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ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE MEDIA CONFERENCE


October 22, 2014


Scott Shafer


SCOTT SHAFER:  We're looking forward to finishing up our preparation this week in anticipation of going down to Death Valley and playing in an unbelievable venue, and it will be a great challenge for our kids.  With that, any questions?

Q.  The last couple of games, it's been a struggle for the Clemson offense.  What have you seen on film that Louisville and Boston College did that perhaps you guys can exploit this Saturday?
SCOTT SHAFER:¬† Well, I think, first off, I think Cole Stoudt is finding his way with the offense.¬† He's got a lot of great tools around him, and I think the one thing they've shown is they've gutted through some learning experiences and found ways to win.¬† Obviously, any time you have an injured player‑‑ we've gone through the same thing playing a guy that is now our third‑‑ was our third quarterback.
So I think you have to get a feel for who he is and where you're going to take your offense.¬† The thing, I think, probably that those two schools you mentioned did a good job is they just played good, sound defense and didn't try to get too innovative, and tried to force stout and the offense to run their offense.¬† One thing you know is you know Chad Morris will do a great job every week increasing the innovation and the opportunity for production.¬† He does a great job‑‑ excuse me.¬† Chad Morris does a great job of giving those talented players opportunities to showcase their skill sets in space as well as getting down the field with them.
You can see they're just a couple feet away from making big plays down the field.  Coach Morris will have them ready to go, and they'll continue to get better.

Q.  And also I'm sure you've been asked about it this week.  I know Dabo has.  The incident before halftime last year, I know you and Dabo have been friendly.  What kind of memory or experience was that for you in hindsight?
SCOTT SHAFER:  That's just so water over the dam.  To get competitive in a competitive environment, I didn't do a good job of controlling my emotions in that.  I've got all the respect in the world for Dabo, and we've since laughed about it.  I just look forward to coming down to Death Valley and really experiencing that venue.
Dabo is a great football coach.  He's got excellent football coaches under him with Brent Venables.  You just go compete, but all that's way over the dam, I guess you would say.

Q.  A.J. Long, just what you've been able to see from him.  I know you talked about him a little bit there, being the third string coming into the season, how you've seen him, obviously him get his first victory as a starter last week.
SCOTT SHAFER:  Yeah, he did a nice job.  I thought he did a good job against Florida State, and he did a very good job against Wake Forest.  I know he wishes he could have a couple reads back, but I think he was 22 of 32 maybe.  So pretty good day.  Pleased with the way he competes, and he's learning.  He's learning on the run.  Coach Lester is trying to put him in situations where he can make plays and not be forced to do some things that are maybe in the higher learning curve.  So he's doing a good job for us.

Q.  And then as far as you having a defensive mind and being the coordinator formerly for Syracuse, knowing what Rob Welsh and Mike Robinson and the guys were able to do in a game where they had two defensive touchdowns.  Just what you can say about your defense and how they've been able to help the offense a lot this season.
SCOTT SHAFER:  The whole goal is to get them under what they can score.  Any time you can go out and have a good performance against Wake, you feel good about it.  But let's also stay in the real world, understanding Wake has really struggled on offense this year.  As much as I was pleased with that performance, we also have to look at it in relative terms, we also have to understand that this week going into Clemson will be a great challenge for our kids with all the skill they have on offense at Clemson and a very talented front offensive line.
It's going to be a hell of a battle for us to try to earn a little bit of respect from a great team.  So very pleased with the performance, but we're now moved on from there and getting ready to focus in on this next game down at Clemson.

