Excited about the week, proud of our team for how they competed last week, got off to a really good start. Again, getting into ACC play early, I liked a lot about that game, but certainly a lot to improve from the game in all areas.
As we look ahead, getting into Week 2 here, this is a huge challenge. Very impressed with Texas A&M. I know we only have one game from this season but really impressed with them. We’ve had a chance to really study them this summer and look at their season from a totality standpoint from last year and they got better and better and better and better. They have got some new people, just like we do, but they have got some key ingredients back, starting with that quarterback [Kellen Mond]. He is a really good football player, a big-time player.
He is bigger, faster, stronger, smarter and more confident than he was this time last year, that is the biggest thing I have seen watching him. He has made some big-time throws on the move. That’s where he really just kills you because he has got the ability to sit in the pocket and make all the throws. He can make the deep out throw from the opposite hash, he’s accurate, but then all of the sudden he gets to scrambling and gets outside the pocket and if you don’t do a great job with your contain or your rush lanes, next thing you know, he has put the ball downfield on the move. We saw all that up close. These guys threw the ball all over us last year in the fourth quarter. It was really like the final four minutes of the third quarter on, we couldn’t stop them. We busted, he made some great throws, and we had opportunities, we had our hands on some of the balls and didn’t finish. It was a long night. They weren’t able to run the ball effectively on us last year; our D-line set the tone in the run game.
We grew a lot from that game though, and we got better as the year went for sure. Hopefully our experience on the back end this year will help us and show up a little better this year and we can be better positioned to make some of those competitive plays because they’ll get off the bus throwing the football down the field - big time. They’re going to run the ball, play action, screen game, boots and nakeds, it’s what they do, it’s what Jimbo [Fisher] has always done and he has got good people to do it with.
Impressed with their running back. They’re outstanding at receiver, as good as we’ll play. They’re big, strong and physical upfront, so we know exactly what we’re getting into with this bunch. We’re going to have to do a great job with this quarterback, first and foremost, because it all starts with him.
The flip side of it, defensively, we have been going against [Mike] Elko I guess now for quite a while since he was at Wake Forest, and he’s as good as there is out there in the country. He does a great job with their scheme. Those guys are schooled up. They mix their coverages, they mix their techniques. They’ll get up and challenge you, and they’ll play a lot of catch technique off with eyes and do a good job of route reading, so we have got to be really sharp and technically sound early in the season to have a chance to be successful against these guys.
They’re big upfront. [Nos.] 52 and 5 are a mountain of men. [No.] 3 is going to remind you of our 3 - fast and electric coming off the edge. [They are] good at backer. Their No. 1 is a coast- to-coast guy on the field. Their secondary is all... their corners are all 6-2, 6-3, 6-4, long bodies at corner, so a really talented group across the front on both sides.
It’s going to be a big challenge for us, but I’m excited to see how our team is going to respond to a group like this. Early in the season, I think this is great for us. They are definitely one of the best teams in the country, regardless of what happens in this game. I think that’s going to play out, and the same thing for us. It’s a great opportunity early for us to grow our team. Win or lose the game, we’re going to get better from this game.
I love the challenge. I love the opportunity to go against a great team early in the year, especially before we get into conference play, and kind of see where we are and grow up a little bit. I thought it helped us last year. We were fortunate to win the game, but that game in particular helped us to get better and make a run, so I don’t have any different feelings this time around against this group. We’re excited about having them here at home. I know it’s going to be an awesome crowd.
We’re praying for everybody that’s in the path of this hurricane and just hopeful that it will turn and folks up here in the Carolinas, it has minimal impact and effect on them.
On Texas A&M punter Braden Mann:
He’s huge, because he can flip it [the field]. You go out there and you get a three-and-out and feel good about your field position, next thing you know, you’re backed up. He kicked it over the top of us a few times last year. We kept backing him up, and backing him up, and he kept kicking it over us. Very, very talented and definitely a weapon for them. He’s a guy that we’ve got to have a good plan for. It’s going to start with DK [Derion Kendrick] doing a good job and us doing a good job of holding up and doing a good job in the back end.
On what he learned about the back end against Texas A&M last year:
Well, we just weren’t very smart. Some of our base stuff, we didn't do a very good job. We did for three-and-a-half quarters, and then all of the sudden we just kind of lost our mind. Sometimes you bust and turn a guy lose, and they don’t find him, but this guy [Mond], he found them. They made some competitive plays too, but there were some where we just didn't even have anybody in the ZIP code. So we just learned details. We were really young. This time last year, it was really different on the back end for us. We felt great about our corners, but we were a little inexperienced at safety. The whole back seven, we like the guys we’ve got. We think we’re very experienced there. We think it’s a strength for us. So structurally, we need to be better. They’re going to make some plays. Like I said, they’re going to get off the bus and the ball will be downfield. Our corners are going to have to win us some matchups.
We’ve got to be positioned better, and that’s probably the biggest thing is being detailed for four quarters. And we got better. I think we had our hands on like four balls that we didn’t catch, one of them in the end zone that all of the sudden became a touchdown. It’s a pick and now it’s a touchdown. Those are game-changing type plays. When you do get your chance to get your hands on the ball, you have got to finish those. It was good to see us last week, we got our hands on balls and made some plays. I think our confidence is good, but this will be a challenge for sure. It starts with being able to hold up on the run, because if you can't hold up on the run, with all their play action, it creates distortion in your coverage and big holes, so it starts with that - being able to hold up and take that away.
That's all for today, guys. They did not make Trevor Lawrence available to us this week, which is obviously unusual. Sorry if it's hard to hear Ngata. He spoke extremely softly. We'll have to get the freshman to work on that before next time. I'll have a synopsis for you in a bit!