Good afternoon. I'll start with a recap of the Akron game then onto this Thursday night with N.C. State.
Obviously, we saw a team that was very opportunistic, especially on the defensive side of the football with three touchdowns. What we're seeing and finding out is takeaways are a byproduct of playing with a hard edge and physicality. I thought we did that. Another thing we did a great job on with defense was that we were able to win our one-on-one matchups. That's the biggest thing in pass protections and run schemes – at some point in time, someone's going to be matched up in a one-on-one situation and this past week we were able to win those matchups. That showed on both the interception returns for touchdowns – we were able to disrupt the quarterback. That's part of playing great pass coverage, disrupting the quarterback.
It was another opportunity to play a number of players which proved to be very beneficial for us down the road as we continue to increase with our competition as the season goes on. Our number one goal stills continue to improve day-by-day as a football team. I said it in August and I'll say it again now – it's just continuing to get better and focus on the task at hand.
Obviously, we need to take some great strides in playing an N.C. State football team. We have a lot of things that we have to get cleaned up. Even though we turned the ball over one time late in the game, I still thought that at times we were careless with the football.
When you play a team as physical as N.C. State, if you don't get those things corrected, it will come back and hurt you. The other thing is that we have to take a vast improvement in special teams. As we all know, we went down there last year to play and they completely dominated the special teams game and played at a whole different speed level than we did. It's maintaining blocks and space, it's tackling, it's having the right reads and getting off blocks, so special teams is going to be a big key on Thursday night.
For this football team, it's focusing on the task at hand, week-by-week. It may sound like ‘coach-speak' but I don't know what else you want me to tell you. I'm telling you the truth. We still have a number of young football players playing even though we have a lot of individuals back on defense, we're still relatively young. The big thing for us is game-speed decisions. You can practice and do it perfect in practice, but now it's taking your practice to the field and making quick snap decisions.
When you're driving down the road and you forget to make a left turn, there's not 100,000 people sitting in your car telling you you made the wrong turn. When you play football, there are 100,000 offensive and defensive coordinators knowing that you made a mistake. For us, it's taking the game speed to the field.
N.C. State, let's start with (wide receiver TJ) Graham. We talked about special teams. I believe he's the fifth all-time leading returner in the history of the ACC. He's extremely dynamic with the ball in his hands either in the return game or in the receiver position. He has the ability to flip field position in a hurry. (Mike) Glennon, the quarterback, is very reminiscent of (Tennessee quarterback) Tyler Bray – 6-6, NFL pedigree with his brother, very strong arm and quick release. He's really doing a good job of managing the offense and making all the throws in their system. He's going to challenge us.
Defensively, (linebacker) Audie Cole, I'm very familiar with him from our days at Central Michigan. He's done a great job and I know they've asked a lot of him. We're facing a very physical football team who's well covered, they do what they do and they excel in all three phases. When you watch a team, the first thing I look at is special teams. They usually dominate that. It's about everyone understanding their role Thursday night and executing and doing their job.
On comparing N.C. State quarterback Mike Glennon with former quarterback Russell Wilson:
I think they're two completely different styles. Russell Wilson is more of a get-out-of-the-pocket, scramble and make some plays with his legs, whereas Glennon is a drop-back passer. He's extremely smooth. He's athletic now, he can scramble and make some plays, but you're looking at a 6-6 kid who can seal, rush and is very poised in the pocket and he throws with great rhythm. He has a great sense of the rhythm and timing of their throw game.
On the impact of a battered N.C. State defense:
I don't think that'll have much of an impact because they do so many things that challenge you in preparing for them and then with a short week of preparation – all their fires and movement and different blitz schemes and coverages, they're skilled in the back end. (Dwayne) Maddox, the linebacker, has played a lot of football for them. He'll be stepping up Thursday night. Even though they have suffered through some injuries, they have quality backups. They're at the position in their program where they have great depth. I think that's why they do so well on special teams, because of the amount of depth that they have.
On where the offense is in terms of its identity:
We're still in the phase of developing our identity. We've played one full game then we've played a couple quarters. So much on offense is continuity and getting into a rhythm. Our players have great confidence in what we're doing. One thing is very evident and that's (senior running back) Isaiah Pead is a very good player. He's one of our weapons. DJ Woods continues to get better and better the more reps that (junior wide receiver) Kembrall Thompkins gains. It has been a fine line. So much is repetition. We're going to be challenged with the speed of the game and all the movement up front and different looks. They try to come in with their defense and dictate the tempo of the game. We have to be assignment sound and everyone has to execute game. This will be an execution game on offense.