During Monday's press conference, a reporter joked with Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien that normally he would give O'Brien a hard time for talking up The Citadel, NC State's opponent Saturday evening at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Not this time though, especially after The Citadel scored back-to-back wins over top-10 FCS teams Georgia Southern and Appalachian State. That prompted O'Brien to note the last time the Bulldogs started 3-0 was also the last time they defeated an FBS team. Back then, FBS teams were known as Division I-A.
The principle root of O'Brien's concern: The Citadel's potent triple option offensive attack.
"Their offense is one that's tough to handle," O'Brien said. "They are playing great confidence now.
"They certainly come here thinking they can whoop us."
O'Brien noted the last two years they devoted a significant amount of time during preseason camps to working against Georgia Tech's option attack. With the Yellow Jackets off the schedule, O'Brien gave the defensive coaches the option of whether or not they wanted to practice it, which they did for two days.
"We are going to have to be very disciplined and trust our eyes and read our keys or we are going to get fooled," O'Brien stated. "The quarterback can run around you, by you, through you and past you. We are certainly going to have to defend that. Sooner or later the ball is going to go flying over your heads. That's what they do. They are playing great right now."
O'Brien added that The Citadel will likely start the game in specific formations to figure out their best plan of attack. The key is for the defense to be on the same page with their coaches.
"I think our coaches are going to know what's going to happen, we just have to make sure our players know," he said.
"Hopefully we are smart enough on defense to understand trying to defend this defense the past two years that this isn't easy. This is all about being disciplined, reading your keys. Their whole theory on offense is they are going to run the fullback, they are going to run the quarterback, they are going to pitch the ball, they going to run the sweep. That's the base of their offense.
"What they are saying is if we do this 30 times you are not good enough, tough enough physically and mentally to do your job 30 times and we're going to pop it on you."
- O'Brien said there has been no change in the status of redshirt sophomore running back Mustafa Greene. Greene was suspended for Saturday's game against South Alabama.
Starting junior left tackle Rob Crisp "didn't seem to be making much progress Sunday" according to O'Brien. Crisp has missed the last two games with an unspecified injury.
- When asked if there was ever a thought about trying to get by with redshirting freshman quarterback Manny Stocker, O'Brien answered, "You can't do that if he's the backup quarterback."
O'Brien noted that the decision to play Stocker "wasn't hard at all." He also expects that Saturday's brief action should do Stocker good later this if they have to call on him and again next spring when he will battle Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas for the starting job.
Hopefully Stocker will have a better debut the next time he plays. It turned out Saturday he could not find his helmet when his number was called.
"He was running around like a chicken with his head cut off," O'Brien joked. "The only I said to him is just make sure you get the ball from the center. Don't worry about anything else. You just get the ball from the center and go from there."
- Sophomore linebacker Rodman Noel got the start against South Alabama after a strong performance at Connecticut the week before. Noel had six tackles, including one for a loss, in East Hartford.
"He's made plays," O'Brien said. "When we got to the Connecticut game he got his opportunity, he got in there, he made some plays and was in the right spot at the right time and will continue to get playing time because of that."
Noel is listed as the starter on the depth chart over classmate Brandon Pittman, who started the first two games. Pittman ironically led State in tackles with seven, including two for losses and a sack, against South Alabama.