponder and E.J. I don’t know anyone who can prepare them any better. He’s different than any quarterback coach I’ve ever had. He handles them differently. He’s tough on them. I know what he’s trying to do. He tried to put so much pressure on them in practice that the games are no pressure. That’s exactly what he tries to do. That’s what E.J. said he felt in that Wake Forest game. He said he faced so much pressure during the week that the game was no pressure.
Q: How much has your sense of humor and your faith helped you this year?
Bowden: If it wasn’t for my faith, I couldn’t have made it. I’ve got to believe in something higher than football. And I do. I talk to the American Football Coaches Association a lot. We’ll have 300-400 or a thousand coaches out there and I tell them, “Don’t make football your God.” If they don’t have something higher to trust in, they won’t make it.
Q: How much did the BYU or even the Wake Forest wins encourage you? That you can catch lightning in a bottle and pull one out?
Bowden: It’s amazing. We have had those days. Look at Georgia Tech. We scored the first five times we had the ball. The first five times. We scored 44 points and lost. It’s not hard to figure out where our problems are.
Q: How important is it going to a bowl?
Bowden: It’s one of the few things you can accomplish. We’ve lost a chance at an ACC championship. We lost a chance at a national championship. We lost a chance at 10 wins. So it’s nice to have one thing.
Paul Johnson – Georgia Tech
Opening Statement: Good morning. I think the week off last week came at the right time. I was encouraged by what I saw in practice yesterday. The guys were excited to be out there after a few days off. We’re a day ahead of schedule getting ready for the game because we put a lot of work in yesterday. We’re excited to have the opportunity to play at home on Saturday night against a Georgia team that is very talented.
I’m sure they’re going to come in here and play one of their best games. I would expect nothing less. We’re going to try and get ready to play one of our best [games]. They’ve got a lot to play for and so do we. It ought to be a good game.
On the Georgia Tech-Georgia Rivalry:
I know the game’s important, because it’s important to our fan base and the school and everyone else. Honestly, I get ready for this game as I get ready for any other game. I think you have to do that. I told somebody earlier that this is not the end all do all for our football program to beat Georgia. We want to win our share of games against them and it’s an in-state rivalry game and all. I understand that, but it’s not going to define our year if we beat Georgia.
On if last season’s 45-42 win over Georgia defined Georgia Tech’s season:
Well, last year we didn’t win the [Coastal] division and we didn’t have a chance to play for the ACC Championship. I don’t know if it defined our season last year. I know it did to some of our fans. I think you’re putting [Georgia] on a pretty high pedestal. Do you think beating Georgia Tech defines Georgia’s season? I bet if you ask them, they’d probably tell you no. It’s an important game and you don’t want to diminish that, but let’s not get carried away.
On if beating Georgia was the team’s top goal a season ago:
It was a goal. I don’t think we have a number one goal. It was the first one on the board. What is the third one on the list this year, finish in the top five in rushing? It was a goal because Georgia Tech had not beaten Georgia in seven years.
On if beating Georgia a season ago gives Georgia Tech more confidence coming into this year’s game:
I have no idea. I think our guys will be excited to play. It’s going to be a great crowd; it’s a rivalry game and a big game, so they’ll be really fired up. I don’t know if they’re going to have a celebration in the streets if we win Saturday night. We still have other fish to fry.
On last year’s second half comeback against Georgia:
It showed some character on our player’s part that they fought back and continued to play, but so did Georgia. They came back, as well. You’d like to see this game be very competitive and I think it probably will be for the most part. I don’t think one side is going to get to the point where they can just go away and hide from the other. I hope that’s not the case, but if it is, gosh I hope it’s us. But, I don’t see that happening. Both teams have too many good players.
On how Georgia Tech’s fan base treats the Georgia game:
You’re going to have fans that treat any game as a big game. Certainly, anytime you work with people everyday and you’re around them in the state, it certainly makes your life easier if your team wins. You can be the guy cracking all the jokes and doing that kind of thing. Each fan has to have their individual idea of the game. I understand it’s a big game. I’m not backing away from that, but what I’m trying to say is, it’s not going to end our season if we win or lose the game. I’m not going to let one game define my football season when I have to play 13 games. Now, if I was 0-12, I might let that one game define me, but we have other things to play for. Does that lessen the fact that we want to win the game, no. We want to win the game as much as Georgia does.
