Swinney: Just a really good win for our team. Proud of our guys, great way to finish up our road season this year. These guys have just continued to improve. The film was very good. There's always mistakes, there's always things to correct. I love the attitude of this team. I really like the effort that they're playing with. Defensively, just playing physical, playing intense, we're tackling better. We're getting pressure. Did a great job on third-down. Probably, the biggest thing I was proud of, it was a night when we had several turnovers on offense, we didn't give up any points off the turnovers. Just really pleased with the progression of our [defense]. Had a couple of big plays early in the game that hurt us, but we ended up settling in and recovering from that. Just, overall, really, really positive night, once again, for our defense. Held them to only three points in the second half.
Offensively, the big thing was the explosive plays, playing with a lot of confidence. Very, very good third-down. Last year, we were very poor, especially in short yardage. That's been a strength of ours this year. The offensive line, I think, was outstanding. Running the ball effectively. We got to play a lot of guy on both sides. We took 72 and I think 68 got to play, so just really proud of that. The second group, offensively, went in and continued to do a good job. They took the team down to a score. Just overall a very solid day. Special teams were solid.
Players of the game, offensively, it was the offensive line. They were just tremendous. Defensively, it was Spencer Shuey, another very productive game. Our special teams player of the game was Darrell Smith.
Can you talk about the offensive line?
Swinney: You rush the ball for over 300 and pass for over 300, the big thing is we protected very well. We really did a good job of protecting our quarterback. I thought Brandon Thomas probably played as good as he's played in a while. He's just been average the last couple of ball games. I though he really played good football. Dalton [Freeman] was very solid. Giff [Timothy] had one of his better games. [Tyler] Shatley has just been a rock all season.
We took 13 offensive linemen with us and we played all 13. I'll tell you, those snaps are critical in their development. You've got guys going in there, guys like Isaiah Battle. We were really pleased with what we saw from Isaiah Battle, seeing him get in. Kalon Davis some good things, Shaq Anthony, Joe Gore, [Eric] Mac Lain, he played a little tight end and OL. Ryan Norton played a bunch of snaps. All those guys, when you can get them some quality time, it really helps you, from a moral standpoint, and just developing those guys. Our offensive line, not enough has been said about them and the job they've done this year. That was definitely one of their better performances, overall, running and protecting our quarterback Saturday night.
What's the status of Brandon Ford and Andre Ellington after last night?
Swinney: I think they're going to be fine. Brandon just got a bruise in his side right there. They x-rayed and he looked pretty good. He moved around pretty good. He actually looked pretty good last night after the game. Same thing with Andre. He just kind of felt a tweak and didn't think that he could cut it loose. He didn't tear it or anything like that. He actually had good range of motion today. They feel like that both of those guys should be fine. We'll see how they are in the next couple of days in practice. The doctors feel like they're going to be OK.
What did it mean to see Rod and D.J. play like they did?
Swinney: Just a lot of confidence in those guys. They both have made plays in critical situations. You go back all the way to last year, D.J. was a freshman, we all rmember that Auburn game. he was the leading rusher in the game. Hot Rod has earned the trust and confidence of us his teammates and this staff all year. He's finally just kind of put it together. He is a very dependable player. When Andre went down after the first play, I kind of walked over there and said, ‘Hey, let's go. Y'all have got to handle it.' They were like, ‘We've got it, coach. We've got it.' There's a lot of confidence in those guys. They believe in themselves. That's why we recruited them. It's fun to see those guys have success. There's a standard and it doesn't change, because somebody else goes into the game…I thought both those guys did a great job. And Zac Brooks coming in, he showed what he's capable of doing. We're really, really excited about Zac Brooks. I know he hasn't had as much opportunity. He's improved all year. We get him in the weight room another year, I think he's got a chance to be a pretty powerful runner for us.
Have you seen a team in the past go through quarterbacks like Maryland has this season?
Swinney: No I have not. I've seen a rash of injuries at other positions, but I've never quite seen anything like this at quarterback, and in particular, I think three of them have had the same injury. I don't know how you explain it, other than it's a fluky thing. It's a difficult thing. You've got to move on and that's what you've got to do. They're trying to give themselves a chance to win. You've got to applaud them for that. They've got a guy that's playing linebacker that's now playing quarterback. They're trying to do everything they can to give themselves chances to make plays.
DURHAM, N.C. - Defensive coordinator Brent Venables recaps the 56-20 win over Duke…