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November 19, 2014

David Cutcliffe

DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Obviously a very short week of preparation.  I'm happy and proud of our‑‑ I should say proud of our team for their focus and turning themselves around quickly, being very focused, having good practices Sunday and Monday.  I thought our workout was good today.
With a game that's such a big game, being that it's our chief rival, I think maybe that helped us as far as regaining focus on what was immediately in front of us.  It'll be a big challenge.  North Carolina is a very talented, good football team that's playing real well right now.  With that, I'll take your questions.

Q.  Obviously you talked about the quick turnaround and a tough loss this past weekend.  How has this week gone for you, and what have you done to kind of get the team mentally, because we always talk about mental toughness, being a very important piece of the game, how do you get them mentally tough coming off of such a close defeat and then going into North Carolina this game?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, I think you already have to be mentally tough people.  That's part of what sports teaches you, that you can't fail for very long, and failure is not final.  So I think they're equipped in that regard.  They are mentally tough young men.
But as I said, I think it helps it's such a big game and a game with a rival that's so unique with them just being eight or nine miles down the road.  So they turn their attention quickly to North Carolina.

Q.  When you turn your attention to North Carolina, from what you've seen on film and what you know about the team as a whole and how big this rivalry game is, what can you say about this year's team under Larry Fedora and those key points that you really pick out?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, they're extremely talented.  It starts on offense with their quarterback, but he is surrounded by weapons, but he can beat you in a lot of different ways, not just as a runner or designed runs but also running and creating plays.  He can scramble and throw, scramble and run.  He's an accurate passer.  I think he's a terrific player, and again, he's surrounded by an excellent supporting cast.
Defensively a lot of athletes, a lot of speed on the field, and they have played a tough schedule and had some tough times early, but they've settled down.  They're playing really well.
We're very familiar with their players.  A lot of these guys are big‑time in‑state players, and so we know we've got our work cut out for us, and then I think they're exceptional‑‑ not good, they are exception at in the kicking game.  They're a team you have to prepare well to have any opportunity to beat, and I think Larry Fedora does a great job.  He's one of the more cutting‑edge guys offensively in our business.  Always going to be challenging in that regard.

Q.  What does your offense need to do better than you did last week in case this winds up being more of a shootout type of game?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, we've got to hit plays.  What we didn't do last week, we left a lot of points and yards on the field where we miscued on some throws.  I think we've got to continue to have the ability to run the ball, but we've got to make some plays in the passing game, as well.
You're not going to go one way very often unless you're built differently and unless you are a team that is an option team, you're not going to live just running the football in this league very often.  You have to have some form of balance.  We need balance.  In our particular offensive system, we have to be balance, so that's what we've got to do to be more successful.

Q.  Talk about playing Thursday night at your stadium being the primetime game against your rival.  What does that mean for your program?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Yeah, I think it's great.  Our guys are excited about that, and they should be.  They've earned that opportunity.  It's a program that has earned that opportunity.  A lot of players that really actually put a lot into it before the guys that are currently on this team.  I think the University is excited about it.  It's a good way to give this great institution some great exposure, but another chance for us to play in a primetime national television spot never hurts, particularly when you're a program that recruits all across the country, so that's important to us, as well.

Q.  Talk about North Carolina's offense because I know they put 50 points on Notre Dame earlier this year.  What do you see in their offense that might give you a problem on Thursday?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, everything, a lot of weapons.  They have a cast around Marquise Williams that is exceptional.  They've got receivers, they've got excellent running backs, tight ends.  Their offensive line is healthier than they've been.  They've had problems there, and they've settled that end and settled that down.  He's a great player at quarterback.
That's how they score, and then I think Larry Fedora said a minute ago, he's one of the more cutting edge guys.  They're definitely to defend.  They've got a lot of answers, they know their answers, and they execute extremely well.  You'd better go in and try to tackle well for one, and then other than that try to avoid as many big plays as you possibly can.  They're going to make some, but you can't give up a bunch of them and consider yourselves successful.

Q.  I just wanted to ask you, when you're playing a team like North Carolina that is so explosive offensively but they've also given up a lot of points, do you approach play calling a little more aggressively, figuring you're not going to win a 17‑14 game, that you need to put points on the board to win a shootout?
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, I think this day and time, the way we're all playing offense, all of us are trying to be pretty explosive.  It is the nature of the times, and we're best when we can create some explosive plays.  But you have each game takes on a personality, and as you get into that ballgame, it becomes a little more clear to you as to what your approach will be.
But I think all of us are equipped, them included, with coming in and doing a lot of different things that would be considered very aggressive.

Q.  And the other thing I wanted to ask you, you mentioned special teams.  Your return teams have been very good, their coverage teams have been good, but also a year ago Ryan Switzer was one of the best return guys in the country.  This year he's kind of been kept under wraps.  Do you see on film, are teams kicking away from him or just coverage very good and‑‑
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, just getting a lot of hang time, and he's really brave.  I mean, he doesn't fair catch it very often, even when balls are high in hang time.  He is dangerous and he is still a great player, not only in the return game but in their offense.  We have the ultimate respect for him, but he just hasn't had as many opportunities, and sometimes that's just the way it works out.

Q.  Everything obviously offensively starts with what Marquise Williams does, but their running game is interesting, and I wonder if you can talk about that for a minute and the last few games TJ Logan has done well for them.
DAVID CUTCLIFFE:  Well, they're a tough pair when they're back there.  Marquise is a really good runner, as we all know, and they had a lot of designed quarterback runs.  He's got unselfish backs with him, as well, because when that occurs, often times those backs are blockers for him.
But TJ Logan, just to speak to him since you particularly asked, is explosive.  He's extremely fast.  He's got good size.  He has got just tons of talent.  All of them also are guys that are effective catching screens or catching balls out of the backfield.  It's one of the reasons they do score so many points.  They've got a lot of weapons, and they use them all very well.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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