Excited for the 108th meeting, in-state rivalry game against Wake and a team that plays very sound football, well-coached football team, and coming off a really good game with Clemson. Our senior day and military appreciation day here at Carter-Finley. So a special day as a coaching staff to send your seniors off.
Obviously, it's going to be a competitive game. Any time you're in a rivalry game, records don't matter. We're going to get their best, and they're going to get our best. It's going to be an exciting game to try to become Bowl eligible, and looking forward to getting our seniors ready to play at home.
Seniors, last game that you mentioned, obviously last game at home for them, what you're going to remember about this group of guys and what they meant to you. I'm not going to ask you to pick any guys out because I don't think that that's fair, but just what the senior class as a whole, having this final game at home, means to you as a coach.
No matter where I've been, I always look back to when I played and just how much that game-- played in a lot of football games as a college athlete, and the one I remember most is my last one. So I just use that as a reference, and I know that these guys will remember it. They'll be emotional. They'll have their families with them. As a coach, it's the most rewarding thing you can do for a senior is to help them prepare and send them off with a victory.
So we've made an emphasis, not just to our coaching staff but to all the younger players on our football team, to play with the respect that our seniors deserve and to prepare with the respect that they deserve. Always thankful for what the seniors give back to you with their leadership and their work ethic.
And then as far as not only this game, but your last two games of the season are going to be in the state of North Carolina, against Wake Forest and then on the road against North Carolina. What has this team done for you this season, and what have you been able to take away so far? Because, obviously, you're not only fighting the ACC, but when it comes to recruiting in a lot of different things, you're fighting these backyard schools as well in a lot of different levels. Where do you feel NC State football is at in your mind at this point?
Well, we've improved. A year ago we were a three-win team that was out of Bowl eligibility. We were a team that really didn't have an identity on either side of the ball because of the injuries we had sustained at that point. We were just a rolodex of different lineups, and we've been able to improve in a lot of ways. We have a lot of production in our freshmen and sophomore classes that you're seeing improvement throughout the course of the year from true freshmen, from redshirt freshmen, from sophomores.
So I think it's an improving team. It shows with the record. It shows with a lot of the things we're doing. We need to continue to do that. This is just the next opportunity. Any time you play an in-state opponent, there's always recruiting things tied into it. I know teams are going to be doing everything they can to have those bragging rights for the next year.
Coach Dave, talk about this game playing against, after last week when you played against Georgia Tech, the option. Now you're talking about a Wake Forest team that likes to throw the ball. How do you get out of that mindset of last week to a normal pass game?
It's obviously a challenge in college football, really in general. You couldn't go from a more opposite type of team, from a spread team at Syracuse back to triple-team and then back to a spread. They're very similar offensively to Syracuse, so we do have some recall, from a defensive standpoint, back to that.
We were able to get out on Sunday with our guys and walk through all of Wake's formations that we've seen and snap them through basic ways we could play them, from base coverages and pressures and formation recognition. Offensively, it's really not a different week. They're playing another team that runs a four-down front and gets into some different packages on third down. So they probably have less to go through than our defense.
It helped that we played Syracuse the week before Georgia Tech from a recall standpoint because there's a lot of similarity.
Talk about Military Appreciation Day. Talk about what you guys are doing for all the military down there in North Carolina.
I probably have 40 guys on our roster that have active military or retired military in their immediate families. So the first thing I asked of the staff, or in a team meeting, after we talked about our seniors, was how many people have military? If you do, stand up. A lot of guys were on their feet.
On game day, there will be several different ways we recognize them. There's four or five different game operation things going on to recognize and honor them. Our ability to even play the game of football, the freedom we have based on their work and their sacrifices for us.
I wanted to ask you about Coach Clawson, the fact that you and he had some duels in the MAC. What do you remember about going up against him when he was at Bowling Green and you were at Northern Illinois?
We only played him my first year. They weren't on our side of the division. So the second year we didn't face each other. When they played each other in the championship, I was gone. So I only played against him one time. I know he's built programs. I've been in a lot of meetings with him. Very detailed guy. You just watch his football team and see that they believe in what they're doing, that they're improving. He's built programs at two different schools. So he understands the process and what you go through throughout it. He's a good football coach.
I know Coach Elko, his defensive coordinator, as well. He's done a nice job on defense. They're really doing well on special teams. That's probably where you see the most elite play probably on a game-to-game basis. They're really playing well, their punt team and coverage units.
Who won the one matchup up there?
My first year we played them at their place, and we won. Didn't play them in year two. Like I said, in year three, I wasn't there.
You mentioned you see them improving. Can you talk about what you see on tape? They're playing a true freshman quarterback.
How he's matured from Louisiana-Monroe to Clemson?
Well, he has good command of their system. Some of his receivers were banged up earlier in the year, and now he's got them back. He's got good guys that catch the football. He's got big receivers at X. His tight end is a weapon, and they use him a lot on not just first down, but in the red zone, and third down with different routes. Flat routes and angle routes and vertical routes down the seams.
He knows what to do with the football. You can tell he played in a similar offense in high school. There's been a lot of pressure on him. So that's been the difficult part. You hear Coach talk about it in his press conference, just the negative yardage plays that have hurt their ability to score. But he's a really good player with a quick release and a strong arm.