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Published 10/08/2012
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Meet the Press: North Carolina Game

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Head coach Al Golden and selected student-athletes met with the media at the weekly Tuesday press conference to discuss the upcoming game against North Carolina.

Al Golden Pre-Game Press Conference
Oct. 9, 2012 (North Carolina)

Opening Statement...
"We're getting ready for our fourth ACC game and obviously an opponent that is playing with a lot of confidence right now, and coming into our game really hot, in North Carolina. It's really the most complete team I've seen on film so far, in all three phrases. On offense they're averaging close to 45 points a game, and I think their quarterback is really ripping it right now. They have a veteran offensive line, two of the best linemen I've seen on film yet in [Jonathan] Cooper at left guard and [Brennan] Williams, their right tackle. [Eric] Ebron, the tight end, poses some threats both in the run game and in terms of his match-up in the pass game - they displace him a lot. Giovani Bernard is coming off his best game, and we also see [A.J] Blue who's a big running back. Bernard is doing a great job, has a low center of gravity, and, as I just said to some of the coaches, he looks quicker this year to me. I think the receivers are really talented. [Erik] Highsmith, [Sean] Tapley who also serves as a kick returner, is excellent. [Quinshad] Davis made a really big catch in the last game. It's a really talented offense, high-powered, up-tempo.

"On defense it looks like a reload situation. They're under 18 points a game, and I think they've had 14 takeaways. [Sylvester] Williams at defensive tackle is one of the best I've seen. [Kevin] Reddick holds it down in the middle and is very active on the back end as well. Excellent field goal kicker, kick returner and punt returner are excellent. I thought their coverage units were tremendous.

"As a team, this is a really complete team that's playing really well. It's going to be a great challenge for us as we get home to Sun Life at 2:30 on Saturday."

On the team forgetting about Notre Dame...
"I hope so. The hardest thing is they invested a lot in Notre Dame. It's not like they weren't prepared. They invested a lot, so that hurts. What also hurts is opportunities lost, opportunities that went through our hands. Whether it's our dropped passes, roughing the punter penalty that gave them a first down, or some of the penalties we gave them that aided them in the first half. I think opportunities lost kind of compounds things. I told them, I'm glad that you're hurting. We had guys crying - I'm glad, because that means they're investing. They're not blaming. They're all looking at themselves and what they could have done better, as are the coaches. That means they've put a lot into it. We didn't play well - I don't want to go backwards. Watching North Carolina on film has helped us leave that behind - they're really good."

On where the defense has improved...
"I think our linebacker corps is improving. I don't think there's any question. The first play that [Raphael] Kirby takes as a player in college, he's in the backfield. I thought he looked like he deserved to be there, like he belonged there. That's a tough stage for him to break in. I think our depth there will be better moving forward. Kirby's back off an injury, Gionni [Paul] is back off an injury, Denzel [Perryman] is back off an injury, Jimmy [Gaines] has been hobbled. He looks a little bit better. Hopefully that position will start to look better.

"I think we have to continue to get a better pass rush from the front four. [Dequan] Ivery saw his first action at defensive tackle. It's still not pretty, it's not what we want inside yet, but at least they're competing. I don't think our tackling is bad right now, I think Deon Bush has really helped us with that as well. I think he's been very physical. There are a lot of things we have improved on. We're not a finished product right now, and I'm not going to tell you we are."

On the play of Anthony Chickillo...
"I would say he has had some opportunities there...where he has beaten his man and had opportunities for a sack but let them get away. I think if he stays with it, stays with the system, those plays will come. I don't know about his numbers, but before the Notre Dame game, three games in a row he played really good football for us. Notre Dame wasn't as good, he'll be the first to tell you he made some errors in the game that are uncharacteristic of him. He knows that. That's the challenge this week, to get back to business and stay focused."

On the importance of returning home...
"I hope I speak for everybody: we're excited to be home. We're excited to finally get a chance to be home for a while. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it hasn't been a tough six weeks. You're playing the #6 [Kansas State] and #7 [Notre Dame] out of conference. If I was in that meeting when that schedule was made, I probably wouldn't have voted for that. We've played on the road four games, and our guys are hanging tough. Now we're home. We're home against a really good team. Staying healthy, getting our rest, playing a lot of guys, all those things are important right now because this is tournament time. Because we've won the first three in the league, we've made these very important games. Obviously North Carolina is the most important game to us right now."

On the team's penalties...
"Penalties are a reflection of the head coach, no matter what. The head coach can't escape that. We made great strides last year in our penalties as a team, right now we're going backwards a little bit. We did a good job against NC State. We just had some - how else can you say it? - guys lose their poise. If we're all honest with each other, the stage got some guys. That's the truth. The only way to get through that is to go through the fire yourself, to experience it. We had some penalties that were very uncharacteristic of some guys in that game, and I have to do a better job of preparing them for that stage."

