Really appreciate the students, not only being there, but their enthusiasm. Our fans are making a difference; they’re loud throughout the game, they’re into the game, they’re focused, they’re staying and I’m really, really proud of them. I can’t even imagine Saturday night; it’s going to be a special environment
I’m proud of the guys because the plays we didn’t make at Virginia Tech, we came back and made to win this game. It’s interesting that Javonte’s fumble, when you go back and study it, he’s a guy that doesn’t fumble. He had one fumble at Wake Forest all year. He’s trying too hard and he’s wanting to win a game, so I told the guys yesterday, ‘Quit trying too hard; you’re good enough to just be you and just play.’ And instead of diving at the goal line and having the ball out, we really were trying to kill the clock. We wanted to use their three timeouts, we wanted to score slowly, so we didn’t need to score so fast. It would have put us up by 10, but still, we’re kicking off, so if we could have used the clock and scored, that basically would have ended the game.
He comes to me and wants to apologize to the team and I say, ‘No, you gained 140 yards or something, you don’t need to be apologizing to the team. What you need to do is hang on to the ball and again, don’t try too hard. Don’t try to do something outside of what you need to do to win the game.’ I think that game goes back to, in our players’ minds, the Virginia Tech game last year. We’re going in to win it, we fumble, they’re 97 yards away, they take it down the field. The difference is we made a play this time; we didn’t make a play last year.
It’s an exciting time for them, so hopefully that will be a step forward to them just because they learned how to win and made a play to win.
Our seven games that have been so close and come down to the last drive, that’s been the closest games in the history of college football since 1936 when the polls were started. I guess that’s cool. I don’t know if it’s cool or not; I’d rather it not be that way, but it seems to be coming down to that.
Offense really didn’t get on track other than running the ball. We were inconsistent in our passing game, inconsistent with some protections and had pressure on Sam … but Sam still made the big plays to win the game. We drop a touchdown pass is in this corner with Dyami, but Beau Corrales stepped up and made some great plays and Dazz Newsome is playing now like I always thought he could. He’s had two great games — not good games. That catch he made out here, I don’t know how that was second on SportsCenter’s list; what a play. And he’s confident and he’s doing the things he needs to do to help us win.
Offensively, we’ve really got to handle our ball security. That’s the first time we’ve turned it over three times and we’re not good enough to turn the ball over normally and win, so we’ve got to go back. Michael had a fumble early, we got back on. Sam had a fumble on a zone read we got back on and then we lose a fumble and throw two interceptions. That’s not who we’ve got to be to win, so we’ve got to handle ball security better.
On the other side, I thought our defense played as well as they have since the Clemson game. We were tackling, we stopped the run, we put pressure on the quarterback, forced three turnovers, which was the difference in the ballgame. The one thing I would say negative about our defense is when we go up 14-3, that’s the time to go out there and stop them again and make them punt, let’s get it up to 21-3; that’s when you start beating somebody and that was the worst series we had all day and they drove down and scored very quickly. We’ve still got to learn, we’ve got to learn moments during the game when it’s time for us to step up and do things.
The last play of the game, you go back to we kept telling them, ‘You guys have already stopped them on a goal-line stand earlier in the game when they were at the 6-inch line going in.’ We’re on the sideline trying to figure out, 19 seconds left and no timeouts, what do you do? I said fade because it’s the safest thing and we’ve had trouble with that play, so I think they’re going to take two or three shots up on our corners and Jay said, ‘No, I think the pop pass. I just feel like it’s a pass; they can’t run it because if they run it and we lay on them, the game could be over. They’ve got to get up and be able to spike it then kick a field goal to go to overtime.’ So, we felt like it would be a pass, felt like the quarterback either moves and throws because he’s got time to do that, throws it away, can’t get sacked, throws the fade which is safe. Jay said the pop pass; I don’t know where he came up with it, I don’t know why, I’d never heard that before and we’ve got about four guys there waiting for it.
Chazz said he jumped up and it was so low, he thought he was going to miss it. A great call by Jay Bateman and what a play by our defense to show they can make plays down the stretch to win.
Got to give Duke credit because when they got the ball at the 3, they drove it right down the field and we have a fourth down and we get a stop, we get a facemask; we can’t help ourselves. Then we get a pass interference call in the end zone, so we had to make a play to stop somewhere in there, unlike Virginia Tech last year, that overcame a 4th and 19 I think, but in this case, our defense did that, so that should really help us.
