Nov. 22, 2005
– HEAD COACH Chan Gailey
Q: Can you describe what it would mean for you as a head coach to beat Georgia and is it something you have to deal with every day?
“You live with it 365 days a year. It’s an in-state rivalry and a big game, and there’s really nothing more that needs to be said. They’re always big games and are talked about the rest of the year around the state.”
Q: Does it mean anything to you that the games have progressively gotten closer in the past couple of years?
“What has happened in years past doesn’t have any effect on this game. These are new players and new teams, and in my opinion, it really doesn’t have any bearing on the game this year.”
Q: Looking at Georgia’s defense, what can you take from the performance against Miami this past weekend?
“Not a lot. Every game and every defense is different. Their [Georgia’s] defensive staff with coach [Willie] Martinez has done a great job this year to be where they are defensively after the loss of a lot of good football players last year. They do things very well and make you beat them, they don’t beat themselves.”
Q: Has your team made progress in handling the highs after big wins?
“I think every team is different. You assume things are going to happen but that is better reading than reality. This team is different than any other team we’ve had here, and they’ve handled a lot of things very well, not just ups but also downs. I just know that they’ve been able to put in effect the 24-hour rule very effectively.”
Q: Reggie Ball has had some unorthodox games against Georgia in the past few years. Have you talked to him about that?
“No, there’s no need to talk to him about that. D.J. Shockley had an unorthodox game against us last year and I’m sure Mark [Richt] didn’t talk to him about it because they’re different guys. D.J. is different this year and so is Reggie, and they’re different quarterbacks. They’ve got a lot more practice snaps under their belt too.”
Q: How long did what happened on the last drive against Georgia in last year’s game stay with you?
“It stayed with us more than the 24-hour rule. If you dwell on that, it’ll eat you up. You have to learn from it and go on to the next thing.”
Q: If you were a younger coach, would you have dwelled on something like that longer?
“I don’t know. I think it’s probably who you are rather than it is your situation or your time of life. If you understand what needs to be done, than you deal with it. It doesn’t do anybody any good to run it into the ground or to beat yourself or anyone else up over it. That doesn’t accomplish anything. What accomplishes something is to learn from it and get better.”
Q: What can you take defensively from your performance against Miami?
“Again, it’s a different team. There’s obviously confidence but this is a different team. Kyle Wright [Miami’s quarterback] would stay in the pocket but D.J. Shockley won’t stay in the pocket. Leonard Pope is a giant weapon for them [Georgia], not that the tight ends last week weren’t but [Georgia] uses their tight ends differently. They both are the same in that you better stop the running game or you’re in for a long day.”
Q: Besides Shockley’s ability to escape, what else is there that can hurt a team?
“That’s the number one thing because he also has the other quarterback attributes. He’s accurate, doesn’t throw a lot of picks, and is smart with the football. That’s the number one thing that he does differently or uniquely than other people we face week in and week out.”
Q: Would you compare him with Hagans [Virginia’s quarterback]?
“Yes, I think that’s fair.”
Q: When you were an offensive coordinator and calling plays from the press box, did you have someone calling plays from the sideline or did you call it from the press box during a two-minute situation?
“Actually, the quarterback did it all. Only when we went to the huddle did I call the plays.”
Q: Reggie was 11-of-30 last Saturday night but he was able to manage the ball game. Is that his biggest area of improvement that people probably aren’t giving him enough credit for?
“What he brings to our football team and what’s he’s brought to the success of our team this year won’t be found on any statistical sheet. The intangibles of leadership, decision-making, understanding how the game is played, field position, and when to throw certain passes, those are the kind of things where he has come so far. Who wouldn’t like to be 25-of-30 in a ballgame, but that’s not the way it was working. We did play the No. 1 defense in the nation and they’ve got some pretty good players. Statistically, it wasn’t pretty, but he’s finding ways to lead his team to victory and that’s what you have to do. You have to play to your strengths and one of those is our defense, and we understand that.
Q: Would you say that if Reggie 11-of-30 and is sacked once, but Kyle Wright is 20-something-for-30 something and is sacked seven times, Reggie didn’t cost his team any downs or distance?
“Right. You’ve heard me make the sack pledge many times. More than likely, those things kill drives every time you get a sack.”
