O'Brien: 'We've Got A Huge Challenge'

N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed his football team during his weekly teleconference. O'Brien discusses this week's game against Maryland, his pass defense, and much more.

Opening Statement:
Our team is hard at work getting ready to go play Maryland in College Park on Saturday. Exciting time for our school, our fans and our football team, and hopefully we can find a way to win a game on Saturday.

As you get ready for your preparations for Maryland this week, and game week, your team has never had a winning record prior to this season. Do you guard against maybe them getting too fired up? I know they haven't displayed that as the entire season has gone along, but with this on the line, do you guard against that?
I don't think that will be a problem with this football team. It's a mature group of kids that have been very workman-like in everything they do. And I wouldn't think that would be a problem.

When you look at Maryland and how they've played this year and we know we've got a huge challenge. They've had a great year themselves. They're doing a great job of taking the football away from people and making sure that they take care of the football. So I don't think that will be a problem.

A question about the second most important Dan O'Brien in your life, which would be the Maryland quarterback, as opposed to your son. How would you compare him to some other quarterbacks you've seen? Obviously he's had a great freshman year.
I think he's exceptional, especially for a freshman to play in this league. It's awfully difficult to play against the defenses in this conference. He's done an exceptional job. He's managed the game well. He's taken care of the football.

And I think that goes back to the coaching, too. I think Ralph does a great job taking care of quarterbacks and accentuating what they do best and negating what they might not be able to do. He puts them in situations where he can succeed and he's done a nice job executing their offense.

It's interesting, NC State hasn't won the ACC title since 1979. At that time you were an assistant coach at Navy coaching tight ends and stuff. Given the success that State has had through the years, does that length of time surprise you at all? And is there any sort of incentive that you feel from the alums or from the former players to sort of break that streak?
I think the former players -- every year we have our alumni reunion before the spring game, the guys from '79 team always remind us that it's been that long. I think it's a source of pride to them. But it's also an irritant that it's been that long since they've had the opportunity to be a conference champ. So we're trying to change all that.

We have to go beat a really good Maryland team at 3:30 Saturday afternoon, and that's what our focus is right now, to go win this football game so we can get to Charlotte.

And like this week, through North Carolina, which was obviously a huge game for you, have you heard from former players, alums, stuff like that, or do you just sort of block that out this week?
No, we've heard about it before. I haven't heard anything this week about it. But there was enough said in the previous weeks that you've got a chance to be something special and continue to work hard and we're behind you.

In light of we talked about with Maryland's quarterback, how do you feel your pass defense is at this point in the season?
I think our pass defense is much better. We keep getting better each and every week. We had some issues last week, but that came down to about three or four plays that ended up big plays because of our lack of doing what we should have done. The goal last week was keep the ball in front of us and inside and not get beat by any deep balls, which North Carolina was -- their big play capability. So we'll have our work cut out for us.

Torrey Smith did a great job against us last year - I think caught eight balls for 100 some yards. So we know that they have very explosive wide receivers, and we just talked about what a great job their quarterback has done. So we'll be challenged back there this week.

Of course after what has happened with the program in terms of last three years kind of struggling for winning seasons, how meaningful is it to everybody here that you have a chance to, with a win on Saturday to go to the ACC title game?
As I said, I think everybody is excited. Our fans, our alumni, our faculty, the student body, I think everybody's excited about the prospects of what we can accomplish this year. We've accomplished a lot to get to this point. But the mission's not finished - And certainly a big, big game for us coming up on Saturday.

Not surprised to be here at this point in the season?
No. I mean, that's what you coach for and that's what these players play for, the opportunity to be here. And I think it became apparent after the month of September that we had a shot to be a heck of a football team and it's kind of played out that way.

Two things. One is you know Maryland probably in preseason wasn't predicted to do as well as they have. And all those things obviously are guesses, but when you look at this team this year, the Maryland team, what is it about them that led them to be where they are, pretty formidable frankly so far, what do you see as a coach when you're going against them?
I think, as we talked about before, they've done a good job of taking care of the football and not turning it over. And they've created a bunch of turnovers. So I think they're second or third in the conference in turnover margin.

They've always believed in running the football. They've got two solid running backs. And if you're able to run the football and you don't turn the football over, you've got a chance to be pretty good on offense. And certainly they're in the second year of Don Brown's scheme on defense. He came in a year ago and restructured their whole defense.

The second year at it, they're better at it, they understand it and they're playing very well. They lead the conference in punt returns. I think the kid's third in the nation returning the ball. And last year they returned a kickoff against us for a touchdown and so they played well on special teams.

The defense, the changes they made on defense, what have they done, or what have they mastered to make them better?
The concept and fundamentals of defense, it takes you time to have the kids and find the right kids that put in the places that have to execute the defense. And then they have to be able to understand the adjustments and what they have to make. And it's a matter, in a lot of cases, of time. And it goes back to ability is getting the people in the right spots so they can execute.


Pack Pride Top Stories