Head Coach Steve Addazio
STEVE ADDAZIO: Great statement win today for the program. We played a heck of a football team in Virginia Tech. Really, really good program, coaching staff. Justin Fuente is a heck of a coach, and Bud Foster, I saw him at the end of the game. He may be the very best defensive coordinator in college football year in and year out.
It’s a good football team we had the opportunity to beat here at home. It was a battle, as you all saw. Really proud of our defense, man. Five turnovers. We held them to under 100 yards rushing, played a bunch of new faces out there. Played with great energy. Played with great passion, made some key plays. Tanner Karafa had one of the biggest, most key plays in the game, and came up with that interception.
I think we just were resilient and really kept after it. Really, really proud of the effort and the intensity of our defense. Offensively, we came out as strong as you could come out in the first half, ran 47-some-odd plays. I thought our throw game was -- I mean, against that defense, it’s very, very difficult to run the football -- but we really worked on our throw game, and I thought that Anthony showed tremendous leadership today and threw the ball really well. So we went after them in the air and gave a chance for those tough yards to start the -- you know, little by little, open up for AJ and for David. I thought we ran really hard with nine-man boxes in there.
So I thought both sides of the ball and special teams did a phenomenal job. We played like a team. We played like a team that had great energy and great passion and played for each other, which at Boston College is what we’re most proud of. You see a team on the field, and you talk about being a BC man, which is great faith, great toughness, great character, and great passion, and I think you saw that on the field. I’m very proud of our guys.
You see a lot of football games out there already, and I think you saw a football game with two teams really -- but speaking of our team -- that you could be proud of. They played the game and respected the game the way you’re supposed to play and respect the football game, and that means a lot to you. It means a lot to me.
I thought the coordinators today did a phenomenal job. I thought Mike Bajakian was fantastic, just did a great job calling the game and navigating through the pressure packages we’re seeing. Bill Sheridan was unflappable in his call of that game. I thought Ricky did a great job, Ricky Brown in special teams. So I thought our staff as a whole did a great job. But for those two new coordinators came in here, what a great transition that has been.
I’m proud of the program. This is only a beginning. It’s not an end. I don’t want to overtalk it. I think it was a great win for us to get. Now the key is we have to get better, we have to develop, and that’s what’s critical here over the next one, two, three weeks, how much better can we grow as a football team? And that’s where this is at.
I think the operative word after this win for our team is humility and realize that, okay, we won a college football game. It was a great win. We’re excited about having that win, but it’s one win, and we’ve got to get ready next week to improve and become a stronger, better football team.
Q. Just talk about the offense having enough to counter that defense. Just talk about different dynamics.
STEVE ADDAZIO: Yeah, you’re speaking about balance and being able to stretch the field vertically. We’ve worked a long time with the development here of the quarterback and the skill tight end/receiver positions and AJ catching out of the backfield as well in critical moments. It’s a big part of the game for us. People are going to come in and say we’ve got two big backs. We’ve got to stop those backs.
But what we have to establish is we’re going to go down the field with some guys that can flat run and go up in the air and make plays. I thought it was very evident today. So that’s been real important for our offense.
Q. Complementary football is always something a head coach talks about. You guys had 356 yards of offense in the first half, none in the third quarter, but still managed to come back in the fourth quarter and put on that touchdown. What was going through your mind, your coaching staff, when they held the ball for, I think, 11 minutes, 12 minutes, in that third quarter?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Well, just honestly, I was flipping back and forth on the headsets with the defense. I’m flipping back and trying to make sure we have a good plan. Steadying the boat really. In my mind, steadying the boat here. And make them earn it, and you’ll have a good plan. We’ll get the ball back, to be able to work the clock.
We put a lot of time into our time management this year, situational football, be it two minute, be it four minute. We’ve got an awful lot of time this whole camp. It was a major point of emphasis. Our kids were extremely comfortable in those scenarios.
So honestly, I just felt like I really wasn’t really wigged out at that point. I just felt like we’d be okay. Just hang in with this. We’re going to be all right. I thought the leadership on the team was excellent. The look in our guys’ eyes was excellent. The energy was excellent. We would just overcome it. It really felt that way.
