Full transcript: Dave Doeren's weekly press conference
Dave Doeren held his weekly Monday press conference to reflect back on the 34-23 win for NC State football over Ball State and preview Saturday’s game at Florida State.
Here is a transcript from his press conference.
"Going back first to the Ball State game, I just want to start out by thanking Brenda Tracy and the 'Set The Expectation' opportunity that we had, and James [Smith-Williams] for organizing it and giving us the opportunity, as student athletes and coaches, to be a part of something that was so special. It was great having her with us and said a lot, I think, throughout the week about it, but that's pretty special to have that be a part of a game day atmosphere and super thankful to our players for that.
"From the game, the good things, offensively averaged five yards a carry, continued to be very efficient in the red zone. Hundred percent in the red zone in scoring. We improved on third down, 100% on third medium, which was really the area that we've struggled, and we're eight of 10 in the first half on third down.
"I thought we made some really good contact, difficult catches, body on body catches, which was an area we needed to improve.
"Defensively, thought we improved in the run defense, holding under less than three yards a carry. There's four times our defenses put on the field after turnovers, after the onside kick, after getting stopped on a fourth and one, where the defense all four times held them to a field goal or less and got an interception of their own after the onside kick. Great response by our defense. I thought showed a lot of mental toughness.
"I thought we were good on third down defensively from 33 up. Did a nice job getting the ball back, got some pressure on the quarterback.
“Thought our special teams were exceptional. Trent Gill [was] six of seven on his touch backs, punted the football well, flipped the field position. We covered his kicks well. We were aggressive in our coverage. On the blocked punt by Max Fisher, the scoop returned down to the red zone by Malik [Dunlap], the punt return by Thayer [Thomas] for the touchdown were huge momentum plays for us in the game and something that we've been waiting on and excited to see that part of our special teams step up.
"On the bad side, third and short, fourth and short, both sides of the ball need to get better. I thought we dropped some layup catches that are easy plays for us and got to focus on catching the football and making our layups for the quarterbacks. Obviously hate to see two interceptions. Both were tipped balls end up being picks, a tremendous play by their guy on the one. And the onside kick is a play obviously we want to build recover and put the game away.
"Too many completions on us over 15 yards. None of them were touchdowns, but chunk plays that affect your field position and plays we've got to be better at moving forward. And just getting the ball back. We got one takeaway on defense at the end. But creating more takeaways is a huge area of emphasis for us that that helps our offense and an area we can improve.
"From a health standpoint, Dylan Autenrieth is out for the season, unfortunately, and we'll have an opportunity to get a sixth-year as well after next season. But just another really good player, captain. Hate that for him and he'll do a great job leading our football team to the best of his ability.
“On a positive James Smith-Williams is back in action and look forward to gaining James back this week. Not sure how much, we'll see how he responds to practice, but he's really excited to get back on the field with his teammates.
"Moving forward, get a chance to play in an incredible venue and a football team that has great talent. And you talk about them, they're outscoring their opponents in the first quarter at an alarming rate. For us, starting fast, particularly on the road, would be a huge point of emphasis for us. But more importantly, obviously, playing four quarters of football.
“When you look at them all offensively, their quarterback got dinged up in the last game so I'm not sure what his status is. But both of the guys that they have, [Alex] Hornibrook came in and he's completing over 70 percent of his passes. Their tailback really the guy, and not to take anything away from the receiving corps because they're outstanding, but Cam Akers is a really good football player and all purpose back. All three downs he's effective and efficient. He can run you over he can make you miss. He's good after contact, averaging 127 yards a game and has eight touchdowns. He's their third leading receiver. He's thrown a touchdown, really good football player.
“Their wideouts are scary guys. You know they can run. They’re averaging 19 yards, 14 yards, 15 yards. Obviously Terry's their big deep threat guy but their slot receivers are tremendous players. The tight end [Tre] McKitty is a really good player for them. We've got to do a great job up front and really across the board of defending the run and not giving up big plays in the pass game.
“All these teams we play now are no huddle, up tempo. That's just kind of par for the course. They're an up-tempo offense. Just building on what we did last week on defense is going to be key in this football game. And being better than we were the week before, obviously learning from our last road trip and understanding our shortcomings there and being like we are at home on the road in a hostile environment.
“Their defense, they've got a really, really good defensive line. They're impressive. They're big. Three starters over 300 pounds. And 340 pound inside tackle in [Robert] Cooper. [Marvin] Wilson, number 21 is an excellent player for them. [Cory] Durden on the edge to the field at 300 pounds. You've got some mass that you got to deal with.
