Were excited for our senior week- it’s a special week as a coach. One of the most gratifying things you can do is send your seniors out with a victory, and we have the chance to do it against a rival team in our 108th meeting. They’re a good, hard playing team and are getting better you can see it on tape. Wake Forest is a well-coached football team.
It’s also Military Appreciation Day and it’s a great way for us to honor our seniors with our preparation, practice and play and a way for us to focus on how lucky we are to have the opportunity to play football and do the things we do as Americans on Military Appreciation Day, and honor not just the current soldiers but the wounded and past that have fought for our freedom. Our focus as a team is family this week and not just our own families but the family we have here, the family we have as a Wolfpacker and as an NC State student.
We have a great challenge with Wake (Forest), you see them particularly early in games and do a really nice job. They lead teams on the season in the first quarter- they’re fast starters and outscore their opponents 44-27 in the first quarter. They’re sound on defense and they’re a good field position team; their punter is one of the best in the country and has only given up 1.3 yards in return. He has [an unusual] punting style- the Aussie style, end over end with a lot of weird height on his football and tricky bounces, so we'll have to do a good job of fielding the football.
On their defense they have three seniors that are playing really well in the secondary and have one of the best corners in the league with Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel. They’re third in the ACC in pass defense and they have a teammate that is a brother of one of our players- Bradley and Brandon Chubb. It’s a unique family battle there between those guys.
Their quarterback John Wolford was a winner in high school and has been hit a lot this season. He has a quick release and is a tough kid. He’s taken a lot of shots in battles. Their tight end, I’m not sure what his status is, but he is their leading receiver. They use him well, and knowing Coach Clawson is there I know he is a big part of their offense.
On preparation for the Wake Forest game:
It is the same approach and it is our next opportunity. We’re still playing for something that is important to us- post-season play. I had the seniors stand up and face the team in the front row of our team meeting room yesterday. I think that’s always not just for the seniors but the rest of the team a unique thing when you stare at those guys and know that’s the last time you’re going to walk down the tunnel with them and it’s special.
I said that we’re going to move past Georgia Tech very fast, and offensively they need to study that film more than our defensive kids did because of the scheme. We spent a lot of time yesterday with getting into Wake Forest. They had couple of extra days on us because they played on Thursday so we wanted to make sure we used our Sunday appropriately to catch up and we were able to do that. I thought we had a productive day yesterday.
Our guys are excited about senior day, Military Appreciation Day and about another opportunity to try and get win number six and I know they’ll have great spirit and attitude at practice this week.
On offensive preparation:
I think the biggest thing is just not beating ourselves; we had three turnovers in nine seconds which is just really hard to do. We dropped nine passes and three of the six were diving type plays where we got our hands on the ball. We’re at five wins which is improvement from where we were, and to take the next step to be a bolder type team you have to make plays when people are all over you, you have to make some diving and one handed catches. You can’t turn the ball over in the red zone and you have to capitalize on punts whenever you can. I think its just finalizing and finishing drives better is the biggest thing, and finalizing and finishing plays better and being smart with the football is a huge part of it. When we won games we’ve been on the plus side of the turnover margin, and we have to continue to understand how important that is for our team.
On team camaraderie throughout season:
I’m very proud of them; that’s the one thing I will say is that they play hard. We need to play smarter at times and need to finish plays better at times but we stick together. We’re like any family where you’re going to have your rifts here and there. When we leave the field though it doesn’t go to the locker room and we’ve been able to grow up a lot throughout the season. I think the football season is a lot of stuff packed into a short window; a lot of things happen. It’s been a great year in a lot of ways to see some guys grow up and there’s some that still need to grow up more. The leadership has been strong in our senior class and some of our younger guys have done a nice job as well.
On punters this Saturday:
He’s been very consistent and that’s the biggest thing what you want. Our coverage has improved over the one punt last week and that’s the challenge you have you have- to make sure you have coverage on kicks making sure you get down there and make tackles. Tony Creecy had a nice tackle and Troy Vincent had a nice tackle last week. We just have to make sure we get down there. The way [Wil] has been able to pooch punt this season has been helpful as well. It’s going to be two of the best punters in the country in the stadium. I hope we're not punting a lot, but if we do I know we have a good one.
On Wake Forest vs. Clemson:
They’ve been in the game with a lot of people. They played Florida State and Louisville and were very close. They’re really sound and they have two really good corners on defense and do a lot of conducive things. Put more people in there, blitz more and do some things that add to the box. A lot of people can’t try because they can’t hold up in the coverage. They’ve been able to hold up outside with their corners. They’re playing really good defense, they’ve scored on defense in multiple games and they’re opportunistic. They’ve had some balls bounce right to them and ran it back for touchdowns.
It’s similar to when we played Louisville and had success when we didn’t turn the ball over against an aggressive defense. Same with our game at Syracuse we need to make sure were taking care of the football and doing the right things with it. That’s the kind of team they are they’re playing really good field positions, special teams and sound defense so they’re keeping themselves in games that way.
On Louisville contest:
The mess at Louisville was just a mess- everyone has a bad kick. They got blocked; we had low penetration and one of the inside players got their hand up and the ball was a little lower than normal but not where it should have been blocked. The rest of the day we were firmer in protection we did a better job. Nik will get the ball up high and go hard and firm it up on that side. Wake will come hard and do a nice job effort wise.
On senior leadership:
Tony Creecy has been a guy throughout my time here that has really pushed people. Thomas Teal has been a surprise this year as a leader. We didn’t expect that; we thought he would be a good player as a senior but didn’t expect him to be as consistent and do the things he’s done. Art Norman has been really solid from that standpoint a well. I don’t think there is anyone that hasn’t done what I thought they would do from that standpoint that’s disappointed.
I know on the offensive line those guys are pretty tight. Those are the guys that really stand out.
On relationship with Dave Clawson:
I’ve been to a lot of meetings with Dave because of all things you have to do as coaches. We’ve had a lot of talks-mostly football. I don’t know him personally but we played against each other in my first year at NIU. For two years we went to MAC meetings together and this past offseason we went to ACC meetings together. I respect him a lot.
I think he’s a really good offensive football coach and has hired a great defensive coach. I think Coach Elko is a really good defensive football coach and they have a great defense. I know he does a good job; he’s known for building programs and has done it now at couple of places. We played him my first year when he was in the rebuilding stages of everything and my third year when we played them again it was one of their top years. He’s going through the rebuilding stages right now so I’m going to keep an eye out for them.