CHAPEL HILL --- Following North Carolina's 31-17 victory over East Carolina Saturday afternoon in Kenan Stadium, Tar Heel head coach Butch Davis and Pirates head coach Skip Holtz spoke to reporters.
NORTH CAROLINA HEAD COACH BUTCH DAVIS
"Like I told the players in the locker room, you don't win significantly meaningful games unless you win as a team. We started preparing to win this game on Tuesday. We had very good practices, our players were focused, they watched film, they took advantage of every single practice rep during the week. I think our team handled the ebbs and flows of the game. There's always going to be challenges…turnovers, them getting an early 7-0 lead…our kids responded.
"I thought our football team responded every time there was a challenge. Every time (ECU) had some momentum or every time they made a score, (we) came back with a very struggling offense like we've had. It was a very good performance to have in excess of 400 yards (with) what everyone deemed a "struggling" offense.
"I thought T.J. Yates was outstanding today. His composure, his poise, his percentage of completions was very good. He was smart with the football. He was keeping every body in there routes.
"I thought our offensive coaches did an outstanding job in a way to try to find roles for our kids as they grow, because we're playing so many young guys.
"Another significant contributor was that our offensive line got to play together for a week. Last week's performance, they struggled a bit They didn't' get a chance to practice all week. Obviously this week was a little bit better. Jonathan Cooper was able to come back in and play some. We're still a long ways away, there are still things we've got to continue to strive to get better.
"A rock solid core of this football team, clearly, is our defense. That's the anchor that you hang on to. You know that they're going to go out and that they're going to compete. Robert Quinn was spectacular today. The pressure he had off the corner always gave us a chance to put them behind the count.
"On all three phases, we did enough good things to give ourselves a chance to win. I was just proud of the effort that our team showed."
On the development of the young wide receivers:
"I don't know who is going to wear those numbers in the next 25 years, but whoever comes in, I would ask for number 88. I would try to make sure that I'm the heir apparent to that. Everybody's got some intangible that gives them a chance. (Erik Highsmith) just puts himself in a position to make sure that he gives himself a chance to catch the ball and be in the right spot.
"I like the fact that Jheranie Boyd…I love the focus and the concentration that he had on the ball because a lot of young kids would have stuck their hand out there and it bobbled, he didn't catch it cleanly, but he maintained his focus and he kept running and he gave himself a chance to catch it the second time around.
"Each one of those kids is finding little bitty things that they can add to try to help our offense. "
On the running game:
"I thought our running game, as the day went on, got a little stronger and a little stronger. They started to make some good runs. We're very lucky we've got a good combination with Shaun and Ryan, they are kind of the thunder and lightning deal. They pull for each other and they keep making plays.
"If you go back a week ago and look at the last 18 minutes of that Connecticut game, I think we kind of carried a little of that confidence and a little bit of that mindset of how we like to play into this ballgame. We did need to be more balanced, get the tight end, get the backs involved, get the wide receivers involved, find ways to help out the running game.
"We're still a long ways away from being the kind of football team we need to be, but this was a good step forward."
On the offensive line's improved protection:
"There's any number of reasons, one is the quarterback getting rid of the ball. That's always a starting place when the quarterback is smart with the football and doesn't take sacks, that's a beginning. I think being able to run the ball and not play behind the count, trying to stay out of second and (long) and third and (long), those are 'Sackfests' just waiting to happen. You're lucky if you can get out without giving up a lot of sacks."
EAST CAROLINA HEAD COACH SKIP HOLTZ
"To start, it's frustrating and it is hard to lose and especially for a football team that has such lofty goals for themselves and such high expectations. We came in here with the expectation to not only be able to compete but to come in and win. There is no moral victory to come out of here and say it was close. It is a very down locker room right now but I give North Carolina an awful lot of credit. I thought they came out here and I thought they played a really good football game. In the second half it was hard for us to get a stop, we got some things going on offensively and we put a couple drives together, but what we lacked as an offensive football team was some of the big plays and that was probably really one of the differences in this game.
I think in the second half we had a 12 and 15 play drive that resulted in three points. That's a lot of offensive plays to only get three points on the board. We come out and throw a little screen to Jamar Bryant and he picks up eight or nine yards. They come out there when it gets down to one score and they throw the same screen and it goes for 60, we miss a tackle and it goes for 60 down the sideline, like I said it's a tribute to North Carolina the job that they did today. I am proud of our team I think we competed, I think we hung in there and competed all the way to the end. We are just going to have to turn and regroup, bring it back together and get into conference play. We can't change anything about last week, this week, but unfortunately we can't change them. We just have to get ready for conference play."
On the pass defense missing Emanuel Davis:
"I don't want to say it is as simple as because some guys have to go in there. When you play three deep, we told our safety, I don't care if you have to line up at 30 yards deep, it's three deep, nobody gets behind you. All the sudden, Coach Smith said I've have worked on this play all week, they came and it was the sixth series and Rick said they haven't gone downtown yet. Lets turn and make sure we are secure against the big play. I think from a coaching standpoint that's all you can do, you can turn and put them in a position, but they still got to get out there and make the play. Derek Blacknall is a redshirt sophomore, he is young, hopefully between last week and this week he will learn some lessons.
If this can make this a better football team going into conference play then hopefully we can turn and continue to improve. I'm not just going to turn and blame an injury and that would shore everything up, but we have to turn and play smarter in the backfield. Outside of that, in the second half, we turned and changed Dekota Marshall from corner to safety kind of on the run in the second half. I really think he did some pretty decent things out there."
On the Carolina defense:
"I said going into this that I think from a defensive standpoint, the gaudy numbers they put up in the first two weeks, they are going to lead the country if they continue with those numbers. I think (Robert) Quinn is better than he was on film. I thought he was one of the better players on the defense. I think he is a pro right now, I know he is only sophomore, but he can run, there are a couple times we tried to put a blocking scheme in and put a block down on him and he just shot the gap. We didn't do a very good job of evaluating his speed. I think there was three series in the first half where he comes in and makes a sack and its 2nd and 20. Now you're fighting an uphill battle---it's not like we didn't have anybody on him."