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November 9, 2016

Paul Johnson

Greensboro, North Carolina

PAUL JOHNSON: Certainly we've got a big challenge this week to go up and play what's a really good Virginia Tech football team. I think Justin has done a really good job in his first year, and we all know about Bud Foster and how good they've played on defense for a lot of years.

Coming off a not-so-great performance last week, and hopefully looking to try to right the ship and go play another really good team in a tough place to play.

Q. Given the offensive performance against Duke, were you surprised at the way your offense performed against North Carolina last week?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think that we were disappointed that we didn't get more points. I mean, we had over 500 yards. But we didn't finish drives. We got what I would call an unbelievable penalty on 1st and goal from the 1 that backed us up in the first half and we had to kick a field goal. Then we had a field goal blocked at the end of the half that would have made it, I think, 27-20. First possession of the second half we came out and drove down close to within one score, but we couldn't stop them. And then we turned the ball over twice and the game was over. Both teams kind of had it four times in the second half. We dug ourselves a hole and couldn't get out.

Got to finish some drives, but all in all, if you look at 3rd down, if you look at total yards and that, we moved the ball fairly well, we just didn't put enough points on the board.

Q. Is Justin going to be able to play this week?
PAUL JOHNSON: We would think so, yeah.

Q. You mentioned the defense; have you been disappointed with the performance here over the last couple weeks?
PAUL JOHNSON: Yeah, I think everybody is disappointed. I think our players are disappointed. You know, 3rd down defense has been a real problem, and we've had a hard time getting guys off the field, and I don't think that anybody is satisfied with the way it's gone. So we're working hard to try to correct some of those things, and we get another chance to try to play better this week.

Q. Is there anything you guys have been able to pinpoint in terms of why maybe 3rd down defense hasn't been as effective for you all?
PAUL JOHNSON: Yeah, we just haven't made very many plays. We've had a hard time getting pressure on the quarterback and we had a hard time covering. That's a daily combination. You know, we just haven't played well there. Like last week, I think the average 3rd down was 3rd and 7, 3rd and 6, and you'd like to think you wouldn't give them up at the percentage that we did.

Q. Why do you think getting pressure on the quarterback has been an ongoing issue here for the last couple years?
PAUL JOHNSON: I think it's a couple of things. I think it's all tied together. One, guys are getting the ball out pretty quick, and two, we just have not had a marquee pass rusher. We haven't had a guy that's been consistent, and you actually need more than one, really. And you have to cover them long enough to see if you can't get them to hold the ball a little bit.

Q. I'm curious, is there a level of enjoyment or fun for you in the matchup with Bud Foster? You guys have kind of gone back and forth over the years. Is that something you enjoy?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I have a lot of respect for Bud. I don't know, he's been on the better end of it mostly. But yeah, we have a lot of respect for Bud. I think he does a great job coaching, and usually our games if you find something, they're going to adjust, so it's kind of move, counter-move. But we've got a great deal of respect for him and what he does defensively.

Q. I understand that every year there's tweaks and there's changes in specifics, but is there something general in terms of his defense or his philosophy that has allowed him to have some success against you guys?
PAUL JOHNSON: Well, I think they're good at doing what they're trying to do, and they've got pretty good players. It's like a lot of the things that they do and a lot of ways they line up, other people that we play do the same things are other players and maybe not quite as good an understanding.

Q. I know you've had some situations this year that haven't been as good as you want, but you've also had some younger players kind of develop for you. Can you talk a little bit about some of your young players who are coming along?
PAUL JOHNSON: Yeah, we've played, especially on offense, at Carolina last week, we had at times five true freshmen on the field, and we've got three freshman offensive linemen that have played a great deal, true freshmen, Parker Braun, Jahaziel Lee, and then last week Kenny Cooper played, and did well. I thought they all held their own. Dedrick Mills is a freshman running back who's played well for us, and then Jalen Camp played some at receiver. Those young guys have all gotten in the mix and acquitted themselves well, and we've just got to put together a good game. I mean, we're sitting here 5-4 and nobody wants to be 5-4, but I guess it could be worse. We've just got to try to find a way to play, put together an offensive and defensive game together at the same time.

Q. When you look at their offense, obviously maybe a little more dynamic than they've been in recent years. Specifically Isaiah Ford, what's tough about his matchup, and because they have other weapons, is it a little harder to maybe shade or do some things with Isaiah?
PAUL JOHNSON: Yeah, well, I think he's a very talented player, but they've got a lot of players. No. 7 is really a tough matchup, the Hodges guy. He's a tough guy to match up with. One of the guys on offense that I'm really impressed with other than the quarterback is a good player is No. 45. He does so much for them, and he's really kind of an unsung hero for them on offense, whether it's catching passes out of the backfield or blocking or whatever they ask him to do. So they've got some guys on offense. They spread you out a little more than maybe they used to and take a few more chances than maybe they used to.

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