O'Brien Talks Maryland

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State head coach Tom O'Brien discusses the upcoming game against Maryland with the media.

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    Tom O'Brien

    Thoughts on how Ralph Friedgen has handled the injuries at Maryland:
    Well he's had them on the offensive line. That's always tough to with stand injuries up there because the cohesiveness and continuity that is needed.

    Those guys have been together now for the last four or five weeks and you can see the job that they're doing. They're getting better and they seem like they are playing with more confidence the last two weeks. Certainly they had a great game against Boston College and then went down there and played a tough game against Florida State.

    Do you mention your bowl streak with your team?
    I haven't mentioned it all.

    Is it important to you?

    Have you ever been in this particular situation... going into the last game where you go?
    I have to think. I think one year at Boston College, probably three or four years ago we had to go down, and we played Rutgers and Virginia Tech... we had to beat both of them at the end of the year, probably three years ago... and we had to win both of them at that point.

    I think we ended up going 6-5 to Hawaii... that was my third or fourth year at BC. I've gone before with six wins.

    You won't mention your streak, but will you tell the team it's all or nothing on Saturday?
    We talked about it Sunday. They have to understand that this is what they're playing for. They can do the math. I think they are well aware of what this means.

    Are the extra practices you receive from a bowl game important?
    I think that's the biggest thing for me right now for this football team is to have the opportunity to have extra practices and go back on the field and work with the young kids especially.

    It gives you a head start on spring practice. It will almost be similar to what we did the off-week... experiment a little bit here or there and see what we have... especially with the returning players.

    Is it an accomplishment if you could go to a bowl game?
    I think they have done a heck of a job the second half of the year. I think we've accomplished a lot... it's just that we dug ourselves too deep a hole the first half of the year that we're in this situation now.

    It certainly would be great for the seniors to go out because they came in wanting to go to a bowl game in their last year, so we're going to have to play a really good game on Saturday. We have to go back to that formula that got us the four other victories. We went back and turned the ball over and gave up a lot of big plays last Saturday... that's been the bad formula.

    Any players mention to you that they've been in this situation before?
    After the game on Saturday I've mentioned it to them that they've been in this situation before. Those guys were here... they understand. You don't have to tell guys that you need to win six to go to a bowl.

    How big of a setback was the loss to Wake Forest?
    I don't think it was a setback. I think you got to give Wake Forest a lot of credit. He's been there a long time and they got a pretty good system going there and what they do. We just weren't capable... we're maybe not to the point, and we're not a great football team.

    Great football teams can win four or five games in a row and still keep going. You look at the emotional win these kids had down there in the Orange Bowl, and I was really worried going into the Carolina game that that took a lot of them. That because of playing in the humidity and they were really tired that week, but they found a way to get it done.

    I think our gas tank was a little bit empty. We fought hard and got back in it in the third quarter, but we just weren't able to get it over the hump... you've got to give them some credit, too.

    After looking at film, what positives stood out?
    At halftime we got much more aggressive on defense... we got off our heels. You look at what we did. You gave up one 62-yard play and you gave up a 19-yard run, and I think there was 25 yards in the other 27 plays. They played 48 plays the first half and about 29 in the second.

    Offensively, you got 15 points on there. You got it back to a 21-18 game and you're right in it, but you just didn't have enough to get over the hump at that point.

    You've said the team needs to pass 40 times a game. Is that because the offensive line is more comfortable pass blocking?
    I think it's the factor of where we are in our progression and what we are able to do and best utilizing our people and that gives us the best chance to win... getting the ball to our skill people on the perimeter.

    You mentioned the gas tank was empty. How do you get that back?
    I think it comes back. Kids are able to recover. It isn't something that I think is going to last forever. You throw in only the fourth time you've beaten North Carolina in 15 years... it doesn't matter, I don't know how many times I've read in the last week about coaches trying to pound into a team's head, you've got to be careful this and that.

