Junior receiver Owen Spencer and fifth-year senior defensive end Willie Young were the player representatives in Monday's press conference. Click on the links to listen to their respective press conferences.
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Owen Spencer transcribed:
How tough is it to lose close games?
"I'd have to say on that, a loss is bad. Anytime you lose and you come back to the stadium, it's not going to be the same as far as camaraderie. As far as communications-wise, a lot of guys don't want to smile and laugh as we did after we beat Pittsburgh. This loss, after a close one, it kind of hurts because the mistakes that we did to put ourselves in those positions, to make us lose. It was small mistakes and mistakes that we know not to do. For us to lose a close game like that, it really hurts us a little bit. It makes you think about what you did to put the team in jeopardy. That is everybody. Everybody could have put forth a little bit more effort, as they would think they should. Everybody probably thinks if they made that play, that extra block, things like that. It's small things like that. We just have to move forward and try to stay close together."
Did you think you played well after missing a game because of a concussion?
"I was very excited about coming back and helping my teammates. When I watched them play Pittsburgh, I sat in the stands, and it was kind of hard to watch in a game like that, a close game. In a game where not only big plays would help you win a game, but just coming together and everybody on the same page and motivating each other. That kind of fueled me on the sideline to want to get out there more. I was blessed, fortunate enough to play the following week. The injury wasn't that severe where I had to sit out a couple of games or have lasting effects. Getting out there on the field Saturday, it felt really good. I was highly motivated. The team, they motivated me a lot and made me feel good coming back. I just felt like I had to make plays out there. I had to fill the void that was missing the past game or so, the last couple of games. I had to take my game to the next level and help my team succeed."
Did they give your concussion a grade?
"I don't know."
What was it like when you hit your head on the ground and what you felt the next couple of days after that?
"It was a hard hit, but other than that, I saw it on the replays and everything. Going through the treatment and things like that, it was not all that severe. But now I'm fully healthy and back to normal now."
Were you looking to score on that last drive?
"We had momentum. When you have momentum on the road, that is a big boost for your team. It's good at home, but when you can instill that for an away game, a rival game, that's pretty big, especially going into the last drive. We just had to play and move the chains. We were going and really excited about scoring, but obviously we didn't."
How much pressure is there on the offense when it starts deep in their own end?
"I don't think there is a lot of pressure because the coaches do a good job of putting us in certain situations, and having us practice certain situations. We could be in first and 10 on the two-yard line and having to make a 98-yard drive. Those are the things that we go through in practice every day. We have to execute certain plays that the coaches call. Depending on how we scored, and if we do score, that speaks a lot about our offense and our coaching staff, and our execution as an offense, and how well we play and go down the field and cancel out all the penalties and things like that. Any score is big, but when you take a long drive and score, it makes you feel good about your team and the offense."
Was the Russell Wilson interception in the end zone a surprise?
"It's always surprising when you think you are going to win and something like that happens. That is just a roll of the dice. That comes in a game. There are a lot of games that you see on television where it goes down like that. Right now, we just have to keep moving forward and learn from our mistakes."
Have you always worn No. 13?
"Since I've been here? I've worn 80 in middle school through my high school [senior] year."
Did they decided No. 13 for you?
Was that a tough number to get?
"No, I just wanted to play. It didn't really matter what number it was."
Last year's Duke game was kind of close and so has the series recently. What is it about NC State and Duke?
"I don't know the history that well, but last year's game was close, and they gave us a test. I think that they gave us a big fight. We just had to come out and execute our offense, and just say 'We can't lose this game.' I'm pretty sure they are going to come with the same attitude as last year, and try to beat us this year. We just have to instill our will again."
Wake the Duke game last year a wakeup call?
"The Duke game last year? Oh yeah, they were in the way of getting the win that we needed to get to a bowl game. Sometimes guys have a tendency to overlook certain teams. You can't do that in this league in any sport. There are a lot of upsets that goes on in college football and pro [football], and things like that. We are excited about playing them, and hopefully we can respect, hopefully, we can respect them as a team and do a good job of playing our game."
Is the Atlantic Division up for grabs in the ACC?
"We just have to win out, that's it. Every time you win, that puts you above everyone else. Other teams, you know you are one up on them. Wake Forest is one up on us right now. We just have to win out in the conference, and hope that the teams we beat, beat Wake. It's all those things that go in the process by which of being tops in the ACC. You just have to win out."
What does the offense have to do better?
"Playing smart football and minimizing penalties. Playing State ball. In the game, we have to play the ball that we played in the first … our second and third games. They were smaller opponents, but I mean, right there, when you instill a positive attitude going into a game, and a good game plan, it's easy to execute as an offense once you have everybody on the same page. We just have to continue to play our kind of offense, and the defense will take care of themselves. They will provide us with great field position and get turnovers for us. We just have to answer back."
Willie Young transcribed:
Have you seen much of Duke?
"I really haven't seen any film on Duke yet, so I don't know a whole lot about them. We played them last year, but that was last year. A lot of things change, that timeframe."
