Daily Dawg Thread: September 04, 2022

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Daily Dawg Thread: September 04, 2022

Video/Transcript: Kirby Smart Postgame Presser – Georgia vs. Oregon

KIRBY SMART: I’d open by saying that Gary Stokan and the people in this event, the organization is first class.
They do an unbelievable job. I love playing in this game. I love playing in this venue. Our kids embrace it. I thought our fans embraced it.

They do a tremendous job, and it’s really a credit to the people with the Chick-Fil-a Kickoff game and what they do. I’ve never played here that it wasn’t a great atmosphere, and it certainly was today, for college football.





Q. I know you guys try to prepare for everything. Could you have imagined a better execution and just
performance by your offense in particular? But your defense didn’t give up a touchdown today, either.
KIRBY SMART: I was really proud of the way our kids played. We tried to talk about coming out and playing as if we were hunting, and we wanted to play connected football. That was all we talked about all week; we’re going to play connected, we’re going to play aggressive, we’re going to be a hunter.

Kids kind of bought into that theme, and they like playing here. Offensively we did execute at a high level, which when you have an experienced quarterback and you have experienced players, you can do that.
I thought Coach Monken and his offensive staff had a good plan. They played well. Defensively we were a little more bend-but-don’t-break. At the half we both had 14 1st downs and really had not stopped them like either team had wanted. Some opportunistic turnovers really helped the defense.

Q. Coach, you talked defensively. One of the players that stood out was freshman Malaki Starks. What did
you see from him in this game that you liked and want to improve, and what went through your mind when he got that interception?





KIRBY SMART: Well, he’s been probably our most productive defensive back all camp, which means he get
lots of hands on balls. Batted balls; he knocked down balls; he had picks. He’s a good football player.
We wanted to get him in the game early, and fortunately it was a play where he was one-on-one, and he made a really good play on the ball. He’s an incredible athlete, has good speed. He’s got a lot to learn and I thought he played with great composure today, and he could be a really talented player.

Q. You had 10 different players catch a pass today, and five different players score touchdowns. What
does that say about the depth of your skill positions?

KIRBY SMART: Well, I don’t know that we have great depth. I know that we can spread the ball around. We
don’t have the depth we need, especially at the skill positions. We’re talking running back, wide receiver.
We’ve got good depth at tight end, but we don’t have the kind of depth we need at those other positions.
That’s a product of Stetson being able to get to first, second, third read and then also scrambling and making
plays with his feet. I can only imagine how you feel calling a game against a guy that when you win, get somebody back there, they don’t tackle him. Then on top of the fact he knows where the ball should go. When you have an accurate passer with good protection, it’s really hard. It’s hard to defend.

Q. I know especially after one game you’re going to

KIRBY SMART: Expectations are definitely already in check. You don’t have to worry about that.
Q. Externally they’re going to be astronomical. Is there anything you can say after that one game in terms of how good this team could be or what the ceiling can be?

KIRBY SMART: Externally we don’t listen to. That’s the keyword you just said. Externally there’s expectations
every year. We embrace expectations. We hunt. We godo the best job we can, and if it falls short, it falls short.
I don’t look at it from the expectations standpoint. I look at it like what can we do better; how do we improve; how do we get more players playing winning football because everybody in this room knows we’re going to lose somebody. Somebody is going to be injured throughout the year, and how do we get them better. But the expectations I have is for our guys to play at their best and our coaches to prepare at their best, and I think that our guys really did that this game.

Q. I was wondering if you could comment on the D-line and their ability to get pressure today.

KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I don’t know. I didn’t think we had — we didn’t have any sacks, did we? It’s hard to sack Bo Nix. It’s hard. He’s smart. He knows where to go with the ball. They’re playing on 3rd down, wants to throw the ball before you got there. We had some pressures called, and it doesn’t matter if you throw the ball in 2.1 seconds, and they screened us a lot, so you’re not going to get many sacks in that. We’ve got good rushers. We’ve got guys that will be productive, but we knew going into the game he’s hard to
get on the ground.
He probably got out of three or four sacks, and our guy got out of three or four sacks. That’s the difference in college football right now is not having those negative-loss yardage plays and you just throw it away and you go win the next play.

