“I thought, obviously, our guys came out strong to start the game (v.s NC State). We held them on a fourth down, and this was early in the game, but it was a pivotal point in the game, where they drive the field and we hold them on fourth down, we get the ball back and drive all the way down the field, get it first and goal and ended up not getting any points. I thought that was huge in the game because of how the game played out.
There was a back and forth battle the whole first half and in the second half, we came out and moved the ball pretty well in the third quarter and just didn’t get enough points on the board. In the fourth quarter they had a couple of big plays and got down and scored. We had to settle for a field goal and did not get the ball in the endzone, obviously that was a big part. I thought their kids made more plays than we did in the fourth quarter, particularly their quarterback and a couple of the receivers.
Offensively, we moved the ball just couldn’t score enough points. Obviously, touchdowns are better than field goals and that’s the one thing that we’ve got to do a better job of is scoring touchdowns once we get down in the red zone.
Moving forward now, we’re playing a team that’s played for and won many national championships and has a lot of tradition there. They’re used to winning. This year, they have not done as well as they have done in the past when you think about it because they were so dominant the last seven or eight years and this year, they’ve had a lot of close games and they’ve lost a few. They played a Georgia team, which I think everybody thinks Georgia is one of the top teams in the country and have been playing that way, 10-3, and then a lot of close games.
Offensively, they’ve not put up the numbers they’ve been used to putting up. They have a lot of new players on that side of the ball. Defensively, they’re still one of the best defenses in the country. I think they’re number three in the country in scoring defense. They’ve had a lot of injuries and still rank really high defensively, holding teams in single digits and teens. As you watch the film, very impressive on that side of the ball. Number 47 has played a lot of football, he’s the quarterback on the defense, he can probably call the defenses he knows he knows it so well and he’s still playing at a high level.
I think their d-line is impressive. They did have some injuries there but, they still have some great players that cause havoc up front. The biggest thing that they do well on their defense is just the multiple things they do on defense and the way they play it. We’re excited about the opportunity of hosting these guys and playing at 7:30 and look forward to having a great crowd here, a crowd that we can feed off this weekend; we’ll need it.”
(On Kei’Trel Clark injury status)
“Yeah, Trey really was playing well in the game. They took a lot of shots out there at at our corners. I thought he played well and then on a tackle, he ended up getting rolled up and we had the MRI done and it looks like he’s going to have to have surgery. So, he’ll be out, probably for the remainder of the season which is a tough blow for us. Obviously, one of our better players on that side of the ball. Just like the other guys, Monty (Montgomery) and Braden (Smith) that had a surgery, they’re on the mend now and he’ll be in that same boat, but just an unfortunate loss.”
(On the impact of losing a third starter this year due to injury)
“Well, it’s big. He’s an All-ACC performer and we count on him a lot. We’re playing some other guys as well but, he’s played the most out there at corner. You feel good when he’s out there, he makes plays. I think he may be leading the ACC and passes defended, I know he’s one of the top interception guys in the ACC and it’s a big loss on that side of the ball. We’ve not been great in our pass defense and losing one of our better pass defenders certainly hurts. The other guys will have to rise up and they’re going to have to make plays. Chandler Jones and Greedy Vance and Trey Franklin are going to have to step in and really fill that void.”
(On Trey Franklin stepping into a bigger role)
“Yeah, he’s going to have to be the guy to step up to be an every down guy now. Coach B (Bryan Brown) rotates some of those guys in the secondary at corner and Trey (Franklin) was a big part of our third down package when we put in our extra DB package but now, he’s going to have to be part of that but also part of the rotation at corner. He’s practiced well the last two weeks and he’ll look forward to that opportunity to be able to go out there and play at corner. He’s a good player.”
(On mixing up defensive looks)
“A lot of it is determined by the circumstances of the game and how we are but you want to want to be able to heat up the quarterback a little bit, so he doesn’t hold the ball forever, which puts more pressure on your DBS in the backend. I think we have to be selective in that. There’s a couple of times Saturday night we brought pressure and we got beat in some one-on-one stuff and you watch the film and we’re getting ready to hit the quarterback and the ball is going so if you’re there just a half a count earlier, you’re getting a sack. We got one sack last week, obviously we want to get more than that. Their quarterback threw the ball in some good spots and the receivers made some plays but when you play one on one, you have to hit home, we have to get home to the quarterback. Because you are you put on an island out there in one on one coverage, if you don’t get home, then it’s going to be tough for that DB. We’re going to have to be able to mix it up. We’re going to have to do some zone, some man, bring pressure, drop some guys, just different things because these quarterbacks that we’re playing, they’re good. The one Saturday night is up there probably in the top three that we’ve played and the one we’re getting ready to play this week has got as good a arm as anybody in the country. Sometimes they have not been able to hit some of those throws, but he certainly can make them because every game he’s made some incredible throws and we need to be able to mix it up and try to put a little bit of doubt or confusion in the quarterback’s head.”
