First of all, congratulate Coach (Dave) Doeren and his crew. Good football team, and they played well tonight. We are proud of our guys, our guys came out and fought. Too many mistakes for us, particularly when you’re moving football, you get a big play and you get a penalty. You get that play call back, and it’s hard to get any momentum. Particularly right in the first quarter there, when we drove the ball down to one yard line, and we get a false start. Now it’s fourth and six, you don’t get an opportunity to score, and then you missed a field goal. That was a big swing. Then in the fourth quarter there, we just didn’t get anything going offensively, and put our defense in a little bit of a bind. But our defense played well all night, up until the last three or four minutes there. They were playing really good and keeping us in the game. But we gotta be able to make some of those throws down the field. Some of those shot plays that you have to make when you’re playing a team like this, because they’re going to force you to take some of those, and you got to make those contested catches. We got to continue to grow from this as a football team, and come back next week as we host Clemson.
(On the penalties)
We had two facemask penalties by an offensive lineman almost back-to-back, and I’ve rarely seen them called on a facemask penalty. We had two in the same drive that took back - we had Marshon (Ford) down about midfield, and that really hurt that drive. We were backed up. I think we had three false stars tonight, we haven’t been having those. I think that was the environment here that caused that. You can’t have those penalties when you’re playing a team like this. It’s a close ball game, any play can affect you. You can’t have those penalties, because we had some good plays that we executed, and all of a sudden it gets called back for something that really was insignificant.
(On not getting anything going in the fourth quarter)
We just think we didn’t get any rhythm. You got to get some things going on. Look at the last drive, we had two drops, and then Malik (Cunningham) scrambled there, and we didn’t get it. You have to be able to get in rhythm. The drive before that, we had a receiver come across, and he gets locked up with a linebacker - that was our primary receiver there. It just wasn’t in rhythm. They were doing a lot of the same defense they did pretty much the whole game. Once they got ahead of us there, they were dropping eight and trying to keep everything in front of them. You just got to make plays to where we’re still in the game, and not let them get two scores out, and then it’s very difficult to come back at that point.
(On what he told the offense after seeing the defense continually force punts)
We were trying to be aggressive. We took several shots down the field, we were trying to push the ball, we were running the football pretty good. We had some good runs on the outside zone, we were really good on third down. I thought we moved the ball, we just didn’t score. Probably, two or three shots down the field had a chance to score, we just can’t connect. You gotta be able to connect on some of these shot plays. We hit a couple, we hit Jordan Watkins with a big play, we hit Marshon and get that called back. We had about three or four other ones that there, and had opportunities, we just didn’t connect
(On evaluating Malik Cunningham after back-to-back low completion games)
We just got to go back and look at the film, and see what they are doing. I haven’t seen any stats, so I don’t really know where we’re at with that. But in the last one, we were able to run the football, and they were defending the pass pretty well. Tonight, we were able to do both - run and throw. But when you’re taking more shots in a game, your completion percentage probably going to be low if you’re not hitting those, and we wanted to be aggressive. We want to continue to try to take those. You’re just hoping to hit them, we just didn’t hit enough.
(On Kei’Trel Clark’s injury)
I don’t know. We’ll probably have to go back - it was a lower leg injury. We’ll probably have to get an MRI on whatever body part it was, I just know it was the lower leg and seemed to be in pretty much pain. Hopefully it’s not anything too much. We’ll know more probably Monday.
(On if he believes Malik Cunningham receives calls differently based on the amount of shots he took from defenders)
I don’t know. That one drive, we got two of them called - late hits out of bounds, which was good for us. That’s a good question, because he’s viewed as a really good runner, and people were coming after him. But I think the game was called pretty good tonight, and I don’t think there was any shots that were taken unnecessarily by them. At the end of the first half, we gave up some pressures and he got hit low. But if he’s engaged, they’re not gonna call that. He just plays hard, and in he’s gonna run and fight for every every yard . Sometimes you got to take some hits.
(On what the have to do to get over the hump)
I just think we got to keep battling. We’re competitive and we’re right there in the thick of things, you got to make some plays. Bottom line, we got to make some plays. Go to the Wake Forest game, Virginia game, tonight. If you hit a couple of those plays, it’s a different ballgame. We got a bunch of young guys that are playing out there, they’re fighting. We’re not gonna throw the towel in, we’re gonna keep fighting. We’re gonna keep getting better and better, and then we’ll start making those plays, instead of being in a tight ballgame all the way there at the end. We’re gonna find ways to win them, and hopefully you’re up two touchdowns at the end of the game, and now everybody’s breathing a little bit easier. But it’s tough, man. You’re you’re fighting out there. They got a good team that you’re playing against. Wake Forest, Virginia, and (NC) State all have really good records. They’re good football teams. We’re close. We’re right there. We’re hanging with them. We’re gonna get over the hump, we gotta keep fighting.
(On if that’s the mark of a young team)
I think that’s part of it. Each time we’re going out, we’re learning. We’re learning from things that we did, and some different environments, and you got to keep growing. If we don’t learn anything from it, all we do is go through something bad. But we got to keep learning and keep growing as a football program.
(On if he’s ever been through a period where he was close in several games, and fell short)
Yeah, man. I’ve had a lot of times where we’re close, and then all of a sudden, everything starts clicking, then you start winning, You get confidence as a program, and you just know that you’re going to win them. Somebody is going to make a play right here, and then you get it over the top, and you just start making those plays, and everybody’s celebrating in locker room. It’s a fine line from winning and losing, it’s a real fine line. To know that we’re right there on the cusp is a good thing, but I know we’re disappointed and we’re not winning some of these games. But we know we’re close, and we got to keep fighting.