Q. Christopher Smith had a horse collar tackle penalty. What kind of message does that give to the
rest of the defense about next play, forget about the last one?

KIRBY SMART: Yeah, he embodies that. He’s next-play mentality. That’s what we talk about is next play. We had a guy jump offsides; next play. We had a guy hold; next play. That’s the way you’ve got to play the game.
If you have too many next-play mistakes, you won’t win football games, but you have to play the next play as if nothing happened. I thought we had several guys make some mistakes today that overcame those.

Q. Before the game got out of hand, right there before the half, you guys had 21 pass attempts to just nine
runs. Is that just something that was available today or is that something we should look into for a bigger
narrative that’s probably not there?

KIRBY SMART: I don’t know, you take what the defense gives you, right? If they’re willing to give you a chance to make those plays and throw the ball around, we think Stetson does it well. We think we’ve got good skill players. It’s scoring points is the name of the game. We want people that want to come play in this offense, and I think when you watch what they did today, if you’re watching from home, you’re saying, man, I’d love to play in that offense. They throw the ball around, they toss it around, 30 for 37 for how many yards? I don’t know, but he threw the ball really well. Passes, he threw a lot of passes for a lot of yards. I think that’s a credit to the offensive staff or the planning they had.

Q. A lot has been made about the tight end talent you have, but what’s the value of having a third-year
coordinator with guys at the skill positions like McConkey, Adi Mitchell, McIntosh that have
experience in this offense?

KIRBY SMART: Yeah, it makes games like this much easier, right? It’s kind of like the reverse of last year. We
had guys on defense in those same spots and they were really comfortable and confident, and it was the reverse of that this year in terms of offense, having — you’ve got to realize we went against that for two scrimmages with our defense, and it’s frustrating because you’ve got a guy that you can’t get on the ground; he makes a play; you’ve got good skill players.

If people execute at a high level and do their job, then you become hard to stop and you become efficient, and I think we could be more explosive because some of our explosives came off broken tackles, but we want to be able to throw the ball down the field, and we want to be able to
spread the ball around.

Q. It seemed like y’all made a conscious effort to get both Kenny and Kendall the ball, throwing it to them
out of the backfield. What did you see from those two, like you mentioned throughout the fall, you’d like to
replace the production from James Cook as a receiver?

KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I think you want to get the ball to players that can make plays and make people miss, an when you start ranking the chart you say, okay, who do you have that are going to make people miss and extend plays. Kenny is one of those guys, but we’ve got several other guys at tight end that can make people miss, receivers that can make people miss. You become hard to defend the more people you have that
can touch the ball, but none of that happens without the quarterback and the offensive line to make that happen. They were very efficient today.

Q. Stetson, career high passing yards today. Obviously told he was the starter off-season. Is there
anything to that or did he just go out there and play within himself?

KIRBY SMART: I mean, yeah, there’s something to him being the starting quarterback the whole time, right? If we had rotated ones and twos and you guys had debated who the starter was, would he have played this well today? I don’t know. I don’t think Stetson really gets affected by anything I do, you do or anybody does. Stetson lives in his own world, and he does a really good job of blocking out all the noise. The guy had a flip phone, okay, in 2021. He doesn’t really get into all that. I think that’s what his kind of edge is, and
he made some plays that he didn’t make the right decisions on today, and he knows those. He knows his mistakes. He’s got to be smart. He does things that maybe we don’t ask him to do. But he did make some plays with his feet, and I think you take the good, and I’m not going to call it bad, but you take the good with his poor decisions.

Q. What was the question you wanted answered today, and did you get what you were looking for?
KIRBY SMART: Yeah, I wanted to come out and play aggressive, and I told our team, I don’t care about the
results of the game, I don’t care about anything; all I care about is did you come out and play aggressive, and we tried to make it really simple. I thought they came out and played aggressive. I thought we called the game aggressive. I thought Coach Monken, I thought Coach Schumann did a tremendous job with both their staffs. Our staff is the best it’s ever been. We’ve got a great staff right now, and it’s awesome because we’ve got a great — we’ve always had a good staff, but we’ve got a really great staff right now in terms of guys enjoying to work together and putting plans together, and I thought they did a great job of doing that.

