O'Brien: 'It's An Important Game'

RALEIGH, NC -- Head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media on Monday afternoon to discuss the Pack's upcoming game against Central Michigan.

Tom O'Brien

"Big crowd today, who we playing?"

There was a lot of talk at UNC today about Russell Wilson's role in your previous wins agains them. How would you characterize some of your wins and how you came about them?
"I think they were all, with the exception of one game, games that came down to the last play of the game. The first year it came down to the last play we defended a play in the end zone here. Second time they turned the ball over a lot and we got away from them the second time. Third time here we made a couple of big plays in the passing game and then at the end Toney Baker basically took the ball from 6 minutes to go to 38 seconds left to go in the game catching and running the ball on them and we were able to hang on. Certainly the 2-yard Hail Mary and the punt return by T.J. [Graham] probably turned the day against them last year."

You talked about them turning the ball over. They've had a tendency to do that this year. When you play a team like that do you put an emphasis on taking the ball away especially since you've done that a lot this year?
"We always try, that's been a point of emphasis on defense since we've been here, to win the turnover battle is the biggest factor in winning football games so it's a big thing for us on defense to try and knock the ball out. We've intercepted a lot this year, we haven't knocked it out or gotten it as much as I think we can as far as fumbles go."

What were the most important lessons from Saturday's loss to Florida State?
"Forget about it and move on."

They have a new coach but they are finally admitting that this game is important to them. Do you actually treat this game any different than the other ones or is it just kind of understood?
"As I said it's an important game here and it's important because it's important to our faculty, our staff, our alumni and our fan base and I think that's what makes it different. There are games throughout the year that you can just tell, look at all you guys here today. It's not just a normal game in terms of playing in the season. And every school has a team that is probably their number one opponent that they play during the course of a year. You have to play all 12 games but certainly there is a game that's a little more important than the others and this fits that for our school."

Does playing UNC this week make it easier to forget about last week?
"I don't know, I hope that we are able to do that. You have to do that whether you win or lose in college football today. There is a plethora of examples week in and week out of teams that play well one week and don't the next. You have to be able to go through a 12-game season playing the one you just played, putting it behind you and moving on to the next one. You can't let teams beat you twice and that happens when you win or win you lose the previous week."

What does Carolina do best?
"They are very formidable on defense, their front seven and the front four, the two inside guys and two linebackers are very, very good. The outside linebackers changed a little bit. The strength of them is up front and they are huge up front on offense. They are all 300-pound guys and three of their linemen are 6'7". Their tailback has made a difference, he has breakaway speed, he has quick feet and find seams and he can run away from you. The quarterback is really efficient and they have two big tall 6'4" receivers that can get down the field and make tough catches. They are a good football team."

How would you assess where you are along your offensive line?
"Two weeks ago you'd have said we're progressing, last week you'd have said we took a step backwards. It's still a growth process, we'll reassess it this week and see how we hold up this week."

Considering the success that you had at Boston College in that particular area do you feel like five years into it you should be farther ahead?
"We haven't coached these guys for five years. You have to coach them for four and five years to get to that spot and until you get to that you can't go making assessments and equate them to where we were at Boston College."

Has Jeff Rieskamp given any indication he might play next year?
"No, right now he's indicated he doesn't want to come back for a sixth year so unless he changes his mind. That will always be open to him but that's a tough thing for him and certainly for us. I think he played 50 plays this year. Coming back thinking he was going to be a redshirt senior and having a great year to be cut short like that is tough on him."

Did the game against Florida State shake Mike Glennon's confidence at all?
"I don't think so. That's the positive, he took some hits and he got out of the pocket and he made some plays. As quarterbacks grow, and still that's what his eighth start, you are going to have games like that. It's a good thing for him that he can learn from it and I think he's the right type of guy that will learn from it and we'll get better because of it. I don't think he was shy or intimidated at all. We didn't see that on the field, we didn't' see that on tape."

Carolina has had more talent than you the last three years but you've still managed to win those games. Why do you think that is the case?
"I don't know."

Does Gio Bernard remind you of anyone you've faced?
"Probably the Virginia backs, he's about the same size. A guy that is stocky and can run and make cuts, I think he's probably a little faster than they kids they had at Virginia when he gets in the open field but I think that's the closest."

How many of your top guys have you won a recruiting battle with Carolina?
"I have no idea, you can ask all these recruiting experts out here."

What do you see in Renner?
"He's been very efficient. Coach Shoop has done a good job getting him in situations that he can be successful. He's the number one passing efficiency quarterback in the conference right now, he gets back there and he gets rid of the football."

Was Florida State better?
"They were better than advertised. They are back to where they were. That's the best Florida State defense I've seen in probably eight or nine years. They are back to that type of defense. You could sense it looking at tape but certainly in person and it's because they play a lot of people. They rotate four or five linebackers, they rotate eight or nine down guys, they do all kind of guys in the secondary that play. That was certainly a different defense than we've played in the last five or six years."


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