On if the Georgia-Georgia Tech game has any effect on recruiting:
It might have something to do with it. I think there are a lot of other factors involved. Do they want to see the programs comparable, sure. But, there’s a lot of contrasts between Georgia and Georgia Tech, far more than who wins the game. The location, majors that are offered, prestige of certain programs, there’s a lot of factors that go into it. Does that mean that Georgia is never going to beat Florida on a recruit because Florida won the game? A lot of these kids will still go to Georgia; there are a lot of other reasons that come into play.
On if it was surprising to see how important winning the Georgia game was to Georgia Tech fans:
I know that they were excited that we won the game. It probably wasn’t as big of a deal to me because I hadn’t been here through the losing. If I had lost to someone seven years in a row, it probably would’ve been a bigger deal. I don’t want to leave the wrong impression because I do realize that the game is important and I know for a lot of our fans that this is the game they want to win. We want to get to the point where our program is bigger than one game. That doesn’t mean that we’re going to dismiss that game and say ‘oh, we don’t care if we win.’ We want to win the game, but we want to do some other things that just beating Georgia won’t do for you. You have to have some consistency.
When you get into a rivalry game, it’s like anything. Georgia has more to gain beating us then we do beating them. We’re ranked, they’re not. It’s the complete opposite of last year and it will probably go back-and-forth. In an ideal situation, both teams would be really good. I think that Georgia is a really good team. Do not underestimate the talent they have because of their record. Mark [Rich] has built a really strong program in Athens. They’ve got good football players and a good team. They haven’t had the type of year anybody expected or wanted, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have good football players and a good program. When you win so many games consistently like they’ve done, it’s hard to meet those expectations every year. You build a monster and you have to feed it. They still have a good team.
On if the injury sustained to Georgia wide out A.J. Green will have an impact on preparation for Georgia’s offense:
They are going to run the same offense whether A.J. Green plays or not. They’ll just put someone else in. A.J. Green might be the best receiver in the country, so not having him certainly will hurt them. But, it doesn’t change the way we are preparing for them because they will still have a good player out there. I guarantee a four or five star recruit will be out there taking his place. It’s not like they are going to cancel their offense if A.J. doesn’t play. We’re worried about Georgia Tech; we don’t approach this game any differently than any other game. I don’t know what Georgia’s going to do; they might run the wishbone or throw it every down. We’re getting ready for A.J. Green and everyone else on their roster.
On if it is surprising that Georgia is 6-5 on the season:
Quite honestly, I haven’t paid that much attention to them during the year, outside what everyone was saying about them on Sunday after the game. When you watch the tape, when they don’t beat themselves, they’re a very good football team. Put on the Kentucky game. They drag them up and down the field, but they killed themselves with four turnovers in the second half, just like any other team in America would. There are not many teams that could turn the ball over four times in a half and win the game. But, that doesn’t take away from the talented players they have. It’s just like anything else; maybe they don’t turn it over this week. That’s why you play the game because you never know what is going to happen.
On if there are any concerns that the Yellow Jackets will come out rusty after a bye week:
We’ll know on Saturday. We came out yesterday and looked pretty good, but that was against the scout team who probably isn’t going to put up as good of a fight. We’ll know on Saturday when we play. That’s my concern for us, to play as good as we can play. If we can do that, then we’ll be able to live with the result. Just go out there and do your thing. Have some confidence in what your doing and play.
On Georgia’s defense:
They’re big and physical inside. I think they have some NFL-caliber defensive tackles. Their linebackers run well. They have some corners that are younger, but are very talented. They have some good players. We just have to line up and execute. That’s why you play the games. Last year we had some success in that they missed some tackles and we hit some big plays. It wasn’t like we were slowing them down; they went up and down the field pretty good too.