(On the impact of beating Clemson this weekend)
“It would be awesome to get a win. It’s a team, as I mentioned, that’s won national championships, played for it a bunch of times, and basically just run through the ACC over the last seven or eight years and have not lost very many games and to be able to beat a team like that this year would be incredible. It would be great for our program; it would be great for our guys. They are a brand that everybody knows throughout the country, and if comes across the ticker that Louisville won the game then that’s huge in a lot of aspects, not only just for the win purposes, but also for the program moving forward in recruiting and all of those aspects that are part of the program so it would obviously be a huge win for us.”
(On the benefit of having a big crowd)
“It’s extremely beneficial. It’s a home field advantage. I just think about last week, as I mentioned, that first drive down in Raleigh, we’re on the one-yard line, it’s fourth and one and we get a false start penalty because it was so loud in that corner of the endzone and the play we had called, it looked like it would have been a touchdown. That’s a huge difference in the game. That’s what a home field advantage can do for you, and we need to have it. We need to have our fans to be here, to be loud, to be all engaged into the game and it can be, we certainly can be that here, we’ve been that way here. We have to encourage the fans to come out support us. We’re going to have some great recruits that are going to be here this weekend from a lot of different parts of the United States and that’ll be awesome for the recruits to come in and see a huge crowd and to see how loud it is and see what kind of great environment this is to play in.”
(On whether anything stands out to improve on offensively)
“Every game is different. This past week it was penalties. I mentioned the fourth-and-one play where we were backed up and threw Marshon (Ford) a 35-yard ball down the sideline to get to midfield and then we get a face mask from one of our offensive linemen and it puts the offense back. I mean those are drive killers. The other thing is we took a couple of shots, and we have to be able to connect on those plays. It takes one or two of those to connect for a touchdown like we did with (Jordan) Watkins. That was a huge play, one or two more of those when we had the opportunities, but we just didn’t connect. We can go back to two years ago when we hit a bunch of big plays and we ended up winning eight games that year because if you connect one or two of those balls, it can be the difference in winning and losing. It literally comes down to one or two plays and we are really close right now and have been in some of these very close losses to hit one play in order to be able to get over the top. Those are things that we have to work on, we have to continue to work on those kinds of routes to get our guys free and then for Malik (Cunningham) to be able to hit them.”
(On the defense’s improvement following turnovers this year)
“It is kind of that sudden change mentality where you go out and have to get a stop. Those are things that we have worked on in practice where we are in the middle of a practice and all of a sudden, I will put the ball down and give them a scenario. We call it sudden change and our defense has done a really good job with that, knowing that they must come right back on the field and rise up to make a play. The defense has done that over the last two weeks in particular and has played really well. We gave up a few plays there in the fourth quarter this past game, but for the first three quarters they played outstanding and shut the run game down. I thought that NC State’s quarterback and receivers were the difference in the game, they made plays in the passing game, but our defense played well. They have improved and we are going to continue to need that with these next few opponents. Clemson’s got a good defense; Syracuse next week has a good defense; so, we are going to need our defense to play well and to try to hold these upcoming offenses to a low number.”
(On keeping that positive mindset amidst losses)
“Our team knows that no matter what adversity you face you still have to believe. You have to have that belief and it comes from deep inside to know that no matter what the circumstances are that we are still in this and that we still have a chance. That has to be in your core to have that belief. It is really easy to get discouraged and we are in a world full of discouraged people. We are trying to create an environment here where no matter what is going on, we still have that belief. It is a next play mentality that we are going to make it happen. That is how our mentality has to be; you got to continue to have that belief. We have lost some games that were really close, and we were right there against some really good teams, but that is how close we are and we have to find a way to get over the hump and win these games and you know. We are going to work on it every day in order to figure it out.”
(On the message to his team)
“I think this week the message is that we have an outstanding program coming in here and that we have an opportunity to beat them in our own home field. To play a team like Clemson with all the tradition and history with what they have been able to accomplish over the last decade is a huge opportunity. I have a ton of respect for them, and it has become a national brand. It would be a huge notch in your belt to be able to beat them, so that is a ton of motivation right there to get ready for this week. Our guys are fired up and they are excited. We were obviously disappointed on Sunday coming back from the loss, but we encouraged with the fact that we still got a good football team and that we are ready to go play and get this win against Clemson.”