Q: If you had to think of a play from Reggie’s season that shows that, would it be him sitting in and taking a big hit like he took against Miami and then converting a third down?
“Well you could look at the first play of the game. That guy was running right in his face and he stood in there and completed a pass to Calvin [Johnson]. He knew it was going to be that kind of a night. As a freshman, he didn’t go back and stand in there as strong the second time after he’d been hit in the mouth. But here, as a junior in a big ball game, he does it.”
Q: Everyone always tends to look at a quarterback’s numbers to determine performance. Should we look more at wins and losses?
“If you did that, you wouldn’t have anything to write about. That’s the nature of the game. The most criticized in the game of football are the quarterback and the coach, and that’s the way it is, right or wrong, good or bad. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
Q: Was it always that way?
“No, it’s changed. Society has become more critical.”
Q: Can you talk about the status of Brad [Honeycutt] and P.J. [Daniels], and do you say something to them if they’re unable to come out and play in this game?
“No, because hopefully they’ll both be back for the bowl game. If this was the last game, then you might talk to them and console them.”
Q: How did winning on Saturday help from the hangover of all the events that happened last week?
“First of all, most people would assume that I was distraught or upset because of everything that had gone on. Most of that stuff that went on, I couldn’t control, and I’m not going to waste time worrying about it. The win was great for our program, our players, and our fans, and it would’ve been great if nothing had happened last week. I think our players handled it very well. They didn’t get bent out of shape, they just dealt with it.”
Q: Are you surprised or were you aware that there was as much criticism about your contract extension and your athletic director [Dave Braine] as there was last week?
“I wasn’t aware.”
Q: Can you talk about Reuben’s [Houston] play and what was the determination in deciding how much he would play?
“I felt like it wasn’t fair to him to overextend him because he would’ve played every snap if he could have, that’s how anxious he was to play. We played him on special teams and in some nickel and dime situations. We felt like 30 plays wouldn’t overextend him too much and he’d be able to handle it. As I said earlier in the week, I was shocked how much he’d retained mentally going into the game.”
Q: Will he play this week?
“I don’t know. I think it depends on the situations more than anything.”
Q: Did it surprise you at all at how he handled the situation after not playing for so long and then playing as much as he did?
“He handled it like I thought he would. He was excited, appreciative of the opportunity, and wanted to make the most of it.”
Q: Are you getting a little nostalgic this week, being your last home game?
“I’ve been thinking about it, but it’ll hit me a little bit more when I walk out on the field, or after the game.”
Q: Do you anticipate anyone crying coming out of the tunnel or anything like that?
“It’ll be an emotional game, especially for the fifth-year seniors like myself. We have a lot of built up emotions for this game because we haven’t beaten Georgia since we’ve been here.”
Q: How much has that eaten at you guys that you haven’t beaten Georgia?
“It has eaten at us a lot. Football is about respect. You can win 10 games a year, but if you don’t beat your in-state rival, it doesn’t mean much in terms of respect.”
Q: You always hear players say I don’t want to run into one of their players at the mall, or something like that. Are there actually incidents like that, where you brush shoulders with someone from your rival?
“The only time I ever run into any players from Georgia is when we’re all at the pre-season media sessions in Macon. We don’t really hang out at the same places.”
Q: How do you guys follow up your defensive performance against Miami?
“It was a great performance, but we made mistakes, too. It’s not like we played a perfect game. We still have a lot we can build on from that game also. We’re playing against a more mobile quarterback this week in D.J. Shockley, which will take more focus on our part. When you pressure him, he can move around. Not that Kyle Wright wasn’t mobile, but D.J. is more athletic than Wright.”
Q: Did your success last year against Shockley give you confidence going into this game?
“He’s a whole different player and quarterback this year. He’s playing with more confidence, and he knows the offense a whole lot better. I’m sure they have changed their plan a little more in terms of the plays that they’re running. He’s able to spread the ball around very well. Their tight end is a real good target for him.”
Q: The tight ends that you’ve played this year haven’t hurt you badly. You’ve done a pretty good job against them.
“That’s just part of the way we have focused on defense. We’ve played a lot of talented tight ends this year, and you want to make a team beat you left-handed. A lot of the teams we’ve played have tight ends that are their strengths. Georgia’s tight end is really their strength on offense, as far as the passing game.”
