Nov. 11, 2004
Georgia Tech vs. Connecticut
Head Coach Chan Gailey
How different of a team is UConn now compared to when you played them two years ago?
Not the same. Not even close to the same. They have come a long way. They have improved tremendously. Also, we played [Dan] Orlovsky when he was a sophomore and now he is a senior. He is one of the best in the country. They are very productive offensively. I think they have about six seniors starting on offense. You can tell it now. Most of them were sophomores two years ago. So they are really a different football team. They are a much better football team. They were 9-3 last year. They are an excellent football team.
Can you appreciate what Randy [Edsall] has done up at UConn?
He went in there when it was I-AA and it is tremendous what he has done and how far the program has come. The new stadium from what they tell me and what I have seen in the pictures is just outstanding. They are a great addition to the Big East. They are a tough team.
What does it mean to have a chance to become bowl eligible this week?
We talked about what our goals are. I think that both teams are in the same boat this week. Both of us will be trying to get to that sixth win. Any thing you can do after that is gravy, but you have to get that sixth one to have the opportunity. I think our team realizes it and I think our opponents realize it.
Talk about Calvin Johnson’s progression this season and specifically the catch he made against NC State?
I still am amazed and I have seen it several times. It was a great catch. The thing about it is, I am amazed and I see what he does at practice. You don’t even see what he does in practice. He makes some unbelievable plays in practice. Most great receivers, you don’t see their greatest catches because they happen in practice. He just happened to have one in a game like that. It was a spectacular play and I am sure it will be talked about for a long time. He has made giant strides from where he was when he got here in August to where he is today. I think his potential is outstanding. He has seen a lot, but he has a lot to learn about beating specific coverages and looking at the different corners and knowing how to beat them. He will get better at that.
Is his work ethic and style contagious even though he is a true freshman?
He is not a loud guy. He is very quiet and unassuming. He just goes out and works very hard every day trying to be the best player he can be. That part of it is contagious. I don’t care how good Calvin gets, and I think he will get very, very good before it is over with, I don’t think he will change. Guys will look at that and say all of a sudden, here is a great player who is not a prima donna. I don’t have to be a prima donna to be a great player. I think we are blessed in that respect.
In last week’s game I saw on more than one occasion Calvin being held, but there was no call. How does he handle situations like that?
He is frustrated. Probably not nearly as frustrated as me at what is going on. He is frustrated by it, but he is handling it pretty well. It would be easy for him to lose his composure, but he doesn’t. He is a very mature guy for his age.
How do you account for the increased pressure you’re getting on the quarterback?
I think that all of our guys are become more experienced in the defense. The Chris Reis’s, the KaMichael Hall’s and Gerris Wilkinson’s are beginning to get more experienced in their position and know how to do things better. I think that Eric Henderson being back after the first three ballgames has created more of a presence on one side, so the other side ends up getting free sometimes. Our guys are playing good. Our guys are covering better so we end up with more pressure. It all works together.
There were five conference games played last week and the home team went 2-3. What do you think is happening to home field advantage?
I am not sure you are seeing that too much anymore. I have a person opinion about that sometimes. It happened to us last week. I think sometimes the home fans don’t allow a team to struggle during the course of a ballgame. They get booed. You can say what you want, but these are 19 and 20-year old guys. They get booed and all of a sudden the psyche of the team struggles. If the crowd is behind you and for you, you feel like you can move mountains. If the crowd is against them, they aren’t getting paid to do this they are still amateur athletes, they are affected by the psyche of the situation. If that happens at other stadiums like it happened last week, I can see it affecting the game.
Is it completely different at the next level?
Completely. Totally different. You get paid millions at the next level to get booed. You understand that. If you don’t play good, that is part of the process.
What does UConn do defensively?
They have a four-man front and three linebackers. Those three linebackers are the meat of their defense. That is the heart and soul of their defense those three linebackers. They are all returning starters. They can go.
They play more zone than NC State but they will play some man as well. They are not got going change. They have been pretty good defensively doing what they do.
