Oct. 13, 2004
Head Coach Chan Gailey
October 12, 2004 – Georgia Tech vs. Duke
Would the loss to Duke last season rate as one of the lowest points of your career?
“I remember having a sick feeling. I have a hard time rating lowness, but it was a sick feeling. That one hurt more than others. I’ll be honest with you. It did. We had just won four in a row and I thought that it was a game that if we had just executed the way we needed to execute, we could have won the ballgame. We didn’t so it was a sick feeling.
Darius Williams commented on how you can use last year’s game as motivation for practice only. How do you feel about that?
“You try to get them to understand that. All the motivating aspects are for preparation. Once [the ball] is kicked off, your motor memory skills, your knowledge of the game and game plan of your opponent, that’s what kicks in. It’s not that revenge factor or hate factor or that `he said something about my momma’ factor. It’s the knowledge of the game plan and your execution.
Coaches coaching against a previous school…
I think that any time you have coached at a previous place, you have a little bit of an affinity to that place, but at the same time you want to beat them. You may still have friends in that town or at that school and you would like to have a little bragging rights. You might have to change a signal or you might have to alter something that you might do, but you don’t ever do anything drastic. It’s just the little things.
On Duke’s football team…
They are a big play team. That’s what I have seen. Big play on special teams, big plays on defense. They have their running back (Cedric Dargan) back this week who has been able to run the football for them. They are certainly capable of making big plays on offense. They try to mess with your mind with all the different formations and personnel groupings and things like that. You have to be on top of your game mentally.
I talk about it every week. You all talked about it the Carolina week, but I talk about it every week. This week I will talk about it again and stress it again like I do every week. We have to play consistently in order to win. Last week was a decent blue print for how we need to win football games. Play great defense, play good on special teams, make some big plays and run the football on offense and don’t turn it over and don’t hurt yourself. That’s how you win football games.
Reggie Ball’s consistency…
If I knew exactly what it was I could fix it and it would never break again. So I don’t know exactly what the key was. I know we will try to do more things like we did this past week than we did the weeks before. You are going to say `what are those things’ and I’m not going to tell you. But we will try to do more things like we did last week.
Do you think that threatening to put in another quarterback got Reggie Ball going?
“If that were true you would threaten everybody every week. I don’t think that’s how I approached it with him. I approached it with him that he needs to become a better quarterback and play more consistently. I felt like he was trying not to make mistakes rather than going out and playing way that got him the job last fall. Play loose and play the game. He understands the game. He does understand the game of football. He just needs to cut loose and play, but be smart in certain critical decisions. He made better decisions and threw the ball more accurately in critical times last week. If we can continue to develop that, he can be the quarterback he wants to be and that we would all like him to be.
In the first three games the team had three sacks total. In the two games since Eric Henderson has been back, that number has tripled. Is he that big of a part of the defense?
“I think that has been part of the process but not all of it. I think also we have had some young players learning new positions that have gained more and more experience and more and more confidence, like Chris Reis, Gerris [Wilkinson] and KaMichael [Hall] and Travis [Parker] for that matter who is playing end for the first time this year. All of a sudden they are starting to understand. Darryl Richard is starting to understand how to play his position better. [Joe] Anoai is getting more experience. When you get the combination of all of those things together, plus you bring back a quality player like Eric Henderson, then you hopefully see your sack numbers increase and I would hope to expect, if we continue to improve our turnover numbers increase.
Why do Coach Tenuta’s players on defense play so hard for him?
You would have to ask him that. I see what you see. I see basically a tough man, but a good man. A guy who gets his players to understand what needs to be done to play great defense. He does it the way he believes is right and expresses himself to get the point across. It’s very effective.
Do teams feel the just need to stop the run and make you try to beat them with the pass?
“Yes. Everybody has, to be honest with you. Everybody did, well Miami didn’t. Miami played a little bit more pass coverage. They played two deep man under, which they hadn’t shown. Maybe it was because we didn’t have P.J. [Daniels]. They said we’ll play both sides a little bit. But other teams, and most teams will until we prove it on a consistent basis, they’ll say, `we can’t let this football team run because that’s what they want to do. We have to make them throw to beat us.’ We have to prove that we can do that.
How much of an impact did P.J. Daniels make in his return?
“I am going to make the same statement I make every time I get asked that. He is an all-conference back. He’s the leading rusher in the ACC. You lose a guy like that, it makes a difference. How much of a difference, I don’t know. You want me to make some kind of grandiose statement so you can write it in the paper, but there is not one.
“We don’t have a choice so we might as well get comfortable with it if Andy [Tidwell-Neal] can’t play, and we won’t know that until the end of the week again. They have made great strides. They still are not where we need them to be, but they have made great strides especially Kevin [Tuminello] and Matt [Rhodes]. I thought they made great strides from week one to week two. Now they get to make another great stride from week two to week three for them. It will be good. I am excited about them playing. They are fighters. They are tough guys. They are smart. It will be fun to watch them play.
How has Patrick Carter made the transition to returning punts?
“He did a nice job. He’s been catching them all along in practice, so it wasn’t like we just threw him out there in one week and he started catching punts. He did a nice job. He’s got a little burst to him. I would to be able to get him a couple of creases and see if he could take one the distance. He certainly has some of those capabilities.
Can you talk about the play of the freshmen so far this year?
