“All right. Feels good to get that first one. Very proud of the team. I thought we prepared very well. I thought we had more poise about us early, at least the way we started the game.
I felt like the approach this morning getting up, we were focused, we were excited in the locker room, but not hyper. So I thought we were in good shape.
I like the way the team played early. Obviously there’s plenty to get corrected. But we’re excited about the win. We’re excited about doing some very good things offensively and defensively. There’s some real good things to build on.
Again, proud of the effort and the preparation. With the things we’ve got to get cleaned up, we’ll go hard at work. Special teams was very good a week ago. A little bit sloppy here today. So there’s a lot of things to get corrected. A lot of penalties. Very sloppy with the ball at times in our punt returns. Got to get that cleaned up.
Overall very proud of these guys, the way they worked. It’s a start.”
COULD YOU TELL HOW BADLY THEY NEEDED A WIN AT START OF GAME? “I could. They’ve worked awfully hard. That’s why all these losses are tough at times because the guys worked hard since we’ve been here. We’re not perfect, but their approach has been good. It was great to see some success for them.”
YOU CHANGED YOUR DEFENSE WHEN YOU SAW THEM IN WARMUPS? “Yes, that’s correct. They’ve been running the gun read stuff that we were preparing for all week, and they went to the double‑slot option stuff. They didn’t do much teamwork in pregame warm-up, which was odd, but they did do some handoffs and exchanges. We saw their alignments on some things.
Came in here, went over the double‑slot option. Fortunately Coach (D.J.) Eliot and myself prepared for that in the ACC championship game. We had some basic rules we applied quickly.
It’s nothing revolutionary; it’s just what we’re keying, what we’re doing in some of our checks off of alignment. We stayed pretty basic. We worked on a lot of things.
With the offense they were running, we had to stay pretty basic and be disciplined with what we were doing.”
SOME OF YOUNG PLAYMAKERS: ”Haven’t seen many statistics. Ryan Timmons, I saw him having some big plays. (Jeff) Badet had the big touchdown. Alex Montgomery was in there quite a bit of the game. Obviously with Demarco (Robinson) being out right from the beginning, that hurt us. He has an ankle. We’ll see how bad it is. He rolled an ankle I think on the first kick return. But it was nice to see the other guys step up.”
WHAT ABOUT JOJO KEMP? “Jojo, yeah, it was nice to see him get the ball, get in the flow. We knew he was a play‑maker. Good to see him getting involved.”
RECALL A GAME WHERE ADJUSTMENT MADE ON PRE-GAME WARMUP? “Not to that extent. I mean, obviously you’re always looking at things, getting a tip for things they’re stressing, different alignments, things like that. But nothing that drastic.”
THREE STRAIGHT PENALTIES, SECOND AND 25, THEN 88-YARD TD PASS? “Very happy about that. You can imagine, we wanted to be aggressive this week in our approach, the way we coached them. We wanted to take some shots. That was good to see that. When you’re in predictable situations backed up like that, your O‑line has to do a great job, everybody has to execute. To hit it for a touchdown, that was great.”
FEEL TO GET YOUR FIRST WIN? “It really does feel good. It feels great. To be honest with you, I was so involved in the game, doing everything you have to do to win, prepare, making sure you’re taking care of everything… Same thing with after the game, talking to the team. Then Avery (Williamson) gave me the game ball. It hit me.
Like I told them, we’re always going to value wins, no matter who they are, what they are. It’s hard to get them. We appreciate winning today. We’re going to go back to work tomorrow and prepare for the next week.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR DEFENSE TODAY? “We were better. We were better. Again, I felt like you saw some guys going backwards, you saw some guys being physical. That was good to see. We had to play things pretty straight because of the reasons why I just told you. But overall I was happy with the execution. I was happy with their effort.”
SANDERS AND ZA’DARIUS SMITH DIDN’T PLAY IN SECOND HALF? “Yeah, just to see other guys, maybe get a few guys tweaked up here and there. Nothing major. We should be fine.”
ON QUARTERBACK ROTATION FIRST FEW SERIES, IS THAT WHAT YOU HAD IN MIND? “We don’t know exactly how that’s going to go. We have some plays for Jalen we thought we could hit. We hit one early. That was good to see.
You know, just like I’ve said over and over, we’ll do what we have to do to prepare our team to win. If that’s with one guy, then we’ll stay with it.
But I think we have two good guys that are still feeling their way out through things. We have to be good around them. We do need some continuity and some leadership. We’ll just see how that goes. Play it game to game.”
WERE THE PLAYERS AROUND THEM BETTER? “We were better around them. I thought we protected for the most part. We were better at receiver around them.”
ON DYSHAWN MOBLEY STILL GETTING BETTER: “Dyshawn has done a great job. He works extremely hard. A big, physical back. But there’s some other guys that are getting snaps ahead of him.
ON JON TOTH TAKING CENTER STARTING SPOT: “This week we made that move, I want to say after Wednesday or Thursday, just went with him. We know we’re going to go through some growing pains with him. But we wanted to give the young guy a chance, let him get out there and see what he could do.”
WHAT DID YOU LIKE ABOUT HIM? “His athleticism. He’s big. He’s done a nice job.”
IS THAT CHANGE A RESULT OF INJURIES? “Part of it. Part of it.”
