Back To The Basics

Back To The Basics

N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien discussed his football team during his weekly teleconference. O'Brien discusses this week's game against South Alabama, his defense, and much more.

Opening Statement:
Well, we spent a lot of time looking at the tape of Wake Forest. We made our corrections, put it behind us, now moved on to South Alabama and tried to get ourselves to practice a little better, a little enthusiasm, be a better football team come Saturday.

Tom, a little bit off the beaten path. When you went from BC to NC State, you played BC that first year, what was that like? Were there any extra emotions? Take me through how that was different at all.
Personally it was very difficult when you have to go back, go back to Boston. I've run out of every tunnel there is at Boston College to get on the field, because I've done the home and visitors now. You had a relationship with all those kids, even some of the coaches in my coaching days there. When you know the people on both teams, it's a tough situation.

Matt Ryan beat our brains in and then we went home.

How do you deal with that emotionally?
I think it's difficult. But once the game starts, I think you're into the spirit of the game. But it's all the pregame warmup, watching the guys you just had been with. I was at Boston College for 10 years. You go to different areas of the field. Your places are different.

I think the whole buildup the week you go through, especially once you get to the stadium, you go to the visitor's locker room, not the home locker room. You come out a different tunnel. You go to a different part of the field. Yet you know everybody there. You have friends coming up that were in administration, fans all over the place. But now you become the other guys.

But once the ball is kicked off, you get down to playing football and I think everybody is fine until the game is over.

Tom, did you make any changes defensively this week or is it a matter of doing what you do better?
No, the same guys are going to play that played last week. We had to make a change midweek with Norman starting. We try to be better, go back to fundamentals, stress some of the things that we felt needed stressing.

I think we're in the right things. It's the same coaching staff. It's the same philosophy what we did a year ago. We just have to get better execution on the defense.

What were the biggest breakdowns on Saturday?
I think the problem came in as we were unable to get a pass-rush. Pressure with four guys, when we blitzed, we still couldn't get there. He had a lot of time to throw the football. You don't have to give him any time to throw the football because he's good enough to complete it as is. We didn't contain the pocket which then puts a lot of stress on the secondary as he's running around.

That's not to say there wasn't breakdowns at the linebacker or secondary level. I think the biggest thing was being unable to bring pressure to bear on the quarterback.

Coach, how was the response from the defense in practice?
I think there's been more intensity. There's certainly been a sense of urgency, even to a casual observer. I asked today what you think. It seems like everybody is practicing harder. So I think that's a good sign. Coach, could you tell me what you know about South Alabama and what are the concerns you might have as far as how they play?
We've played Greg Gregory, their offensive coordinator, who was at South Florida, so we've gone back and looked at a lot of their tape.

The only thing you know for sure is there's going to be five offensive linemen in the game and then the quarterback. There's all different personnel groupings they play with that we'll have to be alert for, formational things we have to be alert for.

Defensively they're very well-coached, good technique, play with their hands up front, look like they have great speed, can cover guys. As usual when you play the team South Alabama, that level, there's always transfers from the SEC, ACC, other schools that come in and they put them at their skill positions that are pretty good players.

Any one thing that you've seen about them, one area perhaps that might stand out?
Well, I think the speed. Their overall team speed. They have really good quickness and team speed. If you can run, you always have a chance to be in the football game.

Coach, Boston College is going into a situation with an offensive coordinator having to take a leave of absence for health. You went through that situation. How hard is it to suddenly pick up in the middle of the season and say, You're going to be the guy running the offense?
I think it's very difficult. Our situation with Dana was such that we didn't know till Friday and had to go play a game Saturday. Dependent upon I'm not sure how much Kevin Rogers was doing the offense, but Dana did a heck of a lot for our offense, organization, play calling, everything. We scrambled up at Virginia Tech that year. We had a chance to get organized and spent a week before the Carolina game, which was the last game of the year. Gave us a week to prepare. Seems like they've had a week to prepare, which will help them this week.

But dependent upon how much the other guys have done as far as game planning and calling the game and everything else, those are things that it's going to be awful difficult to be able to withstand.

Since then or before then, do you have a contingency plan in place?
Yeah. Certainly we do now. That was my fault that I didn't at that point. I ended up calling the game against North Carolina. Now I'm much more involved come the end of the week with what the offense is doing in case that situation comes up and I have to be pressed into action.

Coach, what are the special challenges of playing a team that is so unfamiliar that you haven't played against before? Do they have any athletes that pop out on you on video?
They have speed on offense. They're quick on defense. They have good cover guys in the secondary. That's always a situation that you don't know where they're going to be coming from and coming after you blitz-wise one way or another.

All you have to do is look at what Florida International, the one kid they had Friday night, we saw it on TV against Louisville, a similar type program that built their way to Division I. They get that one guy that they get the ball to, he can outrun the whole team. Keeping the quarterback in the pocket, not letting him out, letting him create, those are all things that are fundamental football. With not being familiar, their offensive coordinator has a wishbone background.

Who knows? Maybe they'll come out in the wishbone.

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