Head coach Dave Doeren
I just want to say how proud I am of our football team, our coaching staff and support staff for winning three of the past four games and the way we did it. We played physical, and I thought we played really hard. We’ve talked about playing hard, tough and together all season long.
Through the growing process and the journey, these guys really stuck together and bought in and fought through a bunch of adversity to finish in three of our last four games -- beating an SEC team, which hasn’t been done at NC State in 15 years, our third straight season with a winning record and having tremendous momentum leading into our offseason program with (the strength coach) and his staff and what’s to come next year.
I’m really excited about what’s ahead, and incredibly proud of the resiliency and the persistence these guys have.
The way they played tonight, they really wanted that win, and you could see it. Momentum swung hard when Vanderbilt had that punt return and exchanged points. Then Nyheim (Hines) had his big (100-yard kickoff) return. The defensive line got some key sacks. Airius (Moore) got a key sack at the end. Then we had the pick-6 to cap it with an exclamation point from Niles (Clark). That was awesome.
I’m really proud of these guys and the staff. We started this thing four years ago and some of these guys up here were in that first class. They were small, they were light. They thought they were world-beaters, and they weren’t yet, but they hung together and fought and got in the weight room and persisted. Now a bunch of these guys are in their third year, some are in their fourth, and so it’s been a pleasure.
As a coach, when you get to coach a guy, recruit a guy, I’ve been a part of their lives since the recruiting process. To see them play tonight for their brothers was fun.
On the dry weather:
We control the controllables. That’s what we live by. We didn’t have any (bad weather), but we expected it. It’s not going to matter.
On whether the game plan was to get the ball to Jaylen Samuels or if it developed into that:
A lot of our run plays have screens. We call it managing the perimeter. They weren’t bumping linebackers out of the box, so we were just taking what they were giving us. The receivers blocked for him, and (offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz) had a couple of plays that were going to be handed to him, and he did a great job of taking advantage of those as well.
One of them was just a three-step throw, a hitch, and (Samuels) just broke a tackle and ran with it. I thought Drink did a good job managing the game and getting the ball around and (quarterback) Ryan (Finley) and Jaylen both putting the ball in the right place for some guys and them making catches.
I also want to throw some love out to the (defensive) staff. You guys have no idea what a pain in the butt Vanderbilt’s offense is with all the motions and jets and crazy formations they have. You’re talking about 12 weeks of film study.
Airius (Moore) will tell you, but (defensive coordinator Dave) Huxtable and his guys did a great job of putting together a scheme to stop the run and make those guys have to earn those yards. It was like arithmetic in there. Those guys were seriously going through some stuff.
Both coordinators did a tremendous job giving these kids a chance to go out there and do what they do.
On Trae Meadows’ interception:
We needed to have a couple of takeaways there. They were plus-2 in the game. We turned it over twice in the first half in the red zone. Defensively, we were able to get two back and turn them both into touchdowns.
That was a great play. We were in two man and Trae was trailing the guy. He turned around and caught the football. It was a big play for a freshman. He’s a true freshman, transferred in the middle of the summer.
He was really a special teams guy and because we had an injury at corner with Mike Stevens, we had to move Niles (Clark), who backs up Dravious (Wright) at nickel, back to corner, and Trae stepped up and did a really good job taking advantage of an opportunity.
On using the win as recruiting momentum:
We already have. I was talking to a recruit in the locker room before I came in here. I just told him, we’re one of the hottest teams in college football. We won three of our last four games.
Three of those wins were on the road if you count this one. To do it against North Carolina and to do it against Vandy, who are both good football teams, with a bunch of really good players who are coming back to help us, this is the place you want to be.
There’s no better place to live than Raleigh, North Carolina. We’ve got the best fans, tremendous facilities, and a bunch of young guys who are hungry to win the conference who are coming back next year.
I’m excited about that, and recruits see that.
On whether this was the team that resembled the Wolfpack’s 4-1 start:
Yeah. We just didn’t finish. We had a couple of tough losses where we just didn’t finish games. The guys learned the hard way. Sometimes you’ve got to go through that. I think that’s why college football is so great for young people. It teaches them the hardest lessons in life. It gives them the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. We went through it all.
The beauty of these guys is they hung together. They stuck it out for each other. There’s a lot of stuff that happens in a 12-week season that people on the outside have no clue what we really go through. That’s why it’s such a good feeling to get that win the last two games with these guys because they play for each other.
On beating an SEC team, handing the conference its first I-Bowl loss since 2006:
I would think that means a lot. For us to be the team to do it, with a bunch of guys who hung together and believed in each other when nobody else did, that’s what happens when you stick it out and fight.
Like I told the team, there’s never been a championship football team that quit when things got tough, and that’s not who we’re going to be. Because we went through it this year, it’s going to make next year even better. There’s a lot of momentum going into the offseason with a lot of great kids and the strength staff.
We’re going to have a lot of fun.
On answering Vandy after a loss of momentum:
That’s key. We talked about it in today’s team meetings. We said at some point, momentum’s going to swing their way. Somebody in this room needs to swing it back, and Nyheim did that with that return. They had the (punt) return that went 70-something yards, and then they scored the touchdown. We turned around and swung it back the other way. They never got anything going after that. That’s what you have to do if you want to win. You’ve got to find a way.
On Vanderbilt’s red-zone defense:
They’re the No. 1 red-zone defense in college football for a reason. They’re good at what they do down there. They make you earn it. Obviously, we fumbled twice, which is a killer. That’s a huge swing momentum-wise. We found the answers as the game went along. The guys did a good job scoring as we got down there at the end of the game.