Did last year show you can't take Duke for granted anymore?
"Last year, was the first time that I've played them. As far as I know, anybody that we play, not even Murray State and Gardner-Webb or South Carolina, we couldn't look past any of those teams. If you come out not ready to play, we will lose the game."
Is the coaching staff moving you around more this year?
"Not really. I just try to make the best of the defense that is called. As long as I am where I'm supposed to be at when the ball is snapped, that is the biggest thing."
How are things opening up for you when it comes to a professional football future?
"Right now things are going where they are for me because of my interior guys and having Shea McKeen on the other side. You can't slide protection the way you want. If anything, you have to leave both backs in to protect block. You have Burgess and Alan-Michael Cash in the middle, and that makes things a lot more difficult, to just slide protect one way or the other. The key to me being successful is having an experienced defensive line that has established dominance, to be able to stop the run and also play the pass."
Were you singled up on the left tackle on the first sack?
"Actually, no I wasn't. I was able to get a good jump off the ball, and got them to sway inside and then took off around the edge, and pursue backside."
Was the left tackle the only one on you?
"No, because I got a good jump on the ball. They weren't even moving yet. They were still in their stance."
How was the pass defense?
"How do you think we did in pass defense? We got a lot of young guys, and I know that people will be coming at us now. It is in the open right now. It's a challenge for the young guys in the secondary as a unit to clean up the mistakes that we made. The guys that were open, and guys that weren't quite where they were supposed to be, a quarterback like Riley Skinner can make plays like that. He's a great quarterback. He's leading the ACC in history or something like that in passing percentage. He's a great quarterback. He's not a fourth-string quarterback that we were going against. You have to put that in perspective. With us having some young guys, if I was a quarterback, I would have done the same thing. I would have gone right at the young guys. Having a defensive front, it's really shutting down the run right now."
Does that put more pressure on the defensive line to pressure Thaddeus Lewis?
"It definitely does. You can't go outside the scheme and try to do too much. That can really hurt you when you sometimes start to get a little frustrated a little bit. Those are the things a defense deals with. Right now, we got everybody from here on out that we play, they are going to be out to get us, whether we are the No. 1 defense in the nation in all phases or not, or if we have a young secondary. Regardless of how you look at it, they are going to be out to get us. As a defense, we have to buckle down a little tighter and play ball. That's it."
What do you see from the backup NC State defensive lineman?
"They are getting it done. Teams don't have a lot of rushing yards against us. And the one line isn't in the game the entire time."
How does it help you guys?
"Oh yes, it does a lot. Four quarters, it starts to heat up a little bit, especially if we have a close game, or game that is in reach of winning or possibly maintaining the lead. Them being able to come in and be trustworthy in critical situations, that says a lot."
What can you tell the secondary as a leader to get them ready?
"I think the biggest thing is to just forget about the last play. Regardless of who you is, whenever you are out there, every second, there is somebody that is relying on you. That is all 10 guys around you. The entire team actually. It can all come down to one play that changes the outcome, that changes the momentum. It's critical in a conference game in particular."
Do you think the secondary got down after big plays?
"They are young, like fresh out of high school type of deal. First road game, it happened to be an ACC game. It is just tough. As a front seven, maybe buckle down a little bit. Try to get a little better at what we are doing, so that we aren't just throwing them so far out there by getting pressure and creating turnovers as a front. That really helps them out a lot back there. Kind of weaning them a little bit, so they can get their feet wet. Once they get their confidence up, things kind of just go smooth."
You are seven sacks away and 17 tackles for losses away from overtaking Mario Williams all-time at NC State if my math is correct, does that mean something to you?
"No the math isn't right. I think I got about eight. Me and Alan-Michael Cash were discussing about sacks. Even if that's seven more, it means a lot, it means a lot to my, to the entire defense, to the defensive front in particular.
Those are the guys that sit next to me. Like I said, those interior guys and Shea McKeen on the backside, really have a lot to do with my success thus far. I don't know where the record stands, you got some numbers I've never heard before. I try to stay away from that type of stuff and stay humble.
You got the layout right there. It's an accomplishment for myself. I feel good about it but it's something behind me or put behind us, put somewhere in a place where I don't see if it I walk in a room. Just stay humble and continue to play ball."
Alan-Michael Cash get one of your sacks?
"That very last one, in the fourth quarter, he made contact, he made initial contact. It looked to me like he fell off and then I came and cleaned up. I had him. It was so close you can't really tell. I said as long as we were there, as he wasn't able to get the ball off, we were where we were supposed to be, and as long as we were flying around to the ball, that's all that matters to me really."
What kind of relationship do you have with Mario Williams?
"When I first got here I said I wanted to be like Mario Williams. I would tell him, 'I want to be just like you.' I really looked up to Mario, and he was like, 'Don't be like me, try to be better than me.' That's what I've been striving for since I gotten here. I guess opportunity is knocking on the door for me to capitalize and take his advice. I just try to take it and run with it if I can."