Q&A with J.J. Howard

"We play Virginia and we play Florida State at home, and those are the only two teams in the conference without a loss right now, so we still have a chance to win the conference," said Clemson defensive end J.J. Howard about the Tigers' chances for the rest of this year.

J.J. you had one of the biggest plays on defense last week with your hit and forced fumble on Maryland QB Scott McBrien. Walk me through that play if you don't mind.
Howard: Well, it kind of caught me by surprise you know. I was trying to get to the quarterback most of the game. I think I may have gotten to him one time earlier, but then Mo Fountain made him leave the pocket and I came back inside and he was standing right there. (laughing) I got a good shot on him and he coughed the ball up.

You guys seemed to be a little shell-shocked during the first quarter. Was the crowd a bit of factor for you guys then?
Howard: Oh it definitely was. In fact, I didn't know that 50,000 people could be that loud to be honest with you. We couldn't hear the calls. Those boys came out ready to play and I think we were kind of dumbfounded during the first quarter or something. At least for the first two drives of the game.

Looking ahead to this week, Virginia is a team that you guys have been favored to beat the last two years, but for whatever reason, it hasn't happened. Any comments on that?
Howard: Well, we just expect to go out there on Saturday and play those guys hard and get this season turned back around again. They are a good team, but we feel like we've had a better team the last couple of years but they've outschemed us. Our offense has played a lot better than their's the last two years and our defense has played well, we just haven't gotten the job done and closed those guys out.

Coming off a tough loss in College Park, what would you say the mood of this team is right now?
Howard: I hope the team has their mind back in the mindset that we know have to go out this week and practice hard and realize that we haven't arrived yet. I thought they knew that evidently they didn't.

Could that attitude have played a role in the loss?
Howard: It probably did. Some people want to blame the referees, and some people want to blame the coaches, but the reality is that it all comes down to the players and their execution. They shouldn't have scored 14 points on the first two drives and we should have scored more points on offense.

As a team, do you feel like you can still accomplish most of your goals set forth before the start of the season?
Howard: Most definitely. It's still in our hands. We play Virginia and we play Florida State at home, and those are the only two teams in the conference without a loss right now, so we still have a chance to win the conference.

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