Q: Beating Miami was such a big deal for the program. Can you quantify how much more important winning this game is?
“Beating Miami was the biggest win I’ve been a part of here. It’s not going to mean that much if we come in this week and don’t beat Georgia. There’s no real good way to put into words how big this game is, especially for the fifth-year seniors like myself who haven’t beaten them yet. We don’t want to be saying that we never beat Georgia.”
Q: What do you think Coach Tenuta’s strength is as a defensive coordinator?
“I guess it would be pretty much stopping the run. That’s something we’ve had success with every since I’ve been here. Very rarely do we give up a lot of yards rushing in a game. So I would say our strength is pressuring the quarterback and stopping the run.”
Q: After seeing what you did against Miami, do you think Georgia would try and beat you on the ground?
“Every team is going to try and test you on the ground. The offense wants to establish the ground game so they can control the clock. I’d be surprised if they didn’t come out and try to establish the running game and try to pound us.”
Q: One of the storylines this season has been the team’s ability to handle success. Do you think that has changed at all?
“I think it’s improved. Even this season, after a couple big wins, we’ve had some letdowns. But that just falls on the senior leadership. You’re going to have some games that you come out a little flat. It comes down to the senior leaders keeping everyone focused and intense every single game. It’s something that shouldn’t be hard at all this week.”
Q: Have you considered the stakes beyond this game (as in a better bowl game), or is the game big enough by itself?
“You can’t really spend too much energy thinking about other things. The game is big enough by itself to focus on.”
“I wouldn’t say they’ve exceeded them, I had high expectations for them already, and they had high expectations for themselves. It hasn’t been a surprise to me to see how well they’ve played. They’ve gotten a whole lot better as the season has gone along.”
Q: Last year’s game was right there for you. How long did that stick with you?
“It stuck with us for a while, to be so close like that. It stuck with a lot of us.”
Q: Did you ever talk with Reggie (Ball) after that game?
“I didn’t, but a lot of the senior players did. I know it was a hard game for him. I know he took it hard. Reggie has a lot of confidence, and I don’t think he let it bother him too much.”
Q: Comment on directing Dennis Davis to set up the interception.
“They ran that seven-cut, they overthrew [the receiver], so I knew that they were probably going to come back to that play again. I told Dennis that the next time that they do that, to play a little deeper and he could probably intercept the ball, and the next play it was like that.”
Q: On if anticipation is his strength as a player.
“I think it’s one of my strengths. I’m not the biggest or the fastest or the quickest guy out there, so you have to use something else, and I use my mind the best that I can and I’ve been pretty fortunate.”
Q: On what beating Georgia would mean to him.
“I don’t think you can put that into words. Nobody has beaten Georgia here. Beating them would mean the world, for our seniors going out like that.”
Q: On what losing to Georgia would mean.
“It would eat at me a lot, but it’s not going to break me. I’m not going to lose sleep over it. You win some, you lose some. You have to enjoy the victories and forget about the losses.”
Q: On old captains that come back and speak to the team.
“It doesn’t matter if you go 10-1 and lose to Georgia, nobody remembers that you went 10-1. They just remember that you lost to Georgia. And vice versa. If you went 1-10, they just remember that you beat Georgia, it doesn’t really matter. So the Miami game, everything else, doesn’t really matter if we don’t beat Georgia. Nobody remembers it, they just remember if you beat Georgia. That’s what we want to be remembered as: the team that broke the streak to defeat Georgia.”
Q: On what you think when you hear that Georgia players think the UGA/Florida game is bigger.
“It doesn’t bother me one bit. That’s fine if they think it’s a bigger game with Florida, that’s great, good for them. That means that they may overlook us or underestimate us or they may just think it’s another game. But when all is said and done, I guarantee they think that this is bigger than if not as big as the Florida game.”
Q: On if fans and teams ONLY remember this game.
“I think so, yeah. Like Gerris said, people ask if you beat Georgia last year. They don’t care about any other game, they just care if you beat Georgia.”
Q: On the challenges that Georgia presents.
