“I think the defense played great and it was a great win and something to build off of as we head into the back half of the season. We have NC State this week and Coach Doeren has done a great job down there, very good football team. They lost a heartbreaker last week to Miami 31-30, playing good defense.
They’re very aggressive up front, linebackers flow and can tackle and then offensively, they have a quarterback, who’s playing some good football right now, his touchdown to interception ratio is really strong. He can throw the ball. They have two really good running backs and their offensive line is very solid. I just think overall, they’re just a good football team, they’re playing hard and that gives you a chance.
They’re sitting at 5-2, another ranked team that we have an opportunity to go play on the road, it’s going to be exciting. This will probably be the best atmosphere on the road that we’ve played in since I’ve been here and I know NC State always has a live crowd and last time we went down, their record wasn’t as good, it was rainy and the crowd wasn’t as good but we anticipate this crowd to be a very good crowd and it’s around Halloween, so a lot of things going on with this one, but I think we’re looking forward to this, and an opportunity right now.
We told our team, kind of where we’re sitting within ACC standings, there’s still a great opportunity in ACC, we take care of business Saturday, then we’re sitting in second place on our side. Everybody on the other side has at least two losses except for Pitt in the conference and on our side, everybody will have two except for Wake Forest and there’s a lot of ball left to be played. There’s still a plan for a lot of things at this point the season and you got to find all those things as a football team, where we are right now in this point the season. We came out of this last game very healthy. That was the probably the best game as far as health wise and that’s big for us at this point in the season, particularly coming off of that bye. We’re excited about this opportunity this week and looking forward to playing NC State.”
(On close games in ACC play)
“As you’re watching all these games in our league, it’s so competitive, every game is down to the wire. What we’ve talked about is how you finish these games in the fourth quarter, that’s why it’s heartbreaking, particularly the Virginia game when you’re sitting there up at 17 and you just didn’t find a way to finish it out and to their credit, they did, they found the ways and that’s why they’re sitting there with the record they have. The same with Wake Forest and because they are finishing out these games and they found a way just to make one more play in order to make that happen.
We were able to do that this past week, this game in the fourth quarter was a one possession game, could have gone either way. Our offense took the ball and went down the field to score a touchdown, that was huge for us and we’ve got to be able to do those kind of things close out those teams and in the fourth quarter, it will be no different for most of these games that we’re going to play the rest of the season, just think about NC State last week against Miami, Miami is a 2-5 team, it doesn’t matter. As the game is coming down to the end it’s a 31 to 30 score so it’s just the way this is, you’ve got to be able to play the full game and be focused throughout the whole game.”
(On NC State’s defense)
“They play extremely hard, all of them do, especially their safety, Tanner Ingle. He’s only 180 pounds, but he will find you hit you as hard as anybody we played this year, that’s just what he does. He’s like a heat seeking missile and he’s just one player. They’re a three down team, they’ll drop a lot to keep everything in front and their three defensive lineman get out and they really free their linebackers up. I think Drake Thomas is a really good player and Isaiah Moore is outstanding as well. Moore was up for Defensive Player of the ACC at one point and he’s an outstanding player as a middle linebacker. They keep everything in front of them and they just make the offense have to move the ball. They’re shutting the run game down from everybody, I think Louisiana Tech had the rushing yards against them throughout the season at 135 yards, not very many at all. Mississippi State couldn’t run the ball and South Florida couldn’t do anything. They’re just a very solid defense and they’re not afraid to bring pressure, they’ll bring the house and put the pressure back on the offense. It’s a swarming defense and I know they’ve had some injuries and they lost Payton Wilson early in the year and now Moore, which obviously hurts them. They’ve had to start playing some guys that maybe hadn’t played as much, but I think the scheme of their defense gives them an opportunity.”
(On having more tackles for loss than sacks allowed)
“I’m just really proud of them first of all. The last couple years we’ve been one of the worst in the country in tackles for loss and sacks and I think we’re 14th and ninth so, Top 15 now in the country and that’s been great. They’ve been playing really well, and I thought our offensive line played their best game against BC (Boston College) Saturday; they opened up some big holes Saturday. It gives us confidence to know that no matter what we’re calling, we’re going to be in plus yardage. That just keeps you on the sticks and enables you to have an opportunity to at least pick up a third down. To me, that’s been the worst thing we’ve done this year. I think we were 40% Saturday on third down and we have to do a better job on third downs because we are giving ourselves better opportunities because we don’t have as many of these third and 14 or 18 or whatever we’ve had. It does maybe change a little bit just because it keeps you on the chains and you have an opportunity to get first downs, I think that’s probably the biggest thing.”
(On the turnovers against Boston College)
“On the first one, we want to take a shot, we’re in the point of the game where we want to try to get Tyler Harrell the ball and he ran by his man, and initially, I thought he really under threw him quite a bit but going back and watching it, it wasn’t that much of an under throw. I think number 10 made a great play and I didn’t realize, if you go back and look over his career, number 10 has nine or 10 interceptions on his career. He has really good ball skills. He had to flip around, turn, go up and catch the football, that was a great play by him. When they caught that, they were backed up when they’re minus 10 and the way our defense was playing it doesn’t really hurt you that bad but that was a great play, sometimes the defense wins.
The other one, another great play by number nine, and it was more my fault, I shouldn’t have called that play at that particular time. We had just had the big punt return and we had a penalty that knocked us back to the plus 31 and we ran a little skinny with (Marshon) Ford, and he just jumped it. That’s a timing throw, Malik’s (Cunningham) has to throw that ball as Ford is coming out of his break and number nine beat him to the point. I don’t want to say it was on Malik, but he’s trying to throw it on time on that one but a great play by number nine. We probably need a tendency breaker, we have to do some better things offensively than to call that, I put that on myself rather than Malik.
We obviously don’t want to turn the football over. The two really big turnovers were the two fumbles. We have to take care of the football when we run it. Hassan (Hall) fumbled and (Trevion) Cooley fumbled on those two big plays, particularly, Hassan, we were getting ready to score, and then we’re coming off the goal line on the other one and we put our defense right back in a tough situation. This will be a huge game for us to be able to take care of the football.”
(On Malik Cunningham’s growth this year)
“He’s always been a pretty good runner. I remember the year I got here; he was the leading rusher the year before in the 2018 season. He just has a good ability to make people miss when they think they have him hemmed up. There were some plays Saturday that were incredible, I don’t know how he got out of them. This year we have some really intentional plays for him, and I think it gives him a better opportunity to be able to make some plays, particularly down in the redzone. We want to put the pressure on the defense’s we’re playing, and allow him to be able to run the football within some of those situations and he’s been a good decision maker. I think he’s been a better decision maker this than in the past. To me, the biggest growth is his poise in the pocket; that’s been the biggest thing this year. I was watching the film from NC State two years ago and there were times we had some guys open, and he would just take off and run it. Whereas this year, he’s sitting in the pocket, he’s making those throws and when he does need to get out he’s been able to do that so I think his decision making has probably been the best thing this year.”
(On Trevion Cooley finishing out the game after a redzone fumble)
“That was big. Anytime you have a mistake like that, you want to try to get them back out there so they can get their conference back up. That was a good play by the corner, (Trevion Cooley) turns it up and the guy comes from behind, but it’s a good learning lesson for him that once you break the line of scrimmage to keep the ball high and tight on the inside. We went and watched the film from that last drive, and he had really good ball security within that and that’s what we want to see. He went back out and he made some great runs there. I think that drive may have put him over 100. I think he has a big upside; he just needs the opportunities, and he got that Saturday, and he made the most of it.”