On concerns in kick coverage:
It’s a concern for us every game because we know that every team we play will have someone back there that can catch it and go. You just have to be sound and do your job and hope that you can make a tackle in the open field. You can’t play scared because you’re not going to be very successful. That’s what we did last year; we went in there and played. When we got down early we didn’t say, “Oh, here we go again”. We just kept playing.
On Josh Nesbitt’s role on the team:
I think Josh has been a very valuable part of our football team, no question. He’s been a leader and he kind of stirs the drink that makes it go on offense. He’s been a really good player. He certainly is deserving of any kind of accolades that he gets. It’s too bad that so much of that stuff is perception. But, he’s been a valuable member of our team, there’s no doubt about that.
Ralph Friedgen – Maryland
On Boston College:
When you watch Boston College on tape, they play with a lot of energy, a lot of effort. They’re very well coached and very disciplined team. I think they have the fewest amount of penalties in the league.
On the team’s dedication:
I tell you, these kids never cease to amaze me. At our meeting yesterday, I kind of go through what the procedures are going to be this week – it’s kind of a special week with Thanksgiving. What we have done traditionally, the non-travel squad stays with the team through Wednesday practice and then Wednesday night they’re allowed to go home. We normally service ourselves (with the scout team) on Thursday morning and I would say 25-30 kids would go home. Yesterday, I need to get numbers to see how we can organize practice and meals and everything else, so I asked who was going home. Two kids stood up. So I said, ‘Did you not understand the question?’ I didn’t know if they understood or not, so I went back to my office and I asked my operations guy, ‘Was I not clear? Maybe I need to ask again tonight.’ So after practice I said, ‘Maybe some of you didn’t understand me. It’s okay to go home after practice on Wednesday. Stand up again if you’re going home.’ This time, one kid stood up. That’s unbelievable. Here we are 2-9 and these kids are staying. It’s a special bunch. I enjoy coaching them so much and I just wish we could do better. We’re going to work as hard as we possibly can to win this game this weekend.
On the quarterback situation with Chris Turner possibly returning this weekend:
Yesterday we ran Chris and he did better than we anticipated. Now, we’ll wait to see where he is today. We’d like to get a little bit out of him, but we’re not pushing too hard. We’d like to see him on Wednesday and we’ll make a decision. Jamarr’s got an injury right now himself. His leg is injured, but we think he’s probable for the game. We’ll just have to see how the week plays out. At this point, I would not like to burn two kids’ redshirts.
On how this team’s heart stacks up with other teams he’s coached:
After last night, I would say it’s one of the best team’s I’ve ever had a chance to work with as far as the type of people they are. They just keep coming back and it’s why Saturday’s game was such a tough, tough loss. We really, really had the game and we just couldn’t close the deal. I talked to them (yesterday) about the positives of that game because we were hearing a lot of negative things. I talked about Jamarr’s play. I talked about how our turnovers have gone down. I see us making progress. Sometimes, I think, you can’t play to lose – you have to play to win. That’s the next hurdle we have to get through. It’s really been a privilege for me to work with them.
On if the ‘Senior Day’ game is different from other ones:
It’s such a young team. I don’t know how that’s going to play out. I had Cory Jackson in my office today and he was telling me how special this game is to him. He said when Nolan (Carroll) got hurt, he realized he didn’t know how many football games he had in him because he had some leg issues too. He said, ‘I’m just trying to play as hard as I can for as long as I can.’ I think for the seniors, it’s a very, very important game. A couple of the younger guys have mentioned that they would like to win this one for the seniors.
On this year’s senior class:
The thing I like about this class is that they’re not afraid to speak their minds or say what they feel, whether it’s to me or whether it’s to their peers. A lot of times, you come on tough times and momentum starts going the wrong way. You get a lot of guys that have fallen in line. I think there’s been times when this senior class has stepped up. Even though we haven’t been as successful as we want to, that’s what I appreciate about them.
