Jeff Hafley: I’m proud of our guys, in a game where nobody gave us a chance to even be on the same field as them, our guys came out with confidence, they came out believing in each other, they came out believing in their coaching staff. Our coaches did an unbelievable game with the game plan. We took it to the #1 team in the country. I give credit to Coach Swinney, their staff, and their players. We knew they weren’t going to roll down in the second half and they didn’t. They have some explosive players on both sides of the ball and they did a nice job in the second half. I know it hurts, and there’s no excuses, because they beat us. They played a really good game. I give credit to them. But I’m proud of this team. Anyone who watched this team play, anyone who watched the confidence of this team can see how much these kids love each other. Anyone watching should see what is coming. I said it all along, it’s going to take time and it’s going to be hard. But we’re coming and they’re coming. We’ll get the best out of them, and we’ll stick together.
Q: A lot of the focus was on Clemson, and when Trevor (Lawrence) revealed that he had COVID-19, even more focus was on Clemson. One of your points was the fact that it’s about BC and not Clemson. How do you re-emphasize that message throughout the week?
JH: This was about us, it has been the whole time. It didn’t matter that Trevor Lawrence didn’t play. They have great players. They have a great O line, they have the best running back, in my opinion in the country. They have all receivers who are going to get drafted and they have a great defense. We never even talked about Lawrence not playing. It was about us getting better by playing good offense, defense, and special teams. Did these players really believe that they could win this game? Seriously, did these kids really deep down believe they could win this game? In my opinion, and coming from a team that was ranked #1 in the country for a lot of the year last year, a lot of times the game is won before it’s even played. This team beats people before the game is played because players don’t believe. What these kids showed today is that they believe in each other and they believe in the staff. This one hurts, and it’s hard, but it’s really impressive about these players.
Q: On the drive where you had the 4th and 9, you could have had something underneath there, why did you end up with the home run ball?
JH: Because it was there, and we thought we could take a shot. We thought we could make a play with what they were in. I thought Coach Cignetti called a really good game. If you look in that first half, against one of the best defenses in the country, against one of the best defensive coordinators in the country, they couldn’t stop our offense. That’s impressive from the staff, impressive from the players. It was incredible to put up 28 points in the first half against Clemson, are you kidding me?
Q: In the fourth quarter, [Phil] Jurkovec took a big hit, and [Dennis] Grosel came in and made a big play for you guys. Can you talk about what that meant for your team to have a guy come off the bench, cold, to make a big play?
JH: I think it defines what we’re all about. The guy started last year, gets beat out, watches Phil get all the accolades. All he does is do his job, and that’s what this team is all about. He knows the plays, he knows what he’s doing. That was probably my favorite moment of the game. It sums up what we are trying to do here. I just felt like we’re doing this right. No matter what happens, that’s what you have to coach.
Q: Can you describe the sequence there with the fake field goal and then the CJ [Lewis] touchdown?
JH: It wasn’t really a fake field goal, we had a plan to try and get them to jump and it worked. We knew after that if we didn’t get it we’d end up going for it. We wanted to do something that threw them off, and it worked. It was in the game plan from the start, we wanted to call it, and it was the perfect opportunity to call it.
Q: Coach you’re up 28-10 with all the momentum in the world, but they find a way to kick that field goal before halftime, do you feel like that took the wind out your sails just a little bit?
JH: No, I think if they scored a touchdown it would have. I’m proud of the defense for stopping them there. Anytime you can stop that offense with that fire power and make them kick a field goal causes momentum, and we had that going into the half. Our kids were fired up in the locker room. We knew what this team was all about. We knew it was nowhere near over. If you look at them, they’ve scored almost 80 points in some games, 60 in others, so I felt really good going into halftime. We had the ball with a chance to beat Clemson, at Clemson in the fourth quarter. They made some nice plays at the end of the game.
Q: Jeff, you talked about the importance of controlling the clock this week, you struck first really quickly with the seven and a half minute drive late in the second quarter, and then towards the end of the game, you took the ball and ran the clock down. Was that the strategy coming into the game, especially at the end of halves?
