On the progress and the direction of the team:
Really proud of our football team. Sitting at 2-4 going to the open week and the way things kinda are in our society the negativity builds up…and this staff stood together, these players stood together and they continued to invest in what we were doing. And really the second half of the season has been a little bit more what we wanted to be. Offensively, obviously getting some guys back healthy was critical. Getting some young guys to continue to emerge and play really good football, which they have…The support we have here is outstanding…I’m excited about where we are, but I’m really excited about where we’re headed.
On what making it to a bowl game means for the program:
Obviously the bowl game is gonna be huge for us to continue to develop a young team. Football is a developmental sport and you’ve gotta play the game…that’s what you’ve got to do in football and that’s what we’re gonna be able to do preparing for the bowl game.
Darius Rucker is gonna have a concert on campus, we’re excited about that. President Pastides is gonna be the MC, so he’s cranking that thing up.
We were sitting there struggling on the year and Qua Lewis and I were just talking…and he goes “Coach, I’ve never been to a bowl game, I just want to go to a bowl game.” When you’re able to fulfill something like that for a guy like that who has given everything to South Carolina and loves this place, loves being a Gamecock, that’s really important. And to see the look on his face and a lot of those guys’ faces, especially the seniors…it’s something of pride and it’s an expectation here.
On if the Gamecocks are where he planned to have them or ahead of schedule:
I don’t really look at putting a plan out there. I think you’ve got to deal with your circumstances as they arise. At the end of the day I feel like we’ve improved throughout the year…we needed to get to a bowl game. That was really important for us to do that considering where we were after our first four games of the year.
On the defense:
Defensively we’re still a work in progress. It’s just frustrating, we’ve got to be mentally dialed in all the time and be mentally right with what we’re doing…We’ve got to get better at team speed.
We gotta get faster as a defense. We gotta get faster as a team, but it shows up a lot on defense in space. We gotta get guys that can close and make plays in space better.
On facing Deshaun Watson, especially as a team that has trouble with dual-threat quarterbacks:
He’s not a good player, he’s a great player…He’s a guy that we’ve got a lot of respect for, we’e gonna need to play extremely well in the ballgame defensively. We need to tackle better. Tonight we had guys in position to tackle, but you can’t butt guys down, you’ve got to wrap and run your feet…We gotta make plays in space.
On how to prepare Jake Bentley for another road game and keep him from getting rattled:
We gotta play well around him. I know he’ll prepare the right way to play well against a very good football team. But we’ve gotta protect him, we’ve gotta block well up front, we’ve gotta get something going in the run game…You can’t be one-dimensional.
On how important the Carolina-Clemson rivalry is:
Well we’re looking forward to being a part of it. I know it’s important to our guys, our guys were talking about it in the locker room and we’ll prepare the right way for this game and we look forward to it.