On what he would say to fans right now:
Keep the faith. We have a lot of guys coming back (next year) and I believe in this team very much. They’ve got a lot to look forward to because we’re going to grow from this experience. We’re going to be better for this experience. We’re going to appreciate winning maybe more than we have in the past. I think the future’s pretty bright. A thing I know that I’m much more optimistic this week than I was last week is the play of Jamarr Robinson. I think I got two young quarterbacks (in C.J. Brown and Danny O’Brien) that are pretty good too. I think I’ve got a transfer that’s pretty good. I got two coming in that I think are pretty good. I got all the running backs back. I got all my wide receivers back. I lose one offensive lineman and they all play. We took our lumps this year, but we won’t be taking our lumps next year. That’s what I would tell them.
On Jamarr Robinson’s status for Saturday:
I’ve been told that he’s probable. My concern is preparation. We actually did some things almost in a walk-through mode yesterday, so he would get the repetitions at least from a mental standpoint and I’ll do some of that with him today, too. I’m hoping by tomorrow and Thursday we’ll be able to get some more out of him.
Randy Shannon – Miami
It’s our last regular season game this week versus South Florida. It’s a rivalry among all of the schools within Florida. It’s all Division I-A programs recruiting the same type of players from the same area. It will be a sold out crowd with a lot of enthusiasm and there is a lot for us to play for. We could go 4-0 in non conference games and it is an opportunity for the seniors to go out winning their last regular season game.
On USF quarterback B.J. Daniels’ ability to scramble:
You have to do a good job of keeping him in control, but the cornerbacks have to do a good job of staying with receivers and not looking back into the back field. You have to do your own job and not give up big plays.
On the team’s play on the road:
It’s always tough on the road. There are no gimmies on the road. College football is too equal now. It will always be tough on the road.
More on USF Quarterback B.J Daniels:
He is like [NC State QB] Russell Wilson. There are a lot of parallels between them and NC State. They have a lot of 4 or 5 receiver sets. When a guy scrambles, there are not many tendencies.
On USF’s play vs. ranked opponents:
They have beaten some teams in the top 25. It’s a team we cannot take lightly, and we have to treat it like Oklahoma.
On running back Damien Berry:
It will be the same situation as always. Last year, Javarris would start and Cooper would come in late and the fans would chant for Cooper. Now Cooper is starting off and Berry is coming off the bench. It’s just about who is fresh.
On fullback John Calhoun:
He’s done a great job of blocking late in the game and protecting to allow us to get some touchdowns. The more they develop the more exciting it is as a coach.
On the holiday festivities affecting practice:
It will be a normal week. A lot of guys will go to teammates’ houses. We want to make it as normal and regular as possible. We’ll leave Friday on the bus at around 12:30.
On linebacker Darryl Sharpton’s improvement:
He has really come a long way and I am proud of Darryl. He’s making all the right checks and lining people up. He has made some big hits, tackles for loss and had an interception the other day. It’s similar to a Tarvares Gooden stepping up as a senior back in his final year [in 2007].
On taking pride as a coach:
Anytime you see kids do well on and off the field it’s great to say. I feel good because their parents feel good. Anytime you go into homes for recruiting it makes a big difference. This group of seniors is unbelievable. For recruiting, they do a great job of telling us if this kid is right for the University of Miami and doing what it takes to sell the kids who are right. I’m thankful for all those guys.
On the success of the tight ends, specifically Jimmy Graham:
It is great to see how they have helped each other. Dedrick Epps and Tervaris Johnson did a great job of taking this guy in, even though he was their competition and helping him. They keep Jimmy’s mindset right and ready and it shows how unselfish this team is. Jimmy has really started to block which comes from Tervaris and Dedrick and reinforcing what Coach [Joe] Panunzio has been saying. It shows a lot about these seniors.
On the season flying by:
It didn’t at first, but it seems like it flew by now. I can recall plays from earlier in the season. It’s been quick but been long.
On comparing Olivier Vernon to past defense ends who played as freshmen:
Really, freshmen haven’t played here in the past but he is starting to come around again. I’m happy to see him run around and do the things he’s doing. It’s helping us out defensively big time.