Q. What about the pick before halftime? How big was that in terms of context?
STEVE ADDAZIO: It was huge. It was a big momentum turn. When we went in at halftime, I told the guys, when we come back out here, expect more momentum turns, positively and negatively. That’s going to be the nature of this kind of football game.
This is two good football teams that are slugging it out here, and we’ve got to be able to just keep weathering the storm and have great belief in each other. That’s a great point for our staff, that we can’t get flustered when they hold the ball in the third quarter. We’ve got to just hang in there and keep encouraging, and we’ll come out the other end of it.
Q. Anthony obviously threw the ball well and moved his feet great. What were some other examples of the way you liked the way he led the football team?
STEVE ADDAZIO: In the huddle, on the sidelines, he’s driving the football team, and that’s what we’ve been just dying to see that come out of him. Just really making corrections, driving the team, total command, unfazed, not riding the roller coaster of the ups and downs of the games.
At halftime, he was strong, real strong, and I loved it. It’s what a veteran quarterback should bring to the table, and he brought it. If you said to me like -- you know, I said I’m most proud of our team for the way they handled themselves. I’m proud of the young defense that rallied and made a bunch of plays, and I’m proud of our quarterback, the way we led. I’m proud of that because that’s that intangible that you have to have.
Q. Coach, talk a little bit about the performance of your offensive line today. Obviously, you have several new starters along that offensive line. Talk about what you thought about their performance today.
STEVE ADDAZIO: Yeah, I’m very -- as I said before, I’m very confident in our offensive line. We have a very good offensive line. We’ve got really good depth. I thought they weathered today a barrage. I mean, whether you can see it from up there or not, those were blitzes coming on every down. There’s guys coming everywhere. They were packing the box everywhere. That’s a defense they felt very strong about their defense, a bunch of guys they had coming back. And I thought we did a really good job.
That’s rough sledding in there. I thought they protected outstanding. I thought we had great time in the pocket. So I’m very, very pleased with what I saw from the sideline of the play up front. Obviously, I want to look at the tape, but I can tell you, I was watching, and we’re trying to make sure -- I mean, they’re coming from everywhere now. There’s field pressures, boundary pressures, internal pressures, zero hole coverages where it’s essentially man with no centerfield player. There’s a lot of that going on. If you can run the ball like that against that and complementary throw it like that -- that’s why some of those throws were wide open.
Q. You always start your trilogy with win the opener, but is this probably the most important opener you’ve ever had? You said statement game. I kind of agree with you there.
STEVE ADDAZIO: I think where I’m coming from with this is winning the opener is extremely important. It validates your off-season work, and it gives you positive momentum. But winning your opener against a highly quality football team, I think you get better from that.
You know, you win an opener against a team that maybe you’re stronger than, I don’t know that sometimes that really helps you because two weeks in, three weeks in, you can get shocked at the speed of the game. Starters play a half. They come out, they’re feeling good about themselves, and then you get stung. We got stung today. I mean, that was like it was real football out there. We’re playing hard hat football at a high, high speed.
So to me, it’s a statement game because, A, we’re 1-0. B, we got a conference win. And, C, we got battle tested out here against a really quality football team and a really, really quality defensive football team. So that’s what I’m excited about, you know.
Q. Steve, you obviously talked a lot about how A.J. was going to be essential to the defense. But when they cut it to seven, how important was a kid like David Bailey, what he did?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Yeah, David is a really good player. We have a stable of backs. I mean, Travis wasn’t engaged really, I don’t think, in the backfield today. I can’t remember if he got a couple of snaps. He got cramped up a little bit. But Travis, Benny Glines, and we’re just kind of loaded back there. So David came in, and he’s a load, man. He’s a very physical, punishing runner with great hands.
So you’re going to see more -- those guys, when they run -- I told this to somebody else -- it’s exhausting because they’re running and driving piles. Sometimes you see AJ, and he’s gassed, and then David goes in, and he gets gassed. But when you have that constant flow of that, you know, I think the one thing in that game, that third quarter where we had a series of three and outs, I felt like, if we could get a couple of first downs right there, those big backs would have really started wearing on that defense right there.
