Coach Groh talks about Saturday's game against Virginia Tech
Selected Al Groh comments from press conference 11/20/07
Groh’s opening statement:
When the ACC went to divisional play a couple of years ago as a result of expansion, clearly the circumstances that we’ve had in both divisions is what the conference was hoping for as an ultimate: that is the season would come down to the final game in each division. Essentially what we have on a short term, it will end before the final games of the season, but at least for this season we do have a playoff system. In each division teams played themselves into the final game and at this point now one team will win and move on and the other one won’t, just as was the case last week. As was expected this creates an increased level of excitement just as you look around the conference there were four teams whose players, fans, coaches and everybody were involved in that hunt up until the final week. I think that was what was wished for by everybody when we started out and certainly it’s come to fruition in this particular year.
In our particular case, this will be an awesome challenge for us. This is certainly one of the finest teams that’s come into Scott Stadium in quite some time. They are tremendously impressive in all areas. The special teams, as usual and backed up historically, is a unit unto itself. They not only play special teams, but they score and win the game themselves. With Eddie Royal the all-time leading punt returner in the history of the ACC, it clearly points out the necessity of our (needing to) have a spectacular day in terms of punting the ball and coverage if we’re to avoid a mishap in that area.
Defensively, they are their usual stifling self. They are fourth in the country in scoring defense and that’s whatever it was a 45-point game or whatnot in there someplace. If you remove that game over the other 10 games they’ve given up less points than any other team in the country. If it’s hard to score on a team, then it’s pretty hard to beat a team. We’ll have to figure out a way to get enough to win and that challenges both our offense to score and but our defense also, that if defense and special teams lets the point margin get very high, then it probably will be a reach to be able to exceed it.
Offensively, they seem to have really hit their stride. They have averaged over 450 yards the last three games. The offensive line clearly is playing differently; with those four receivers that we’ll be very pleased to bid adieu to after this game, they have the makings of what certainly would be a highly competitive 4×100 team if they chose to enter the NCAA track championships. Those players have been playing for four years, they’re very impressive players, they’ve got great ball skills and playmaking ability, so they are a one-play challenge just like the special teams are. The other thing is that it is a extremely mature team in that there are 20 seniors on the team. Many of those seniors were both redshirted and greyshirted, so it’s a very, very mature team that we’re playing and there’s certainly an advantage to that. As we sized up the team, we know that we have our hands full, but that’s the way should be. When games come down to the end you should be playing and (if you’re) trying to go someplace, you should have to beat the best in order to move on.
Q: They’ve had injuries the last two weeks, but you’ve only been able to see the quarterback shuffle that they do on a limited basis. But what you’ve seen and what it could expand to, what kind of challenge is that?
A: It certainly compounds the issue very much. A lot of times it doesn’t because quarterbacks are of a fairly similar nature. These two quarterbacks overlap in what they do. It’s not that either one is boxed into a particular style, but they also have each one’s got some particular unique abilities. Sean (Glennon) primarily is a pocket passer, very accurate, particularly on the more intricate combination patterns. Tyrod (Taylor) is spectacular in his ability to maneuver and escape and create big plays that way. It does compound the issue for us very significantly more so than is often the case.
Q: Clint Sintim said something that when Tyrod is in the game you’ve got to pay more attention to the running lanes. Is that a complication that can lead to confusion at some point?
A: Probably what he meant is that you have to pay more attention to the running lanes as they become created for Tyrod, not just for the other runners. It certainly has an impact on your pass rush and some of the things you would do with that, very definitely. Yards are yards, no matter how they get gained. If a guy throws it for 25 or runs for 25, the ball moves in the same direction. When the quarterback has the ball in his hands and he can create that yardage in both ways, then you have to account for that in how you plan for him.
Q: Have you noticed an extra bounce in the team’s step after the bye week leading up to this game?
A: No, I wouldn’t say (that). This has been pretty much the same team every week in terms of the energy with which we have approached games. I think that is one of the things that’s important in this gamethat we continue to be the same team in the preparations that we put forth. If we had to do anymore to get ready for this particular game than the previous games, then we probably weren’t doing enough in the previous games. Clearly in any of those games, had we done any less to be ready for the games as tight as they were, it probably wouldn’t have been enough. I think we learned our lesson a long time ago in terms of the diligence and the thoroughness of preparation that’s necessary.
Q: How difficult is it to keep your team on an even keel this week considering it’s a rivalry game with so much on the line and so much outside pressure?
A: If you try to combine all those things, I think the whole thing becomes too complex. With the rivalry, it’s a long time respected rival with whom these two teams have had a lot of great games over the course of the years. It’s a conference rival, it’s the final game in the season that will determine how close we can come to our yearly goal of winning the division. That’s the goal every year because if you win the division, you go on. ll those things combined, if you try to package them all together, it just becomes too much. The necessity for our team is just to focus on what it is going to take to win this particular game and leave all that outside stuff to people who don’t have to play in the game.
Q: Do you think Virginia/Virginia Tech, particularly if you do continue to play for championships and such things, could become/is a rivalry at the level of say, Michigan/Ohio State?
A: Now it’s similar in this respect that there are certain rivalries around the country that are generally season-ending games amongst conference teams in the same conference, whether it’s Texas/Texas A&M, USC/UCLA, Auburn/Alabama, I’m sure there are some that I am missing that are important, but those kind of games are about the rivalry, but they are also just simply about where you finish in your conference. If both schools have a chance to be pretty good teams, then it obviously magnifies the whole issue. But it is a number of things all rolled into one, but it also is a number of things that are just separate issues. As I said before, we have a long, respected, intense rival coming in here. By the same token, we simply have probably the best team that we’ve faced this year in the Atlantic Coast Conference. If we are going to do anything as a conference team, then whether they had masks over their heads or they have their helmets on, in that respect it wouldn’t make any difference. It’s just that kind of game. Then on top of the fact that it is also such a rival, it wouldn’t make any difference what the conference situation was. As I said, earlier there are so many issues involved that internally it could get too complex. We have to focus on: these are the plays that we’ve got to stop and these are the defenses we’ve got to block.
Q: Talk about the well roundedness of the Virginia Tech team. Is this one of the most well rounded Virginia Tech teams that you’ve seen?
A: It certainly is and that is why I said earlier, I think it is one of the best teams to come into Scott Stadium in quite some time. I just look at the defense, of which there’s been some very, very good defenses, but we have to admire the way these two linebackers play. This defensive front four is very rugged and with all the really, really good corners that have come out of there, it looks like (Macho) Harris and (Brandon) Flowers might be better than anybody. There is a reason why nobody is scoring any points and usually that can be traced down to good players. They’ve got a good scheme and they are always well prepared and that is why nobody is scoring any points on them.
Q: Lost in the shuffle a little bit is this being senior day, the last home game for the seniors. Do those guys have to mean something special to you given what they went through last year?
A: Sure. This whole team has been a remarkable team in its commitment and its unity and its willing to go however far is necessary to accomplish what they want to accomplish.