Butch Davis – North Carolina
Opening Statement: It is a big week. It is an in-state rivalry game and last week of the season. This is a unique state in a sense you have so many people in close proximity with each other, it can’t help but be a rivalry. With Duke, Wake, East Carolina and N.C. State – moving the game to the last one of the season certainly enhances that rivalry.
N.C. State presents a huge amount of challenges this week. Russell Wilson, in my opinion, maybe with the exception of C.J. Spiller, is the most dynamic player in our league. He is a double-edged threat from a standpoint he can extend plays, throws the ball extremely well, his mobility absolutely gives everybody fits. So of that is by design and some not by design. He has a gifted support of people around him, a running back in Toney Baker.
Defensively, Willie Young is just a kid who plays really well. He had an outstanding game against us a year ago. You see him just cause havoc against everybody they play against. We have got to improve ourselves and make some adjustments from how we played last week. We didn’t play very well and a lot of that credit goes to Boston College. We have to prepare for the challenges N.C. State presents, but also have to improve our play entering this game.
Q: Will you use ’41-10’ as a motivational tool this week?
Davis: I just really have never gotten into previous years and past scores and past games. Obviously, I think our kids are aware of that. The thing that we will do with our players is that you’ve got to look at that game and you’ve got to say, ‘Hey, these are the things we didn’t do very well that led to that particular outcome.’ You’ve got to use it more as a teaching tool than a motivational tool.
Q: How has the defense handled the burden of having to do more than their share?
Davis: First of all, I would tell you that championship teams, and I would say that this just about true of any sport, the one consistent thing that you should be able to count on as a team is your defense. Whether it’s the Chicago Bulls winning all of those championships and Michael [Jordan] being one of the greatest defenders after he made that transition to being a great defender after scoring all of those points…
Two of the three Super Bowls that I was a part of in Dallas, the defense was No. 1 in the NFL. You go back to the Chicago Bears and their Super Bowl and the defense that they had… You may not catch the ball as well or throw the ball as well, but there are a lot of variables that happen offensively. You can’t control the weather. But defensively, if you stay healthy and you play hard and you play smart and play fundamentally sound and stay disciplined, you’ve got a chance to play good solid defense.
Tom O’Brien – NC State
Opening statement: The first thing is, Dana Bible has cancer. It’s called acute promyelocytic leukemia. He has leukemia. We found out Friday. Friday night he was transferred to Chapel Hill Cancer Center, and that is where he is now. He has 30 days of treatment. At the end of 30 days, we’ll know where we are going from there. He is still undergoing tests and it is certainly not a good situation.
Q: Did they catch it early?
O’Brien: I don’t know that. They are still doing tests. All that he knows is that when he got there Friday night, they told him that he would be there for 30 days, and until they try to knock it out.
Q: Can you talk about him as your friend?
O’Brien: It’s shocking to everybody. When he walked into my office Friday, he certainly didn’t look good. Anytime the doctor says you can’t travel [is not good] … and the updates through the day, as they ruled things out, it certainly got worse as the day went on. I talked to him Friday night when we got to the hotel. He was waiting for the ambulance to take him to Chapel Hill, the center. Certainly, somebody who has been part of the staff now, 11th year we’ve been together. It was certainly a hard day Saturday in Blacksburg, and it has certainly gotten worse as time has gone on for us.
Q: Was he complaining of fatigue?
O’Brien: Last week, everybody was sick. When we were out there in the Hurricane [on Nov. 18) or whatever, and everyone was hacking and wheezing, it didn’t seem out of the ordinary. He went to see the doctor Thursday night, and he said ‘You better come see me Friday morning,’ and they ran tests. Phil came in with Dana and said ‘He can’t travel. He’s going to the hospital right now,’ and they are going to run more tests.
Q: How is he as a man and person?
O’Brien: Frank Spaziani used to say that sometimes your strengths are your weaknesses. Part of his strengths was that he never missed a practice or game for 34 years. He said to me, ‘I’ll be out Saturday morning, I’ll drive up’ [to Blacksburg], and I said, ‘You just go do what you have to do.