Can you comment on Reggie Ball’s play?
From what I have talked about with him, he is upset about it. He wants to do better, but wanting to and doing is two different things. You have to go do it. We will continue to work with him to try to be consistent and be good.
We are making too many mistakes, especially in the interceptions area. That’s the problem right now. It boils down to being an inconsistent player. When we don’t turn it over and we don’t throw interceptions, we play very well. When we throw interceptions, we struggle. Some times we win. Sometimes we don’t. We have some work to do with him and he will be the first to admit that he needs to do some work. It is an on going challenge for him to improve each week.
What differences do you see in Connecticut from when you played them two years ago?
They are a much more mature team. They are a much more physical team. They have more experience because they are playing seniors instead of sophomores. We played against a lot of young players that year we were up there. It’s like night and day. They are really a top quality team right now. They were good then, but they are top quality now.
I think the offensive line is a bigger stronger group. I think the linebackers are a very experienced, active group. Obviously, Dan [Orlovsky] is a much more experienced quarterback. Those are the three areas that I see as drastic improvements.
What do you think of Dan Orlovsky?
To be honest I have not watched him a lot because I spend my time on the other side of the ball. The little I have seen of him and watched him on TV, he has a chance to be a great quarterback and play in the NFL if he continues to work and continues to improve.
What is your impression of linebacker Alfred Fincher?
He is everything he is cracked up to be. I had heard he was a good player before I got to film. He has his nose up in the line of scrimmage and he makes plays all over the field. The thing that I am most surprised about is how well he plays the pass considering he is only about two and a half to three yards off the line of scrimmage. He does a nice job.
Do you have to worry about your players not taking this game as seriously as they should because it is not a conference game?
I don’t think so. I think that our guys realize how good Connecticut is. They look at their record and see who they have been and realize that is a good group of people that they have won games against. When you evaluate that knowing what is at stake for our team and their team, I think we all expect a tough football game on Saturday afternoon.
What did you do well in the NC State game?
Our defense played great. They pressured the quarterback well. We got our hands on some balls and got some interceptions. We ran the ball well offensively and our kicking game played solid. Those were the positives.
Is that the key against Orlovsky, getting pressure on him?
That is the key for our defense every week. We are not a sit back and bend but don’t break mentality and let you pick us apart. We come after you pretty good. We will do that to Connecticut as well. We just find different ways to do it each week.
Is Chris Reis a unique player on defense because he doesn’t carry a lot of weight?
Only when he hits you does he carry a lot of weight. He is a unique guy. He is a strong safety playing at linebacker, but he has enough savvy to be able to make plays and not take the blows that sometimes you might take at that position. He does a nice job of using the abilities he has to make plays.
Travis Bell, Freshman Placekicker
When did you start playing football?
“I actually started [playing] my sophomore year of high school. The football coaches heard that I playing soccer and they came and took me out of class and asked me if I was interested in kicking.”
On his most pressure packed kick:
“The Virginia Tech game going into halftime was probably the most pressured. It was a 46-yard field goal, in a close game, on ESPN, and under the lights.”
On his ability to earn the faith of his teammates and the coaching staff:
“I think I have because after the Maryland game we voted on player of the week for special teams, offense and defense and the players voted me player special team’s player of the week.”
On moving over to place kicker from punter:
“It was always in the back of my mind because both the first and second string guys were seniors. It wasn’t a huge surprise when coach asked me to do it because I was a place kicker in high school and I knew I could do it.”
On which position he is better at placekicker or punter:
“I felt I was a better placekicker but I was an all state punter and just all region at kicker. I was actually recruited at punter even though I felt that placekicker was more natural to me.”
On his superstitions:
“I used to be really superstitious but I’m trying to stop because it’s getting to be really difficult to keep up with all them.”
“Every time I talk about making a field goal I knock on wood because I don’t want to jinx it. I always carry around my lucky bright green cleats from high school as a good luck charm.”
