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October 29, 2014

Al Golden

COACH GOLDEN:  We're excited to be home in Sun Life.  Obviously we have an explosive North Carolina team coming in, a team that's playing their best football right now, winners of the last two, last two in the coastal for sure.
They've been over 40 points on offense four times this year, averaging about 38.  They're excellent in the red zone on third down.  They've done a good job protecting the ball on offense and taking it away on defense.  I think they have 18 takeaways and they're plus‑four as a team.
Kickoff coverage is outstanding.  Kickoff return is really good.  A lot of veterans back from last year's team.
We just finished our Wednesday preparation.  We're getting ready to finish the week here and get ready for the Tar Heels.

Q.  Some of your linebackers, particularly Jermaine Grace and Rafael Kirby, how their improved play is helping Perryman?
COACH GOLDEN:  Kirby is playing really good football right now.  He's practicing really hard.  He's focused.  His preparation, his mental work off the field has really improved.  From that standpoint, he's matured, he's experienced.  It's starting to show on game day.  I'm happy for him.
Grace is learning a lot from the two guys that you mentioned, Denzel and Kirby.  He's playing good football right now.
I don't think there's any question if you ask those two, the biggest difference in their game right now is their preparation, their mental commitment.  It's one of the reasons they're both playing fast.  Obviously that can take some of the weight off of Denzel.

Q.  Last week the offense had a much improved third‑down success rate than it has been this season.  How do you keep that momentum going?
COACH GOLDEN:  Obviously we have to have a good plan, then execute.  Thirdly, we got to make plays.  We had guys that made plays last week.  I think Duke's catch from Kaaya on the second third down really got it kicked off.  We need more plays like that.
Obviously we got to get more third‑and‑manageables because we eliminated a lot of the penalties last week.  It's hard to convert when you're in third‑and‑10, ‑12, ‑13, ‑16.  Much better job.  We're going to have to do that against this Carolina defense.

Q.  Obviously the defense played with an edge, had a good performance last week.  Is that something that they can build off of last week?  How eager are you to see how they come back after a performance like that?
COACH GOLDEN:  It's a challenge.  We got to do it week in and week out.  We're not where we want to be yet.  I don't think anybody's talking about last week.  What we are talking about is what we need to fix from last week, what North Carolina might do to us based on how we performed in certain situations last week.
It's going to be a challenge.  This is an excellent offense led by an experienced quarterback that's dynamic.  They're healthy on the offensive line.  Veteran group there.  Veteran tight end.  Veteran receivers that are experienced have played.  Also at runningback.  It's going to be a great challenge for our defense.

Q.  You talked about their offense.  Talk about how they're playing recently, how you're preparing for their offense.
COACH GOLDEN:  Well, again, they're tough to defend because they have an explosive element, but yet they can run the ball on you with the quarterbacks and the runningbacks.  Logan and Morris, and Hood, if he's available.  I'm not sure what his status is.  But that's a good group.
They make it hard because you have to defend the whole field horizontally, with the screen game and the perimeter game.  It's an excellent group.  When you throw in the tempo, I don't think there's any question there's a lot of challenges here.  We got to find ways to slow them down and execute, having said all that.

Q.  Talk about Duke Johnson.  Last week he had a big performance against Virginia Tech.  Talk about the way he's running this year compared to last year.  Seems like he's running with some focus.
COACH GOLDEN:  Well, he's bigger and stronger.  He's playing with a chip on his shoulder.  He's trusting his reads more.  He's pressing the line of scrimmage more.  He's hitting holes really fast and downhill.  He's not bouncing it as much.  Then when he gets to the second level, he's making good decisions, protecting the ball and using his stiff arm.
He's doing a great job right now.  We just got to keep finding ways to get him the ball.

Q.  Is there one thing you see on film with North Carolina that might give you a problem on Saturday?
COACH GOLDEN:  Are you talking in general?

Q.  In general, like something you see that you might have to work on a little bit before Saturday to get yourself ready for that.
COACH GOLDEN:  We're working on everything (laughter).  This is a dangerous team.  They're putting up points, doesn't matter whether they're in South Bend or Sun Life.  They're explosive.  Scored 40 points four times already this year.  They do a great job in the red zone.  They're excellent on third down.  They keep your defense out there.  Third‑down conversions plus the tempo.  On defense they're taking it away really good.  They're coming off their best defensive performance.
We're going to have to continue to prepare well and execute at a very high level to be successful Saturday.

Q.  From your perspective, where do you think Brad Kaaya has grown the most from week one to now?
COACH GOLDEN:  I think you would have to say he's protecting the ball better.  It's hard because you would think that's poise or decision making, things like that.  He's poised, intelligent.  He trusts his progression.  Certainly he's been a good decision maker.  I just think he's getting us into correct plays.  He's not afraid to throw the ball away now.
I think those are the areas that he's made the most progress in.  We're starting to see the leader of Brad Kaaya, not just the quarterback Brad Kaaya.  We're starting to see him comfortable in his own skin and grow as a leader.  Those are the two things I would say, his decision making in terms of protecting the football, as it relates to protecting the ball, then leadership, feeling more comfortable as a leader, not just a quarterback.

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