“Their linebackers are quick guys. They're long. Their safety, number 23 is in North Carolina native, really good football player for them — leading tackler. They’re an active defense. They’ve got a good staff. They do a lot.
“They're three down, four down, they pressure. They play press coverage, they play quarters, they do a lot of good things on defense. We got to execute at a high level. It starts with us not beating us and eliminating the penalties that you've heard me talk about is huge. Obviously, you don't want to do anything to hurt your ability to have manageable down and distances.
"Excited about this opportunity and a chance to go play a storied program. Questions."
You mentioned the short yardage problems. Not having Dylan who was one of your best blockers. What do you try to use there? Who do you try to use there to replace some of that blocking ability?
“Dylan Parham has done a good job for us. So his role does step up. We were rotating the three tight ends, as you saw with Cary [Angeline] and Dylan and Dylan. And so now it's just two guys getting to share those reps. Thomas Ruocchio is a guy that we trust, that now ends up in a position where he can play and, you may see different personnel groups. You saw us use an Ickey [Ekwonu] at times as an extra lineman in the game.
“We've got to be creative. Anytime you lose a part of your team, you've got to figure out how you're going to replace it. But we have other bodies, other personnel group. So we'll just have to major in some other things at times."
Coach with a guy like Thayer Thomas now at this point, having a passing touchdown receiving touchdown, and a punt return touchdown. Has he been lobbying at all for another carry? I know he had one year.
"All those things are part of what we do. So it's just a matter what we end up in and the looks we're going to do. But our jets, our reverses all those things are a part of our game plans. To whether he ends up in that or not we'll see."
Dave, you got Bailey Hockman a meaningful series last week, do you have a plan going forward is to how many quarterbacks you're going to use and how you might use them?
"We haven't talked about it yet. That's what we do today is game plan. I'll get back and our staff meetings at 3:30. But I was excited to get him in the game. Like you'd mentioned during a series, it wasn't mop-up duty. Allow him to play. Was good for him.
“And obviously, did some good things. Had nice scramble to get us first down, and then the interception, which he'll learn from and grow from, but we don't have anything in stone yet."
With Kurt Roper's background at Duke and what they used to do with multiple quarterbacks, have you guys kick kicked around some of that? Some of those concepts at all?
“We've talked about everything.”
With Matt’s skill set, it would seem he'd be pretty good at that type of role. Red Zone short yardage type usage.
“And we've done that. We had two rushing touchdowns in the game down there."
I’m talking about the other element of it would be to use the other guys perhaps as a way to get the ball down there.
"We've talked about all of it."
The tough catches, how much did that improve the third down efficiency?
"All the catches improve third down efficiency. I mean it helps. Thayer made a great catch, which is a two handed catch, and Emeka made the one handed catch, and you can go back to last year and there's a lot of circus catches made by our wideouts last year. Plays where people think they shouldn't have been caught, and they were caught. That's football.
“I mean you got to make some tough plays. And we'll make those. I'm more concerned about the layups we're missing than the circus catches that we're making because that's going to happen from time to time. But the ones that, the first play of the third quarter we throw a great pass to Emeka, and he doesn't catch that ball. Those are the kinds of plays, for us eliminate — the penalties, make the layups — and then let's see what happens.
“And I think that, to me, is the biggest thing that we have to do is. Be the team that doesn't beat itself, that takes advantage of the plays that are there, and then go make the great play. That’s how you become elite. And so we're still working on that."
You mentioned James and Dylan, what about Bam Knight? What's his status? And even if he's not available, how much does the the depth that you have at running back make it where you could be a little bit more cautious?
"Don't know on Bam but expect to have them. I think he could have gone back in the game. But where we were at Ricky was playing well, Jordan was playing well. I haven't seen him yet today. He's been in the training room doing all those things, but expect to have him Saturday."
How much is it a luxury to have that in the game?
"Well, you need them. Particularly in the heat that we play in. And like I've said from the start the change of pace that they all bring, and Trent Pennix as well, those are all things that help you and using their skill sets to open up the playbook.
As you watch Florida State, what's holding them back? You say they have talent, but they just don't seem to be the old Florida State. Do you know why that is possibly as you watch them on tape?
“If they play the first quarter, for four quarters, they're killing people. They're up 56-9 at the end of the first quarter right now. I'm sure they're talking about being a four-quarter football team. They're like all of us. I mean, you want to play your best football for four quarters, and they've got really, really talented players on that field. That’s one thing you see, their offensive skill is elite at every spot."