On missed field goal against Samford:
“I was a little intimidated by the 47 yards and I was worried more about the distance than the accuracy. It had plenty of distance but I just pulled it left. That’s what happens when you over kick. Now I focus more on accuracy rather than distance because I know I have enough leg to get the ball there.”
On thinking about the streak:
“It’s hard not to when you have family members and teammates calling and telling you about it. It’s something that would be awesome to do but I can’t get caught up in the streak. I just have to go out and perform.”
Reuben Houston, Junior Cornerback
On his two interceptions during the NC State game:
“It was a big game for me and our defense as a whole. It’s definitely positive going into the next game but as soon as you watch film on the next opponent you have to forget about it.”
On his most memorable highlight of the season:
“I think the last game you play is always going to be the one that is focused on. We just want to make sure that every game we play is the highlight of the year.”
On the opposing team picking on Georgia Tech’s other defensive backs:
“We just come together after every play and if a pass was completed we tell each other to forget about it and focus on the next play.
“There will be games when the opposing team throws more to one side than the other you just have to make sure you take care of your responsibilities for that play because you never know when they will come at you.”
On the most important lesson he has learned this season:
“The one lesson you have to learn while playing corner, is have a bad memory. You can’t remember what happened the last game or earlier in the season. You have to focus on the next play or the next game.
On the corner backs vs. Calvin Johnson during practice:
“Calvin is one of a kind. It basically like playing basketball with him. We throw the ball up to him and it’s a jump ball situation. He is 6’4″ and 225 pounds and our tallest corner is 6’1″ and 180 or 190 which makes it kind of unfair, especially since he has the highest vertical on the team.”
On missing track:
“I miss the competitiveness but at the same time I was grateful to give my body an opportunity to rest for a semester.”
On which sport he started playing first (football or track):
“I didn’t start running track until the seventh grade. I’ve played football for as long as I can remember. I played every position on the field. In middle school I played quarterback, running back, receiver, and safety. In high school I played linebacker, defensive end, fullback, and both tailback positions and corner. I mainly played safety.”
“In middle school I used to have a little arm but since then I really haven’t picked up a ball to throw it.”
On the parity among the ACC teams:
“The there is no clear cut best team in the ACC right now, especially with Miami losing two games. After this year I think there will be a lot of eyes on us because now the ACC has an argument about being the best conference in the nation.
“We just look at the standings and focus on winning the next game. You realize that every game you play in the ACC whether it’s a conference or non-conference game is very important.”
On being prepared for non conference teams like Connecticut:
“This week is definitely a situation when we have to focus on winning this ball game and not worrying about any other game. It’s a challenge for us as a defense to go up against a highly rated offense and a great quarterback.”
On which Georgia Tech player hits the hardest:
“On the defense it’s Eric Henderson. He hit a running back so hard at practice one day that I felt sorry for him.”
Jimmy Dixon, Senior Fullback
On getting into the end zone:
“It feels great. I haven’t been there in a long time. The offensive did a great job and the receivers did a great job blocking.
“It felt great to have to ball in my hands and trying to make something happen for the team.”
On being a team guy:
“A team guy is someone who goes out and does whatever he can do to help his team be successful. We have plenty of team guys. Mark Logan he played quarterback, receiver, and contributed on special teams. Our whole team is full of team guys because we do whatever it takes to win.”
On Rashaun Grant’s running style:
“Connecticut is a very good football team and we’re going to have to prepare for this game the same as we would for any other game.”
His opinion of the best block of the year:
“Every block that helps us get into the end zone is a great block.”
On his most memorable block of the season:
“It was a block on the first play of the Miami game when Chris Woods broke for 56 yards. I blocked the strong side linebacker. I was a great start for us because Miami had such a great run defense.”
On his transition from running back to fullback:
“There really wasn’t a transition period. When I moved to fullback I knew my main role as a fullback would be to block and if I got the ball it was a bonus.
“I know I have to take advantage of the opportunity every time I get the ball because I don’t get it that often.”