(I’m proud of) Noah Ruggles, he came back and kicked the field goals after having a tough week last week. He seemed very confident as he was doing it. We kicked the ball off well after the first couple of times and our punting was pretty good. The Duke punter kept us backed up the whole third and fourth quarters; it was amazing what he did, that guy was one of the best I’ve ever seen. We’re still not doing a good job of returning punts. When a guy is punting it over 50 yards and that high, you should have a return chance, and we’re not doing that. That was one of the poor things we did. Kickoff return by Michael Carter was good; that was the second he’s had this year that was really significant and helped us.
The alternative uniforms, the way I understand the policy is now, the guys get to choose an alternative uniform once at home and once on the road and they have to use the same combination. I would think at Pittsburgh, they’ll probably wear the navy pants, the white shirt and the navy helmet. I don’t know; that’s up to them. The leadership committee decides what they wear. Every week, we ask them. They have to stay within the confines of their normal uniforms home and away except for those two games, and those uniforms were ordered last year. They were already ordered when we got here and they’ll get another alternative uniform for next year and the kids pick them. They get to pick what they want, so they liked them. They sell those helmets and already 100 of the 139 have been sold and it’s just Monday. Those helmets are going to go real fast.
This is military appreciation game. We also have our players and staff and coaches dedicate the game to someone in their life that’s really important in the military, so they will call that person and tell them, ‘My week is dedicated to you because of all you have done for our country and fighting for our country, we appreciate that very much.’ The Bell Tower Walk will be more special. We’ll have 50 members of the Army from Fort Bragg and their families that will lead us, lead the team through the Bell Tower Walk and if you haven’t been up there to the Bell Tower Walk, it’s been really special. Guys have shown up. It’s been exciting and a fun way to tell our players how much they appreciate them. We want the fans to all get out early and be able to say thank you to those 50 members and their families of the Army from Fort Bragg.
The honorary coin toss participant will be retired Army sergeant first-class and Green Beret Brant Ireland. He had seven tours in Afghanistan and lost a leg; he’s a Paralympic athlete and it will be a very emotional crowd because of what we all think and want to pray for and appreciate our military.
Virginia, they’re one of the more talented teams in our league. Bronco’s done a great job; I don’t think he’s gotten the credit for the recruiting he’s done. I haven’t really studied them and watched them in the last couple of years but the quarterback is a superstar; he’s made them go. They’ve lost three games on the road, they’ve been really powerful at home. A defense very much like Duke and Virginia Tech; they’re going to be very multiple up front, they’re going to move a lot, they’ve got two of the best outside linebackers in the country. Offensively, they’re throwing the ball better than they have in the past and they’re throwing it quite a bit. We’ll have our hands full, but it will be a fun challenge for us and again kind of a rivalry game between Carolina and Virginia so it’ll be fun. It’s fun to be in late October and the game means something and our guys will be really excited about that and I think our fanbase is, too.
On the postgame incident with Jordan Tucker and Duke players, coaches
No, I didn’t look at it. I have people that do that for me and look at it. Somebody got his helmet, they said, they went back down to get his helmet and after that, I think he might have waved at the crowd or something. I’m used to Texas and OU fighting before the game and having to separate them and throw flags on everybody. At the end of an emotional game, if somebody says something to somebody, I figure yeah, probably going to happen that way.
What I’m going to suggest is that we put the bell somewhere that’s not near the other team and we don’t need the teams coming together after an emotional game to get that bell, because that bell’s important. Put it in the middle of the field; don’t put it over there at the entrance. I think what happened is they’re supposed to put it where they think the team is going to win, so Duke thought they were going to win, so Duke thought they were going to win, so whoever was taking it put it over there right in their entrance and that probably wasn’t the best. You move on. I tell our players to always have class.
On the returns of Myles Wolfolk, Trey Morrison and Jace Ruder
They’ve been running. Nick Polino’s been running, I don’t know where his status is. I think the biggest thing is you’ll practice them and see — they’re healthy enough to be back out there or they wouldn’t let them come, so that’s been done. The doctors have said they can play. Now, the question is how functional will they be and how good will they be? Will they be worried about their ankle or their arm? That’s what we’ll have to see in practice this week going forward. All three of them practiced yesterday — the offensive line didn’t do as much.
Watching Myles run, Myles was the first one to run over and get the bell and I said, ‘He looks well to me.’ I told on Myles, I wanted the video of that. ‘OK, Myles, you can run to the bell bud, you can run to the quarterback.’ That’ll be the process this week. We’ll practice them and see how they do. We probably won’t be able to make a decision until Thursday or Friday because will they have soreness? Will they be nervous about planting or tackling? We’ll have to see all that because with Trey Morrison, you can’t hit him. You’ve got to wait until probably the game for him to have a lot of contact.
Is Nick Polino separate from those three?
