Coach Groh discusses Saturday's game against Miami
Al Groh Press Conference comments, Nov. 6, 2007
Q: Have you talked with the team about what it is like to part of history, playing in the last game in the Orange Bowl?
A: We’re not really a part of history, we are just part of the game. There will be a lot of other people there who made history and they will be celebrating their history. We are just one of the acts that’s being trotted out, so we are just really focusing on the game itself and what it means to our future. We respect to history of the Orange Bowl and all of the great players and coaches that have been there and we respect what Miami has accomplished there, it’s their history, not ours. It’s our future that we are trying to deal with.
Q: Talk about Miami. They have a lot of weapons at running back, wide receiver, and pretty good quarterbacks and when they’re at the top of their game it seems like they are pretty formidable.
A: To this point, Miami is the overall the most athletically gifted team that we’ve played. They’ve had challenges to try to develop the cohesiveness and performance that I’m sure that they are looking for. They went through a quarterback switch earlier in the season, then when they seemed like they had things going pretty decently Kyle Wright got hurt. Then they had to flip back again. Now they’ve had a weekend where they’re kind of lamenting their performance. But that happens a lot of times (during) the first year in the program, Even though Randy Shannon’s been there for a while and they know him personally, it hasn’t necessarily been his philosophy and his beliefs that were governing the entire organization. The players probably have to get used to that. There are two new coordinators, so there is a bit of a transition that goes on in those circumstances. So often when you have a highly talented team such as Miami, that maybe isn’t accomplishing quite what they want, sometimes a really galvanizing event like this brings out the very best in them, That’s what we are assuming is going to be the case and we will have to have our team ready play at that particular level.
Q: Their defense seems particularly stingy in the first half. Is that important for you guys to get some momentum going early?
A: That’s a remarkable statistic isn’t it? They’ve given up seven points at home in the first half this year. What it indicates to us overall is when we look at the games that have been played there, is that it has all the earmarks of being another tight, low scoring, close game and I would say as much to 60 minutes as to 30.
Q: Have you played against a defensive end quite like Calais Campbell?
A: He’s got a dominating presence, obviously. His wingspan is unique to college football. He’s a very long player, but he’s also very wide. He takes up a lot of space in there. He’s very athletic for his skills (and) for his size he’s a very, very good player. Then the guy right next to him, (Teraz) McCray is a very dynamic type and very disruptive inside player. He doesn’t get quite the notoriety being in there as an outside edge player gets or as a linebacker gets, but he’s right up there in terms of the most disruptive players they have.
Q: This late in the season, you don’t have to rely on anything else and from here on out you control your own destiny to accomplish what you want to accomplish. Your thoughts?
A: We really haven’t relied on anybody else to this point. We’ve understood from the outset that each and every week it was up to us entirely; there was nobody who could help us do what we set out to do (and) there was nobody who could hold us back. One of our themes has been what happens in between the white lines that determines it and we are the only ones out there along with the opponents. We need to be prepared for that and focus on finding a way to win in that circumstance. (We’ve) kind of had that mentality from the start, so there is really no deviation (and) no switch that we have to make.
Q: How have you been able to develop mental toughness of this team? You set a record last week with five wins by two points or less and it’s very difficult to win all of those games.
A: It certainly is. Maybe if you lined five of them up in a row and said you had to win five or six of them like that to march your way through it, it might seem like a bit of a daunting task. But we just take them one at a time and just play the game as it comes to us. That’s what we just do. However the game unfolds (we) just try to find a way to win under those circumstances. The team’s got a lot of confidence in each other; a lot of belief that somebody is going to step up or some unit is going to step up. We had a concerted effort since some time back that took to build the particular mental toughness and the particular attitude in this team and the team has been tremendously responsive in doing the things that made that come about. I ‘m proud of them for it and as I said the other day I’m proud to be part of em.
Q: Do you shake your head thinking back, if someone had said last February, okay, you’re coming off this 5-7 season, and you’re going to lose your top receiver, your top rusher and your two most experienced corners,’ and you’ll be 8-2 in November?
A: If you are going to have a chance to be any good, that from the onset you have to be prepared to deal with those kind of things because it’s much more of the reality that things of that nature are going to occur than that are not going to occur. It’s pretty unusual that you can smooth sail all the way through and have everybody you started with. Some teams do and that is a significant factor in having a big year, but if you lose some of those people and you automatically let it derail you, either mentally or performance-wise, then the odds are that whenever it happens, that’s it. You sack your bats up and go home.
Q: You’re in this position where it’s this late in the season and the media starts talking about being a position for a title and everyone’s aware that you are in that position. Do you dangle that as motivation or do you not talk about that at all so that you don’t get exposed?
A: We are not oblivious to the broader picture than the next game. We know it’s out there. (It’s) something that most teams start the season aiming for. But we also understand that to get beyond where we are too fast, then all of a sudden those things evaporate. This is a team that has demonstrated to this point very good discipline as far as keeping our focus on what has to been done to win the next weekend. I think we’ve been verified by the fact that clearly as tight as the games have been, that any less, I don’t mean a lot less, any less focus on being prepared to perform at a moment’s notice in those games probably would not have been enough.
(I) get asked a lot of times what changes does it make in a team to have gone through this many tight games. That’s one of the things that certainly have become part of the team mentality(an) awareness of just how fine the line is and you better not slip up anyplace. The one area that we have complete control over or we could slip up is in preparation. We can’t control everything that happens in the game, but we can control what we do this afternoon and how we focus. Everybody on the team has a good appreciation of that.
Q: You’ve talked about kickoff speed versus overall speed, but in terms of overall speed, do you see these similarities between Wake Forest and Miami? And if so, are you pretty confident after the way your team performed against Wake Forest?
A: Wake Forest was one the quicker, faster teams that we’ve played, so it certainly got us well prepared for the next step. But every year I think that this going to be the case. I could probably write this one down and save it for the next year (and) come in here and say, every year when we play Miami we are going to be talking about one of the fastest teams, if not the fastest team, that we are going to play that year.’ That’s been a tradition of their teams down there. It’s very apparent watching them play (that) it’s not just running backs or wide receivers; they’ve got three fast linebackers, they’ve got two fast safeties, they’ve got tight ends who can get up the field. They’ve had the opportunity to build the tradition of attracting fast players there.