O'Brien: 'We'll Be Tested Again'

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

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    Tom O'Brien

    Tommy Bowden told us you made a friend at Clemson after the handshake.
    I don't have anything to say about anything after the game.

    How much do you think the offense took a step forward, especially after halftime on Saturday?
    I think the quarterback took a step forward which helped the offense. I think we ran the ball much better throughout the game. When you look at the end, both Curtis [Underwood] and Andre [Brown] both carried the ball for over four yards a carry, which I think is a positive for us.

    I think Russell [Wilson, after a few hiccups there especially in the second quarter getting in and out of the huddle and getting to the line of scrimmage trying to get the ball snapped, settled down and played much better in the third quarter, which hopefully you would expect to see. We have to build on that. We're going up against a veteran, wily, tough East Carolina defense so we'll be tested again severely this week.

    You said on the coach's show Russell [Wilson] did a really good job outside the pocket and you'd like to see that a little more. Can you take us through that a little bit?
    What he did was he brought himself time. He started in the pocket and got out of the pocket buying himself time, which extended the play... which is what he has to learn how to do.

    I think that's what he does best, is extends plays, and then found somebody down. When he came back and found Andre on the one third down situation, I think those are things that he can build on and get better at for us.

    How about keeping his focus downfield... I don't know if receivers are open, but is that something he needs to be able to do as well?
    I think he needs to do a lot of things Ken. He's played five quarters of football, so he's got a ways to go, but he's working in that direction and we're going to do the best job we can in helping him become a good quarterback.

    You're right, but the kid is young... he's got to learn a lot.

    You gave away a few points against Clemson on special teams, will there be anything you do different this week?
    You don't have [C.J.] Spiller and [Jacoby] Ford and those guys back there. They've done that to everybody. We tried to kick it away from them. They got one kickoff return on us and that was it. It isn't like we gave a lot of points on special teams.

    We gave up one kickoff return when they fielded the short kickoff. We did a much better job. We didn't have to punt in the second half, that was the good news. The three that we kicked, we punted decently, they got no return yards on us in the punting game, so I thought we did a good job in the kicking game against them.

    Aside from Nate Irving, was Alan-Michael Cash maybe playing as well as anybody you had on the defense?
    He was probably our best... he was without question our best player up front... so will be a tough loss for the team, but we'll go on.

    What is the status of Jamelle? Do you know how long he will be out.
    Indefinite... he's out indefinite.

    Two guys no longer on the two-deep are Curtis Crouch and Geron James. Are they both out with injuries?
    Yes sir.

    Thoughts on Andre Brown:
    I think Andre has matured a lot from the day I got here. You look at him as a running back, he had a great couple of runs as a freshman or sophomore here actually, nice long runs, but some of the things that we asked him to do he wasn't real good at when we first got here. As I told him this Sunday at a team meeting, I thought it was by far the best he's run since I've been here. He was running tough inside, he was getting tough yards, and he was going forward. He caught the ball and got hit and made yards after contact... he was much more a complete back, as far as I was concerned, Saturday than at anytime since I've seen him here.

    Those are the things you wanted him to do that he wasn't' good at?
    Maybe he wasn't asked to do that before we got here. I don't know. I know that is what we've asked of him. He wasn't real keen on doing it a year ago.

    Do you see yourself using T.J. Graham like Clemson uses Jacoby Ford in the passing game and running game?

    I don't know how much we'll use him going forward as a running back the way they use Ford, but certainly he has ability to be a special player, I think. Now whether he will or not, that's going to come down to him, but certainly in the return game.

    We had [Will] Blackmon at BC who ended up 12 yards shy of the national return record. I think he's got as much or more ability as he does returning kickoffs. If we can get him blocked... we were one block away from springing one on Saturday.

    If those guys work up front and he continues, he's got the speed, he's got some vision, and he can run. You don't want to saddle any young kid with those expectations, but if he continues to work hard and stay healthy and we give him the support he needs by blocking for him I think he can do some damage, especially in the return game and catching the football.

    Can you talk about where the East Carolina program is?
    I think when you look at them, they are much more confident than they were when we played them a year ago. I think that's a product of the fact that they are all two or three-year lettermen playing, especially on the defensive side of the football. The quarterback is a fifth-year guy that's now in the fourth year in the system. He's been the biggest difference on that football team with his play. He played very sparingly against us, hardly any against us last year.

    You look at the way he's playing, he led two game-winning drives in situations like that... fourth quarter scoring drives. They are a team that Coach Holtz has done a great job. He's in his fourh year, and these guys took some lumps as young kids and now they're seniors and juniors and they are dishing the lumps back out.

    Can you talk about what you think the next step is for the offensive line? They are opening up holes for the running game and the pass blocking has been alright. What is the next step?
    Same thing. It changes every week because the defenses change. We have to continue to work hard each and every week.. .we're no way a finished product up front, and each week presents new challenges.

    [Curtis] Crouch was a knee?
    No... foot. [Crouch and James] are foots... ankles.

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