I haven’t been told, but I think Polino is again one of those. He’s inside, can he plant off his foot, can he handle all those things? With Ruder, too, all four of them are functional and doctors have said now we can look at them and the question will be, No. 1 can they practice all week and No. 2, how sore will they be if they get sore, and No. 3, are they going to be confident enough to play and help us?
Did you think you’d be as emotional as you’ve been since returning?
I get emotional all the time.
I would think, probably, yes, but I cry for when we have the Star Spangled Banner. I love the games, I get excited; I love to see the kids having fun, I love to see them come back. I love comebacks more than anything; I hate to get behind more than anything, but I love comebacks. To win at the end like that in a rival game, where these kids haven’t won in this game for a while, it just kind of gets me. I need some time and they stick a camera in your face.
People are talking about the mouthing after the game; I didn’t get to see anybody. I saw the young lady that was out there with a camera in my face and a mic, I don’t get to see anything else after I saw David, and I hate that because I like to shake the hands of the kids on the other team. Usually, I’m good if I have a moment, but when the sideline reporter is asking those questions and I’m thinking about the significance of what these kids are doing and how hard they’re fighting and playing, it gets me. I can’t help it.
Is it different from Texas?
I’m not old and looking at the end here.
I cried some at Texas. We just won all the time, so I expected it. When you’re winning all the time, you don’t cry much because it’s kind of what you expect; you cry when you lose.
I sat there and watched the Virginia Tech game at the end, even to a point that I was getting ready to text Coach Fedora because I like him so much and I was texting him congratulations and that ball pops up. I thought, ‘Eh, 97 yards. We’re still OK.’ Then, I have to back on the set, so thank goodness I didn’t send it. We kind of can watch while we’re sitting there on the set and they score with 19 seconds or something and I’m telling you, the significance of this was, it was the same thing. Ball pops out 97 yards away, can you stop them? There were a number of times on fourth down that we could have and didn’t. I couldn’t believe we stopped the quarterback counter and we have a facemask, game is over. You talk about emotional? Game’s over, nope, no it’s not, we’re kidding, let’s go again. Then the face and the interference and first and goal.I’m thinking, ‘We mess up so many things, don’t take a knee in the end zone. We get a safety and have to punt for the kickoff.’ All of that is rushing through your head but what I saw was kids coming off the field thinking, ‘Virginia Tech,’ and I saw kids go out there and make a play to win the game and that’s so significant for these kids and the rest of their lives and so significant to believe and not quit and keep trying, for our fanbase, it’s such a wonderful message and I think that’s what got me.
Will the emotions and talk at the end of the Duke/UNC game enhance the rivalry moving forward?
"People mouth all the time. I was involved in a rivalry with N.C. State where two coaches tackled each other in the middle of the field after the game. Now that one was kind of nasty I thought. Somebody came to me and I'm sitting in the locker room - I'm so happy we won the game - guy sits next to me and says, 'Hey, uh, one of your coaches just tackled a guy out on the field.' I said, 'What?!' He said, 'I'm just telling you one of your coaches tackled a guy out on the middle of the field.' I said, 'What are you talking about?' and he said (slowly), 'One of your coaches just tackled...and it's on TV, too, so you'll get asked about it.' So, people get emotional over these things, that happens, and I think it's a good thing. As far as the rivalry, it helps that we won to make it more of a rivalry because it hadn't been one for a while. They've won five out of seven. So, give David (Cutcliffe) credit and give Duke credit and give our kids credit for wanting that bell and, you know, if it's a rivalry and you've got a bell, you can't get mad at them for getting excited when they get it. I didn't want them painting it after the game because I heard we had some problems with that one time, so I waited until Sunday to paint it. I tried my best, and now I think the thing that will help the best is we should not put emotional kids - one team who had just been devastated by a loss and one team that was so excited by the win - we shouldn't put them in a corner together with a bell. I mean, that's not smart on our part in my estimation. So, I'm going to find out how we do that and to me, put it in the end of the field somewhere away from both sidelines so when some team goes to get it, they're not getting it away from the other team; it's there's to get, and you can leave it on the sideline of the team that has it until the fourth quarter. Then, take it and put it in a secure place where nobody can mouth to anybody, and then we'll be good."
What went into the decision to switch from Jonathan Kim back to Noah Ruggles?
It was a bad kick and it didn't look like a confident kick to me, and I thought, 'Let's try it. Let's go back (to Ruggles). The change didn't work,' and Jonathan, he kicked very well during practice. So, when he kicked that one, I thought, 'You know,' (shrugs shoulders). I don't like missing field goals. I think if you're going to kick them, you need to make them. That's what I told him. It's your only job. Do your job, and if not, we're going to go for it on fourth downs. I think we're one of the top in the country going for fourth downs and making it.
