"Obviously, as it is pretty much all around the country, it's rivalry weekend. We certainly are no different than any of the other schools in the country that have a big challenge. Although from a record standpoint, N.C. State may not be having the season that they certainly envisioned or thought they would, it doesn't diminish the challenge of how talented they are.
"I think everybody that's played against N.C. State recognizes how talented that Russell Wilson is. It's unique when a freshman is first-team All-ACC and he's just an electrifying player. He throws the ball well, he manages the game well [and] he can create and extend plays. He's as good a passer as he is a runner. He's not just an athlete playing quarterback. He's truly a quarterback that's got athletic gifts that allows him to run.
"Defensively, they are very similar to the defense that we faced last week against Boston College. It's a very physical front seven. They're stingy against the run. They give you an awful lot of bad plays. Willie Young, the defensive end, is one of the better pass rushers that we've seen in the last two or three years. He's a very talented kid."
On limiting Wilson's big-play potential:
"It is such a challenge because unlike a lot of kids that are just athletically gifted and run around, this is a kid that runs around and makes plays. By design, he makes them. A lot of it is that they get on the perimeter through blocking schemes and play-action, and some of it is through his own creation, but he's a very gifted and talented quarterback. You've just got to be smart and you've got to be disciplined and you've got to make sure that you don't take stupid dumb chances and do things that certainly give him an opportunity to create a big play."
How do you avoid making stupid plays but yet keep pressure on Wilson?
"Well, I don't know, to be honest with you. I think that you have to have a good defensive scheme plan but you're not just trying to stop Russell Wilson. They've got a good running game and a big physical offensive line. Their receivers are fast and they make plays. So it's just not as simple as loading the box up with 7-8-9 guys and being able to take away every single scramble lane. There are a lot of other concerns besides Russell Wilson. Certainly, he's a major part of it, but you just talk to your kids about being focused, about not taking liberties and running underneath blocks and being unsound in their pass rush. And I don't know that you can ever totally stop anybody like that, but hopefully you can minimize the damage."
On the importance of getting to nine wins:
"We're trying to grow this program. We're still not where we would like to be or where we hope that we'll be in the next couple of years, but each year we want to try to make some strides and make some progress. Winning games, obviously, is an important part of building your program. We've been fortunate that our kids have fought through some unbelievable adversity this year, losing a pretty significant number of good players, even before the season started.
"And then as the season wore on, in the first month of the season, it seemed like it was a MASH unit, that every single week you were losing two or three more players. And certainly around the middle of the season, we started to get a little bit of stability in that the same five offensive linemen started to play just about every game and that helped a little bit from the consistency standpoint. But we've been decimated at the tailback position, we lost an awful lot of offensive linemen and we've had to ride the coattails of the defense."
Has the defense surpassed your expectations this year?
"Oh, I don't know. You never really know that you're going to be able to create some of the turnovers and the scoring opportunities defensively. We felt like in 2007, we had to make a decision at that time to try to get speed on the field and get the potential for growing and developing defense. We played an awful lot of young kids and it was baptism under fire. And as they've progressed through their careers, they've gotten a lot better and they've gained experience. Certainly, we're seeing the results of some of that this season. We felt like we had the makings of a defense.
"But you always need to have depth and I guess maybe one of the things that has been a pleasant surprise has been how quick some young freshman linebackers like Kevin Reddick and Zach Brown have been able to come in and help play at the linebacker position. Some of the guys in the defensive line, their ability to continue to develop and improve to give the starters a little bit of a rest… That's probably been one of the most pleasant surprises this year."