Doeren: "They're A Very Good Football Team"

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Dave Doeren met with the media to discuss the upcoming game against Clemson.

AUDIO: Dave Doeren

Opening Statement:
Just going back to last week's game, once again, we'd like to thank our student body for sticking it out, and being there as a part of that experience, and how loud they were, our band, was 100% attendance, our fans, and our families, our players, and coaches. It was a tough day, to say the least, weather wise, and really challenging. I know, on the field, it had to be challenging in the stands for them to endure, it so thank you for that.

It was a great win, and it was a very good hard-fought game by both teams, and as you look back on it, obviously, we made the key play there to block the punt for a touchdown to win it, but when you look at the game as a whole, I think, the fact that we were able to run the football effectively, netted around 158 or something, but rushed for over 230 yards in the game, and stopping the run. Basically, where they had to throw the football, to me, was the difference in the football game.

We had 13 tackles in the backfield, and they have 5. We had 8 explosive plays, and they had 0, and we blocked the punt. We broke it open, and there's some bad plays on our end, obviously, too. To be able to get down in the red zone twice, and come away with 0 points in either drive, are things that we've got to be able to do better, but we found a way to win, and I think that's the key part of the game, and really proud of our players, and coaches for that. It was a great environment on our sideline.

Our players were as frustrated as you could be with the environment being what it was. They were none of that. They were super excited to play football, and to fight through it together.

Now we move forward to a great challenge with Clemson on the road, in a tremendous environment, and they're a very good football team. Everybody knows that. Very balanced, and have great personnel on both sides of the football.

Offensively, they're aggressive. They take shots down the field. I think their tailback is a really, really good runner. [Gallman] runs hard, he's quick. Deshaun was the most accurate deep-ball thrower in college football a year ago, and he has great targets that will go get the ball for him.

They've only given up 5 sacks. We got 4 receivers averaging over 10 yards a catch, and so the challenge there for your defense, obviously, is preventing big plays, tackling well, and space-leveraging. Being great on our edges, because they really do attack the leverage of your defensive schemes, in creating takeaways for our offense, because in an environment like that, getting a short field as opposed to a long field, is a huge deal. On the other side of the football, there defense is, in my opinion, better than it was a year ago.

They're very aggressive. They always have been. They've got great personnel. They're playing hard. They had 21 sacks. They forced 14 turnovers, which is number one in the ACC, 9 of them are interceptions, and then you got to handle the crowd noise, is another aspect. If you watch the Louisville game, that really affected them in the first quarter of that football game, and it ends up being a final drive game, so we know they're a fast-starting team.

They're averaging 69 points to their opponent's 6 in the first quarter, so we got to do a great job handling the environment, and getting off to a good start, which will be a challenge to do so, but that's going to be our mantra all week. We've got to do a really good job controlling what we can, and just focusing on the little details of each call, and putting our self in a position where we can make it a four quarter game, and once again, find a way to win, so we're really excited about the opportunity to play down there, and have great respect for what Coach Sweeney, and his staff, and his players have done. Questions?

You mentioned that they do so many things well, what do you as a coach try to focus on?
Well, I think it always starts with leverage. Whether it's a pass, because they do a lot of perimeter screens with speed, and jets, or run. We have to do a great job on the edges of turning the ball back, getting off blocks, and tackling well. You got to really tackle well against Clemson, and you can't give up chunk plays for touchdowns. I think those are the two things. If we can do those two things, our defense has done a nice job throughout this season, of swarming the football, of creating opportunities, and if they get down the field playing red zone defense, where they can't get touchdowns.

You mentioned the running game, with what you did well. Is there much you can look at the film with your team in a situation like that, and say, "This is the carryover," like as opposed to your offense making progress each week? Is there something you point to, and say, "This is the carry over from this game?"
I think there were certain things in the game that we have to look at, and we did, but it's not a normal game where you're going to nitpick a lot of things that you couldn't do. I mean, the footing was so bad, that there were certain blocks that were hard to make. You couldn't drive people very far off the ball, obviously, so you're talking about different things, probably, than you normally would after a game. You're highlighting the things we did well, and things we want to continue to do, and we moved onto Clemson pretty quickly after the game was over.

Just to follow up on that. You talked about finding a way to win. Is that the biggest takeaway then, the tangible part of it, as opposed to anything else that happening during the game?
I think so. I think we had several goals going into the game, and we did not want to beat our self in the football game, and we felt like we'd be in the game in the fourth quarter to win it if we did that, and that happened. We wanted to have an explosive play for a score on special teams, and that happened. We wanted to dominate the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football, and I don't know if we dominated them, but we definitely won the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football.

You can take those things out of the game, and like I told our players after. I was just really proud of some of the role players that we had, guys that have been kind of waiting their turn, that emerged in the game to make big plays for us. Jarius Morehead had a really good football game in the first half. Pharaoh's punt block, Dexter, who was injured, comes back, and makes a big play for us. Jalan comes in, and runs the ball in the second half when we needed him to do that, so I thought it was a really team win.