And that’s something I want to go back and take a look at where our issues came into play because you’ve got to be able to -- the style that we play, the offense that we play, that big back offense and tempo, when you get a couple of first downs, you’re wearing that defense down.
Q. A lot of the talk in the offseason was how inexperienced the defense was. How rewarding is it as a coach to see them play the way they did?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Very. They rose to the occasion. The staff, the players rose to the occasion today and played relentlessly, and a lot of them played. These are guys, a couple of guys have played a lot of football, but a majority have not. The take aways are something that they’ve worked very, very hard on, and they created them today.
I think they needed -- this is a confidence builder for the defense without a doubt. I mean, a lot of people had a lot of questions about where that would be with the youth. They’re athletic. They’re talented, and today they got a little confidence. They got a little better. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got to keep maturing. We’ve got to keep growing.
I think the one thing that stuck out to me that we’ll pay a lot of attention tomorrow is we’ve got to get a little better pass rush and four-man rush. Quarterback had a little too much time, especially down at the end there. There’s too much stress on the coverage. So we can’t -- we blitzed a fair amount today, but we’ve got to be able to get home with that four-man rush, and we have the ability to do that. So we’ve got to go back and just make sure that we’re working hard to improve.
Q. There were a couple of series when you sat A.J. Was it like intentional just to rest, or is that something you were thinking about early on, just trying to manage how he feels?
STEVE ADDAZIO: Stay ahead of it. Trying to stay ahead of it. I want to stay fresh. We’re kind of bound and determined to do that and utilize David. Look, the strategy worked, and sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. But what worked was at the end you saw AJ was stronger at the end than he was in the beginning and that’s really what we’re trying to do is make sure that we don’t just grind him down in the beginning, to try to balance that a little bit.
It’s a fine mix right there. Brian White does an unbelievable job of watching it and rotating it at the right times. I thought he was masterful at the way, that last drive, touchdown drive, the way he managed that rotation. I watched that really closely. He did a great job. We got the best out of those guys on that drive.
Q. Can you share what you said, if anything, to Bud?
STEVE ADDAZIO: I just told him how much respect I have for him and that he’s had a fabulous career. I really wished him nothing but great success down the homestretch of the season. I’ve been involved with Bud Foster since my early days in 1995 at Syracuse. I’ve always just marveled at what he does. He is a really masterful defensive coordinator, the way that he game plans you, and he makes it really tough on offensive coaches. It’s very, very difficult to run the ball against that style of defense.
He’s had a remarkable career, and I respect that. So I just wanted to make sure I saw him and told him that personally.
Q. Anthony, obviously, it’s a lot of fun when the offense is moving, A.J. or David are running the ball, but as the quarterback, how much fun is it to hit those long balls?
ANTHONY BROWN: It’s our dream. We always love seeing the ball being caught in advance. So it was a good day today. Still some inconsistencies here and there, missing throws, got complacent a little bit. But overall, it was pretty good.
Q. So you got some new toys out there, man. Zay is real good. What is it like having that kind of weapon? And then you already had Kobay. You guys had like 18 passing plays of 30-plus yards last year, and you had three, maybe four today.
ANTHONY BROWN: It’s always nice adding new cars to the garage. It’s really a blessing. The kid is very, very talented. Zay and Kobay did a great job today, but overall, we have a ton of guys that can make plays. We’re ready to keep it going for the rest of the season.
Q. Talk about your role as a team leader.
ANTHONY BROWN: I would say it’s a natural progression right now being here. It’s time for me to step up, time for me to be a leader in all areas, aspects of the game, whatever. I’ll say we need a leader. We need somebody to step up, and it has to be me. We were missing that for the past two years, and right now I’m just ready to step into that role.
Q. Taking into account everything that happened today, moving forward with the offense, what is the goal for this season? What are you guys trying to focus on the rest of the way out?
ANTHONY BROWN: I would say not riding the roller coaster. Today we started off great, started off fast, got into the second half, we had, what was it, three straight three and outs? That all comes back to me. It all comes back to making plays and making the easy ones. I would just say becoming more consistent and pushing.
But we did show great resolve. I would say that. Came back, got a huge first down when we needed it, and we had a huge drive that our O-line and our running backs did wonderful on, and our tight ends and wide receivers were blocking lovely. So I would just say we just need to get better with that.
