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November 19, 2007

O'Brien prepares his team for Maryland

Coach Tom O'Brien said there is no reason to remind the players what is at stake this weekend when they host Maryland at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. The winner will be bowl eligible, the loser done for the year. Click on the link to listen to O'Brien's press conference.

A full transcript is in progress and will be provided shortly.

Tom O'Brien Nov. 19 press conference (15:32)

Can you talk about the job Ralph Friedgen has done this year at Maryland keeping it together (with the injuries)?

Well he's had them on the offensive line. That's always tough to withstand injuries up there because the cohesiveness and continuity is needed. Those guys have been together now for the last four or five weeks and you can see the job that they're doing. They're getting better and they seem like they are playing with more confidence the last two weeks. Certainly they had a great game against Boston College and then went down there and played a tough game against Florida State.

Do you talk to the team about your streak of going to bowls?

I haven't mentioned it all.

Is it important to you?

No.

Have you ever been in this situation on the last game of the year?

I think one year at Boston College, probably three or four years ago we had to go down play Rutgers and Virginia Tech, had to beat both of them at the end of the year, probably three years ago, to be able and we had to win both of them at that point. We were probably 4-5, might have been that. I think we ended up going 6-5 to Hawaii. That was my third, fourth year at BC. I've gone before with six wins.

Do you tell the team about what this game means going to a bowl?

Yes, we talked about it Sunday. They have to understand this is what they're playing for. They can do the math. They are well aware what this means.

Did you mention something at halftime that they were playing to be bowl eligible?

I don't think I mentioned it. I don't know if anybody else did at the halftime of the game. I don't remember mentioning it, I don't know why I would. I was more focused on winning the football game than what it meant.

How important are the extra practices from going to a bowl game?

I think that's the biggest thing right now for this football team is to have the opportunity to have extra practices and go back on the field and work with the young kids especially. It gives you a head start on spring practice. It will almost be similar to what we did the off week, experiment a little here or there, see what we have, especially with the returning players.

Would be an accomplishment if they got to a bowl game?

I think they have done a heck of a job the second half of the year. I think we have accomplished a lot, it's just we dug ourselves too deep a hole the first half of the year that we're in this situation now. It certainly would be great for the seniors to go out because they came in wanting to go to a bowl game in their last year. We're going to have to play a really good game on Saturday. They have to go back to that formula that got us the four other victories. We went back and turned the ball over and gave up a lot of big plays last Saturday. That's been the bad formula.

Do you bring up the fact that they've been in this exact situation before?

I mentioned to them, not at halftime, but after the game on Saturday I've mentioned to them that they've been in this situation before. The guys who were here they understand. You don't have to tell guys you need to win six to go to a bowl.

How big a setback was Saturday's loss?

I don't think it was a setback. I think you got to give Wake Forest a lot of credit. He's been there a long time and they got a pretty good system going there and what they do. We just weren't capable, we're maybe not to the point, we're not a great football team. Great football teams can win four or five games in a row and still keep going. You look at the emotional win these kids had down there in the Orange Bowl, and I was really worried going into the Carolina game that that took a lot of them. That because of the humidity and they were really tired that week, but the crowd and everybody they found a way to get it done. I think our gas tank was a little bit empty. We fought hard and got back in it the third quarter but then just weren't able to get it over the hump against as I said going in that's a good football team. You've got to give them some credit, too.

Was there anything that you did better looking back at the game than you thought at the time?

At halftime we got much more aggressive on defense, we got off our heels. You look at what we did. We gave up one 62-yard play and you give up a 19-yard run and I think it was 25 yards in the other 27 plays. They played 48 plays the first half and about 29 the second. Offensively you've got two, you got 15 points on them. You got it back to a 21-18 game and you're right in it, but you just didn't have enough oomph to get over the hump at that point.

You talked about before how this team needs to throw the ball 40 or 50 times. Is that a product of the offensive line being better pass blockers than run blockers?

I think it's the factor of where we are in our progression and what we are able to do and best utilize our people and what gives us the best chance to win is to get the ball to our skill people on the perimeter.

How do you refill the gas tank this week?

I think it comes back. Kids are able to recover. It isn't something that I think is going to last forever. You throw in the only the fourth time you've beaten North Carolina in 15 years, it doesn't matter, I don't know how many times I've read in the last week about coaches trying to pound into a team's head you've got to be careful this and that. They walk around that campus and they've got everybody telling them what a great victory and everybody telling about North Carolina, nobody is mentioning Wake Forest. You do the best you can with them. Sometimes they have to be, that's why mature football teams are able to withstand those, good football teams are able to withstand those things and put them away. Where sometimes in the first year, in the terms of our growth, we're still an immature project here.

