NC State head coach Tom O'Brien met with the media for the final time before the Virginia game after practice on Thursday. He talked about Halloween, the Cavaliers, his offensive line and cornerback C.J. Wilson, who came off the bench to force two turnovers against North Carolina.
What was your reaction to Mike Glennon's Halloween costume?
I have no reaction.
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He was Tom O'Brien!
Good for him. My son used to do that all of the time, too.
Talk about the emphasis the Virginia offense places on the running game.
It's always been a big part of Virginia's offense. When you have all of those big guys that are 6-5, 6-6 up front, you get those shorter backs hiding behind them. In order for them to be successful, they have the run the football, I think. They do a good job schematically, getting runs so they're running downhill and in good position to run. It's going to be tough. We have to get a hold of the line of scrimmage, I think that will be a key for our defense in order to win on Saturday.
Their defense has had a lot of turnover from last year, can you break that group down?
Yeah, but [Steve] Greer is still the guy in the middle. He runs the operation, he's really good. They're starting the freshman [Eli Harold] now at defensive end. They had nothing but juniors and seniors up front and sophomores behind them - some of the kids played last year - but they're still the third-best defense, statistically, in the conference. They grudgingly give up yards and points right now. They've been solid. They're not a 2-6 football team. All week long, we talked about, 'you're not playing a team that is 2-6, you're playing a good football team. You have to be ready to play.'
You need one more win to qualify for a bowl. Is that even on your radar yet?
No. Certainly, you want to keep winning, that's the goal right now, to keep winning. As I always say, at the end of the year, we'll figure out how many [wins] we've got and where we're going to go from there.
How has Rob Crisp done in his two games back?
He was really rusty the first game, a little bit better last game, but still trying to get back in the swing of things. He had those six weeks off, where he would try to get back in. He would play a day then set himself back in practice. He's getting better.
Any thoughts to keep R.J. Mattes at left tackle and put Rob at right tackle to get the best five guys on the field?
That's where we think we are right now, our best five are on the field. We started the year with [Rob] at left tackle, R.J. at left guard and [Camden] Wentz at center. That side of the ball is the best we can be on that side of the ball. [Tyson] Chandler started at right tackle, then [Andrew] Wallace got hurt - he was backing Wallace up - so he's back to the spot he was in preseason when we set the original line-up to get there [to the best five on the field]. The only change is [Duran] Christophe because we lost Allen, who was our best run blocker and our most experienced guy up front. We moved Christophe from left [guard] to right, so that's the only change, and they're kind of getting used to each other over on the right side.
How has Tyson developed over there?
We've asked a lot from him. He's gone to right, he had to go to left, which is tough, then he's gone back to right. He's much more comfortable at right tackle. He has shown progress the last couple of games. The off week, I think, helped. He studied some tape and talked about some of the techniques, fundamentally worked with him to get better. He's more comfortable over there at right tackle. That's where you want those two kids now and going forward.
You might start the same offensive line for the third week in a row against Virginia. How big is that consistency?
It is because that's the most important grouping on the field where consistency is really important. Time in and time out, those guys because of all of the twists, stunts and blitzes that go on, you've got to be used to the guy next to you because everybody's pressure points, strength points and everything are different.
Can you talk about C.J. Wilson's performance on Saturday and did he carve out some playing time going forward?
Yeah, I think when C.J. came back - he was on the scout team - and we put him in against Miami, he didn't really have a lot of success at that point. We probably put him in too soon and thought too much about his experience. So, he's had to wait his turn, and when [Juston] Burris was a little dinged up Saturday, he got in there and he showed up. He gave Coach [Mike] Reed and the defensive coaches a lot of confidence that he's back to where he can help us play. Certainly, he'll now be with the first group when we go to substitution defense.
Will you start with him at the corner because you probably won't see a ton of nickel against Virginia?
No, if we're in base defense, it's still [Dontae] Johnson and [David] Amerson. If we're in substitution defense, it's Johnson, Amerson and Wilson.