Along those same lines, the last two weeks your second half's have not been as good as your first half. Is there one particular thing you can point to? And how do you change that?
"Our second quarter has been our best quarter, it has. In the first quarter, it's been pretty stale, feeling people out, making good adjustments and then taking advantage of it. Defensively, we've played well in the first quarter with the exception of West Virginia.
“The third quarter, we got to come out of locker room hot. I mean, that's what we have to do. It’s not like we're coming out there without a plan.
“Like I said, we went out there and the first series and had two mistakes in the first two plays that we can correct and will correct. But that's the whole part of the football game, when you're dealing with young players. They're super anxious coming out of locker room, they have all that, and then they settle in, they start playing. We got settle in sooner, and then we got to be able to maintain that through the game."
ACC play starts this week. How big of a change is added? I'm sure what the guys and the coaches look forward to?
"It’s really the second quarter as you look at our season, how we look at it. And before we get into the bye weeks, and all those things for us this week, then get a break, and then a Thursday game, and our schedule gets kind of crazy, after this with all these Saturdays that we're not playing.
“I think you can look at it from the outside in and now the stakes are different. For us they're not. We're looking at this as the next game, next opportunity. I said that from the beginning of the season. Our players were very adamant about having a 1-0 mentality each week and not getting too up or too down, trying to never play to the level your competition per se.
“Play to what did you just put on tape. And how can you be better than you were the week before. And I think that's going to be the same message no matter who we're playing because of what these guys have asked for.”
I was joking about the question out there earlier, but I wanted to ask you as well, just what has Thayer Thomas’ versatility brought to the team?
“The thing you love most about him is how consistent he is, everyday. He's a gym rat. He's in a meeting room, he's working on his craft. He's trying to get better. He doesn't get up, he doesn't get down. He's just the same guy, and for a coach that is so nice to have, knowing what you're going to get from this dude every day. And that's what I love about him.
“The plays are coming because of that, in my opinion. His consistency makes him a consistent playmaker. And so it's going to continue because that's who he is. And when he doesn't make the play, he's able to get to the next real quick and he believes in his work ethic and he trusts his coaching and the plan and very versatile very smart high football IQ, highly competitive. That's what you want in a football player."
Along those lines that he was kind of pegged as a guy with sure hands. To see him take it for the for the six on Saturday, how good of a feeling was that for you guys?
“It was awesome for him. He is a lot faster than people give him credit. And he’s got great acceleration. I mean his shuttle time is one of the best on our team. And anytime you're under a four flat shuttle, that's an elite time. He's done that multiple times.
"Thayer has really good explosive movements, he makes quick decisions. He's not afraid. And that's what you need a punt returner, a guy that can make a guy miss and to stick his foot in the ground and quickly accelerate through the holes that are there."
Are you pleased that the team has been able to make as much progress as it has being number one, so young, and then number two, losing a lot of really quality experienced players for sometimes the season sometimes a few games?
"It's been challenging for them, and I think that's the hard part because you want to build off of the chemistry that you have. You lose Tyrone [Riley] the second practice of fall camp, and then you lose C.J. Riley in the first game. And then Nick [McCloud] is out after the first game, and James is out after the second game. And we lose [Joseph Boletepeli] for one game. It's a revolving deal with your chemistry at times. So it does make it challenging.
"Like I told the team last week, we don't have freshmen or seniors, we have a football team. We need to just go do our job, and not worry about your age anymore, period. Fact that we only have seven active seniors or whatever it is, it doesn't matter anymore. We're going to have to get the most out of what we got.
“And we got a young team that we're not going to talk about it. We're just going to talk about playing and doing our job and getting better and letting these guys be the best that they can be through our schemes and our plans and our ability to coach them through things and get them better fundamentally. And I think that's the bottom line.
“We need to play smarter, we need to play better technique. We are playing hard, that's one thing you see, but just not beating ourselves with these guys and elevating their ability to move forward in the program without saying, ‘Hey, in a year, he's going to be better now.’ He's got to be better in three days. That's where we're at.
And it's kind of I guess it's important that you built the depth in this program to be able to fend off something like this.
“The last two recruiting classes have helped with that. The guys that are having to play right now are guys that we did a good job evaluating and recruiting and thankful that they're here, because they've helped us be a competitive team. And where that takes us is really up to us now. It’s just a one week at a time deal. And after this Saturday, we'll get a little break to reset it and really study it."