Q.  I know you've had some injuries and the offensive coordinator switch on offense, but I wanted to ask you again about the red zone struggles.  They've kind of been persistent over the whole year.  What's kind of your take on them at this point?  Is it frustration?  Is it just kind of acceptance?  Do you think that things can change?
SCOTT SHAFER:  It's not frustration, acceptance, no not that way.  It's just go to work.  You're trying to come up with more touchdowns rather than field goals.  From a scoring point of view, we've actually scored more than 80 some percent when we get in the red zone.  We just want to turn them into touchdowns now.  So you go to work, put your heads down, go diligent about the process, and you move forward.  You try to turn that tide the second half of the season.
So I think, if you sit there and you overthink things that are uncontrollable, that's when you get in trouble, and then you trade anxiety.  We'd rather be stressed about practicing the things that we can and getting better at them and going to work on that stress as opposed to having some sort of mental anxiety that you have no control over.  So go to work and just keep pounding until you get it to the point where you feel good that you're turning field goal opportunities into touchdowns.  Simple as that.

Q.  I think right now you guys are third to last in the FBS in touchdown percentages in the red zone.  Do you think you can make a Bowl game without that improving?
SCOTT SHAFER:  That's not a very good question.  You make a Bowl game if you win enough games, and that's what we're going to bust our ass to do.

Q.¬† Coach, this is Syracuse's first visit to Clemson.¬† I don't know if you've ever been there before in any other capacity, but what‑‑ you could watch the atmosphere on TV and hear about it, but until you get in it, it's hard to describe what it is.¬† What do you know about it?¬† What do you pass on to your players about it?¬† Is there any way to prepare for that kind of atmosphere?
SCOTT SHAFER:  You make a lot of good points there in your statement, followed up by the question.  The preparation is no different than when we're getting ready to go to a lot of places, understanding that this might be the most difficult place to play in the country.  So we're going to try to do the best we can in our preparation for it, but you can never emulate that until you go to that place and play in it.
It will be exciting for our kids.  It will also be a great challenge with all those great players they have at Clemson, and the fan base is awesome down there.  I'm excited to go visit Death Valley myself and see if we can go in there and just work as hard as we can to get after a great Clemson team.
We know we've got a very difficult battle on our hands, and it will be a neat environment for us.  With it being their homecoming, I'm sure it will be even more lively.  It's one of those experiences you look forward to as a coach and as players to going in there and playing in it that venue.
You can't emulate it.¬† We try to do some crowd noise and practice that way, but until you get there, you really can't‑‑ like you said, you really can't ever truly know what it's like until you get there.¬† So we're going to hustle down there and go give it our best run.¬† That's for sure.

Q.  Scott, I just wanted to follow up here a little bit.  Going into Death Valley, obviously you talked about that a little bit and preparing the team.  How do you feel the guys have been able to respond to all the changes that have been going on with quarterback and with coaches and everything?  I know you talk a lot about keeping the team like a family and building them as men.  How do you feel they've been able to respond to their environment so far?
SCOTT SHAFER:¬† I think they've done a great job with it, very proud of them.¬† We're a tight‑knit unit.¬† Everyone understands that roles change, and you focus in on your responsibilities at hand.¬† Very pleased with the staff.¬† Very pleased with the players and looking forward to continuing this season out as a family.

Q.  Coach, I know you've spoken to Clemson's defensive front.  What are you guys going to have to do to keep them away from your quarterback?
SCOTT SHAFER:¬† They're unbelievable, as you know.¬† When you play maybe one of the best talented fronts in the country, and really when I look at them, you can say they're one of the best fronts I've seen in a long time‑‑ I'm talking years.¬† I mean, this group is unbelievable.¬† So for us, we're just going to go in there and give it our best shot, try to change some things up, and try not to get our quarterback killed.¬† I mean, these guys are unbelievable up front.
You just try to change some things up on them a little bit, but understand that, when you have that many guys with that much ability, it's hard to slow those horses down.  I think Coach Venables has done an unbelievable job.  He's an extremely bright coach that's taken advantage of the talent, and he's got a great scheme.  So it's difficult.  So I think you try to change things up as best you can but also understand they're going to make plays.  Great players make plays.  You just want to try to minimalize how many of those are happening from series to series and play as hard as you can for as long as you can and try not to worry about anything but doing your job.  That's the focus we'll have going into this one. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports


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