“They are a lot like Virginia. They have a scrambling quarterback like Virginia Tech. They have good tight ends, like a lot of those teams do, and they use those tight ends a lot. They do what they do, and that’s Georgia. We’ve just got to stop what they do. We have to try to do the best that we can, firing on all cylinders.”
Q: On Shockley, and if he looks any different since his knee injury.
“He looked just as good, if not better, than he did before he got hurt. I didn’t see him slowing down at all, I didn’t see him cutting or not scrambling. He looks just as good. You can’t underestimate anybody just because they’ve had some injury, a lot of people play through it. We’re going to expect that he’s 100 percent, or that he’s better than 100 percent.”
Q: On the defense’s ability to stop the run.
“You can’t just sit back there and pass all day. They are going to have to have some running game. I don’t know how much a part of their game plan it is, I can’t say that because I don’t know. But they have to take that into consideration.”
Q: On the anticipation of running onto the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium for the last time.
“It’s going to be pretty crazy. I guess I haven’t taken it in yet. I guess this is my last home game. I don’t know, I don’t know how it’s going to feel. I try to play every game like it’s my last game, because you never know. But I know it’s going to be pretty special.”
Q: On how taxing it has been on “breaking the streak” against Georgia.
“It’s been pretty rough, just because you catch a lot of flack from fans and this that and the other, which I don’t pay much attention to. But it’s tough. We kind of lost one that we shouldn’t have last year, but the past few years, we’ve gotten beat. My freshman year we got beat pretty bad. But it’s time to turn the tables a little bit.”
Q: On what family is coming and when. Have they ever seen you play?
“My parents are coming in Friday night and my aunt and grandmother are flying in for my graduation in three weeks, and since they are flying through Atlanta I think they are going to try to change their ticket so they can stay here for the weekend and fly on to Denver with my parents at the end of the weekend. [My aunt and grandmother] are coming from Austria, because my aunt lives in Austria, she picked my grandmother up this past weekend.”
“They have seen me play because I send them some DVD’s that Todd (McCarthy, Director of Video) makes and when my grandmother is in Austria she watches the satellite that my cousin has that picks up ESPN. She got to watch this last week. She doesn’t understand it, she just watches it. But she’s used to it because when she goes to Austria, she doesn’t speak German, so she just watches TV.”
“My brother has to stay in Denver just in case my grandmother and my aunt aren’t able to change their flight. He has to stay and greet them, but he may be able to come out Saturday morning because the game is so late. He got to come for Wake Forest though.”
Q: On how special it was to play last Saturday.
“It was awesome because I hadn’t started since Clemson last year. It was great to play 80 or so snaps instead of the 30 or 35 that I’ve done before. It was a hell of a game against the No. 1 defense in the country and against a team that is ranked No. 3 in the nation. It was just a hell of a rush.”
Q: How important is it to beat Georgia?
“It’s important to me. It’s my last time out on this field and there are a lot of emotions involved, especially my feelings towards Georgia. We haven’t beaten them since I’ve been here, and we have to get that monkey off our back.”
Q: On if there was something particular in the game plan that helped the team beat Miami.
“I think our defense played tremendously well. They kept us on the field, which tired their defense down. We were on the field for 80 snaps and I think that wore them out. Our first two drives were pretty long, and that sort of sent a statement that we were there to play, not to go down there and take a loss and go home. I think that kind of shocked them. We kept going after them, and our defense not allowing their offense to move the ball at all while sacking their quarterback seven times. That hasn’t been done since Florida State. In the last six games, they had only given up four sacks, and our defense sacked him seven times Saturday night. I just think that we played extremely well as a team, and just sort of shocked them.”
Q: On how different Georgia’s defensive front is from last year to this year.
“They have the same guys in the middle. What happened with them is that they are playing guys this year that played a lot last year in the middle. They have big, big defensive tackles and they’ve got good defensive ends that we’ve got to be ready for. They play with a high intensity and will come ready to play, so we’ve got to come and match that intensity and do what we did this past weekend.”
Q: On how different the offensive line is from the beginning of the year.
“We’re a lot more experienced. You go through spring and you go through camp and you are trying to build continuity, and you can’t really do that until you are on the field at game-time. Our coach always talks about five playing like one. As the season progressed more, we played more like one. Having a young line, with everyone shuffling and shifting, it has taken a little while for us to all play together.”