NC State head coach Tom O'Brien admitted during his Monday press conference that games like East Carolina is not a normal game. O'Brien said that rivalry games like East Carolina are important to him, and thus that makes it important to the team.
O'Brien, who met new East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill for the first time this year, is not surprised by ECU's 3-2 overall record and 2-0 start in Conference USA. He noted that the Pirates have won back-to-back league titles, and although some of the current players may not have played a big role in those championships, they have been around a winning culture.
O'Brien said that East Carolina will truly make you defend sideline-to-sideline with their spread offense. The Pirates put a lot of pressure on the back seven of the defense, and NC State will have to be sharp in their tackling, especially on star Pirates receiver Dwayne Harris. NC State will also have to engage in a lot of one-on-one blocking and hold their gaps.
Other notes from O'Brien's weekly press conference:
- O'Brien likes how the current set-up with East Carolina goes where UNC and NC State alternate home and home with the Pirates. O'Brien is not in favor of playing East Carolina every Saturday.
- The three true freshmen defensive backs have added a lot the secondary, a unit O'Brien termed the most pleasant surprise on the defense. O'Brien said that they had a feeling that David Amerson would be special at cornerback, and the safety tandem of D.J. Green and Dontae Johnson look like the safeties that NC State is used to facing.
- O'Brien also called the running backs led by redshirt freshman Dean Haynes and freshman Mustafa Greene the most pleasant surprise on offense at the midway point of the season. He is most concerned however about his team being banged up at this point as they get ready to play a football game for the seventh straight week.
- Responding to a question about whether or not he was surprised by the team's 5-1 start, O'Brien noted that winning helps confidence, and that talent was not the issue. He said that in years past they took two steps back with injuries after every step forward, and this year the team has only had positive developments.