NC State coach Tom O'Brien expects a challenge from UConn on Saturday, but also is motivated to get his own two star players back on track against the Huskies.
O'Brien answered several questions during Wednesday's ACC coaches teleconference. Here is a transcript of his answers:
What areas are you focusing on to improve?
"When you look back, there are five big plays on defense that accounted for half the yardage, long, long passes and long runs. Those are things that we have to get corrected. We turn the ball over five times on offense — one fumble and four interceptions. Those are things that we spent a lot of time to correct. Obviously, you can't take 10 plays out of the game. Those 10 plays dictated the final score. We have to make corrections in those areas and give ourselves a chance to win on Saturday."
How much did the loss to Tennessee concern you?
"Every loss concerns me. You have to be concerned right now that we had a chance to do something and we didn't make it work. Tennessee, they feel they are a heck of a lot better team with that quarterback [Tyler Bray] and that skill level, and the change in defense from a year ago. That still is no excuse for the way we played."
How has the attitude been on the team since the Tennessee game?
"I think they've been fine. They were certainly down on Sunday as we got them back together and looked at the tape, and made corrections. They've been focused the last two mornings. We already practiced this morning, and they were focused a little better today than yesterday. They will have to be a lot better tomorrow."
Is there any concern about the confidence level of junior cornerback David Amerson?
"It's a good question, and hopefully, he'll answer that the next couple of weeks. One of the great things about [college football], if you are a great player, especially as a quarterback or as a cornerback and you get beat deep, that you have to have amnesia and forget about it. You have to come back and play from that point on. It's a good lesson for him to learn. We have to see how he reacts Saturday."
Do you prefer going on the road sometimes to get away from the distractions?
"No, I certainly would rather play at home. We have a great home field advantage. We have a great crowd and our fans are tremendous. I think we have a distinct advantage playing at home. I don't think, maybe there are more distractions one way or the other, but certainly, once the ball is kicked off, home field advantage is an absolute, especially as far as we are concerned here at State."
Does a longer trip to Connecticut present any challenges or does that not really matter?
"I think looking at the trip that Duke has to take, and I did that at Boston College, and had to go to Stanford. That makes a difference when you have to cross three time zones. We are in the same time zone. One of the advantages of being in North Carolina, at Boston, we always took three hours or more flights. When you take a flight and you go three time zones, I think that really affects your playing, and it certainly affects you coming back. I think in Boston after we played Stanford at 7:30 their time, we got back at 9 a.m. Sunday morning."
Was the two big passing plays against Amerson more on him or did he not get the help by a safety?
"I don't know if it was a Amerson problem or the fact that Tennessee is pretty dang good. Their skill level is high. They are certainly a different team with that quarterback in there than they were at the end of last year. When he was in there, they were averaging 40 points a game the first couple of games last year. They averaged 10 a game when he was out of there. He makes a big difference. It might have been more of a skill problem and them not executing than us not executing."
What are your thoughts on Quintin Payton's emergence?
"He had a good preseason camp and that's one of those things where Michael [Glennon] is not afraid to throw the ball. He does a good job and he did a good job, especially on the first one he threw to Quintin by evading the rush, which he hadn't done a year ago, and they left him wide open down the boundary.
"I think the best catch he made was Michael threw to his backside shoulder on a takeoff down the boundary, and Quintin took off and used his height, which we are used to seeing when we had Jarvis Williams here. He has to give us that. I think not only will he now because it's a great confidence boost for him, but certainly for Mike because he has somebody who will go up and get the football like that."
What did the film show on Glennon's four interceptions?
"The last one was at the end of the game, so that's a throw we'll take out of there. The first one, they made a great play. They baited him into it. That's something he has to learn from and we can't do. The second one was a bad decision. He didn't see the whole coverage and didn't recognize what was going on. The third one was a great play [by UT]. He may have underthrown the corner a little bit.
"You don't underthrow a corner and you don't underthrow a post. We can do better than that. For two of them, you have to give the kids at Tennessee credit too. They made pretty good plays on the ball."
Anything about UConn that concerns you?
"They have only given up 50-some yards and shut out a team and didn't allow them to cross the 50-yard line on defense. [UConn coach] Paul Pasqualoni has been a defensive guy for a long time, and coordinated in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins before he came back. I've known Paul from his days at Syracuse when I was at Boston College. Don Brown is the [defensive] coordinator there [at UConn]. Their defense is very well coached, and they do not make a mistake.
"They have one kid, No. 48 [Trevardo Williams], the defensive end, and he was the 100-meter champ when he was coming out of high school in Connecticut. He gets a lot of pressure on the quarterback. They have senior cornerbacks that play well.
"When you play a team, and they have the success they had, and they had a new quarterback [Chandler Whitmer] in there and they kind of protected him, the junior college kid, who is more conventional. Then they bring in No. 11 [Scott McCummings], who is more of a Wildcat [quarterback], and a whole new different style of offense when he is in the game.
"They make you prepare for a lot while they are on offense. Those are the things that are major concerns, being able to move the football, make first downs and hopefully cross the 50-yard line against that defense."