O'Brien: Do-Or-Die Situation For Pack

N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed his football team during his weekly teleconference. O'Brien discusses freshman tailback Mustafa Greene and updates the status of Dean Haynes.

Opening Statement:
We look forward to Wake Forest coming here to Carter-Finley. It's our Senior Day, little bit early for Senior Day, but that's where it is. There are going to be 19 kids playing in their last game here at home. So it will be an emotional day certainly for them.

But it's an opportunity for our football team to continue to try to get to Charlotte. So each and every game now is do or die for us.

So I think we understand the task ahead of us, and we'll play at an ever getting better Wake Forest team. They certainly improved with their performance last week, and looks like they're getting a little confidence about them. They are a bunch of young kids playing and playing awfully hard.

There's no reason to have to try to get your team fired up for Virginia Tech or Florida State or North Carolina. When Wake is struggling, do you have to tell your team basically what you just said there: These guys are dangerous, be careful, take them seriously. Do you have to say those sort of things?
We say them, but I don't think we should have to. We're a fortunate football team that still has control of our destiny. We let one get away from us last week. Certainly as I told the team, you don't get do-overs. But we got one. We got another opportunity, and we control our destiny and shame on us if we don't take advantage of that situation right now.

I think they've taken that message to heart. They understand that it doesn't matter what name is on the jersey, anybody's capable of beating anybody else, and that's been shown week in and week out in college football this year. So we've prepared as we have for the past three or four weeks, so it hasn't changed our preparation looking at it so far.

You mentioned do-overs. First I know the team was listening to the North Carolina game on the way back. Jake Vermiglio mentioned that. Tell me how surreal that was to be listening to the Tar Heels, and N.C. State is pulling for North Carolina to win so they can be back in control of their own destiny?
I wasn't on the bus listening with them, so I don't know what it was like there. But certainly after the game as I talked to them, I didn't -- you know, one loss would definitely get you there. But most cases two losses in your division will get you the championship game. Our favorite team, other than N.C. State, had to be anybody playing Florida State at that point.

Certainly North Carolina gave us the opportunity to stay alive.

Any update with kickers, coach?
No. We're in a competition situation right now. I had a pretty good session today, and we'll continue tomorrow and decide what we're going to do by Saturday.

I was talking to Michael Lemon about what his plans are after he graduates. Do you anticipate that there's a chance, based on your conversation with scouts, that he could have a chance to play professional football?
Yeah, I think there is. Certainly they're taking a good, hard look at him. He's got to continue to play. Every time he makes a play it's going to help him if he wants to do that.

I had talked to him prior to the season. That wasn't the number one thing on his mind coming into the season. So I think he's pretty grounded and has a good grasp of what reality is right now.

Coming off last week's game, what has been the focus in terms of the offense revving back up again?
Well, certainly red zone offense. We had a little trouble the week before when we lost to East Carolina. Turned the ball over and didn't get it in the end zone. We seemed to solve the problem against Florida State. Then weren't able to convert there in the first half.

It made a huge difference in that football game. So that's getting into the scoring zone. That's been a little bit of a problem for us all year. We have to take advantage of the opportunities-- defense gave us a lot of opportunities--and we didn't take advantage of them last Saturday.

So is that a question when it comes down to the red zone, the short passing game, the running game? What do you think needs to be better?
Well, nothing worked on Saturday. We couldn't do anything down there. Clemson just shut us down. So it's we. It's a collective we. We the coaches, we the players, we have to find a way to get the ball in the end zone.

You didn't play Dean Haynes in the previous game. What is his status this week, and what are you looking at as far as your running game?
Well, he's coming off the head injury from the week before. You know, even though he was cleared, he didn't practice until I think Wednesday, and Thursday there was no contact.

I've always been pretty leery, especially if it was a serious blow to the head. It's not just a headache walking off and you're a little dizzy. I had a similar situation with Russell his first year playing. The same thing happened on a Thursday night game at South Carolina. He was cleared to play the next week medically by the staff, but we held him back just in case. Because once you get a head injury, if you get another one, you're talking months out. So I just wanted to be a little safer in that situation.

Right now he's back in the mix, and we're still, because of some situations, looking at -- well, not sure who is going to end up starting, but all three of them will be available to play Saturday afternoon.

You expect him to practice and you expect Dean to practice full speed this week?
He's full go this week, yes. P> Another guy who I think didn't play on Saturday, Darrell Davis. Do you have an update on his situation?
No, I don't. Not right now.

On your running game, Mustafa Greene, what have you seen from him this year? Just seems like, for a guy that's a true freshman, he's had some explosive moments. Then other games it's been more like he's more of a freshman it seems like where he's adjusting to the speed and pace of the game. What do you see and what do you expect of his role down the stretch here?
He's going to continue to be in the rotation. I think you appropriately described the play of a freshman.

Consistency is tough to get out of freshmen. There are so many different things that go into playing and participating. Not only football-wise, but also campus-wise, and grades and everything else. They're not used to the pace and everything that they have to do to be able to be the consistent performer.

We've gotten a lot of good football out of Mustafa, and I think he's still got more to give. But certainly he's going to be much better as he goes on and matures and grows in age as a football player.

Is he, as far as picking up the blocking schemes and those types of reads, has he progressed pretty quickly along those lines?
He's better certainly here in November than he was in September. I think that's a fair statement to make.


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