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November 1, 2017

Pat Narduzzi

Greensboro, North Carolina

PAT NARDUZZI: Obviously we play a North Carolina team I see as similar to us: That's had a few injuries and also coming off a pretty good year a year ago that lost a lot of seniors, Trabinski (ph) and to name one of them, the little No. 3 that freaking would kick everybody's tail is playing with the Cowboys. I see him on Sundays now. Watch him on highlights.

They are a young football team, like we are, and a talented football team at that. But a team that's still learning to play together as a unit and they are very well-coached as you can see on tape.

We'll have our work cut out for us next Thursday when we play them.

Q. When you look back at the Virginia game, specifically defensive line and cornerback, do you feel that was a game where you really showed some of the depth that you are developing through what you've recruited the last couple years?
PAT NARDUZZI: A little bit. You know, when you look at Phillipie Motley coming in and taking over for Avonte Maddox; and then Pinnock being able to go in there and Damarri Mathis, two true freshmen who have come in there; and Damarri has got nice play work. I think if he lays out, he gets an interception in the end zone. And Therran Coleman who didn't play in that game, a little bit banged up at this point but hopefully be back for next week. But some of the potential he's shown. You have a guy like Damar Hamlin who is playing really good football for us to the field; some of that's starting to take place there.

And also on the defensive line with Rashad Weaver who has really played good football. And you know, we didn't have Dewayne Hendrix, an older guy but a younger guy, more mature guy. But you know, older, maybe that's about the only thing.

But with him out there playing and James Folston who is really starting to come on strong, I think. He's playing some of the best football -- the young guys are growing up a little bit and it's a tribute again to obviously the coaches but the persistence out of the players.

Q. Curious about the bye week. I'm guessing you might have liked to have had it earlier, but is it good to have it now to rest up for the final three games?
PAT NARDUZZI: No doubt about it. This is like the fourth quarter of the season. If you split a 12-game season, we are headed into the fourth quarter heading into November.

Really to be honest with you, some people have them first, second, third, fourth weeks. This is when you really need an open week.

I don't know if you could pick a perfect time. You know, right before the fourth quarter of the season to get a little freshened up as a football team; I think our guys feel good being in the weight room. Going to have a killer practice tomorrow and get after it. Then, you know, get to work on Sunday and prep for North Carolina.

Q. You had just said that you feel like North Carolina's season was a little like yours in terms of having to overcome some adversity with your team and not have the type of success you've had over the last couple; and I asked Larry this: What are some things that you can learn about your team when there are struggles? And I'll ask you the same question: What have you learned and what can maybe you carry forward as you play out the rest of the season?
PAT NARDUZZI: Well, I think the thing you learn is resilience and how our guys are going to continue to compete. We've coached the heck out of it about not quitting, not giving up, and really competing. And we compete every day in practice, going good on good two or three times a day, sometimes four times a day, where it's competing.

I think you learn what type of kid you have, what kind of character you have. Our guys have not given up one point during the season. That's the hardest thing. It's easy to coach when you're 7-0 and getting ready for a Tuesday practice; the kids are into it. It's when you're not doing so well, that to me, really tells you what kind of football staff you have and what kind of kids you have.

I think we are seeing that our kids believe in what we're doing and we're not lying to them on what they see on tape. I think those Sunday meetings after a loss are so critical to coach them up on what they are seeing and what we could have done better and how easy it would have been to correct if we do the right things.

That's something, we talk about pounding the rock all the time; the stonecutter, the rock doesn't break as soon as you swing once. You've got to continue to strike it, strike it, strike it, and you don't know what blow it's going to take to make that rock break and implode. So that's what we have continued to talk about is just keep working at it.

Q. How much do you think that message has helped the last couple weeks when you have had success?
PAT NARDUZZI: I think it's helped a lot. The kids see that, hey, we do this and that a little bit better and you have a chance to win. You know, it's not that we were doing bad things early in the year. I think we got beat by pretty good teams, the Top-25, we've played some pretty good teams. And we have the No. 13 and No. 10 team in a couple weeks, as well.

