Video available here
Looking back on the Syracuse game, it was a big one for us, it was a good win for us. Again our defense, as you're all aware, played extremely well. They not only stopped the run and hit the quarterback, but they scored four points, which is an amazing thing. I don't know if I've ever been in a game where we had two safeties before.
Offensively, we saw improvement. When you watch the video, we saw improvement. We did hurt ourselves in the first half with some penalties and turned the ball over, but there definitely was improvement in the second half. The other thing that I'm excited about is that you can see the competitive spirit and the players competing extremely hard to find a way to win the games.
Right now, as far as offense goes, we're not explosive. We're not a team that's going to go out there and rack up 700 yards. We're just working to find a way to win the game, which is new for me. I haven't been in this type of situation where you're real strong on defense and offensively you're working just to make sure you score enough points to win.
Our special teams gave us a big lift. We did an excellent job punting the ball, getting it down inside the five two plays in a row. We did a good job on our return game with the opening kickoff. We covered kickoffs really well --I think that's one of the things I was most excited about was to see young guys on our kickoff coverage team sprint down the field and show toughness. Stacy Thomas had a couple big hits for us. So all of that is a real positive.
We have a great challenge ahead of us. Clemson's a very, very good football team. They're very explosive offensively. I think it'll be the biggest challenge that our defense has faced to date as far as their ability to throw the ball deep, a running quarterback, a great receiver; you know they have a lot of pieces in that offense.
Defensively they've been very good. Last week they were extremely good against North Carolina State. But they've shown the ability to play good defense both stopping the run and against the pass.
It'll be fun. It's a great trip for us. When you looked on the schedule and you said, "hey we get to go play in Death Valley" -- you know, these are the type of games that the players we recruit and the guys that are here came here to play in. We've got to have a great week of preparation and go attack the week and go down there and play very good football to come away with a win.
On DeVante Parker playing Saturday
Yeah, there's a good chance. He's been running routes now for over a week and had a good weekend. Today will be an off day for him. And then he will have an opportunity come out and practice tomorrow and then take it on a day-to-day basis from there.
On the situation at quarterback
We have two of them available to play. I think I might've made a mistake the other night when I said Will was available to play. He was available in an emergency capacity, kind of what I said going into the game. It'll be interesting to see how he comes out and practices this week and what improvements he makes.
Reggie improved during the game. I thought he handled the adversity well again. We'd like to get off to a little quicker start, but he did do a great job in the fourth quarter, made some big plays that allowed us to win the game. So we're going to go out there and see how it all plays out.
On Jamon Brown
Oh, he got a little tweak on his ankle. He should be fine. He came back in the game. He's been in treatment the last couple of days. He'll run with the team when they run tonight, so he should be okay.
On the environment at Death Valley
I think it's something you look forward to and you enjoy. To be real honest with you, it's gonna be very similar to last week. That was a loud place. It was extremely -- I don't know if it can get any louder, even though the crowd wasn't that big. On that first third down and everyone started screaming and yelling, maybe it can't get any louder than that. The stadium will be big. There will be a lot of people there. The field's the same length. The goal posts are the same height.
We've gotta go in and enjoy it. This is one of the things that's exciting about being in the ACC is some of the venues that we get to go play at. This is our first real experience in that. What we need to do is have a good week of practice, focus on that, getting better and then go play football.
On what the quarterback decision is going to come down to
You know execution and dedication throughout the week on how prepared they get, how much understanding they have of what's going on. But basically it comes down to how they go out and execute in practice.
On what will go into the final decision on DeVante
I think he's gonna be good to go. That's the indication I've gotten from the medical staff. But you never know whats going to go on on a day-to-day basis. Between our medical staff and the group that did the operation, they both gave him the thumbs up to start practicing on Tuesday, and we hope that everything goes well. He's been running and doing routes and all of that. Today is his day off. He will get in the pool and do some conditioning in the pool, but he'll stay off the foot.
But all indications are that he's going to be ready to go. It just depends on how everything goes in practice.
How long does it take for a guy to be fully back from an injury like that?
Four days would be good for me. You know, that's a hard one to answer. He's a special talent, but I think there are gonna be some issues with conditioning. We just have to be really smart about how we practice him, and then we'll see where he is.
On the key to Brandon Radcliff's success
I think it's his acceleration and his burst. You know he runs really hard and he's been breaking tackles; I've been really impressed with him, he's done a really nice job for us. To be able to break tackles and get the ball into the endzone for us in really the same place two weeks in a row was huge. The last two games he's made guys missed and run over guys on his way to the endzone.
Is it hard being an offensive coach with a defensive-led team?
You know, the No. 1 thing I'm trying to do is understand that we're 5-1 and we've found ways to win games. We are what we are. It's new for me. It's not something I'm used to -- not being able to go out there and just call plays freely and throw the ball deep and do all that. But we're not really there yet. We're not there in the protection aspect. We're not there in experience at the quarterback position. That was the beauty of my first year here with Stefan. Stefan knew how to change any play. So you could just go out and call them up, and he could go out and change it and get you out of a bad call.
We're inexperienced and we've seen a variety of defenses that have made it to where you have to be a little more conservative and not hurt our defensive play. That's what's new to me -- understanding that our strength is on defense and that offensively we've gotta drive the ball and wear them down and get the ball in the endzone and then win the game in the 4th quarter.
It's hard to win games, and any time you win games it's a great feeling. Especially when you look around and see the scores from this weekend. You know, Notre Dame beats Stanford 17-14. They should feel great about that win, that's a great win for them.
It's been a battle, but we've really done a great job of finding ways to win games in the 4th quarter. And I've really enjoyed watching our players on the sidelines in the 4th quarter, and seeing their mentality of, "hey, we're going to go out there and find a way to win the game." The way they've rallied around each other is very impressive.
On Clemson freshman QB DeShaun Watson
He can really wing it deep. That's the thing that really jumps out at you on the video -- they can really throw the ball deep. He also has the ability to make a lot of plays with his legs, so that's always a big challenge.
What do you take away from all the upsets last weekend?
Just the parity there is. Everyone's close, and you can't make mistakes. It's hard to win games. The competitiveness throughout the country has really tightened up and you see that each week you have to go out and prepare. I said that when we made the move into the ACC, that the greatest challenge for us was going to be to get ready to play week in and week out, because every team we're going to play is going to have great players and is going to be well coached. There were some conferences we were in before where you felt like if you don't make mistakes you're going to win the games because you had better players, but it's not going to be that way anymore. I think that's what you're seeing throughout the country.