“We have played 11 true freshmen and that doesn’t include Travis Bell. We have had eleven true freshmen play and contribute in some way, shape or form. Then you have guys like Travis Bell, Matt Rhodes and Kevin Tuminello who red-shirted last year and are having to play. When you look at it, at times we run out there a pretty young football team. We have one senior starting on defense and maybe three or four on offense. We are playing a lot of young guys and they are having to come in and play for us. For the most part they have all done a good job or they wouldn’t still be out there we would be finding someone else to play. But they have had to play because of injury to somebody else or whatever it might be. Most of the playing time is special teams. But Travis Bell has an excellent job for us so far for us. He has been right on the money except for the very first one of the year.
How has Darius Williams handled being a starter at tight end?
“He performed on a more consistent basis [in practice], and then he got into games and played even more consistently in games. He is such a great effort guy. He gives you everything he’s got when he is on the field. He has really stepped up to a higher plain than I thought he would coming out of fall camp, to be honest with you. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen there and he has gone on the field and performed well. He has hung in there and fought. At one time, he was about six pounds from being an offensive tackle. He got so big and didn’t want to do that so he lost the weight. He has come back and is playing really well. It is a lesson in patients and perseverance.
Eric Henderson, Junior Defensive End
On the Duke game last year:
“The Duke game last year was pitiful. We didn’t come out and play the way we expected. I thought we came out flat-footed and they played one of the best games and the score showed.
“I wouldn’t say that we didn’t take them seriously because we never go into a game where we don’t take an opponent seriously. We just didn’t get the job done. We want to win every game and to get humiliated like that is a heartbreaker.”
b> On the Maryland game being a turning point in the season
“We want to win every game and hopefully Maryland is a turning point for us. Hopefully we can continue doing the good things and eliminate the bad things. We want to do our best to execute and keep winning football games.”
On holding Maryland to 81 yards of offense
“That was tremendous. We had no clue that we were going to hold Maryland to 81 yards. We just wanted to play hard and execute our game plan.”
On Georgia Tech’s low turnover stats:
“Of course we want as many turnovers as possible but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. As long as we can win the football game, that’s what is most important.”
On drawing two blockers:
“I hope I attract two blockers because it frees up others guys. I just go out and play hard.”
On his excitement when teammates get sacks:
“I enjoy it when my teammates get sacks. I’m going to yell just like if I made the play. I love being out there and watching other guys enjoy the game the same way I do. When I make the play and I want them to yell the same way I yell for them. I think when they see me react the way I do it helps us. It helps us grow as a defense.”
How does a healthy P.J. Daniels help the defense?
“Having P.J. Daniels healthy takes a lot of pressure off the quarterback. He can get us more first downs, which allows the defense to rest. When our defense is rested we can come out energized and ready to play well.”
On handling Jon Tenuta’s coaching style:
“We trust everything he does. He’s been around the game for a long time and we don’t question anything that he comes up with. We trust his game plans because we feel like he is a mastermind on defense. He’s a great coach and we have disciplined athletes. We are going to listen to anything he tells us the same way we would listen to any of our other coaches.”
“We are a rah rah type of defense and he is a rah rah type of coach. He has a great game plan every week and you can always count on making a great play. Everything about our defense is fun, believe it or not. We love practicing and I think people can tell we are having fun by the way we play.”
On being recruited at Georgia Tech:
“I feel in love with the coaching staff. We’ve done some great things here and I love the Tech defense. I love the city of Atlanta and that also had a lot to do with me coming here. Coach David Kelly (now at Duke) recruited me and it’s going to be real hard to see those guys again.”
On the success of his recruiting class:
“We had a great recruiting class and we all knew that we would get the chance to play someday. It sounds funny but we never thought that we would be seniors. Now we just want to bring back a winning tradition.”
Darius Williams, Senior Tight End
Where did the nickname D.A. come from?
“D.A. is just something I got stuck with. It really doesn’t mean anything. My middle name doesn’t begin with an “A.” When I was younger we gave everybody in the neighborhood nicknames and they gave me D.A. I guess it was because “D” and “A” are the first two letters of my first name. Since then it has just stuck with me and when I came here people heard it and just kept calling me D.A.”
On the feeling in the locker room after the Duke game last year:
“Basically we were shocked. We go into every game expecting to win. I prepare to win every week and I didn’t expect to lose to Duke. That’s not to take anything away from Duke it’s just that personally I expect to win every game I take part in. When we lost it didn’t feel real. I remember feeling like we had another quarter to play.”
Is last year’s loss to Duke a big motivator for this year’s game?
“Losing last years game can only motivate you to prepare until the first snap. After the first snap you have to play football and things like revenge and motivation only helps me for preparation. When the ball snaps I really can’t think about it because I have to be focused on making plays.”
On the advantage of preparing for coaches that were at Georgia Tech:
“There really isn’t an advantage because people tend to change. I feel like I’m not the same player I was when they were here so anything that they tell their defensive players will be wrong about me. Anything we can say about their coaching staff will be wrong because coaches change too. I watch film and previous games to try to get an advantage.”
On Reggie Ball’s attitude after all the pressure of changing quarterbacks:
“Reggie is just such a passionate player. He has the heart of a champion. He doesn’t ever think twice about losing. He is so competitive that it just takes over. You want your quarterback to be like that. Reggie, even though he is young he is a great leader and I feel comfortable in the huddle with him because of his leadership skills.”
On being a starter and the impact he has had this season:
“It was big for me because I really didn’t play the first couple of years. Last year, when I started playing a lot I felt I was getting better and better each game and this year I was ready to explode.”
“One of my friends calls me a junk yard dog because I have so much built up aggression from all the years I didn’t play that when I get on the field now its like a junk yard dog that got lose.”
On avoiding a let down against Duke:
“There are specific things that we need to do to be prepared for the game. As far as the locker room there are things that we’ve noticed that we don’t when we lose. We want to try to be consistent so we can go out and win games.”