UNC-NCSU: Locker Room Report

RALEIGH, N.C.--UNC football players Mike Mason, Matt Baker, Barrington Edwards, Tommy Davis, and Tommy Richardson talk about the Tar Heels 31-24 victory over NC State in Carter-Finley Stadium.

Mike Mason

Does Coach Bunting do anything special to get you guys motivated for these "big games"?

It seems like we have more focus when it is time for a big game and we are underdogs. We don't like being called underdogs because we have the same potential as any other team. We have good coaching and top-notch players; we just have to come out and show what we can do.

What happened before the game between you and Tramain Hall - it looked like he was receiving a punt at mid-field, bumped into you, and then you exchanged some pleasantries.

There are a lot of guys on the team that don't really like him; all he does is talk trash and he doesn't ever back it up on the field. He was catching a punt, bumped into me, and came to our sideline talking trash to everybody - you know the way they always do. We came away with the 'W' today.

There was another incident in the endzone between some linebackers or something and Coach Amato had some things to say and some of the players mixed it up a little. Does that kind of thing get you going?

When they do stuff like that it is like they are disrespecting us. That just pumps us up more. They did that last year and look what happened. They did it this time and look what happened. Every time they do that, we go into the locker room and say, 'They are disrespecting us, so we have to go out there and show them what we are really about.'

There has been a lot of talk about NC State's facility upgrades, their super athletes from Florida, how NC State football is 'this,' and Carolina is a basketball school. Having beaten them two years in a row and having beaten them physically, do you that will silence that talk?

That's mostly talk from people over here. People in Chapel Hill know what we are capable of doing. The News and Observer and papers like that don't ever give us a chance, so we come out here and play our hearts out and we always come out on top.

What was your feeling about this rivalry growing up? You are at Carolina, and you have talked about being a Tar Heel fan.

In Rocky Mount there are more NC State fans. There are some Carolina fans, and when they play people always talk about it. Everybody would get together and watch it on TV. It's a big thing around the Triangle and eastern North Carolina.

This is a really big game for me. I love playing in it, I love playing against State, I LOVE playing over here because their crowd is so crazy.

Coaches say that no game should be more important than any other, but the coaches and players in this game every year say that it is not just another game. How is this game different on the field?

Our main focus was to win because we needed a win. We didn't want to be 0-3. Coming over here to beat NC State would be a BIG win because we would be underdogs like we always are. We had to prove people wrong.

Matt Baker

Coach John Bunting seems to have a knack for winning these "big games," don't you think?

It's the coaches and players combined. Everyone joined together, and it is a testament to the heart of this team. I think Carolina teams of past years have folded when they'd go down at the beginning of the [second] half. Not this team - this team has too much heart.

NC State scored twice really quick at the beginning of the half to go up two scores. Then your offense scored twice. What changed to get the offense going?

Nothing. They covered different plays. We went pretty much in the shotgun and the short passing game. We were able to get the ball quick before [Mario Williams] and [Manny Lawson] got to us. We just got momentum and played fast. I think they got a little bit tired, and we kept going at them.

Did you feel hot on that streak of completions you had, I think seven in a row? And what happened on the touchdown to Hamlett?

I didn't feel hot. I was just trying to get the offense moving, hurry up in the huddle, so I didn't have time to think about completions. We were just trying to get in and out of the huddle to play as fast as we could.

The touchdown to Hamlett was the same play we ran to [tight end] Justin Phillips early in the drive that went for 15 to 20 yards.

What was the difference in the offense between the first half and second half?

We just had time. I think I got hit about every time we threw in the first half. They are good - they are a great team. That's a fast defense and they play good cover-man-2. You can get off the press coverage, which is tough; you still have safeties behind them so it's tough to get into any rhythm in that.

Again, in the first half we put ourselves in must-pass situations. It's easy for a defense to sniff it out.

You ran the ball well, though.

Running the ball we did great, [but] we struggled with protection in the first half. We completely picked everything up in the second half and didn't have much of a problem, besides a couple of plays. Hats off to them - they played great.

How did the running game help today?

It allows you to not be in a must-pass situation. You need to stay out of those. Second and long and third and long are [passing downs]. Everyone in the stadium knows it's a pass, unless you are going to run a draw, pretty much.

When the defense knows you are going to pass the ball, they don't have to worry about keeping players in the box - they can drop people in coverage, they can mix things up. Being able to run the ball brings people up in the box, and we got a lot of that. We kept up the short passing game so we didn't have to put anything too far downfield, and the receivers made plays after they caught the ball.