ON PLAY OF LINEBACKER TRAVAUGHN PASCHAL? “I feel good about TraVaughn. He gives us something in there. He’s a big, physical guy. He has some twitch about him. He has good instincts.”
HOW LONG DO YOU CELEBRATE BEFORE THE MONSTER SCHEDULE AHEAD OF YOU? “I have a lot of family in town. Celebrate tonight. Get back to work tomorrow. Big game next week. We’ll be excited to play.”
ON THE PLAY OF ZA’DARIUS SMITH AND HIS OVER EXUBERANCE POSSIBLY? “I was going to put that on there if you didn’t ask that (laughter).
Very excited about the way he’s playing. There’s a fine line there. We need to have some fun. We need to enjoy it. We need to play confidently. We expect him to make big plays like that.
The over-exuberance has to go. We have to be more disciplined as a football team. But he’s a very good player and he’s going to get better and better as we go.”
NEXT WEEK AGAINST LOUISVILLE: “Big rivalry. We’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a big challenge. They’re a good team, well‑coached team. We’re going to be excited.
Like I said, we’re going to enjoy tonight and we’ll be back at work hard tomorrow and ready to prepare.”
ANY OTHER SPECIAL MOMENTS ABOUT TODAY? “No, I enjoyed it. But I really didn’t think too much about it before or after or anything until I was wrapping up with the team, giving them the send‑off for the night. Again, I want them to enjoy it. They deserved it. They worked hard for it, so it’s fun to see.”
SECOND HALF SLOW DOWN? “Even the second quarter.”
AT WHAT POINT DID YOU FEEL YOU NEEDED TO GET THIS GAME TO THE FINISH LINE? “We wanted to work our operations late into the fourth quarter just because we need the work. That’s where we’re doing some ball control passes, letting Jalen get out there and throw it a little bit, just operate our offense. We didn’t want to take any shots at that point in time. Just wanted to run some plays.
Late in the fourth quarter, then it was time to run the clock and get out of there. We need to use as many opportunities as we can to work young guys and just get better.”
ON NEAL BROWN’S OFFENSE STRUGGLING LAST WEEK: “I think you all know what the offense is, what he’s done at Tech, other places, Troy. That is our offense. But you got to understand with Neal and with all of our offense coaches, they always run the ball.
Sure, we could have done things better in the opener, we know that. Like I said, anybody that doesn’t say as a coach that you wouldn’t change something here or there is probably lying here and there.
So we know we can do better. We know that. We’re going to always work to put him in a position to be successful. If it’s a bunch of runs one game, that’s what we’re going to do. If it’s taking shots in the pass game, that’s what we’re going to do.
That’s what I said after last week. I have great confidence in those guys. They have toughness and physicality about them. That’s what I like about them.”
ON OFFENSIVE YARDS NEARING RECORD: “I didn’t know that till you just told me that. But that’s great. You know, that’s a good sign. There’s been some very good offenses around here. We expect to play well on both sides of the ball. We expect to improve every week. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
HAPPY WITH YOUR APPROACH THIS WEEK? “I really was. I believe I mentioned this a time or two after practice, but I felt like we were more poised this week. Still focused, but more poised. A big point that I tried to make to them all week was, you know, that’s my job. I admitted it after game one. You have to get them ready. I felt like we wanted to go from play one to the end of the game real quick. It’s one play at the same time. That gets so boring to hear. We need to improve and focus and do the best we can on every play. That’s what we talked about, just trying to be perfect at one play, then stack another one, then get another one. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
ON GETTING THE GAME BALL FROM YOUR PLAYERS: “You’re trying to get me to choke up (laughter). I tell you, I could have in there. It did, it meant an awful lot to me. It really hit me at that moment. That was like a ‘wow’ moment for me. You’re so busy in the moment, trying to take care of things, operate things the right way. But I hadn’t been there before as a head coach to win it. When he did that, it did mean an awful lot to me. I’m very proud of it and look forward to many more.”
WHAT DID YOU SEE FROM MAX SMITH AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT DECISION? “Max is going to be fine. He’s a good quarterback. So is Jalen. We said that all along. It’s been a tough decision. You all can see that, they both do good things and they’re both not perfect. I thought he rushed things a couple times. He started rushing some throws in trying to get the ball off too quick. Made a few poor throws here and there. They’re going to learn. They’re both doing some very good things. There’s plenty to learn from.”
CONCERNED ABOUT PUNT RETURNS AT ALL? “Yes, very (laughter). When Demarco went down, he’s been so solid back there, once he went down… I make light of it, but that’s very aggravating. It’s not very good. We need to get that cleared up. There are some simple rules that are applied that most people in college football know, that you don’t back up behind the 10 and catch it, secure the football on a punt safe. We made some plays that we’re not very proud of. That’s what we got to constantly do. We need to be a smart team. I thought we played harder tonight and we need to continue to be more disciplined and play smart.”
ON POSITIVES COMING OFF THE WIN: “It’s always good when you can win a game and be not happy about a lot of situations. So there’s plenty to improve. Again, we’re always going to appreciate wins. That’s the bottom line. We’re in a bottom‑line business: you need to win. So that was good. But there’s plenty to learn from. I thought we were very sloppy. I don’t like the penalties, the ball security. Again, on special teams, I thought we were out of whack. We weren’t always on the same page with some substitutions that we need to get better at, things like that. So there’s plenty to learn from. That’s the great thing, is you can learn after a win.”