I've told receivers, 'If you're not going to catch it, we're not going to throw it to you.' I've told quarterbacks, 'If you're not going to complete them, we're not going to pass.' I've told kickers, 'If you're not going to make them, we're not going to kick.' So, make them, and what I have to do is see in practice that they're making them so I have confidence that they're making them in the game, and you just have to go with your gut. When he just looked nervous and the kick was off to the right, I said, 'Okay, let's go back with Noah. Let's try it and see what we're doing.'
Even down here you have to make significant decisions during the game. I think we're fourth-and-four. There's about probably 2:40 left in the game, and we're up by three. So, in my mind, if we kick the three, obviously, we force them to drive the length of the field and score, but they beat us with a touchdown and if they drive the length of the field and kick a field goal (if we don't score), we go into overtime. So, in my mind, we had to go score a touchdown to put the game away because we're leaving ourselves a chance to lose if we don't make or if we just kick the field goal because it's six points instead of seven. So, that's why we went for it, and then we were trying to slow the game down and make them use all our timeouts. So, when we scored to go up by 10 that they wouldn't have any time left, and then that's when we fumbled.
Do you coach confidence with a kicker different than your position groups?
I probably do. I just tell them they need to make them. I mean, and we're very positive. We do it every day. That's the way we start practice every day. We kick from all three spots: left hash, middle and right, and we kick both guys and we have crowd noise, and I'm on a speakerphone and I say on the last kick of each guy, 'Seven, kick to win, six, five, four, three, etc.' like a fool every day, and then we see if we make them, and to me, it's like anything else. If you're going to be winning in golf, you've got to putt good, and so kickers have to make them.
What did you see from Noah Ruggles in practice after you gave him the news that Jonathan Kim was going to take over?
He had a great week and he was focused and I told our team it's a great lesson for all of us that you get benched because you made a mistake at Virginia Tech, and you don't pout, you don't get your head down, you go back to work, and he seemed to have a real good drive and a real good drive for the week, and then we tested them both in pregame like we always do. They both did well. They both made all their kicks, and then after the first kick, I just said that we're not ready for this. Let's go back and do the other.
Could you discuss your relationship with Jay Bateman and how you two have learned to work together and just the job he's doing shorthanded?
Yes, I love Army. I've been a West Point-Army fan my whole life and love those kids and the way they fight and Navy and Air Force, but Army's kind of been my team of the three. So, always wanted to coach at Army. That was kind of a dream of mine at one point. It just never got to that for them and for me. So, when I got out of coaching, Jeff Monken asked me to come up and spend three or four days at Army, and I was so honored. I talked to their staff, I talked to their team, I talked to their high school clinics, I watched them practice and I was very impressed with Jeff and what he was doing, and they were losing, but I still thought their guys got energy, he knows what he's doing and they're putting a defense together, and then I called a couple of their games.
I had their San Diego State game two years ago, and they (SDSU) had (Rashaad) Penny, the great running back who was up for the heisman, and they absolutely shut him down and won the game, and then the Oklahoma game last year when they held them to 21, I thought, 'I've seen his players. You can't do that,' and then to see what we did out here with Clemson when we were a little healthier. So, I think Jay, he's perfect for us. He's smart, he's tough, he's high energy.
Somebody gets hurt and he's used to putting somebody else in. So, he doesn't worry about it. He said, 'Next.' We took a nickel who had not played and DeAndre Hollins and we could not lose a corner again, and Storm Duck goes down on the first play, and we put a nickel back at corner who has played very little out there. We trained him a little bit last week, and he did a really good job, and most defensive coordinators would freak, 'Oh my god! What are we going to do, man? We're going to lose the game. We don't have anybody,' and he said, 'Eh, Hollins will be alright. Leave him out there.' I said, 'Okay, it's what we got,' but that's Jay, a very confident, a very positive person with the players and he also knows everybody in recruiting. He's recruited this state for 15 years I think. So, he knows all the high school coaches and that's been a real help for us, as well.
What have you gotten to know about Jay off the field away from football?
He's a great father, a great husband and does things right with his family and his family is very important to him.
Based on what you've seen from Virginia and what you've learned from this team, why do you think that they struggle on the road, but dominate at home? What can you exploit from them when they come to Chapel Hill?