Q. Talk to me a little bit, how was it to go up against an old friend in Dan Lanning?

KIRBY SMART: Well, it wasn’t about Dan Lanning, it really wasn’t. I saw him before the game. I’ve got a lot of
respect for him. We talked about talking after the game and telling each other tendencies or ideas we had to try to get better. We agreed not to share with other people because it only hurts both of us.
I’ve got a lot of respect for Dan. Some of those players out on that field Dan Lanning recruited, and Dan Lanning did a tremendous job for the University of Georgia while he worked for the University of Georgia. Now he’s working for Oregon. He’s going to do a really good job at Oregon. He’s relentless, and they’ll bounce back from this, and he knows that we’ve got better players. He’ll never say it, but he knows we’ve got better players, and I respect how he works.

Q. Are you suggesting that Stetson no longer has a flip phone?

KIRBY SMART: I don’t think he does. I think somebody said he didn’t. I haven’t checked.

Q. Georgia is one of the only teams that didn’t really go out and get a lot of transfers in the SEC. Was that a
strategy by you coming into this season for one reason or another?

KIRBY SMART: No, people always ask that question. I’m not anti — I think it’s awesome to get a transfer that can help your team somewhere, and we lost out on some guys that we wanted to get. Once we lost out on the players that we thought improved our team, we weren’t going to take a transfer so that I wouldn’t have to answer a question about not taking a transfer. So we didn’t want to just do it. We wanted to upgrade our roster. If you don’t feel like somebody upgrades your roster, then don’t do it. You’re always exchanging a transfer for a high school kid that you could bring in here and develop, and that’s a lot of college coaches’ fear right now. They don’t want to bring a high school kid in because they’re worried they’re going to leave, so you’d better do a good job of farming your own place and make sure they understand that it’s not easy here. It’s hard, but if you buy into hard, you’ll be like those 10 other football players in there that are playing in the National Football League right now that are shaking their hands. They love it. That’s what we’re trying to sell is come hang out with Travon, Jordan, Nakobe, George Pickens, all those guys, and you’ll be like them one day if you work. The kids that we attract are usually the ones that want to stick around.

Video/Transcript: Stetson Bennett and Kenny McIntosh Chick fil A Postgame Presser

Q. Stetson, obviously that was a record-setting effort, performance by you tonight. Did you feel like that was in you guys all along, and can you talk about — you didn’t give up a 3rd down conversion, didn’t miss one for the whole game.

STETSON BENNETT: You know, that’s what I’m most proud of is the 3rd downs. I mean, that’s what we were harping on, 3rd down and red zone, this whole off-season, and we executed.

I mean, yeah. When you’ve got guys like him and you’ve got an O-line and have four seconds to throw the ball, you would hope that you have a quarterback that can throw the ball to guys. Yeah, I think we did. We have confidence in ourselves and the preparation that we put into it to go out there and execute like that.

Q. Stetson, with Dan, obviously you’ve been practicing against him for the last three, four years. How much of a level of comfort was there kind of knowing who they were personnel-wise and what they were going to do schematically?

STETSON BENNETT: Yeah, you know, they did — we might play the same team four years in a row, so it’s kind of similar. I guess when you practice against it, it helps a little more. But they had some stuff that we hadn’t seen. Good coaches always do.

But we played on our rules and we executed.

I don’t know if it was because he was there or whatever, but regardless, every player on offense, we’ll have to go back and watch film and get better in areas, obviously, but for the most part we executed.

Q. Stetson, just from a start-to-finish standpoint, where does that game rank for you personally as far as games that you’ve quarterbacked? Is that maybe the best one?

STETSON BENNETT: Yeah, probably. Yeah, probably the best one I’ve played, yeah.

Q. Why is that?

STETSON BENNETT: I’d say probably the off-season, all the work, putting it in with these guys, year three in the offense. Again, having time and having the playmakers outside. So I think a combination of a lot of things.

Q. Stetson, can you speak to your comfort level with Coach Monken at this point, and talk to the game plan he had today and how he called it today.

STETSON BENNETT: Yeah, I thought he was aggressive. I thought we went quick. I think I probably need to get in a little better shape for sure, but yeah, I thought it was really well-executed. Again, I think we were prepared and we were ready to go out there and execute.

Q. Kenny, was this kind of efficiency something you guys were seeing all during camp, and how much fun was it out there for you and the rest of the offense today?