    They walk around that campus and they've got everybody telling them what a great victory and everybody talking about North Carolina... nobody is mentioning Wake Forest. They are kids. You do the best you can with them, but sometimes they have to be.... that's why mature football teams are able to withstand those and good football teams are able to withstand those things and put them away. Where sometimes in the first year, in the terms of our growth, we're still an immature project here.

    Do you there was a lingering effect with the UNC win?
    As I've said before, I think the combination of Miami to North Carolina or whatever... that takes it out of you.

    Earlier in the winning streak a lot was about fun but suddenly you have more to play for. You think that was a factor?
    I think it was a combination of playing Wake Forest, and they got us back on our heels until we caught up. It goes back to maybe we didn't do a good enough job with the scout team and the speed... especially the precision with which they run their offense.

    We weren't lighting it up with our offense either in the first half. I think it's a combination of a lot of things.

    We had to play our best game to beat Wake Forest, and we weren't capable of doing it that night. Some of the credit certainly goes to Wake Forest, their coaching staff, and their players.

    How do you keep a team emotionally on a level after wins and losses?
    We do that as a staff, but they're humans. It's a lot easier for me when people are calling them dogs to tell them they are not dogs and you're going to play good, then when they're playing good and people are telling them they're great, and I'm telling them they're you're dogs.

    I can call them dogs whenever I want... that's what I have to do sometimes. This is a great discussion.

    How close is this to being a mature football team like you would like?
    No, it's not even close. It's just the fact of life... not enough time.

    Can you talk about the seniors, as a group... the leadership?
    It's been a tough year for them. They've lost their coach that recruited them and been around their whole careers here. Things changed, and probably changed drastically when we got here, so it's been a learning process for them.

    It's been a tough process. Some of them have flourished and some of them haven't. Some of them hadn't gotten the time I'm sure that they wanted where others have.

    The bottom line is they have been great kids, they have been fun to be around, they have worked, and they've hung in there. They were faced with a 1-5 season and certainly could have packed it in and said, "This is over with, I'm going to get the heck out of here and going to go through the motion."

    They fought hard and they're back the second half... we're 4-1 with a chance to be 5-1. You have to give them a tremendous amount of credit for what they've done for this program.

    Thoughts on Darrell Blackman's play:
    He had probably his best day Saturday. He's not a natural receiver. He's a natural running back but was moved to receiver and certainly we needed him out there on the perimeter. Sometimes we've been challenged getting him the ball, but that's the first time since we've been here that he's gone after deep balls and gone up and gotten them and taken them away from people. I think it's a good step forward, and he's always a guy who shows up and he competes and he's happy to practice and loves to play the football game. He'll be missed because of his energy that he brings to practice and the football field.

    You say he's not a natural receiver?
    He doesn't catch the ball naturally... all those years at running back the ball hasn't hit his hands enough. Now he's worked at it... he does a nice job catching punts and kicks. A lot of times the ball kind of surprises him sometimes, I think.

    Thoughts on Marcus Stone at tight end:
    I think it's pretty remarkable that we've played 11 games with a quarterback at tight end. You look at the job that he's done, he's gotten better each and every week. I can't revisit his quarterback days because we never had him at quarterback, but he certainly has gotten better each and every week at tight end. He's made some really good catches lately. I think he's a guy that Daniel feels confident throwing the ball to... that's he going to catch it if he gets it near him.

    What concerns you about Maryland?
    They are a real physical football team. They're going to come here... Ralph wants to run the football. He's got two really good running backs. The quarterback has gotten better each and every week, so he's fully more confident with what he's doing. With Heyward-Bey they definitely have a deep threat... he's going to run by everybody in the game. That's looking at them offensively.

    Defensively, you look at the starting lineup and those guys have been playing forever... it's like they have an eight-year program or something. I know they've been there the three years that we've been in the conference. A lot of experience on defense.

    Thoughts on Daniel Evans' play against Wake Forest:
    I think that he, as everybody else on the football team, would have liked to play better.

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