Q. Anthony, when quarterbacks are making big plays down the field, it’s usually an indication they feel real comfortable with their touch. Can you talk about the touch you felt in that first and second quarter tonight and how important that was? And talk about the offensive line.
ANTHONY BROWN: Well, the offensive line played wonderful today. I love them. I know they’re going to improve each and every week, but I would just say it’s just being comfortable with the guys. We’ve worked all summer. We worked all spring. So just having the confidence in my guys that they’re going to be open and they’re going to make the plays downfield is huge. It’s great for me because me having that trust with them is incredible and I don’t have to worry about it as much.
Q. Talk about the confidence in your running game now and especially on that 18-yard touchdown run.
ANTHONY BROWN: I don’t know. Kind of have that mental block out of my head now. My coaches did a great job working that out of me. I’m excited.
Q. Talk about the defense and their role in today’s game.
ANTHONY BROWN: He didn’t really make it an emphasis to us because we trust our defense, we trust our players. We believe in each other, and that was the talk before the game. Believe in yourself and believe in your teammates from the left and the right “D,” and our defense played a wonderful game today. They had, what, five turnovers? They forced five turnovers. Young, old, whatever you want to call it, they played great.
I can see them improving each and every week from here on out, and I’m excited to see them play.
Q. Walk us through the first pick. I mean, five of them in one game for a defense that was labeled inexperienced. What does that say about what you were able to do as a defense?
BRANDON SEBASTIAN: It gave us a lot of confidence, especially in the back end. We had a little bit of inexperience, but now we started off with Virginia Tech, and that’s a great game to start off with. Now we can be more prepared to play more ACC opponents. We have that experience now. We’ve just got to get better each day.
Q. Tell us about your pick.
BRANDON SEBASTIAN: About my pick? I was in zone coverage, and I saw him staring at the receiver. That just gave me an indicator that he’s about to release it. His front hand come off the ball, and I just had to attack it and finish the play.
Q. Brandon, Coach was mentioning that this was kind of like a statement game. Usually your first game opponents aren’t as strong. Just talk about what it means to beat a team like Virginia Tech in the opener.
BRANDON SEBASTIAN: It means a lot to us, especially the whole team. They’re a tough ACC opponent every year. We just had to go out there and play our best ball, especially on our defensive side. We hold everyone accountable to just do their job at a high level, and that’s what we did, despite having younger guys on the team, and that’s fine, and we did our job.
Q. What does it mean, Brandon, for this defense on the younger side to come in and beat a team like Virginia Tech and have a couple of big defensive holes and create turnovers? What does that do for a young defensive team?
BRANDON SEBASTIAN: It gives us a lot of confidence going into the next game. Weeks after that, it gives us a lot of confidence, especially from a young team. I know when I was a young player and I would make plays, it would give me a confidence boost. So I feel like we hold everyone accountable for doing their job. This is a great team win for us. Just holding everyone accountable doing their job and give them the confidence.
Q. What does it say about the way you played defense, specifically in the red zone? You guys stopped a lot near the goal line and things like that. A lot of big plays?
BRANDON SEBASTIAN: Huge plays. That’s what we talk about most. When we get in the red zone, we have to stop. When we get stops in the red zone, we’re high fiving each other. The more red zone stops, we take it as a win for the defense.
Q. Coming into the year, the defense was underrated. Did you guys use that as a chip on your shoulder? How did you guys prepare for Game 1?
BRANDON SEBASTIAN: Definitely. We used that as a chip on our shoulder. Coming in, we didn’t really pay attention to the media, but I’m sure they were talking about the defensive line and the DBs, especially with a bunch of guys leaving. We’ve showcased our talent today, and if we just keep doing our job at a high level, we’ll be fine throughout the season.
Q. What did you see on the play?
TATE HAYNES: It was a pretty wide opening. I thought I’d have a good shot at it. I think I really got pretty lucky, honestly. But it was a great play. Marcus was right there to recover it, so yeah. But it was wide open.