Well, the first thing is they lost at Miami in a really close game, and we all know Miami can beat you any week. They just beat Pittsburgh on the road, and then they (Virginia) lost to Notre Dame, who's really good, and that was a tight game until the end, and then this week they lose to Louisville, and Scott Satterfield and those guys are doing a great job. They beat Wake Forest on the road. They're running the ball well. They're doing some really good things. So, you don't want to go to Louisville right now and play. That's a tough place to play.
So, the three games they've lost, they were all close games and they were all against teams that can beat you. I mean, they're really good. So, what we've got to do is we've got to start making this environment every week one that is such an advantage for us that it becomes a disadvantage for the opponents, and I think it'll be that way this weekend, and our players have to gain confidence about being able to win all the games at home again, and we haven't done that.
So, hopefully Saturday night will help us get it going, but I think they (Virginia) start with their quarterback. That guy's just a great player. He's turned their whole program, made a difference, and then what they've done is they've done a great job of building a defense and they're very well coached and multiple. I coached against Bronco (Mendenhall) twice at Texas when he was at Brigham Young and he's a dear friend and he does a great job with the American Football Coaches Association Board. He's on that board and cares a lot about what's right. So, I'm proud for him and proud of him. He's a dear friend for a long time, and I look forward to seeing him, but I don't want him to be happy.
Are players spending extra minutes on preparation, especially with the magnitude of the game this week against Virginia?
Yes, I told them yesterday that whatever you're doing to prepare, you need to do a little more. If you're spending an hour on video, spend some more. If you're a scout teamer, you need to show us the picture. Go watch Virginia. Go watch the guy you're going to be and play and try to help us prepare for the game. So, I think that's part of our process of learning to win again, especially with our early morning practice. The guys are off the field at 10 and they've got the rest of the day and night with some strength and conditioning, classes and study halls and such, but spend a little time with your coach. It has to be voluntary, but they can come up and ask for help and they can come up and see video, and I think that's an area we can do better. I think we can know our opponent better than we're doing right now. We're doing a good job, but I think we can do a better job.
Joe Reed is a playmaker on special teams. How can you defend him?
You know, we've done a pretty good job with our special teams. We haven't done a great job with our field goals because we've had some blocked and we're still working on that. Our punts have been pretty good and hopefully Jonathan (Kim) kicks the kickoffs out, but he's really good. You cannot give him the ball in space.
I'm going to try to phrase this delicately...
Uh oh. You already have.
You and Les Miles and Herm Edwards are all coaches at an advanced age and you've won some big games...
"Advanced age, I like that. Experienced, yeah."
Herm's won five games now in his second season, Les has three wins and a big one this weekend and you have four wins and some big wins. What do you think is working for y'all? What do you think goes into success when many have doubted the moves for y'all?
I think the question is energy. There's no doubt that I have a lot of experience, Les has a lot of experience and Herm's got a lot of experience. Even questioned Herm with college experience, but he still knows how to coach and he still knows how to communicate and be around people, and experience is a valuable thing. You even see with me coming back, I wanted Sparky Woods, I wanted Darrel Moody, I wanted Kenny Browning because I wanted old sets of eyes, advanced age sets of eyes, experience because they can walk around and they see things I might miss and they're not coaching, so they can very well say, 'You know, watch this a little bit. I'm worried about that,' and it's valuable for me, but how can you take Les Miles who won a National Championship and say, 'Nah, he's not going to make it.'
The only reason the older guys wouldn't make it is energy. If you don't have energy, this is a hard job. These are all hard jobs and every minute of every day. I left recruits a few minutes ago to come down here. I mean, you have no time off, but if you're Les and I and Herm and you've been out for a while and you miss the game so much, you're going to have the energy or you wouldn't go back. You would feel that, but I think that's it. I thought about it. I watched the end of Les' game the other night, which was really cool. Hate it for the kid at (Texas) Tech because he was going to win the game and he pitched it back and oh my gosh. I thought, 'Write that down.' I showed it to the team. There was a punt that Notre Dame tried to pick it up and Michigan got it back on a short field. I showed that to the team. I said, 'C'mon guys. These are heart aches, so let's not do this stuff,' but I think that's it. I think experience is a valuable thing. We've seen about everything you can see in this business. So, not much gets you up and down anymore, and hopefully, we can anticipate the next move and be in a good position to try to stop it before it happens. It's just like me trying to figure out that bell so nobody will be griping about who said what to who. Next time, we'll all have it where it's simple and classy, but I think that's what it is."
What led to you getting Kenny Browning here the first time around?
He was the best high school coach in the state. He had just won a State Championship. He was the Shrine Bowl coach. We lost Dan Brooks to go to Tennessee, and I thought Kenny was perfect for us at that time. He was connected to every high school coach in the state and at 72 years old (now), he still is. In fact, he may be 73.