KENNY McINTOSH: It was real fun. Like you said, in the off-season we had a lot of training and getting to know each other, and we had a lot of time to get connected with the players, a lot of young guys, teaching them the way, the standard at Georgia.

Just going out there and being able to see the young kids go out there and get their opportunity to go out there and shine, it was a lot of fun. You always want to see like your little brothers go out there and be able to compete, so I think it was a lot of fun.

Q. Kenny, you had well over 100 yards after the catch; have you ever had a game like that, and how much fun is it to have more than 100 yards after the catch?

KENNY McINTOSH: It’s real fun because I love catching the ball. Not only running the ball, I love catching the ball out of the backfield. I don’t think I ever had a game like that. But as to your question, it was real fun out there just to be able to run with the ball in my hand like a receiver and stuff like that. So real fun.

Q. Stetson, could you walk me through what was going through your mind on your touchdown pass to Ladd right before halftime?

STETSON BENNETT: Yeah, I mean, it wasn’t smart. I need to not do that, 1st and goal from the 1. But I knew that we had motioned Ladd over there, and obviously we had never hit him, but I knew — I started scrambling and I was trying to find him because I knew he was over there somewhere, and then found him and threw it.

But it probably wasn’t smart. I needed to either ground it at him or run it or throw it to Brock or something front side. Especially 1st down and 1, don’t do that. But it did work out.

Q. Stetson, the number of times the ball was in the air today, how much of that is an indication of that’s what we’re going to see this year out of Georgia’s offense? How much of it was just this particular play the defense was giving you, and it just happened that way?

STETSON BENNETT: Yeah, I think football is such a flow game. I mean, what’s working — you know, whenever I make a play in practice and Coach Monk is holding it and I should have done something, he always says, but I have the remote now. I can see it. Hindsight is always 20/20. It goes back and forth.

It worked today, but who’s to say that we don’t run it 40 times next week, and that’s what the connection, the unselfishness for each and every position player on the team and O-line, like whatever is working, it’s about the team. It doesn’t matter if we throw it 30 whatever times we threw it today or we run it 40 times. Whatever is working, however we’re going to win that day is how we’re going to win.

Q. Kenny, you’ve been here a long time. You’ve made big plays but you’ve never been “the man” like you were today. How did that feel?

KENNY McINTOSH: I just thank God for giving me the opportunity to be in this position to be able to make those plays. Like you said, I’ve been waiting a long time, and I kind of seen how it was supposed to look — I thought I had great examples. I think this is RBU. This is RBU. All the great running backs in front of me, watching them be able to — like D’Andre Swift, to be able to watch him go out there and just compete at a high level each and every single week.

For my time to be here, I just wanted to look kind of the same because there’s a standard here at Georgia, and I just want to uphold the standard for the next guy.

Q. For both of you guys, Stetson, you said that you’ve never had a game like today. Kenny, you said the same thing. How much do you feel like this offense is not only taking a step forward today – it’s a small sample size – but just in general do you guys feel like you’re headed in a really positive direction?

STETSON BENNETT: Yeah, I mean, I think the first year that Monk was here was COVID, and that was weird for everybody, right. We couldn’t be there in the summer to kind of get — we were doing Zoom meetings and it’s hard to — you can’t walk through and do all that stuff.

So it’s year three now, but kind of it’s year two maybe, and we didn’t lose that many guys. We lost several key guys but not the core of the offense. And the guys, like Kenny said, who did leave, they left great examples.

Hey, I waited, right? I came, I performed whenever it was my turn, and now like hey, you sit behind me for a year and then next year it’s going to be your turn. That’s kind of the program that Coach Smart is building. It’s about the program. I think we understand that.

Whenever you know that your brother next to you is thinking the same way you do, then you trust him, and you worry about your job and you execute your job and they execute their job, and it just is a domino effect.

Q. Stetson, how important is it for the offense, especially early in the season, sometimes it takes the offense a little bit of time to get going, to come out and have a game like it had today?

STETSON BENNETT: You know, I think it’s more important to come out and play the next one. You know, we had a good one. But it’s over now. This game is over, and we’ve got next week’s opponent.