So we are going to play a couple more really, really good ones that are going to be a challenge for us to finish off this season.

Q. Did you miss us Monday?
PAT NARDUZZI: No. Next question.

Q. You talk about pounding the rock all the time and that's sort of what you told the guys. What's the story behind the team sledgehammer?
PAT NARDUZZI: You know, I think it's a team -- well, you called it a team sledgehammer. It's a team sledgehammer. I think, you know, some things are sacred and we'll just kind of keep that to the -- to our group and keep it in the team.

But I kind of mentioned a little bit when Andrea asked the question about continue to pound. I think it's easy for these young kids to give up and maybe their iPhone is not working right. So instead of trying to fix the iPhone, they go get a new one. There's no getting new ones.

We need to continue to work at our trade and get better, and again, pound the rock. You do that with a hammer or sledgehammer, and you can do that with your first if you want to out. But our kind of motto has been to just keep being persistent in what you want and good things will happen, and that's really what's happened the last couple weeks.

Q. Henderson was able to break a punt return for a touchdown. Puts him one short of tying the national record for a career on combined either punt and kickoff returns. Have you found that -- I don't know how many opportunities he's had this year, but it would seem like people would just kick the ball away from him and not even give him a chance.
PAT NARDUZZI: Right. People have kicked it to him, that's for sure. Northwestern, maybe we prepared too much for nothing, but we prepared coming into the season for people kicking it different places.

We have a different kick return in case that starts to happen. We prepare for it every week thinking people are going to kick it to somebody other than Henderson back there. But they have kicked it to him. I think people have trust in the coverage. Maybe they don't think he's worth a darn, I guess, maybe that's why.

People have had success against him and us; and when I say "him and us," it's ten of the guys that are blocking for him that have to execute, as well. You can have whoever you want back there: The best punt returner, kick returner in the country, but if you don't give him any blocking, he's going to look pretty bad.

So I think it's a unit thing and it kind of goes to the youth. We wish we had more returns for touchdowns on both sides, and we've got three more games to see if we can get that record tied and he's got an entire year after this to beat that record and we'll find out by how many.

Q. What are the ingredients that go into making a guy so good at that skill?
PAT NARDUZZI: He's got just a knack -- he's got a knack to make people miss. He's got a great vision when he's got that much room in space. I think it's different when you catch a ball for ten yards and people are converging on you from different angles.

But he's just got a great vision and I think we've got a good scheme, as well. I think you have to -- taking apart the scheme we have and what we do and how we do it and maybe the simplicity of what we do that helps our guys block well for him.

Q. Just wondering, not going to ask you specifically about Avonte's injury, but tell me what it's been like as far as -- I see him on the sideline during the game the last Saturday pumping guys up. Has he been almost like a coach and a player?
PAT NARDUZZI: No doubt about it. That's with a good leaders do is they continue to lead just like Max is done in his time off. He's an emotional guy that, just for example, last weekend during practice, he says, "Coach, I'm getting therapy" and all that. He texts me and says, "Coach I'm getting therapy, but the guys need me out there. As soon as I'm done with my therapy, can I come out?"

Because I said, keep him in there and get him healthy. Doesn't help him standing around the field; he's not doing anything for anybody. But he said, "Coach, can I come out?" Because I told him to stay in.

And you know, so he's one of those guys, he'll grab that sledgehammer and be banging the door down trying to get out so he can go out and affect somebody else, because it's not all about him, which he realizes. It's about the team, and that's what you've got to love about him. That's why he's a leader.

He's a team guy that wants to do whatever he can do to help this football team win, and he did that Saturday by charging up the team on the sideline both offensively and defensively. I told him during the game, go down and get Dane; make sure he does this or that, and he goes marching down there to do it, so he's beautiful.

Q. I assume it's not season-ending because you haven't mentioned it; right?
PAT NARDUZZI: You got it.

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