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Nov. 2, 2003

Virginia head coach Al Groh:

Q: Do you think you held it together pretty well during the fourth quarter or do you think you need to examine things?

Groh: No, I don’t think there’s anything to examine about yesterday except that we need to make a few more plays at the end of the game.

Q: What did you say on that 38-yard run?

Groh: Minimal hole, missed tackle about three yards beyond the line of scrimmage. Another one about seven yards beyond. Tough guy to tackle but still missed tackles.

Q: How much of NC State’s QB Philip River’s big day was due to a lapse on the part of the defense?

Groh: Just like with Matt (Schaub), both of them are usually on when they play, so they create plenty on their own. It was pretty obvious that there were some attempts at coverage that I’d like to see us play a lot better in the future.

Q: What happened on the tight end 75-yard touchdown?

Groh: Poorly played coverage.

Q: Why did Zac Yarborough play a majority of the game a center? Was that because of Kevin Bailey’s bad snap?

Groh: We just decided to play Zac (Yarborough) in there some more, and obviously Kevin (Bailey) didn’t get off to a good start. That’s two times in the last three games. Whether it’s a ball carry or fumble with the ball, that type of fumble puts the ball in danger, makes it more difficult to win. That’s one of the things you’re supposed to be acutely aware of if you want to try to make your team hard to beat?who makes you susceptible to those things.

Q: Did WR/QB Marques Hagans take a significant step forward as a receiver yesterday?

Groh: He sure was a very productive player for us. By step forward, then I’d have to say he really did a lot of things with his game that he’s never done before. He had some opportunities to show his skills, but I wouldn’t say that ‘oh wow, he can run that route so much better than he could three weeks ago.’ I don’t think it was that.

Q: Is there anything specific that you see when you look back that helped you win the games last year that you didn’t win this year?

Groh: I have a few days to do a little bit more detailed analysis. A couple weeks ago, I think I made the statement that there are 30-35 teams around who are pretty much the same. There’s two or three that are clearly ahead of most of the other teams. And the rest of the other ones are pretty similar. They’re pretty similar on a week-to-week basis, and they’re kind of similar right now as they’re pairing up from season to season. It’s just a question of which team makes the three or four more plays. Last year at the end of the game with the game on the line, we made a big play at the end of the game to win the game. This year with the game on the line, we didn’t make the play?their guy made the play. That’s an addition and subtraction of one win, and one loss for each of these teams over the course of the last two years when for 60 minutes. Each time it was essentially equal. That’s what it comes down to. A play here, a play there. If you make three or four more plays than the other guy does, you usually do (win). They made a couple at the end that we had a chance to stop them on the third (down) and five (yards to go), we didn’t stop them. We stopped them there, we get the ball back. We had a chance to have the ball on the 50-yard line. We had the block in the back with the ball on the 50-yard line with a good field goal kicker. We got a good chance to get it in there. Those are the kind of things that certainly are aggravating and agonizing when you evaluate your team.

Q: WR Ryan Sawyer had a good day including a catch in the end zone. Can you comment on him?

Groh: He’s become one of our very best players. He had some excellent catches. Of all our kickoffs, there were only two returned, and the two tackles made on those were made by two guys who play an awful lot- Ryan Sawyer and Ottowa Anderson, which is a statement about those two players. What kind of competitors and how much work they put into it and that also partially answers the question about Ryan (Sawyer).

Q: What kind of day did Ryan Sawyer, Ottowa Anderson, and the other wide receivers have blocking downfield?

Groh: That’s really a more difficult block for them to make than real running plays, because on real running plays, they know their primary assignment to start with. Those balls that go to the underneath receivers as a result of that the coverage read is, players like Ottowa (Anderson) and Ryan (Sawyer), they start to play at trying to get open. They’ve got to suddenly shift mentalities as well as try to shift position and regain the leverage on a receiver in order to be a good blocker. It’s a tricky thing, and they both had a number of excellent blocks on it. (Fontel) Mines had a very good block in the end zone on (Wali) Lundy’s second touchdown.

Q: Has it been tough to get freshman Deyon Williams on the field because of the good plays made by Anderson and Sawyer?

Groh: He has made some good plays, as has Fontel. That’s a position that to the fan in the stands it’s only about catching the ball. There’s so much more that goes into it. Over the course of 55, 60, 65, 70 plays, it shows up. Whether it’s converting routes, knowing who to block on the force, things like that, depths of routes. As the two veteran players at the position, Ottowa (Anderson) and Ryan (Sawyer) are both by far the most accomplished and the most dependable.

Q: Can you give your viewpoint of the inadvertent whistle in the NC State game?

Groh: I saw it and heard it from close up, and I saw it and heard it repeatedly on tape today. The player had the ball, he was still in progress. Brennan Schmidt ripped the ball from his grasp, Chris Canty picked the ball up and ran it into the end zone. The ball was legitimately fumbled, legitimately picked up by Virginia, and legitimately run into the end zone. Unfortunately, in the process of stripping the ball out, somebody inadvertently blew the whistle which trumped everything that happened from that point on. I was told (by the official), I didn’t interpret this, it was an inadvertent whistle.

Q: After the Troy State game you said CB Tony Franklin did well at corner. What else can you say about him?

Groh: I thought he did some nice things at corner. He’s only played two games there so I’d say he’s a little bit of a work in progress. He’s a good competitor, he learns quickly from things. He had a few plays yesterday he could do a little bit better, but overall, I think he did a pretty decent job.

Q: Much was made of kicker Connor Hughes’ last two minutes in the Wake Forest game, but is it even more impressive that he’s been so consistent throughout the season?

Groh: Yeah, I think so. What every coach wants to know is, ‘Where do I need to get the ball to, in order to make a field goal?whatever yard-line that is?’ If that’s the 25 or just the 15, that’s fine- as long as when you get it to the spot that the guy’s supposed to be consistent from he makes it from there, because then you know how to manage the game. That’s one of the really good things that Connor gives to us. It’s not just length but his consistency from the distances that he tells me he feels comfortable at.

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