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NC State may have lost 45-35 to No. 13 Georgia Tech, but Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien still took away some positives in the defeat.
Offensively, NC State rushed for a season best 195 yards on 38 carries, and the line gave up just two sacks that probably could have been avoided. The same Tech defense had seven sacks in a win over UNC the week before.
"Certainly we ran the ball a lot better, something we wanted to make sure we did," O'Brien stated. "It helps in our time of possession. One thing we came in wanting was to possess the ball more than they did. We won the second and the third quarter, they won the first and third. I think [running] was the best part of it.
"When you look back at it. We had a back knock [redshirt junior left tackle R.J.] Mattes off, gives up a sack. [Redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon] doesn't throw it hot on the second sack. We could have conceivably not been sacked the whole game, too, which would have been a really clean performance for the offensive line. I think it's positive for them and something they knew they had to do going into that football game and the situation we knew we were in on defense."
O'Brien also praised junior running back James Washington, who carried 20 times for 131 yards and a touchdown and also caught five passes for 35 yards. O'Brien noted Washington has been working on become a more physical running back.
"I think the biggest thing for him was yards of contact, which Coach [Everette] Sands keeps track of," O'Brien said. "It was his best performance to date, yards after contact."
O'Brien is not going to get too excited about the running game yet, though.
"Wait till this week, never know with these guys," he stated. "See if we can do it twice in a row, then I'll start feeling better. Got to repeat it. Sure would be nice if we could though."
The defense also got a boost from the return of fifth-year senior defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy, who was in on 27 plays and made two solo hits and assist for three tackles, including a sack for a three-yard loss, and had three quarterback hurries. Sweezy played defensive end against Tech, but will move back to his more natural position inside.
"I think he brings energy to the football team, and I think for the first time somebody finally came back," O'Brien stated. "You get all those young kids out there and they're looking around at each other, they're not used to all the new faces and all the situations they've put themselves in. It's nice to have somebody like that that's out there with a little bit of a fire and enthusiasm."
Senior fullback Taylor Gentry will not be back at defensive line next week after getting five snaps on the line against Georgia Tech before leaving with a leg injury that occurred when he was blocking on offense. O'Brien noted that Gentry would have trouble against Central Michigan's experienced, big offensive line.
CMU has four seniors and a junior on their O-line, and O'Brien noted defensively that they were strong up the middle, with the middle linebacker and safeties being their top three tacklers.
"This is smash mouth football at its best coming in, play action passes, throw it over your head," O'Brien said.
To listen to O'Brien's Monday press conference, click on the link below.
Other tidbits from Monday's press conference
- O'Brien said that players injured listed on the depth chart are going to try to get back on the field this week. That included Gentry, fifth-year senior tailback Curtis Underwood, Jr., redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Darryl Cato-Bishop and freshman punter Wil Baumann. O'Brien said that Baumann looked "a lot better" Sunday after straining his groin during pregame warmups Saturday.
- In Underwood's place, redshirt freshman tailback Tony Creecy ran 12 times for 77 yards.
"I think for a first-time player he was fine," O'Brien said. "It's something if Curtis can't make it back then he's going to have to step up and play again this week. He'll be better this week because of his experiences last week."
- O'Brien praised fifth-year senior linebacker Audie Cole, who had 16 tackles against Tech, for being a calming voice on the field, but he added that the sooner redshirt junior Terrell Manning can return to the field the better. He's also been impressed with the recent performances of sophomore D.J. Green.
Green had six tackles, including two for a loss, at Cincinnati, and added four tackles, one for a loss, versus Georgia Tech.
"We thought after the first couple of games he was okay, looked like he kind of leveled out, but he's stepped up the last couple of games," O'Brien said. "One thing Coach [Jon] Tenuta says is he listens. He tries to do what you coach him to do. That's probably a statement you think everybody does, but that doesn't always happen. He's gotten better the last two weeks."
- Sophomore offensive tackle Rob Crisp saw a season-best 24 snaps against Tech, and O'Brien said that's because the former five-star recruit has been practicing better.
"Until about three weeks ago, he wasn't in our opinion doing the things to earn playing time," O'Brien said. "The more that he's practiced better, he's earned more time to get on the football field. He'll continue to get time if he keeps practicing the way he's practicing and playing in games the way he's been playing."
O'Brien added that he does not feel pressure to play a five-star recruit.
"You have to be able to perform," the coach said. "I don't care who rates you in recruiting one way or another, it goes on performance and accomplish the job that we give you. Those are the guys that play."
Nor did O'Brien feel the Pack's 2-3 record is a referendum on State's recent recruiting efforts.
"I think it's a referendum on healthy bodies playing on defense," he stated. "We haven't lined up one game yet with the defense that we had in preseason camp."