He’s a tough old guy, and he’ll fight it. If he has a chance to beat it, he’ll beat it.
Q: When did the team find out?
O’Brien: They are going to find out. For family reasons, they wanted to wait to say anything until today. I don’t want to get into why. I told Russell [Wilson] and Michael [Glennon], and I’ll get the rest of the guys this afternoon.
They were both shocked. Certainly, you would think they would be. They understand, like I said before about Dana, how tough a guy he is. “You have to respect the family’s privacy in this matter, and certainly prayers are welcome and definitely needed. I think that is the best thing we can do right now.
Q: Who did the two of you end up together?
O’Brien: We went to the same high school actually [St. Xavier in Cincinnati]. He is a little bit younger than I am. My brother-in-law, at that time, my future brother-in-law to my only sister, lived with Dana, when he was coaching at the University of Cincinnati. I’ve known him through the years for a long, long time.
Q: How will you get through this week?
O’Brien: We tried to do the best job that we could on Saturday, which was a difficult position to go into Blacksburg with all this going on. What we’ll do, Jay Civetti, who was a GA here and is now at Tufts, their season is over. He has the best knowledge of our offense. He is going to come in, and we can hire him temporarily, just to help us get through this week of practice and everything. We’ll try to put a game plan together as best that we can, and go play the game on Saturday.
Q: Dana has been calling all the plays?
O’Brien: Yes he has for 11 years, except when I get mad sometimes. He calls all the plays.
Q: What extent did the players know on Saturday?
O’Brien: Nobody. I don’t know. My party line was that he was home sick and undergoing tests, and that is what I told them. That is what he wanted known.
He was a graduate assistant at Boston College and came with us and spent a year here. He went to Tufts as their offensive coordinator, and their season is over. He has the best chance to help us get through this week.
Q: Who will serve as offensive coordinator?
O’Brien: We’ll do it by committee.
Q: What is North Carolina’s defense doing that makes them effective at creating turnovers?
O’Brien: The thing with them is that they are playing the same guys that they have played for three years. Nine of the guys, those kids were all freshman two years ago when we played them. They are all juniors now in the secondary, with the exception of two guys [in front seven], [defensive end Robert] Quinn and [outside linebacker Kevin] Reddick. Reddick beat somebody out to get in the starting lineup. We’ve seen the same faces for three years. They’ve just grown as a football team. They’ve stayed healthy.
The schemes are the same, but they are just playing them better. They are playing with a lot of confidence. It comes down to the continuity of what they have and good players. When you look at it, it’s probably an NFL defense. They have half a dozen guys that are NFL guys. Looking at them, they are very similar to the NC State defense of about seven years ago, or whenever they had all those guys end up in the NFL.
Q: What do you like about Robert Quinn and his quickness?
O’Brien: He has a great first step, and that’s where he gets his, and he has good power.
Q: How do you see Willie Young projecting for the NFL Draft after staying a year?
O’Brien: He wasn’t a first day guy. My position has always been, if you aren’t a first round guy or a first day guy, then it is not worth it to go out, not in the long run. If you have an opportunity to increase your chances to go on the first day [you should take it] because of the money difference between a first-round guy.
I’ve never been a proponent to leaving because the college experience is just too great. Everybody wants to rush and get out there, and make a paycheck. If you can increase your paycheck by waiting another year, your earning power over the years is a lot greater than starting as a fourth-round or fifth-round draft choice, just to leave college. I’ve never believed you should go out. He came back as not a first-day guy, his evaluation. That had a lot to do with it. I think he likes it here.
Q: Do you think he’s a first-day guy now?
O’Brien: I haven’t talked to a lot of scouts. I know that the guys getting the most interest are he and Teddy Larsen. They are getting invited to the all-star games. That means that they’ll have opportunities to do those things.
Q: How were linebackers Sterling Lucas and Audie Cole against Virginia Tech?
