Coaches Corner Recap with Curt Cignetti

This week's "Coaches Corner" at Hi-Five featured quarterbacks coach Curt Cignetti and here are some highlights from the event.

"A huge, huge win for the program."

That's how N.C. State quarterbacks coach Curt Cignetti described the Wolfpack's narrow road victory at Virginia Tech to a Coach's Corner crowd Tuesday. Coach Cignetti also gave due credit to good fortune, though, in describing Tech's one-foot field goal miss at game's end: "It's better to be lucky than good sometimes." The Wolfpack program was due for some luck, Coach Cignetti said, after some more unlucky moments at times during the 2003 season.

This isn't to say that it was all luck: Winning on the road against a great team and a great coach is no small feat, especially considering the crowd noise at Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium. Coach Cignetti cited Tech's crowd noise as creating "some difficulty" for the offense, saying that since Virginia Tech "bowled in" the end zone seating area the stadium was even louder – "as loud as Penn State or LSU." But while crediting crowd conditions for some problems, Coach Cignetti said, "we also shot ourselves in the foot" with offensive miscues, "a missed assignment here, a dropped ball there, or a five yard penalty."

Naturally Coach Cignetti gave great credit to the stifling Wolfpack defense: "We had the sense they couldn't score on us." The game plan, Cignetti said, was to capitalize on that great defensive play and run out the clock. "We made it harder on ourselves, though, than it should have been. We could have used a few more first downs" to put the game away and avoid sweating through Virginia Tech's final chance for the winning field goal.

Still, Coach Cignetti said, the victory showed that the Wolfpack was developing the "total team personality needed to win a big football game."

Replacing A Legend
The total team concept, Coach Cignetti said, was crucial as the Pack lives life without Philip Rivers. "I mean, let's face it," Coach Cignetti said. "You're trying to replace the greatest that's ever played at the school." The staff, he, said, had been used to Rivers finding a way to win with his great talent: "We were spoiled. We took [Philip's] greatness for granted."

But the team, Coach Cignetti said, is stepping up to fill the void left by Rivers' departure, including junior quarterback Jay Davis and freshman Marcus Stone. "Every week you'll see them get more confidence and make more plays." Coach Cignetti added that the Pack "had just played two Top-15 defenses," which tested both inexperienced quarterbacks. The first big test, he said, against Ohio State, didn't go as well as the Pack hoped, but the second ended up in a big win.

Coach Cignetti noted that both quarterbacks were working hard and gaining experience, and that he was trying to focus both on that goal. "I tell them not to read the Internet," Coach Cignetti said. "Every time you turn that thing on, you're [mad] when you turn it off."

Coach Cignetti reminded the crowd that while the offense had far more yards to its credit at this point in 2003, the winning record spoke for itself: "Would you rather have 449 more yards and be 1-2 or have fewer yards and be 2-1?"

Another Big Test: Wake Forest
"We got our ass kicked in that game," Cignetti said of the Pack's 2003 loss to the Demon Deacons. "We were never in that game. They dominated us. I left the press box in the first quarter to get a Diet Coke and when I got back we were down 20 points."

Wake, Coach Cignetti said, was a great team that was "one play away from being 4-0" instead of 3-1. He noted that Wake had switched this year from a 3-down set for a 4-down, returning to 3-down on third and long situations. Wake was creative on defense just as it was on offense, Coach Cignetti said.

Winning With The Defense
The offensive coach made special mention of great defensive play as crucial for success against Wake Forest and upcoming opponents. "Coach Amato's philosophy is, ‘win with defense', Coach Cignetti said." [Coach Amato] got us together last year and said that after Philip left, we would win games with defense." While fans were used to high-scoring games during the Rivers era, "you might be seeing more games [now] that are 14-7," instead of 42-38 – but "the bottom line is whether the Wolfpack comes out on top."

Abundance Of Talent At Running Back
Coach Cignetti ended his talk by discussing a ‘problem' many coaches wouldn't mind having: what to do with all the superior running backs on the squad. "We're beating our heads against the wall trying to get talented younger RB's in the game," Coach Cignetti said, noting the staff's appreciation for the hard work of those young players. Coach Cignetti did reveal, in response to a fan question, that the Pack indeed had a two-back set formation as part of the offensive package. The prospect of, say, Bobby Washington and T.A. McClendon lining up in this formation is interesting, to say the least.

Next Tuesday, safeties coach Manny Diaz will be the guest at Hi-Five's "Coaches Corner."


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