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September 16, 2013
UNC head coach Larry Fedora spoke with reporters Monday morning as the 1-1 Tar Heels prepare to go to Atlanta for Saturday's ACC opener at Georgia Tech. Read Tar Heel Illustrated's transcription of Fedora's press conference below:
"We went for a fake punt and didn't get it, so I looked at just in (a few) mistakes alone, we gave up 20 points right there. And I know everybody jumped all over the defense, and I'm not certainly condoning the way the defense played, but it was not a one-sided deal. It was not just the defense that created problems for us, it was the entire team. Especially with an offense like theirs, you cannot give them extra possessions and you can't give up points on the special teams, you really don't have much of a chance to win if you do that."
You had the bye week last year as well (before the Georgia Tech game). Did you change anything that you did from last year in preparation for this year's game?
"Yeah, we did. We changed it up quite a bit actually. Part of that was learning some lessons from last year, but also, we have two bye weeks this year. This one is so much earlier in the season, it's a totally different deal. That was my plan in the summer when I was looking at the season and how it was going to play out, we planned out each of those bye weeks already way in advance. The second one's a little bit different to plan out, the second one's going to be 'What's the status of the football team at that time?,' but we did change up some things this time."
What kind of things did you do?
"We really spent almost all of our time on Georgia Tech, where we didn't in the previous year, I mean we were still trying to learn what we were doing offensively and defensively and spent time on us where this year we spent a lot more time just on Georgia Tech."
Did you spend more time trying to mimmick Georgia Tech this summer?
"Oh yeah, I mean we did some game planning in the summer on their offense. Defense was a little tougher than the offense because, yea, you studied some things that Ted Roof did at Penn State and all else, but you couldn't put together a game plan. But defensively, I would say the majority of defensive game plan was done in the summer."
"But now, if you watched the game against Duke, they came out with a new offense. Probably about fifty percent of the time, there were in a gun with three backs in the backfield. So, not running the triple option and running more of, I guess you could say, a conventional offense, they ran a lot of plays from that set back there. So again, it puts stress on you. You've been running everything for a triple option and now you have to slow down a little bit and make sure you can cover the new offense. I think Vad Lee enables them to do both and that's the tough thing about it."
Did you see a lot more with (Georgia Tech defensive coordinator) Ted Roof's new defense, I know the first week it didn't change a lot?
"Here's the thing as you look at them, what Ted is doing with them, it's not anything that's extraordinary or out of the ordinary or anything like that. What Ted's got is Ted's got them in a position to play. That's what he's doing. He blitzes as he feels he needs to, he's changing his fronts a little bit, but I think what he's done is he's settled down and they're playing just good solid football."
"They're in position and they're where they're supposed to be, they're not out of position or making major mistakes. He's got them in position, he's putting them in a position where they can make a play and they're making plays, so I think he's doing a nice job."
How do you feel about (cut blocks)?
"I don't know what (David Cutcliffe) said, but my opinion? It doesn't really matter what I think, it's part of the game. It is actually part of the game and in Paul (Johnson's) offense, they're able to take advantage of it. I mean we could do it but with what we do it doesn't fit as much for us and it really fits for what they do in their triple option offense. It is legal and part of the game, so who am I to complain about it?"
How do you prepare your kids knowing that they're going to see a lot of that?
"What you do is you practice against it. No matter what you do, you're still not going to be able to show as good of a picture as the way they're going to play it. They're going to be good at it because that's what they do. We cut all last week in practice and we'll continue to cut this week in practice and guys either learn how to play at a cut block and still go on to make plays, or they don't. Georgia Tech's offense is betting that you're not going to be able to play it because you just don't see it that often and it's part of the game."
Why do teams struggle with this offense?
"You have to understand the triple option. The triple option, there are three options on every play basically and then they can balance you up, they can go unbalanced, you better make adjustment and you better have all your option responsibilities each play and they do a great job of trying to out number you or get you where you have the same numbers as they do and you've got a lot of grass to cover and they've got blockers on you."
"I've been involved in that offense and it is difficult because you don't see it, you see it once a year maybe, and when you see it that one time, basically, normally, you have a Sunday night, a Tuesday, a Wednesday and a Thursday and you better get ready to play. And it's totally different than anything else you see."
"Most of your blitzes don't match up at all and you don't worry about option responsibilities with blitzes so it keeps you very simple defensively if you're going to know you option responsibilities, so when you become simple - Paul's been doing and running this offense probably since he was in diapers - and he knows all the answers. He's not tinkering with his offense year in and year out, this is what he does, and he knows the answers. Whatever you throw at him, he's seen it, I promise you."
How much additional difficulty does Vad Lee's ability to throw the ball bring to covering Georgia Tech?
