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November 14, 2012

Tom O'Brien

TOM O'BRIEN:  Certainly have a big challenge heading to Death Valley this weekend, but it's a great place to play football against a great football team.  Very explosive on offense and solid on defense.  Big challenge, but our kids are excited about the opportunity to go play and see what we can do on Saturday.

Q.  What's your message to your defense this week about what you have to do in order to keep this game competitive?
TOM O'BRIEN:  Well, probably the same thing if you asked that question every week who plays Clemson.  They're so explosive on offense.  They're averaging about 28 points in the first half, so what they've done is they've come out and jumped on people right away.  I don't know if you can stop them.  I think you have to try to contain them and slow them down.  That's the best thing we can do.  A lot of big plays off play‑action pass and run fakes and things like that, so certainly just have to try to control what they do and not give up the big explosive plays that they're so good at.

Q.  Easier said than done, however?
TOM O'BRIEN:  Well, it hasn't been done yet this year.  They've lost one game on the road to Florida State.  They've been undefeated I think probably two years at home.  Certainly it's a tough venue to play in.  They feed off their crowd, and they have so many big play guys, a quarterback that can beat you with arm or leg, tailbacks catch the ball and run with it, and same thing with their wide receivers.  There's not any one area that you say they're weak in.  They're strong in all areas, and they put a lot of pressure on your defense.

Q.  In conference play their two receivers Hopkins and Watkins are averaging almost 200 yards a game between them.  Are they the toughest pair you've gone up against in a while?
TOM O'BRIEN:  Yeah, there certainly is two of them.  Everybody seems to have a feature guy, and then there's the other guys.  But these are two top‑rated guys, and that's where all the stress comes in on the defense is that they have two guys that get in the seams or get down the field, double moves, things like that coming off play‑action fakes that gets the ball deep, and they can run by you.
And not only those two, but as I said before, you've got the quarterback and tailback to deal with at the same time.

Q.  Early in the season you had a couple times where y'all had some trouble keeping people from running by you.  You did better against obviously Florida State.  Can you talk about the development in that area of your secondary?  Is that something y'all fixed?
TOM O'BRIEN:  Well, it's something that had to get fixed if we were going to succeed.  Certainly from the opening game we got stung a little bit that way, but I think the kids have done a little better job from that point on.  But this will be as big a challenge as we've had this year, especially with throwing the football to two guys that are quality NFL receivers basically.

Q.  I don't know whether you caught any of what Randy Edsall was talking about, but I asked him about the 68‑50 game last week, there was a 41‑40, you've had some obviously big scores in your game with Carolina.  Where is this going?  Are the scores going to take off even more, or what do you see?
TOM O'BRIEN:  I think what's happened in the league is a couple years ago or when I first came in, everybody wanted to know about the offenses, they weren't scoring, this and that.  I think what you see is the amount of senior and/or junior quarterbacks that have played a lot, and you look at the Florida States, you look at Clemson, you look at our quarterback, and I don't want to slight anybody by naming quarterbacks, but there's a lot of guys with a lot of experience that are coming back at that position, which allows you to do some things on offense that I don't think have been done before in this conference.
And with the spread and everything else, it forces all those one‑on‑ones on defense.  But you have to have a guy that understands the offense and can throw the football.  I think the class of quarterbacks in this conference this year is as good as any in the last five, six, seven years.

Q.  What about all the no‑huddle now?  Is that because of the veteran quarterbacks or is that here to stay and how are defenses going to react to it?
TOM O'BRIEN:  Well, you know, it's anything else.  Some teams did it.  We saw Rich Rodriguez do it at West Virginia back in the Big East and started this whole trend towards that, and that's like anything else in college football, whether it's offensively or defensively, somebody will catch up to it.
But we're a huddle/no‑huddle team.  We had 94 plays last week.  So I don't know whether it's just the no‑huddle, but there seems to be for whatever reason, I can't remember running 94 plays in a game that I've coached.

Q.  What would you have been normal over the years in terms of plays?
TOM O'BRIEN:  I think somewhere in the 70s, 70, 75, I think, is normally where it was.  I think we're close to 80 something.  I haven't looked at it lately, but we were close to the high 70s.  Last week might have pushed us to 80 plays a game.

Q.  I wanted to ask you about kickoff returns.  You had a guy that brought one back 90 yards or 100 yards I guess it was.
TOM O'BRIEN:  Right.

Q.  There have been eight kickoffs of 90‑yard touchdowns or more this year, three more than ever before in history.  Is there something with the rule changes with moving the kickoff back?  I thought maybe bringing it out to the 25 would reduce the number of guys bringing it back, but it seems to have the opposite effect.
TOM O'BRIEN:  Well, I think what you have to do, and it's one thing that we caution our team on all the time is if you have a guy that can kick it in the end zone, sometimes they get lazy running down.  All of a sudden Powell, he doesn't hit it in the end zone, the ball is coming out, and there isn't that same intensity going down.  And I think that may have something to do with it.  They automatically assume the ball is going to be kicked in the end zone, they're going to dig it out on the 25, and maybe the ball is mis‑hit, or the other thing is coaches are doing a good job coaching returns.

Q.  Well, the fact that you would get it at the 25 rather than the 20, have you changed what you tell your guys, that if it's going in the end zone let it go?  Obviously Tobias brought it out, a ball that would have been a touchback.
TOM O'BRIEN:  Well, I think it has to do with you pre‑scout the kickers, and it has to do with hang time, how does the ball get there, does it get there on a line, or is it hung up and gives their team the chance to cover.  So it has to do with the hang time of the kick and where they are when you‑‑ the special teams coaches look to what yard stripe are they at when the ball gets to the end zone, is it worth bringing out this week, or should we just take the ball on the 25.

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