Do you think playing Carolina a week before was a factor?

As I've said before I think the combination of Miami to North Carolina to whatever, that takes it out of you.

Was it also a case of this past week they really had something to play for as opposed to the other four wins?

I think it was a combination of playing Wake Forest and they got us back on our heels until we caught up. It goes back to maybe we didn't do a good enough job with the scout team and the speed of the game especially the precision with which they run the offense. We weren't lighting it up with our offense either in the first half. I think it's a combination of a lot of things. We had to play our best game to beat Wake Forest and we weren't capable of doing it that night. Some of the credit certainly goes to Wake Forest, their coaching staff and their players.

When they were 1-5, did you or someone else spend time bucking them up?

We do that as a staff, but they're human. It's a lot easier for me when people are calling them dogs to tell them they are not dogs and you're going to play good then when they're playing good and people are telling they're playing great and I'm telling them no you're dogs.

How close is this to being a mature football team?

It's not even close. It's just a fact of life, not enough time.

Can you talk about the seniors?

It's been a tough year for them. They've lost their coach who recruited them and had been around their whole career here. Things changed, and probably changed drastically when we got here. It's been a learning process for them. It's been a tough process. Some of them have flourished and some of them haven't. Some of them hadn't gotten the time I'm sure that they wanted while others have.

The bottom line is they have been great kids. They have been fun to be around. They have worked. They've hung in there. They were faced with a 1-5 season and certainly could've packed it in and said, 'This is over with, I'm going to get the heck out of here and go through the motion.' They fought hard and they're back the second half 4-1 with a chance to be 5-1 so you have to give them a tremendous amount of credit for what they've done for this program.

Was there one moment where a senior sparked the team that you remember?

No I think they've evolved. Sometimes it's a trial and error type of thing and they figure it out. The best leadership comes from within the team. It's gotten more and more as we've gone along and they've figured it out how we wanted to happen as a staff, I think that will perpetuate itself as we go through the years here. It will be better every year and maturity level, going back to your question, will get better all the time.

Can you talk about Darrell Blackman and how he's done?

He had probably his best day Saturday. He's not a natural receiver. He's a natural running back but was moved to receiver and certainly we needed him out there on the perimeter. Sometimes we've been challenged getting him the ball, but that's the first time since we've been here that he's gone after deep balls and gone up and taken them away from people. I think it's a good step forward.

He's always a guy that shows up and he competes and he's happy to practice and loves to play the football game. He'll be missed because of his energy that he brings to practice and the football field.

Why was he not a natural receiver?

He doesn't catch the ball naturally. All those years at running back the ball hasn't hit his hands enough. Now he's worked at it, he does a nice job catching punts and kicks. A lot of times the ball kind of surprises him sometimes I think.

What about Marcus Stone and his move to tight end?

I think it's pretty remarkable that we've played 11 games with a quarterback at tight end. When you look at the job that he's done, he's gotten better each and every week. I can't revisit his quarterback days because we never had him at quarterback, but he certainly has gotten better each and every week at tight end. He's made some really great catches lately. I think he's a guy that Daniel feels confident throwing it to, that's he going to catch it if he gets it near him.

Does being a former quarterback make it easier to transition to receiver or tight end?

Absolutely because they, a lot of times if you're a tight end, a center or whatever, you know your position. You may know what the guy next to you does. A quarterback, certainly in the passing game, you know where your tight end is supposed be and wide outs and the concepts of where they are supposed to be dependent upon the route called and everything. So I think that helps you a bit. Those conversions are usually two, three, four-year deals. To see him do it in a year is remarkable.

What concerns you most about Maryland?

They're a real physical football team. They're going to come here, Ralph wants to run the football. They have two really good running backs. The quarterback has gotten better each and every week so he's fully more confident with what he's doing. With Heywards-Bey they definitely have a deep threat. He's run by everybody in a game. That's looking at them offensively.

Defensively you look at their starting lineup and those guys have been playing forever, like an eight-year program. I know they've been there the three years we've been in the conference so they're experienced all over the defense and they've been playing in that defense for a long time.

What was your final assessment of Daniel Evans' performance Saturday?

I think that he as everybody else on the football team would have liked to play better.


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