NC State coach Dave Doeren held his regular weekly session with the media on Monday, focusing on the importance of Saturday's rivalry game against North Carolina -- especially to the 12 seniors on the Wolfpack's roster now that their bowl hopes have been dashed -- and the momentum he hopes his team will have after a strong second half in Thursday's loss at Georgia Tech.
Here's what he had say:
"I'm excited for our seniors this week and obviously to have rivalry week and Senior Day at the same time for 12 guys that have been through a lot and have done a lot for our program. It's always an emotional day for the young men, for their families. For me as a coach it's always a very, very proud day to be with those guys in their last college football game."
As I've said before, it's a day that I remember very well as a player. It’s probably the only game that I remember almost every snap of it as long as that was now. But you know these guys, all of them, even the ones who've been here for a short period of time like Tabari (Hines), have made a lasting impression on me and our staff. Emanuel McGirt and what he's been through. Will Brown, one of our walkon seniors is just a great young man to be around, the Dabbs twins who are getting ready to go off to the world and one of them's going to be a doctor, Stephen Griffin, Tabari Hines, Deonte Holden, a sixth-year senior, Kishawn Miller, Jarius Morehead, Larrell Murchison, Jackson Quiggle and James Smith-Williams -- 12 very special young men to me and our staff and our team."
"And then you get to play our final home game against our rival and a great one, to have a rivalry this close together. Every one of these games that I've been a part of has been very heated. I know how much we want to win. I know how much they want to win. I know what the fans are like, the whole deal."
"For our fans, we will be in all red and want to have you guys out there wearing your red for us and cheering these young men on and honoring our senior class the right way and look forward to having you do that. I know how much this game matters in the state."
As for the actual game, Doeren said the goal for his team is to play a complete game, something it has yet to do through 11 games this season ...
"I think for us as a football team it's about putting together four quarters of football and finding a way within the good that we've done, like the second half last week with being consistent throughout, and just executing, playing hard and not giving people things. In that football game that we just lost, we won the turnover margin and that was improvement. It's just keeping ourselves from giving up the explosive plays, which is a challenge against Carolina's offense."
Doeren had high praise for those Tar Heels, especially two players in particular -- their current quarterback and a linebacker that used to be a quarterback ...
"They're obviously playing well with Sam Howell at quarterback and their tailbacks are very impressive young men. The receiving corps has made a lot of plays for them throughout the season. I think (offensive coordinator Phil) Longo does a nice job schematically with what they do."
Defensively, they're very sound. I think (Chazz) Surratt may be the most impressive guy considering he was a quarterback a year ago and now he has 100 tackles as a linebacker. That’s really a unique story for them. So it's going to be a great football game and I really look forward to the opportunity to compete and go out there and play. I know our players do too."
Because of an unusual schedule that had the Wolfpack playing only one Saturday game during the month of October, Doeren said he's had plenty of chances to see UNC play this season prior to this week's game preparations ...
"I've watched them every week. With our schedule being what it was, with the Thursday games and four Saturdays we didn't play, I've had a chance to watch a lot of college football. We've had a lot of crossover opponents that they've had, so we've been able to watch them whether it was through coaches film or through watching the live copy at home. But yeah, I'm very aware of what they've been doing throughout the season."
Doeren bristled somewhat when he was asked if he'd noticed UNC has had "the most interesting season that you could possibly have?'
"I don't think so," he said. "I think that would be us."
When it was noted that most of the Tar Heels' games this season have been decided on the final possesion of regulation or overtime, Doeren said he is expecting nothing less than a similarly close game Saturday...
"It's a four quarter game. It doesn't matter what your record is. It doesn't matter what your injuries are. None of that matters. I mean last year they were a team that hadn't won a lot of games and took us to overtime, with nine wins. We went up there a few years ago and they had 10 wins and we were fighting to get into a bowl game and we killed them. It's one of those games, you’ve got to show up and play. Nobody cares what happened in the previous 11 weeks. It's about what happens on that Saturday. "
Finally, Doeren talked about the importance of Satruday's second half comeback at Georgia Tech and how, even though it wasn't enough to win the game, it might help the team gain momentum heading into Saturday's season finale ...
"It's very important. I think our guys showed a lot of heart. I thought, coming off of an implosion where we were gaining momentum in the second quarter with a field goal, get a three-and-out on defense, we're going to get the ball with two timeouts left and about 90 seconds to do something positive knowing we got the ball again to start the third. To have the costly fumble on a punt return and they score. I mean we went in, obviously, in a tough spot. To see the resolve of the guys and how they came back and held them to seven points in the second half and offensively had a chance to win it. There's a lot of positives in that."
"I think Devin Leary continues to get better and better in his confidence and he stood up, I mentioned this in postgame, in the locker room, and talked to his teammates as a leader. They're playing hard for him now and they believe in him. I think that's something we obviously didn't have early when we're going through all the stuff we're going through. So that was a huge positive. Now it's just growing from that confidence we gained in the second half and knowing that we've got to put together four quarters like that.