But I think our guys are really mature, and I think that we attack it like it is a business, like it is our job, because it is. When you do it that way and you go out and you know the little tiny things that you need to know to make a good offense a good offense, then you can be a good offense.

Q. Stetson, how did it feel to just start your season opener for the first time for the Bulldogs when you’re national champion and it took you this long to do it, and also, how are you so good at blocking out this noise besides the phone? Did it help knowing you were going to be the starting quarterback the whole entire season to have the confidence coming in this year?

STETSON BENNETT: Yeah, how did it feel starting? It felt good, didn’t it.


STETSON BENNETT: It’s always good to go in to be “the guy.” The reps, like I’ve said, throwing with the guys in the off-season, working on choice routes, me and Kenny, I think just the little things that show up when you don’t know when they’re going to show up, but that’s why you work them. So yeah, it was pretty cool.

But on to the next now, I guess.

Video/Transcript: Chris Smith, Dan Jackson Post-Game Interviews Chick fil A Postgame Presser

Q. Chris, how similar was that play to Clemson? It looked like you jumped a skinny post off an RPO. Was it almost an identical play to the pick-six against Clemson?

CHRIS SMITH: Yeah, it’s kind of the same, the way I jumped down, but it was a different kind of play formation and stuff like that. I just recognized the formation, and they was kind of running screens off it to begin with, and just studying the coordinator and things like that. I knew that it was a screen to go; it was possible to come off of it, and I just read the play, broke on the ball, and made a good play for sure.

Q. Chris, you got banged up there, breaking up that pass. Was it a shoulder? Just the wind knocked out of you? Two, Malaki Starks makes that first interception. How big do you think that is for him to make that kind of play in his first career college game?

CHRIS SMITH: Yeah, on the hit, I just got a little stinger on my shoulder. I’ll be all right. Ain’t nothing major.

Malaki Starks, like I’ve been talking about him all fall camp, he’s a great player. I seen him do that a bunch of times, so definitely one of the greatest interceptions I ever seen. He laid out for that one. I was just excited. I couldn’t believe he made the play.

But yeah, I think it’s big for him. I think y’all are going to continue to see great things out of him because he’s coming into the season.

Q. You guys obviously kept them out of the end zone tonight. Obviously that 4th-down stop at the end of the game, it seemed like this team, just like last year, had that same mindset of we’re going to try and keep guys out of the end zone. How do you keep that same mindset after losing so many key players from last season?

DAN JACKSON: Yeah, we were actually just talking about it outside. That was one of the biggest moments in the game for our defense. We had some younger guys in, but they stood up and did what we needed to do. No score right there was huge.

CHRIS SMITH: Yeah, one of our mottos is “no one in our end zone,” and we definitely pride ourselves on that, even up until all zeroes hit on the clock. Twos and threes were able to get in and get some good experience, but like you said, we wanted to hold the standard, and they did a great job of that: Bend but don’t break.

Q. Both being safeties, how rewarding was it for you to see Malaki come up with that interception? Another defensive freshman, Mykel Williams, just what have you seen from him and what did you see from him getting his first action, as well?

DAN JACKSON: Chris talked about Malaki earlier, but I’m going to piggy-back on what he said. He’s an incredible athlete, incredible player, and you’re going to continue to see plays from him. That’s a guy that comes in every day and is locked in and wants to help the team win, and it obviously showed today.

CHRIS SMITH: Same thing with Mykel. He’s just a great person off the field, and like I said, he come in every day ready to work. Extremely talented, just like a lot of guys we have, and yeah, those two guys are great players for us for sure.

Q. Chris, there was a lot of talk obviously before this game about all the players you guys lost, particularly on defense. What do you think this performance shows in terms of what’s on the table for you guys this year and how good this team can be or is?

CHRIS SMITH: Yeah, I think it just shows how hard we work and how good a job the coaches do with us. It was a lot of talk about us being complacent and we were real big on not being complacent. We want to do the hunting; we’re never going to be hunted here, and that’s something Coach Smart has pounded into our minds ever since the season started, and we’re going to continue to play that way this year.

Q. How would you assess Javon Bullard and David Daniel’s play in the secondary because both got a couple tackles? David Daniel made some plays towards the end of the game. Talk about their play. And then Chris, did you ever get acquainted with “Bubbly,” that song?

