NC State head coach Dave Doeren says the Pack will need to be able to stop Clemson’s explosive plays on offense Saturday in Death Valley if they hope to leave with a victory.
A transcript of coach Doeren’s ACC teleconference follows.
COACH DOEREN: Proud of our players and our coaches for the work and preparation they had last week, our players for finding a way to win on a really sloppy field, sloppy conditions and tough, but fun at the same time. I thought it was a really, really good performance. Defensively getting the ball back for us four times. Offensively controlling the ball and running the clock in the periods where we didn’t have the wind. Basically playing in a 30-mile-an-hour wind with the rain in your face, that was a huge deal.
The special teams play, to get us a touchdown on special teams with Pharaoh and Dexter. Just great to be in a game like that, find a way to win. Now to have three wins in a row, get to go play the best team in our conference right now, a team that has a tremendous coaching staff, tremendous personnel and a great environment.
Looking forward to the opportunity, a chance to go on the road here and continue to try to get our best foot forward and get better as a football team. Questions.
Q. I know last year in the Clemson game, one of the things that kept you guys close for so long was the ability to get some explosive plays downfield. Against a defense like that, that makes life difficult for you, how crucial is it that you’re able to get some of those plays against Clemson?
COACH DOEREN: Well, it helped last year. I think they’re a better defense this year than they were last year. They gave up a lot of big plays against a lot of people last year. So did we. I think both defenses have spent a lot of time in the off-season trying to shore those things up. I think you’re playing in a game that has two explosive offenses.
For us, we’d love to score fast. The bottom line is that’s not easy to do on their defense. We’re going to play as hard as we can. Biggest thing is we have to take care of the football. Can’t give them a short field. We have the best punter in the ACC.
Q. When Matt went down in that game last year, how much did that change the complexion of what you wanted to do offensively?
COACH DOEREN: Well, we were different offensively last year. A couple weeks before that, we separated with Shad Thornton. We’re out with him, we’re out with Matt, you’re down to your third-string back, that changes your offense dramatically when you’re a runfirst team like we were last year. It hurt us quite a bit to lose both of those play-makers at that point in the season.
Q. Y’all have had only one road game this season. I don’t know if Ryan Finley has been in any big-time road environments. Maybe BYU. How challenging do you think that’s going to be for him to face an atmosphere like that?
COACH DOEREN: Well, I mean, it’s a great environment. I don’t care where you’ve played. Right now they’re the third ranked team in the country. They’re going to have great fan support. Obviously homecoming probably adds to it. One thing I like about Ryan, he’s very smart, he’s very poised. He knows where to go with the football. He’s a guy that can get himself into a rhythm pretty quickly. What he has been for the entire season, except for the Notre Dame game, where nobody could throw a ball, he’s been very efficient. He just needs to be himself. He doesn’t need to try to do any more than that. Just manage the game and the plays will be there for him.
Q. Have you ever been involved in a game where the weather conditions were as adverse as they were last week against Notre Dame?
COACH DOEREN: One other time. Played in the national championship game when I was at Montana against Georgia Southern in a game like that. It was very sloppy, very similar. It’s tough. It’s really hard to run your systems. There’s a lot of balls on the ground. Just got to find a way to win.
Q. Clemson has so many weapons on offense. Is trying to take away explosive plays and making the Tigers go on 10-plus play drives the best way?
COACH DOEREN: You can’t give them explosive plays. Shoot, they scored five touchdowns in 12 snaps last week. You can’t live that way. They’re outscoring their opponents 69-6 in the first quarter. They’re out of the gate fast and explosive, tremendously talented. You can have them defended. Their guys are good players. We’ve got to make plays when we’re there like we have, we have to tackle well, make them earn what they get. Can’t give them anything.
Q. When you watch Clemson’s defense on film, what jumps out at you?
COACH DOEREN: First of all, their personnel is really good. They’re aggressive in what they do schematically. Coach Venables has always been that way. Gives you a lot of things from a look standpoint, coverage shell, different pressures, does a nice job of moving things. It can look like this, they’ll move, you have something else. He’s good with that. There’s no weak links. There’s 11 guys that are really, really good players that play hard and play in a good system.
Q. Going into this game, you’re undefeated in the ACC, tied for the lead in the ACC Atlantic, is that something you use as motivation going into this game?
COACH DOEREN: No, it’s not. I mean, there’s so much of this season left, it’s not the playoffs yet. This is our next game. All we’re trying to do is be better than we were last week. That’s all we’re talking about. I’m not going to make this into something it isn’t because there’s a lot of football left in this season.
Q. What do you think are the things your team needs to do to be at its best on Saturday and have a chance?
COACH DOEREN: We got to be what we are. We got to be a balanced offense. We got to be able to run the football when we want to. We have to be explosive when the plays are there. We can’t have a guy open and miss him. One shot, one kill mentality. If it’s there, we got to take advantage of it. Defensively we have to leverage the ball well. We’ve got to get turnovers for our offense. We call them takeaways, but you got to get the ball back. When you’re on the road in a hostile environment, field position is critical. Getting takeaways defensively, not turning it over offensively, winning special teams, those are the things that will keep us in this game and give us a chance to win it in the fourth.
Q. Going into this game, so much focus and publicity is on Clemson, what they can do. To look to your team, have that critical eye, what are you seeing from the team at this point at 4-1 that you feel are your best points and some of those areas that you’re working on?
COACH DOEREN: I think we’ve learned how to practice and understand the value of practice. We learned a tough lesson this year. We had a bad week of practice, we had a bad game. I think our guys as a team have bought into the process of what they have to do to be the best them, be the best team, just working every week really hard on finding the little things that we can improve, put on or take off the film to be a better version of ourselves the next week. As I told them, in college football, if you play as well as you can play, don’t beat yourself, there isn’t anybody on your schedule that’s unbeatable. Everybody else wants to talk about who we play, but it’s more about how we play.