What does it mean to you to win this game against this team?

It's great to come out and have your first victory as a starter against NC State. It's so much sweeter for the team. This team has been close, our offense has been close, but close doesn't count in football. We came out against our biggest rival, in a hole, 0-2, to come out with a victory is big in this game.

NC State's defense gets a lot of accolades. How would you assess the offensive line's performance against this defensive line?

I think they played great, especially running the ball. We had a little trouble pass protecting - I think everyone is going to have trouble pass protecting against them. Numbers 91 and 9 get a lot of credit on the outside, but I think the real player on that defense is number 90. Nothing against them, they are great players, but the unsung hero on that defense is number 90. He creates a lot of pressure up the middle.

Barrington Edwards

Is that one of the strangest games you've been a part of with all of the miscues?

Oh, yeah. It was just whoever kept the will and wanted to fight to the end - that was going to be the winner of this game. I commend my team. They didn't give up for one play. Congratulations to the Tar Heels.

How would you assess your individual performance today?

With my offensive line blocking for me, the way they blocked, I give the credit to them. They made me me today. The way they blocked, all I had to do was use my eyes and run through the hole.

How did it feel to score your first touchdown?

Ah man, I'm looking for the ball now. It feels good. When it happened it kind of shocked me. I was like, 'OK, all right, let me get to the sideline.' I didn't know how to celebrate or anything. It felt good.

You didn't grow up in this state like a lot of players on both sides have. Do you have a full appreciation for this rivalry?

Not even growing up here, the atmosphere made it feel like more of a rival, and I've never been a part of it, but I have now. I'm part of it now.

Could you sense anything extra on the field between these two teams?

Both teams are from North Carolina, and I can say that [neither] team really likes each other. You could see that from the get-go.

Tommy Davis

On Thursday Coach Bunting said for you guys to grow up and be men. Was that the message that he gave you?

It was time for us to be accountable - no more saying 'My bad' when you make a mistake. You have to go out there and not make those mistakes.

This defense has come a long way in the last couple of years. How did you do it?

Experience and we have depth now. We can roll our front four like any other team. We have a fresh set of guys in there every time. We have linebackers with experience, and we have corners who know their jobs.

What does it mean to this team to come into this hostile stadium and win as underdogs - what was the atmosphere in the locker room?

We didn't feel like underdogs. We felt it was time for us to win. We knew we were close the past two weeks. We knew we were close and we just had to finish. Today we finished.

What does it mean to win knowing that not many people gave you a chance?

It means a lot. It finally has shown that we can win. It's what we've been looking for. The first two games were close, and we finally turned the corner and are headed in the right direction.

Every year the coaches and players involved in this game say that it's not just another game. How is it different?

It is your rival. You are going to see these guys walking around in the mall or something. You can talk noise if you like. It's a great relief to beat your rival.

Tommy Richardson

You've been a part of this rivalry for several years. What were your thoughts, feelings, and emotions when the game was over today and you had won?

It was an incredible feeling. I guess nothing can match the Miami feeling from last year. At the same time, we are 1-2, kind of behind where we want to be as far as our goals go, and we have an outstanding Utah team to prepare for. Now we have to put [this win] behind us and prepare for [Utah].

The fans of this rivalry go back and forth about this game every year. Do you notice a difference between players in this game?

We really do a good job of being competitive out there, so to speak. NC State, they talked the way they talk, we talked the way we talk, but we all kept it competitive and there were not as many personal flags as I thought there might be. We did a great job of competing out there, and they do a great job so they will be a very successful team.

A lot has been made of NC State's running game with all of their running backs, but you handled that today. How did you do it?

We did a good job, but we weren't tackling well again. We have to get that [corrected] and tackle better. We really have to pick it up in the passing games. They had over 200 yards passing. If we pick that up, we will stop the run. That is one of our main goals, and we are going to do that.

You were everywhere out there today - a sack, a fumble recovery. What were you seeing that allowed you to exploit their offense?

It was a blessed situation. God put me in the right situations. I thought that I had an interception, when they tipped it back and it was a fumble. They tipped it and we ended up getting the fumble inside the five yard line.

They did a great job, but we did a good job of preparing for them. We knew what they wanted to do, and I just followed my keys. I messed up a lot, but I was running around to counter that. I ran around and just jumped on the pile.

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