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“First of all, I’m just so proud of our guys – what a hard-fought win that was – and I knew it was going to be that way. NC State is a really good football team, I know they’re dealing with some injuries, but they’re really good on defense and I knew it was going to be a blue-collar type of game. At the beginning of that game, I wasn’t sure anyone was going to score. Of course it’s cold, the wind is blowing, that type of weather you would expect this time of year. It took a total team effort to win like we did tonight. Offense, defense and kicking game, all three did some really good things. Start with the kicking game, JT [James Turner] kicking field goals phenomenal tonight in that wind did an outstanding job, and has done that all year. We really have a lot of confidence in him and what he is doing. Mark Wassett, our punter, did some great things tonight, including punting the ball left-footed, one time tonight. Pinning those guys inside the 10, that 5-yard line – we pinned them inside the 20 three times tonight, that was tremendous in a game like this, a defensive battle. And of course, [Jawhar} Jordan with the big-time kickoff return for a touchdown.
Offensively, I think we knew that we were going against a great defense who shuts the run game down. Our backs ran hard tonight, our offensive line, tight ends, they did a great job blocking on the perimeter. To end up having a guy get 100 yards, Jordan 105 yards… Maurice Turner did a great job tonight, he ended up getting 59. Brock [Dormann] had a couple of runs where he got a first down. The run game I thought was hard-fought yards and I thought they did a really, really good job with that. It was hard to throw the ball, I think both teams struggled with that I think with the wind that we had. I think one of Brock’s best throws was on third down when he hit Tyler Hudson on the slant, he breaks a tackle, goes inside the 10 – huge. We ended up scoring on that drive right there.
And then defensively, our guys did a great job. We didn’t know which quarterback was going to play, and they ended up going both and so it’s completely different game plans for both of those guys, because one’s a runner and one’s a thrower. So, you’ve got to be able to be flexible in your calls. We were able to get some pressure tonight – five sacks. Great job getting into the backfield, getting pressure. There were other times that he had to throw the ball early, because we were getting back there. And we didn’t give up the big play again – that’s the key. All three phases did a great job in a complete game, I like that.
I’m really proud of our seniors – the guys who played their last game [at home] – to send them off on a high note like this, they’ll remember it forever. I still remember my game back in 1995, my last game, it was a long time ago. They’ll remember this game forever. And so I wanted it to be a good memory and it was. Particularly those guys that stuck around for six years, they’ve been through so much. We talked about that this week… coaching transition, we come in and win eight games, win a big bowl game. Then Covid hits and it’s awful for two years, and then to fight back this year. Particularly this year how you think after the Boston College game we’re dead in the water, and then all of a sudden, we’ve won five out of the last six. That’s a credit to those seniors, those guys who have been here. They did a phenomenal job, they continued to stay the course and I’m really proud of them. And I’m proud of our coaching staff. Our coaches have done an outstanding job to continue to fight every single day and to continue to get better every week. To go out and beat another ranked team, I think says a lot about our guys and what we’ve been able to accomplish this year. Again, we’re sitting here, we’ve got one game left, with a chance to win eight, so it’s been a really good year for our guys.”
(About Jawhar Jordan’s play on special teams and offense)
“What is awesome about him is that he doesn’t say anything. He just comes to work every single day. He just works his tail off and when he gets an opportunity or a chance, he tries to make the most of it. For a smaller back, he runs as hard as anyone I’ve been around for his size. He is not the 210 or 215 pound back. He still sticks in there and tries to maneuver and get yards. We have known what he can do on the return game. He had a big return in the bowl game last year. We haven’t had many opportunities this year for returns. Even that one was kind of weird, the ball bounces, it gets by him and a lot of times I have seen what happens is guys get out of their lanes as they are running. Then he picks it up and he runs and all of a sudden there is nobody there and he’s got to make the kicker miss and he did it. He’s got a lot of speed. He is a tough, tough football player. He made some good catches tonight. He had a big first down on a third and 10 on a catch and also some big time runs. He is a big-time ball player.
(About NC State only giving up 66 yards rushing in the last three games, what was picked up on film that allowed the Cards to run)
“I didn’t know if we were going to have that kind of night. When I watched the film, I was like ‘oh, we are playing the 1985 Bears out here’ when it comes to the running game. They do a great job. Their three D-linemen occupy the O-line. Those linebackers really just run. Number 10 (Tanner Ingle) is a safety and he just flies down. They are a great run-stopping defense. So, we tried to give them some imbalance tonight. We did some things with our tackles and moved them over tonight that was a little bit different, that we hadn’t shown that all year. We knew our tight ends had to block great on the perimeter. Our backs ran hard. We broke some tackles out on the corner and perimeter to be able to get some yards there. We were fortunate enough to keep the game intact like it was to be able to continue to run the ball even though sometimes we weren’t able to get some yards. You just have to be patient with it and every now and again you will pop one. We were able to do that and so some of that credit goes to our defense to be able to hold them like that so we could stay patient. I think more than anything it was the unbalanced stuff we did and then guys giving great effort.”
(About when the staff knew Malik Cunningham was unable to play and his availability next week)
“It was probably the middle of the week. We were trying to hold out and maybe he might get better. He got better as the week went on. But I just didn’t get enough practice time last week. We felt Brock (Domann) gave us the best chance to win the game. Brock came out and did play well. I mean, Brock is 2-0 as a starter. He runs the operation. He runs our offense. We will see where Malik is at, I’m hopeful that he is ready to play next week. He (Malik) has gotten better as the week’s gone on so we will see where he is at. We take it day by day with all our injured guys and see where we are at and whether or not they can go out and play.”
(About next week’s game with Kentucky. Since being here, what has he learned about what that game means to this community and people in the area and the state?)
“It’s huge. It’s a huge game. There is no other thing to say, other than that. We are in the state of Kentucky. There’s a lot of people running around this state that bleed that color blue. There are people in this city that bleed that color blue. We represent all of the people who bleed red and Cardinal Nation. There’s a lot of things that go into that game. They are a good football team. They’ve got a great program. Coach Stoops has done an outstanding job since he’s been there. He has been there for a while now. We know what they got. They’ve got a great defense. They do an incredible job on defense. Offensively, this year hasn’t been a great year for them on offense, but if they play great defense, they don’t have to be great on offense. They can still be solid and be good. I haven’t personally watched any film on them. I know we broke them down this summer and our QCs (quality control coach), our analysts, and our GAs (graduate assistants) have watched film on them. It’s a big week. We’ll celebrate this one tonight and then we’ll come back in tomorrow and get ready for them for next week.”