On scheming for UNC RB Giovani Bernard...
"We have to tackle well. He spins on contact; he has a low center of gravity. He's doing a really good job of cutting the ball back. He has an excellent offensive line that can get out in front of him. He can run inside and outside. But certainly we have to scheme to stop him. We have to make sure as we do that, we don't compromise the explosive plays on the back end. That's why they're scoring so many points - they get you in some compromising positions, and we have to diffuse some of those."

On balancing the frustration of youth and results...
"For me it's not difficult at all. Everybody we're investing in on this team is going to be here a long time. I don't see it any other way. I know your job is to critique, and your job is to question, I understand that. But don't think for a second we're not doing the same thing on our side - we're critiquing, we're questioning. We're making sure that we're getting the right combination, that there isn't anything else we can do. The reality is when you're investing in young people - this Saturday we'll play out 20th freshman of the year - it's all forward thinking. It's pushing them forward, and making sure they keep their confidence, making sure they don't get down, and, to be honest with you, making sure they stay with the process and don't worry about the external. We're asking a lot of those guys to do a lot. I just want them to stay positive and get better, and not worry about the external."

On taking pride in being 3-0 in the ACC...
"I think we're all on the same page. We have to focus on North Carolina, but we've made this a significant game because we're off to a 3-0 start. I'm proud of our guys. We're fighting, we're moving forward. If you were a veteran team, that would have been a tough task - four road games in six, and scheduling what we scheduled out of conference. The two top 10 teams took it to us, and we won our three ACC games. Here we are, playing what amounts to the most complete team I've seen. This is a really good football team. I hope our guys understand the opportunity they've created by winning the first three."

On any frustration from defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio...
"There is no fan out there that can match his intensity or dedication to trying to get his trade right. The last two years, the same guy had two top 20 defenses in terms of scoring defense. As angry as everybody is, they're not watching it and living it every day like he is. As I say to him and the whole defensive staff, we're moving the team forward. Just keep moving it forward. It's not like we're hiding a bunch of fourth- and fifth-year seniors on the scout team field. Where are they? There's no fifth-year seniors, no fourth-year seniors, only a couple, and very few juniors. The guys that we're playing with right now are fighting every day, they're learning - but they're learning under fire. I think you go to Parris Island before you go to war. They're learning on the battlefield. Just stay positive, and keep moving forward. We'll get there. I promise you we'll get there."

On the character of Phillip Dorsett answering tough questions...
"We're not hiding from anyone anymore. I heard that went on here; we're not doing that. We're going to man up, starting with me. I didn't get the team ready for that environment, we did not play well, that begins and ends with me. In terms of Phillip stepping up, I'd expect nothing less. His parents would expect nothing less. He's a great kid with a tremendous work ethic. He had a great practice out there today; he was relaxed, catching the ball really well. Stephen [Morris] trusts him. He'll bounce back."

On play counts with a young team...
"If you're a veteran team, you're settled in. Our play counts on defense, you have [Anthony] Chickillo and Shayon [Green] above 400. Everybody else, their play count is down, just because Chickillo and Shayon have separated themselves at their position. Denzel [Perryman] would be that way if not for the injury, and [Brandon] McGee is that way. Those are the incumbents at their position. Other than that, with everybody else, we're playing tag-team right now. We're not at a point where anybody has any body of work that demonstrates to them that they are the starter and that's their position. We're not at that stage yet."

On what he tells the defense...
"Just play on the field, get better. Our defense held us in that game the other day. To go out and go three-and-out the first series when Notre Dame had a bye week to dial up whatever they wanted to dial up in their opening script, and we rough the kicker and get another penalty...that makes it hard. Our defense kept us in the game in the first half. We didn't convert our opportunities...everybody blames the defense, but we're all in this together. If we're not possessing the ball and converting on third down on offense, and taking points off the board, ultimately it's easy to look at the defense and say they're giving up a lot of yards. But it was 13-3 at the half, then it goes to 20 and we just don't answer. Obviously they got to a keep-away game, ran the ball and took as much time as they could, and that's how it got away."

On the positives of already playing four away games...

"There is a lot of positive. There is going to be a moment when that exact environment in that exact game is going to be for bigger stakes, and we'll be ready for it. The only way to go through that and learn from that is through experience. We took some time yesterday and talked in here as a team just - what did we learn? What can we do different? You have to take a minute and create some value by learning how to handle those situations a little better as a team and as a staff. Clearly because we've already played four road games, we only have two remaining. We'll be home for this month, although it's only three games. It gives us a chance to get stronger and hopefully continue to work hard."

On North Carolina playing an up-tempo offense...
"They're doing a really good job right now. They had a lot of explosive plays against Virginia Tech. Clearly they were playing up-tempo, because you can see on the film Virginia Tech wasn't in place on certain plays. You could see Virginia Tech wasn't running to the ball as they normally would, because they were doing a great job of not only being up-tempo but possessing the ball, too. You can be up-tempo all you want, but if you don't convert third downs and possess the ball a little better, you're not going to be successful. You have to get explosive plays and convert on third down when you run this offense."