Thoughts on tempo and time of possession...
Well, when you're playing a tempo offense, and we are, too, I think when you keep them sideline, it does affect their rhythm, so that does help us, but I'm not going to tell you I don't want to score fast. I mean, I would love to have big plays for touchdowns. We've had more explosive plays this year, but any time you can not turn a ball over, and have substantial drives, and then defensively, we've done a good job of getting the ball back relatively quickly in some games for our offense after a long drive.

Where like the third quarter of that game, we had the ball for over ten minutes, and it's a combination of things. It's the defense getting the ball back, or creating takeaway, or the offense not giving it to them, and just grinding out some drives, so we don't talk about play numbers probably as much as some people do. We just talk about the possessions, and what happened within them, and how we can improve in them.

How much work does that will, and willing to win no matter what, have against a team that is as talented as Clemson?
Yeah, well, I think, for our guys, some of them have played, not just against Clemson, but Florida State, and Louisville, where we've been in one possession games, even had leads in those games, and didn't find a way to win, and so that's where it gives you the confidence just to keep playing, and believing in what you're doing, and you can win those kind of games, and so last year we ran a back and forth game with Clemson early, and didn't maintain that for four quarters, and so that'll be what we got to try to do, is make it a four quarter game where we have that kind of ability, and want, to, in the fourth quarter, to finish it off.

I was just going to ask you, what will you try and take from the last two games against them? Obviously, your last trip there, it was a nightmare.

Well, they got great players now, so I mean, they're going to make plays. They are. I mean, they got some of the best players in college football, but I know our guys believe that we can compete, play in and play out, with anybody, and it's a matter of being consistent enough throughout the course of the game, and not having a let down, where you're giving something to somebody, and I think that's something we did not handle the environment, at all, two years ago. At all.

A lot of people have gone down there, and dealt with that. I mean, they've won something ... What was it? 44 straight against unranked teams down there. I mean, so we have to handle the environment, and we know that, so we'll make it super loud, and we'll talk about it a little bit, but I think that's the one thing our team has learned this year, regardless of who we play. It's more about how we play. I think that's where we going to stay, mentally.

Knowing that your team have in the past put up points against Clemson, will they be confident that they can make those points be worth the win?
Yeah. Well, I think, statistically, you just have to look at the improvements we've had since I've gotten here. I mean, we're ... Every year have gotten better, and it's no different this year. We've gotten better on defense, and this will be a huge challenge for the guys. A huge challenge, because they're so good on offense, but every week you have something new, and you go in there, and you teach the game plan, and we've got a lot of kids that have played against Clemson, and so they understand how good those players are, and they're playing against good players when they play our offense. I mean, so it's not like they haven't seen a good receiver, or a good running back, in practice.

Outside of this game, how important the special teams play is, and what are your impressions of Clemson in that area?
Yeah, obviously, it's huge. It's a third of the game, and in a tight game, field position. Particularly on the road, field position can be a big deal for us. Like I said earlier with takeaways, I think it's an area that I know they're competing much harder in than they were last year. I think coming out of their season, they had an article about that was one area they wanted to really focus on in their off season, and it's obvious they've done that.

That's something that we've always taken very serious here, and we'll continue to do so, and we are punting, and kicking the ball as good as we have in a while, so need to continue that. Need to get our returning game going. We got out to the 35 on a kickoff return last week, and that's an area that I know we can be better, and punt return, the balls are sprayed around so much in different ways right now, with all the different punts, it's really about getting an opportunity, and cashing it in, and we've had one good return that was called back, so we'll continue to work really hard to get a return, and he's got to hope to get a returnable ball when it lines up.

I feel like, in the interest of fairness, I gave Chubb a hard time after his play at East Carolina. In the last two weeks, he's been lights out. What have you seen from him?
I think the process of playing well for him, I think he's learned a lot about how to practice in the last couple games. I think our team has, and I've said it many times. Before ECU, I didn't feel like we practiced well, and we didn't play well, and so we've learned from that. Not that we're going to always be what we were on Saturday, but I think our guys do understand the process that they need to go through to get a better product, and Chubb's one of the guys that's really taken advantage of that. I think there was pressure on him that he put on himself a little bit early in the year, because of all the hype, and now he understands, to get the result, it's not about looking at anything outside. It's what's going on inside for him.

I know you love these questions, but when you're on that side of the river, and it's Clemson and Florida State, they become measuring stick games for you in your program. How do you feel like you are now in terms of latest round?
Well, I think we're better than we've been. I also think they're better than they've been. I mean, I do. I think this is the best defense we've seen from Clemson, and they're really good on defense. They've been good on offense for a long time, in my opinion. Not that their defense was bad last year, it wasn't, but they are really doing some good stuff defensively right now, and they're tackling well. Last year, they gave up a lot of big plays.

You don't see that on film right now, so it's going to be a challenge, but every game, you go out there against a ... What are they ranked? Second or third now? I don't know. Is it out yet? A top three team. Yeah, I mean, those are always measuring stick games. "Where are we compared to where we've been?"

I think our players will tell you that the biggest thing they're trying to do is be better than they were a week ago, and know that if we are, that we'll have a chance to win this football game.

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