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Mark D'Onofrio talks Canes defensive woes, bump and run coverage, patience

CORAL GABLES -- UM defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio has plenty of reasons to be frustrated. After putting together a stellar defense at Temple that ranked among the best in the country, his first five games with the Hurricanes haven't had many highlights. Saturday's 38-35 loss to Virginia Tech was especially disheartening considering UM racked up 519 yards on offense against one of the country's top-ranked defense.

Tuesday, D'Onofrio met with reporters for about six minutes and tried to explain what is going on with UM's defense that now ranks 82nd in total defense (402 yards per game), 50th in scoring defense (23.6 points per game), 97th versus the run (196.2 yards per game) and 38th versus the pass (205.80 yards per game).

Q: You have had a lot of injuries obviously at defensive tackle what are you doing to try and patch things up in the middle of the defense?

A: "Doing whatever we can do. Losing Marcus [Forston] really hurt us. Fortunately we'd been playing [Adewale] Ojomo there the week before. So it wasn't a big transition going in and then Ojomo got hurt. So that wasn't good. But just like all the other games whatever happens, happened. We're going to be better for it.

"We had a chance to win the game. All we really needed to do was make one play. Make a play on third down. Make a play in the red zone. Make a play on fourth down. At one other point in the game and we win the game. That's what we're striving. It's always hard to see. I know who were playing. I know who were playing with. I know what they're capable of, who is getting better, who is not. We did a lot of things better the other day. It was certain amount of minutes in the game where we gave up free plays. We gave up some big strikes and we gave up touchdowns at the end of each half. You're talking about seven minutes in the game where we gave up 28 points. We just have to eliminate those key times when you make those critical errors."

Q: Are you not getting enough pressure on the opposing quarterback?

A: "Right now it's a unit. When we're giving up some plays and we're not coming up with stops its generally not somebody doing their job. We all got to do better. We got to keep coaching them up. We got to try and put them in the best defenses we can. And players have to respond and do their job. I wouldn't put it all on the defensive line, by any means."

Q: Coach Golden said Sunday the team will probably have to score 30 points a game for you guys to win. How do you take that as the defensive coordinator?

A: "The defenses we had at Temple, it was the other way around. We would win games 14-10 or would lose games 10-7 or 7-3. From our standpoint it was always we're going to outplay the other team's defense. The situation we're in right now, there's no excuses. All I can say is the guys have been resilient. They just practiced their rear ends off. They're doing everything we've asked them to do. We've played 28 guys on defense this year. We have 28 guys in the two deep that have all played in 5 games. 28 guys. We're going to be better for that. I'm not losing my patience. I want to win now. I want to win this week. I didn't like the way I felt after the game. We're moving our team forward. We're not just sitting here losing with 12 guys playing in the game, 13 guys playing in the game. What are you going to do when the next guy goes down? Guys are going down and we're having guys ready to play. We'll just keep going."

Q: It seems like your defense is pretty basic. You are rushing four and playing off at cornerback. Is scheme limited because of personnel?

A: "A lot of it is everything. We're not running everything we have in our package. What we did at Temple was over a 5-year period. My last three years there I had five senior starters and then six senior starters. So there's a buildup. Right now, we haven't been able to hit that buildup. We never really have had the same lineup. You plug three guys in. Even third down last week, we had four new guys on a third down package. Forston got hurt. Ojomo got hurt. Ray Ray [Armstrong] came back. We moved JoJo Nicolas to corner so you're talking about four new guys playing on third down. It is what it is. We'll be better for it. I have to be committed."

"Everybody says play bump and run. We play bump and run and we give up a 60-yard touchdown pass. The four plays preceding that where we were bump and we had enough guys in the box we stopped them for small gains. They hit us on a play they shouldn't have hit on us in post coverage. Again, it all depends on down and distance and it all depends on the point the game. "At the end of the game we had a four point lead, so bump and run, why would I want to do that and give up an easy touchdown? I needed somebody to make a play. At the end of the day we need to make a play. We let them off the hook a couple of times, let them out of the pocket. We had a chance to sack them on the backside and didn't do it. That's what we're looking for, for someone to make the play, not make it a one-on-one game."

Q: Are you expecting to see better play from Ray-Ray Armstrong at North Carolina?

A: "I hope so. That's the expectation on all those guys. He made some plays in the game he needs to correct. We keep coaching him up. He has a good attitude."

Q: Can you talk about North Carolina's offense?

A: "They're a good football team. They have that big, big physical offensive line. Big tight ends, multiple backs, a quarterback that is really efficient, two wide receivers that have caught a lot of balls. I don't know if you can really hone in one area. This is a really good football team and a big challenge for us. We're excited to go play them. I think they're a really good team and have excellent personnel on offense."

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