O'Brien: "They Have Great Skill"

NC State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed Miami today on his weekly teleconference.

Opening Statement:
We look forward to the opportunity to get into the conference, play a conference game. Going on the road to Miami, a team that really had a great victory this past weekend at Georgia Tech, really important. Quarterback had a great day throwing the football, all kind of record numbers for him.

Certainly, as always with Miami, they have great skill, great speed, great change of direction, great explosiveness with their people. It will be a big challenge for us, but we look forward to the opportunity to go play.

Coach, I want to ask you about Shadrach Thornton. It seems strange he doesn't play at all first three weeks, then, all of a sudden, bursts out and has this game. Can you explain what happened?
What happened is last Sunday we had no healthy running backs. He was the only one that was healthy. As a freshman, pre-season camp you could see some signs. He got much better by the third scrimmage. When we gave him the opportunity to play in a scrimmage just before the end, when we scrimmaged basically the young guys, he really had taken a step forward.

It was kind of necessity that we had to play him, but he certainly was ready to play and did a great job on Saturday night.

Speaking of freshmen running backs, Miami has a guy (Duke Johnson) that is leading the nation in all-purpose yardage. How big a problem, what do you see from him?
He's really a talented athlete. He has good vision. He really has good speed. The thing he does, he reads the blockers very well for a freshman, understands the schemes, putting himself in position.

Certainly he's run through some tackles, too. He's a complete guy, somebody I don't think one guy can bring down. We're going to get a lot of guys on the football on Saturday if we're going to stop him.

Bryan Underwood has caught a touchdown in each of your games so far. Can you talk about the progress he's made this year, how he's been standing out.
Well, we talked about it in pre-season that he had spurts last year, showed up here and there. We had high hopes for him. He had a knee injury in pre-season camp, came back early, tried to get back in the Tennessee game, wasn't a hundred percent. He's gotten better each and every week.

It's pretty unusual to have four touchdown catches in four games for him. He's had his opportunities. When he's had the opportunity to make a play, he's been able to make it and get the ball in the end zone.

You've had David Amerson picking off a pass in three straight games. How much do you think he learned or responded to the opening game against Tennessee? He seems to have come back to the level he was last year.
Well, he certainly was disappointed with his performance at Tennessee. He had to have amnesia, which is really good to have if you're a cornerback. Certainly he wanted to get back on track and prove that that wasn't what he was capable of doing after we talked about some of the things in the Tennessee game.

He's had opportunities. When he's had opportunities, the thing about David is he can make plays, and he's done that for us three weeks in a row now.

What does the running back group look like going into this game? What do you see his role moving forward, Shadrach?
I've always said about injuries, one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. He made the most of his opportunity. Going forward, he's going to be able to play.

Right now, (Tony) Creecy, we didn't play him last week. He didn't make it on the practice field until Thursday last week. He's listed as a starter. I think those two will handle most of the load come Saturday in Miami.

When you watch the game film of Miami's game against Georgia Tech last week, there were some really strange runs in that game. Did you see anything why the Miami offense was so strong early and late and had such trouble in the middle?
I think that can happen when you play that type of offense that Georgia Tech has. It has to do with possession time and being on the field and being off the field.

They came out strong, had their opportunities, made plays. But then you knew that Georgia Tech was going to come back, which they did. Certainly we went through the thing last week with playing a wishbone team in the Citadel. The Citadel was outscoring their opponents 35-7 in the first quarter and 45-7 in the third quarter.

Miami did a great job of catching up to it early. Paul Johnson does a great job of finding formations, finding ways to make sure the count works for him. That's what I accredit the Georgia Tech comeback there in the middle.

Then Miami caught up to the offense, kind of even there at the end, was able to make the play in overtime, if that makes sense.

You mentioned controlling the ball and everything. You have had one of the best third-down defenses in the league. That's obviously important for getting off the field. What is the core of that, the secret of that?
Well, I think both Mike Archer and Jon (Tenuta) do a great job of finding ways to put pressure on the quarterback. That's been our success in the past, it's certainly our success here, is getting in to the quarterback, getting to him, creating havoc, then do a pretty good job of matching routes on the back end.

How much has the offensive line improved since the Tennessee game and how much of the success running the ball had to do with them on Saturday?
I think they've gotten better. We lost our left tackle, so we had to regroup again after the Tennessee game. The kid we were playing, Tyson Chandler, hadn't played before. I think he started to get better. I think that helped it.

No disrespect to the Citadel, but we were playing a IAA school. Sometimes those help. I'm certainly not being disrespectful to them by saying that.


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