JH: Yeah, I kind of mentioned it earlier. For me, it’s all about possessions. I constantly look at the clock, I constantly figure out that they’re averaging seven or eight possessions per half. With that much fire power, you just can’t give them those opportunities. It’s hard to get off the field against them. So we knew that we wanted to use the clock as best we could, but at the same time we wanted to be aggressive on offense. I think our staff did a nice job there.
Q: Obviously there’s a lot of pressure playing the top team in the country to get creative on offense and defense. What did you see from Coach Cignetti and Coach Lukabu that hasn’t been shown the last couple weeks?
JH: We didn’t come into this game drawing up trick plays or trying new things. On defense, we ran what we ran. On defense our game plan was going to be to take away #9. We’ve seen that guy take over games, so we were going to do everything we could to stop the back. I had it written out on my call sheet, “Stop #9.” We line up, we play, but we didn’t invent anything. Offensively, same thing. We keep getting better, we ran the ball well, we threw the ball well. I’m not going to get into drawing up something in the sand because of who we’re playing. Our goal is to get better, and to go out and compete, and play for each other, and we did that.
Q: I wondered about your general thoughts on DJ, at any point did you think you could rattle him?
JH: I did, we pressured him a bunch but they did a good job protecting. They did a great job on third down. We tried to rattle him, we tried to get after him on third down. But again, it was ‘stop #9, stop #9, stop #9.’ If DJ beats us today, then hats off to him. If you told me it was going to be a game in the fourth (quarter), I’d sign up for it. Just looking at him, he’s a big kid. I saw him in high school when I was recruiting a teammate of his. I probably saw him throw about four times. He’s got a big time arm. He’s a good kid and he’s got a bright future. I would have loved to rattle him a bit more but they did a good job protecting and executing. Hats off to him, he’s going to be a really good football player.
Q: You had them down 14 in the first half, and that is completely foreign territory for them. At that point do you think you need to make a push to get them off the field or do you think that this is different for them and you need to take advantage?
JH: It’s 14-0 on the scoreboard, we know what that deal is all about. They can score so fast. It never got away from us, I should give the defense credit. Even at the end there, it never got away from us. We held them on 3rd and 1 and nobody stops them on 3rd and 1. They were 100% on 3rd and 1 this year. Our players fought at the end and I hope people give our players credit. It’s 3rd and 1 at the end of the game, with in my opinion, the best back in the country and that O line, our guys never quit. We got off the field on 3rd and 1 and forced them to punt with a minute left to go win the game. That says so much about these kids.
Q: I know you said you didn’t mention Trevor [Lawrence] much, but was it in any way a reminder that you have to go play a big game in the middle of the season with the COVID-19 situation and the protocols? How do you handle that with your team?
JH: Yeah, it is a reminder. We have over 6,000 tests, with no positives. Our guys are doing an incredible job, our leadership at the school is doing an incredible job. It’s a daily reminder, it’s not just seeing that Trevor has it. It’s a reminder to our staff and our players that care about each other and keep each other safe. Don’t take anything away from this team or our team. I think Trevor Lawrence is going to be an incredible NFL player, but Trevor’s probably not going to be there next year. That’s the team they’re going to have and look at what our players were able to do. I have a ton of respect for Trevor and I hope he’s getting better and I hope he’s back next week. You guys know how I feel about him, but don’t take away from this football team.
Q: Coach, we’ve talked a lot this year about Grant Carlson and the difference maker that he’s been. He had the two punts inside the five negated, and you had the Jaelen Gill touchdown negated today. This season, penalties have been critical. Can you speak on Grant, and what he’s been able to do, as well as the penalty issues this year?
JH: I’ll speak about the penalties today. Our kids played hard, man. The one on Max where he pushed, pulled, and snagged the kid, they called hit. It’s tough when he’s playing on the edge one on one, and hits the quarterback, there’s a fine line there. We’re going to everything we can to get it out of these kids. I’ll coach it better, and we’ll fix that, but I thought we were way cleaner today than we’ve been. Grant’s been huge, Grant’s been just as important as any other player on offense or defense. He’s a weapon, he went back knocking it, and “Boom” [Aaron Boumerhi] did a great job again today. I love Grant, he’s doing an awesome job.
(Transcript provided by BC Athletics)