"It makes it very hard because you know the kid, if you put him in situations, he can beat you with his arm. You watch the Duke game, he threw four TD passes. You get down in the red zone and you're trying to stop the triple option and the play-action passes and it's tough, it's very tough."
It's been 16 years since UNC has won in Atlanta, how do you get it so that fans aren't just assuming it's an "L"?
"Well, the only way to do that is to win, right? I didn't know it was 16 years and now I'm scared. I mean, I don't know. The way I look at all those things is we really had nothing to do with it. This team wasn't a part of all those (losses). I don't put a whole lot of stock in that. We don't control anything that happened in the last 16 years, so I don't see that that plays a part in this year's team and what we're doing at this time."
Does the emphasis on matching up with Paul Johnson's offense get your competitive juices flowing more because of you being an offensive mastermind?
"Well, you're really not matching offense and offense when you're thinking that way. First of all, I appreciate that, my wife would never say 'Mastermind,' I can assure you of that. I'm sure Blake (Anderson), the offensive staff, is matching wits with Ted Roof and what he's going to do and the cat-mouse game there."
"Now Vic (Koenning) and the defensive staff, the same thing, the cat-mouse game that Paul's going to play over there. If we do this, what's (Johnson's) adjustment going to be? It's more within the staff - the offensive staff versus the defense and their offense versus the defensive staff where you're matching wits. That part of the game for me was one of the most enjoyable parts of the game. I think the at and mouse game with the offense and the defense is where it's at."
You played a staff of running backs against Middle Tennessee, do you plan on changing it up as far as who gets more of the carries?
"We're not going to change our philosophy there, it's going to be about production and who's producing and if you're producing you're going to play more, and that's every position on the field, that doesn't change. At that position, I don't know that one guy is going to go every play the entire game. At our speed, two guys are going to play for sure and sometimes three play. All three know they better be ready to go."
Have you figured out what was holding the running game back a couple of weeks ago?
"We spent a lot of time studying it. It would be easy if it was one guy and you could say 'It's this one guy,' and take him out, put somebody else in, but that's not what it's been. It's been this on one play, and then the next play - might be the exact same play, but now it's this (other) guy - and then it's this, it's these steps."
"It's been a multitude of things and it's all about execution. It's about each guy and him doing it to the best of his ability and executing. Part of that is new guys up front, gelling, all of that, part of it is tailbacks, part of it is quarterback steps, there's a lot involved in it."
How do you maintain balance between passive play and too much aggression against the triple option as a defense?
"You always want your defense to play aggressively, there's no doubt about it But at the same time, you got to be responsible for your option responsibilities and no matter how aggressive you want to be, if you've got the dive, you've got to take the dive and if you've got the quarterback, you've got to take the quarterback - you can't help out on the dive just because you want to go hit the guy. So it boils down to being disciplined. You can still play hard and be very disciplined, so if we play hard and we've got a lot of guys running to the football, we have a chance."
Do you tell your team that Georgia Tech is a must-win?
"I don't tell them that. Everybody knows what our goals are at the beginning of the season and they understand that this is a conference game and we're here to win the Coastal Division and this is part of that right now, this affects that goal. These guys are intelligent (enough) to know that, I don't have to beat that into their heads."
Do you see more defensive confidence from Georgia Tech this year than you did last year when you played them?
"No doubt, they're playing sound football, he's put them in positions to make plays and they're making plays and they're playing good, solid defense and I think Ted's philosophy really fits what Paul wants to do as a team. So I think it's a good fit."
How often did you use the 68 points (Georgia Tech scored in the last game against UNC) as motivation for the team?
"I don't remember bringing it up one time actually. I'm not going to say I didn't, I just don't remember bringing it up. I think I put that one out of my mind actually. If you played in that game last year, you know, that doesn't just disappear from your memory, so you know. I believe that our defense will play better this year, I really do, I believe they'll play better."
Is this game more of a measuring stick than the South Carolina game was?
"Could be, in a lot of areas. I think every game at this point becomes a measuring stick as to who we are and how do we measure up against our conference opponents is how we're going to measure up. If we're going to win the coastal division, we've got to be on the top end of that measuring stick."
Have you shown the video of last year's game to the team?
"As a team, no, but I'm sure as a defensive staff and a offensive staff, in the film room that they've shown some of that."
What are some of the things that you're going to do on the field as an offense to keep Georgia Tech's offense off the field?
"I think we're going to have to take care of the football, that's number one, we have to take care of the football. And then we have to finish drives off because we know going into this game we're going to have fewer possessions, that's just the way thre style works, so we have to finish drives off. You can't come up short."
"(And) just moving the chains, if we keep moving the chains, eventually you run out of white lines and good things will happen. I don't think that we have to slow our offense down to keep our defense off the field, I don't see it that way."