Q. How many times have you heard the words young and defense put together?
TATE HAYNES: A lot. That’s what I’ve been hearing a lot from the media. Yeah, I think there’s a culture in our defensive back room that’s been set, and it’s kind of the expectation level of how we should play. People have doubted that just because the older guys have gone, but now that we’re in the next phase, we’ve got a lot of young guys, a lot of talented guys in the defensive back room that I’m pretty excited about.
Q. When you go on a blitz, is that an indication that Steve has a lot of confidence in this so-called young defense that, look, you guys have got to go out and make plays no matter what your experience level is and I trust in you guys to go out there and make plays. How important is that to you?
TATE HAYNES: Really important. Whenever defense is called, all 11 guys are expected to do their job. Whether it’s me -- we have all kinds of personnels. So whoever’s in there is expected to --
Q. In other words, my point is that it’s going to be aggressive, and you like that?
TATE HAYNES: Yeah, absolutely.
Q. There were a lot of questions about the young defense. How were you able to gel as a unit, whether it be summer, on the field, off the field? How were you able to gel to create a result like you guys had today?
TATE HAYNES: It didn’t come from today. It’s come from the work we put in since January. Yeah, I’m sorry. Did I answer that?
Q. Can you confirm that you don’t have a third arm?
TANNER KARAFA: No, I don’t have a third arm, that’s right. That’s actually a play that I’ve been working on. I’ve made a few times in practice. So I was kind of hoping that that would happen, something like that would happen. I was actually on an edge rush on that play, which is kind of unusual for me. Yeah, I’ve made that play in practice before. So it’s part of our preparation, I guess.
Q. Talk about the mindset of getting turnovers.
TANNER KARAFA: Yeah, that’s absolutely an emphasis that we worked on each and every week. That’s part of our mantra. Get the ball. Get the ball back. Win the tournament. It’s on the board up there. We’re ecstatic. Five turnovers is excellent, and it obviously won us the game today, and it makes up for a lot when you can make five turnovers.
I think there was even some chances where we could have had even more turnovers. I think we’re going to keep emphasizing that and keep improving on that as well.
Q. Anthony played really well today. What can you say about the way he’s coming along and how he’s led the team this year and taking that role on?
TANNER KARAFA: Anthony has definitely taken the next step. You could tell that during the off-season too. I knew it was coming. He’s been a great leader for us. He obviously played great, and we needed that. He did an amazing job for us, and hopefully he’ll continue to do that. I know he will.
Q. Maybe just talk a little bit about the guys surrounding you on the defensive line today. I noticed a lot of them don’t have a ton of experience. So what did you see out of them today, and what do you expect from them moving forward?
TANNER KARAFA: I think Coach told them pretty much to just trust your preparation, cut it loose. We kind of knew that going in, that we’re young, and I think we had that expectation for these guys to play well. A lot of guys -- a lot of you guys weren’t sure about that, but I think we played well today. I think we’re going to continue to improve. There were some mistakes out there, but next week will be better. I trust these young guys to keep improving and make some big plays in the future.
Q. You’ve been involved in a lot of openers here in your career. Is this one the statement one, the signature one of your career?
TANNER KARAFA: There’s been a lot of big openers. This -- I’m from Virginia too, so that’s the thing for me. They offered me, but, yeah, Virginia Tech played a great game, and they’re tough competitors, but it’s a huge win for us, and it’s a statement win for us. We’re going to try to take that momentum going forward. Yeah, that’s definitely the best opener I feel like I’ve been a part of.
Q. Welcome to college football.
ZAY FLOWERS: Thank you.
Q. Got comfortable quick, obviously. What was it like to kind of come in?
ZAY FLOWERS: It felt unreal at first, but after that first run, A.B. (Anthony Brown) just told me to play my game after that, and that’s what I did.
Q. A.B. said it’s always nice to have a new car in the garage.
ZAY FLOWERS: For now, I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and working hard, listening to my coach, let A.B. teach me new things, and keep grinding.
Q. A.B. was just in here a little while ago, talking about how he’s taken the leadership role on himself. How do you guys feed off him, especially the guy in his first game? Do you follow his lead on everything?
ZAY FLOWERS: Yeah, I follow him. If I mess up on a play, he’ll come pick me up and tell me, just play your game, man. You’ll be alright. Just keep going hard. That’s what he told me after that sweep, and I caught a touchdown.