CHRIS SMITH: Oh, I definitely know what the song is, I just don’t listen to it too much; know what I’m saying? Like I say, Bull is one of the toughest players I’ve ever seen in my life. He has a great determination about him. He just goes out there and puts his best foot forward every day.

Same thing with Dave; he’s been learning a lot from Coach Muschamp, and it showed out there today. He made a lot of good plays.

Everything that everybody did out there, man, it’s nothing that we haven’t seen, so it wasn’t really surprising, but definitely a little bit more excitement from those guys. I was just excited to see everybody go out there and see all the work that they put in pay off today. It’s not over; we’re going to keep going.

Q. Chris, that pick was right after a personal foul penalty for you. I know you’re not about to share what Kirby Smart said to you after that, but what is it about your ability to shake it off and go next play?

CHRIS SMITH: Just being a DB, period, and just the way I am, I have that next-play mentality. I definitely got the penalty, but one of our four pillars is resiliency. When I got back to the sideline, a lot of guys said, you showed resiliency on that. I just have that next-play mentality. You can’t dwell on that; that’s how you make mistakes. I was going like this after the play, which means, just keep chopping, man, and that’s all I was willing to do.

Q. Getting back to that non-complacency and all that that Kirby preaches, how does he sell that to you, and how do you buy into it?

CHRIS SMITH: He says it just like that: We can’t have any complacency. In the social media age today, you see a lot of things people say about us and they say we lost so many guys, we don’t have anybody back there, and we hear those things, and we definitely want to go out there and show what we can do.

Like Coach Smart said, we want to do the hunting. We never want to be hunted. I just appreciate him for that mentality that he has because it rubs off on us tremendously. We take on a mentality to him that we want to go out there and make him and the rest of our coaches proud as well as each other.

Q. Dan, going back to the opening kickoff, you go down there and make the tackle. What was the feeling like in that moment, and generally what did you think of how you guys in the secondary played today?

DAN JACKSON: I try to take pride on any team I’m on, special teams, punt return, kickoff, all that, and you know, that rep was basically made at practice in my mind. We knew we fly down every day when we work kickoff coverage, and the ball happened to spill my way, and made a good play.

CHRIS SMITH: Kicked the game off right, man.

Q. What was it like playing on the other sideline of your former defensive coordinator?

CHRIS SMITH: I mean, it was a special moment. He was with us last year, and he taught us many things that we know today. It was definitely a challenge for us, and we wanted to go out there and put our best foot forward for our team. After the game, I got to talk to him. It was great. I ain’t seen him in a long time. He’s been on the other side of the country for forever, but it was great to see him for sure.

DAN JACKSON: Continuing off that, I have the utmost respect for Coach Lanning. He was able to get me playing time last year, and he coached me every day last year, and I’ll be forever grateful of that.

He’s a guy where he knows our strengths and weaknesses and he attacked them today, and it was a great game, and thankful for him.

Q. Dan, I know you guys have talked about some of the young guys a little bit, but from your perspective, them coming out in this environment and the lights were on, so to speak, as opposed to doing it in a scrimmage or practice, how much more does that mean to those guys as opposed to doing it back in Athens?

DAN JACKSON: Yeah, so obviously being a young guy, you’re going to be nervous, but you’ve got to use those nerves to help you. Like you said, scrimmage-wise, it’s not the same thing, but when you’re playing against our offense and we have two scrimmages in the summer, those guys are prepared, and they showed it today.

Q. Chris, obviously so many starters last year leaving to the NFL; as you guys were walking off the field, I saw a lot of defensive players talking about, look out for us, watch out for us; just because we lost guys doesn’t mean a whole lot. How is it that you come out to an Oregon offense that’s pretty good, only give up three points; is that trying to set a precedent for how you guys are going to play for the rest of the season? Is that a statement you guys are trying to make?

CHRIS SMITH: We’re always trying to make a statement every time we step out on the field. I just think the way that we played today attests to all the work we put in and how we wanted to execute the game plan, and a lot of those guys, they got drafted off the defense last year and were over there cheering us on, so that definitely helped us out a lot. I’m grateful for that continued connection we got with each other, and like I said, we want to make a statement every time we step out on the field, so we put our best foot forward, and we just go to work.

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Greg is closing in on 15 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.