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November 19, 2007How different or similar does this feel compared to two years ago?
"It actually kind of feels the same. Both teams are fighting for the same thing. We are in the same situation as we were before. It is the same setting, we are here at home. It was around Thanksgiving time, a lot to be thankful for. Obviously, it is our last home game for our seniors. It is the same situation. We are fighting for a bowl game and get the last win."
How tough is it physically from one week to the next?
"It is real tough on you, the wear and tear on your body. You try and match the physicality of the other team because it is a physical game. It is brutal to the body. You're trying to prepare for the next week, rehab and try to rejuvenate our bodies. When you play a physical game like that, it takes a lot from you."
Do you feel you've been in physical games the last couple weeks?
"Every game I go into is physical for me because that is how I like to play the game. I'm kind of used to it. Guys ask me all the time after the game are you sore? Are you hurting? You are sore and hurt because I know that I gave my all and played hard and physical. It is nothing new to me."
Coach said that he doesn't think this is a mature football team yet. What do you think he meant by that?
"You know a lot of guys haven't really bought in. Sometimes you see certain weeks where you see us together, and sometimes you see that we are not. The change, the atmosphere of a new coach and a new system, everybody is getting acclimated to the system. It takes maturity for that. For our season the way it is going, you kind of see the maturity level going up and down. It fluctuates. I think that is what he means by that."
How would you compare the 2005 season and 2007?
"I think it is a lot different. Last time when we were in the same situation, we won more than one game in the first half of the season. For us to come back this half, and win the games that we won, four straight, it shows a lot about our team character. It helped build the morale of the team. We are all playing together. We are like one now. There comes a time when you face adversity, we know how to handle that now. I think this team is a little more stronger. It is the same kind of guys as before, but we are a little bit better now."
What will it be like to bounce back from a loss?
"The main thing that it comes down to is focus. I think a lot of our guys, we lost a lot of focus the week before that when we played Carolina. In the pre-game meal, it was so silent, so focused that you could hear a pin drop. This pre-game meal, that we had before we played Wake Forest, you kind of heard a lot of social [talk] going on. A lot of guys weren't very focused and it showed in the first half of the game. I think the main thing is we have to get our focus back, and do what we have been doing these last previous weeks to get those wins that we got."
Do you think guys were content with beating Carolina?
"Well, you know that was an emotional game. A lot of things were at stake in the last one too. I think guys may have lost focus. It is inevitable that we did according to the results that we saw on the field last Saturday. That is something that we have to do to get back as a team and do what the coaches have been telling us to do. To focus on the little things that got us to where we are now."
Was it the first week where there was more talk about the last game instead of the next game from the students?
"I'm not really much on campus because of my major. My classes are across the street from where I live. I'm not on the main campus area. I don't really hear it from the other students and things like that. I can't really answer that question much for you."
What are you thankful for?
"No. 1, my life. I am thankful to be here breathing. I thank God every morning for that. To have my mom, the strong woman that she was, she kept me going. She was my motivation tool. Just to have my little brother here with me, that means a lot to me. That helps me go through the day. To be out there on the field at the same time, that is something that we have never had before. This is our first time playing together. My mom, to be here to live and see that, that kind of touches me, even getting to me now. You can kind of hear it in my voice. I'm very thankful for that. I think God for every day."
How do you reflect that when you go on the field every Saturday?
"Me and my brother before every kickoff, whether it is home or away, we go in the end zone and we take a knee. I say the prayer and I just thank God for the opportunity that he has given us and for us to go out to that game that day and to be focused, healthy, safe and injury free. I just thank him for the opportunity that he has presented to us to be able play again and together."
How much better will you be able to play Santa Clause with the mileage money from a bowl game?
"It will be good. Every time I have something special like that, the bowl gifts, I gave my dad my first bowl ring and I gave my mom my first bowl jersey. So, to get those things again, I'd be able to share a lot more of those and to give them to people in my life that are special."
Will a win Saturday be the difference to make this a successful season?
"To come back the way we did, to believe that it is a new season in the second half, and to win those games that we did, [we want] to win the last one. It will be very beneficial to the program and the seniors to go out with a win. I think that is very important that we do win, and that it is going to define our season. I know that next year, we will build on that."
Coach said that one of the biggest benefits of a bowl game is the extra practices. How much do the players look forward to the extra practices?
"I think we look forward to being in a new setting, going to play a game. We look at all the gifts and the opportunity that we have. There are a lot teams and players that aren't fortunate enough to go to a bowl game. They will be home watching. We are thankful for that. To go somewhere where probably nobody has been, and to play another game [is great]. We don't really look at the practices because they're going to be hard. The guys just want to be together again one more time and that is the main part of it."
Has coach tried to counteract the positive vibes that you are getting from everybody else?
"As a head coach, you have to keep your team with a level head. He doesn't really call us dogs. It is just a metaphor, a term he uses. He keeps us level around it, and not to listen to the hype and the outside people. When you are down, everybody wants to get on you. When you are winning, everybody wants to get on the bandwagon. He is just trying to keep us focused on the task at hand, and try to win the next game."
What is the best bowl gift you have gotten?
"A ring. It has to be a ring. It is a lot to show for, that is the ring for me."
Does your little brother DeAndre like to play as physical as you?
"Oh yeah, he'll go at you. He doesn't care how big you are. He is going to hit you and chop you. He is physical, but he isn't as strong as he would like to be or as strong as me. He has a game that everybody respects on our team. When he comes to hit you, he cuts you."
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