O’Brien: They had a lot of opportunities, with Tech running the football. Thank God we tackled better on Saturday I think. We played a lot of those things that we have had trouble with. I’ve sat here for weeks, saying that we have to grow up and have to get experience. We are finally starting to see things a little better, and making those plays that we have to make.
Q: Any regrets about saying NC State was the state champs last year?
O’Brien: We were the state champs last year. That was a matter of fact.
Q: UNC has had a lot of problems on offense. Is this the chance for the NC State defense to make a statement?
O’Brien: I think they are going to have to, if we have any chance at all. We just talked about their defense, but certainly, we have to put an offense together to do something. Our defense is going to have to keep us in the football game. Hopefully, they’ll take the challenge.
Jim Grobe – Wake Forest
On what the team worked on during the bye week:
Rest was one thing. It gave our guys a chance to get their legs back under them a little bit and get back to academics for a few days. It gave us a chance to rest and refocus.
On wrapping up the season:
It’s been a tough year. I think the year slows down a little bit when you’re not having success. We’ve had five really tough losses that we had a chance to get and didn’t get any of them. It’s been a tough season from the standpoint that you’re trying to regroup every week. But at the same time 11 straight weeks go pretty quick.
On if he would have done some things differently:
You don’t even look at it as what you would differently as a season, but game to game. Every time you come back in on Sunday and watch your team play you look at things that you’ve called and the way you coached the team and you think there’s always a better way to do it, and that’s whether you win or lose.
Last week the impressive thing was they ran the ball well against Miami. Thaddeus Lewis is one of the top quarterbacks not only in the ACC but the country. They have a great group of receivers, I like a lot of things they do offensively. They give you a lot of problems.
Defensively they are real physical, they’ve got key players that are making a ton of plays for them right now. They are tough and aggressive in the way they chase the football. I really like their defense.
They are very well coached. I think having the staff back for a second year, having a little bit of continuity has really helped them. You see it everywhere, every position you see improvement. They are used to the scheme and you can tell that the athletes are comfortable doing what they are asked to do offensively and defensively and in the kicking game. They’ve got an awful lot of talent but the coaches are doing a really good job with what they’ve got.
On Head Coach David Cutcliffe:
This is one of the better coaches in the country. What he’s done at Ole Miss, what he’s done as an offensive coordinator and an assistant coach. He’s had a really impressive career. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that he’s doing a great job at Duke.
On the Wake Forest – Duke series:
We’ve been lucky to win some of them. We’ve had some barn burners that have gone right to the wire, we’ve gone to overtime, we’ve had last second field goals and things like that. It’s been a really tough series for us and we’ve been fortunate to have won some of them.
On the graduating seniors:
More than great players we’ve got great kids. We’ve got guys that we feel really close to, that we’ve developed a good bond with. For the most part we’re going to miss the football ability with these guys but more importantly we are going to miss them as people. After guys have been with you for five years they become more like your sons than your players.
We’ve been doing it for a long time. The good news is [the graduated players] are not gone. They do come back. Most of the players get back for at least a game and we have a chance to bump into them from time to time. But you’ve just got to move on. It’s exciting for them because they are going to have great careers whether it’s going to be in the next level in football or taking their degree and using it. We’ve got some good young players coming along. On one hand it’s really sad to lose the old guys but at the same time it’s exciting to get going with the younger guys.
On playing seniors vs. younger players in the last game of the season:
Fair is playing the guys that are playing the best. Quite frankly there are some young guys that are playing well enough that are going to get more playing time on Saturday and it’s just because they’re playing well. We’re not into making any statements about the seniors not playing as much because we haven’t achieved a bowl game or the young guys playing if they don’t deserve it. We’re going to play guys that deserve to be on the field and guys that give us the best chance to win a football game.
On recovering from tough losses during the season:
The players tend to bounce back better than coaches. For coaches it hasn’t been a rollercoaster in terms of playing great one week and bad the next. We’ve really played pretty good football this year. We just have been maybe the unluckiest team I’ve ever been associated with. I never thought we’d have five games go down to the last possession and not come away with any of them.