O'Brien: Huge Game for Pack

N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed his football team during his weekly teleconference.

Opening Statement:
Our football team is excited about the opportunity to play Florida State. Obviously they're the class of the division right now, a very talented football team that's playing great. But we look forward to the opportunity to compete against them here Thursday night.

I wondered, when the season began, you had an idea that Nate Irving was going to be effective for you. But after missing all of last year and, I guess, you weren't quite sure until you saw him on the field. Now after seven games, do you feel like he's back to where he was or even better than he was? How would you sum up where he is now?
Well, I think he has probably exceeded our expectations, especially after looking at how he was last year and thinking that he would ever play college football again.

The thing that is amazing about Nate is he's probably the most senior guy we have on defense, yet he's only started 20 games in his career in five years here. He's still relatively young in terms of experience and playing the college football game. So I think he's exceeded any of the expectations that we thought he would have this year.

Knock on wood, he'll stay healthy here these last five games that we have to play, and he'll continue to play great football for us.

Are there things that you see him doing better than he has before?
Certainly the move to middle linebacker was different for him. So the reads are different, the drops are different. His responsibilities are different. So I think he's worked extremely hard and gotten better each and every week as the season's gone on.

Can you talk about this game is essentially, if you want to compete for the Atlantic Division title, it's a be-all, end-all. You're two games back, but you'd have the loss in the tiebreaker. Do you approach it that way that this is a game you have to win to win the division?
Well, you're always careful about saying you have to do something, but certainly circumstances you just talked about, I think everyone here is aware it's a very big football game if we want to be the team that represents our side of the conference in Charlotte.

So with that being said in the past that every game is important, but certain games, because of the significance of them, takes on a different life in itself and this is certainly one of those games.

I know you've both had the same preparation time and everything, but does it increase the home-field advantage to have the Thursday night game, to have the crowd there at night?
I think any time -- I think we have a home-field advantage any time because our crowd is so good. They show up, they're very passionate. They're loud. So home field definitely is an advantage for us, I believe, when we play here in Raleigh.


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