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November 7, 2012

Paul Johnson

COACH JOHNSON:  Good morning.  Certainly we've got a huge challenge this week.  I think NorthCarolina's probably one of the hottest teams in the league.  If I'm not mistaken, they're undefeated at home, scoring a bunch of points and playing pretty good defensively.  They've had a bye week, so it gives them two weeks to get ready.  So I'm sure we'll have a big challenge when we roll into Chapel Hill on Saturday.

Q.  As a guy that's coached quite a few good running backs, I just wonder what you think when you watch Giovanni Bernard on film, and how tough he is to deal with?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, there is no question he's a tremendous player.  He's got great balance and speed.  He had a great game against us a year ago down here.  He's very capable, and he's got a good combination of what a running back should have.  He's a very talented player, no question.

Q.  Do you try to avoid punting to him or do you punt it and just hit the side coverage?
COACH JOHNSON:  I think you've got to do what you do.  He's not back there all the time, but you've got to take care of your business and stay in your lanes and get somebody down there if he's back there.  You can't really change the way you play.  If he's back there, we'll have to punt the ball, I guess.  So we'll just have to try to deal with it.

Q.  Just with that Carolina offense in general, what are the keys that you need to do to these guys on Saturday?
COACH JOHNSON:  First thing, you've got to limit the possessions.  If you get 20 possessions a game, you're going to score some points.  A normal game for us has been 9 or 10.  So they're getting the ball twice as much as you'd get in a normal game.  So you've got to keep your offense on the field and try to limit the game and do that.  That would be number one.
Second you've got to try to contain the running game because if they get that going and they can do whatever they want, then they become very, very hard to stop.

Q.  Coming off your performance last week, do you like your ability to stay on the field and keep those guys off the field this week?
COACH JOHNSON:  We'll see.  I don't think there will be 20 possessions in our game whether we're on the field or not.  I think it will be a little different from that aspect.  Now we've got to do a better job stopping them when they do have the ball than we've done most of the year.  But I'd be the most surprised guy in the state of NorthCarolina if in the end both teams had the ball 20 times.  I don't think that will happen.

Q.  Just wondering how you felt playing both your quarterbacks worked out for you last week.  There are now a couple teams in the league that are playing two guys.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.  Just hoping to get your thoughts on what works well for you guys?
COACH JOHNSON:  Well, I thought they both played well.  We've played both quarterbacks a lot this year.  That's not the first game that they've both played.  I thought they both did some positive things.  We plan on probably going that route again this week.  I don't know how much we'll use each one, but I feel reasonably sure they're both going to play.

Q.  Did you use Vad more this week than had you in the past or was it about the same?
COACH JOHNSON:  He probably played a little bit more.  We divided it up and went a couple series at a time.  I think he had one more series overall than Tevin.  It just kind of worked out that way.

Q.  You heard Mike‑‑ probably heard Mike refer to Owen Smith's per carry average.  I think I'm looking at your stats here.  If they're correct, carried it 44 times this year.  Is part of his high total the fact that he doesn't get the ball a lot?  Is there an element of surprise there?  If he gave it to him 20 times a game, would he gain 8, 9 yards a carry?
COACH JOHNSON:  I think it's the nature of what we do and where he gets the ball.  We don't just hand him the ball and have to block everybody.  Most of the time when he catches it, it's on a pitch.  It's on an option play where we've gotten to the outside where we're pitching the ball.  Everybody should be accounted for.
Now that doesn't take anything away from his ability.  He's a gifted runner and he breaks tackles, but you know, I don't think it would be‑‑ you can answer your own question.  If you give the guy the ball 20, 30 times a game, I don't think there's anybody that's averaged that many yards per carry.

Q.  You've had a pretty good season from Jeremiah, and he's been good for a number of years, it seems.  What is it about him that maybe sets him apart a little bit?
COACH JOHNSON:  I think he had a good game Saturday.  That's probably the best game he's played all year.  Jeremiah's got a good motor.  He's got good skills.  He's a guy that runs well and he's big.  He needs to be more consistent, but he's got all the tools to be a really good player.  He was very productive Saturday at Maryland.  That was his most productive game of the year.

Q.  I think against BYU and also against Maryland that you put him on the outside at the wide receiver spot instead of in the slot.  Was that to take advantage of things or a different way to get him the ball?
COACH JOHNSON:  I think he did it against BYU.  We didn't put him out there against Maryland.  We just had a couple of plays we wanted to get him the ball.  A match‑up that we thought we could explore.

Q.  Do you anticipate doing that again?
COACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, we could do it again.

Q.  You were talking about possessions and controlling the ball.  On the other side, one of the big thoughts about NorthCarolina is how they were going to play an up‑tempo game and keep defenses on the field by not subbing and running quick plays.  Have you seen a lot of that on film and does that present a lot of difficulty?
COACH JOHNSON:  Yeah, well, I mean, that's the way they play.  Certainly if you can stay on the field, common sense would tell you the more plays you run, the more yards and more points you're going to get.  Now it also would tell you that that's more turns for your defense to play as well if you're moving the ball and scoring.  What I'm talking about is possessions, the number of possessions.
If you get two teams that are playing that way and throwing the ball and playing fast, there is going to be a large number of possessions in the game.  For instance, you break down their game against N.C. State, I think both teams, there were 20 possessions in the game.  Okay, typically for us in our last two games, we've had 8 and 9, okay.  Which means the other team has had 8 and 9, not 20.  So that's half the time.  That's the kind of game that we'd want to play.
I don't think it will be an 8 or 9 possession game.  But I don't think it will be a 20‑possession game either.  So that's what I'm talking about.  You've still got to play defense.  You've still got to try to keep them from scoring and converting on third down, all of those things.  I mean, they could conceivably play a 12‑possession game and score on 7 of the possessions and you've still got 50 points.  But you've got a better chance if you play 12 possessions than if you play 20, I think.

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