Saturday's trip to Wake Forest (2-3, 0-2 ACC) will be NC State's (3-1, 0-1 ACC) first game of the season and the first time the Demon Deacons have played against Dave Doeren-coached team.
He spoke with members of the media about Saturday's meeting with the Deacs and more.
Can you remember a season where you waited this long to play your first road game? The fact it took this long, are there any special challenges to break that routine and go out on the road? "To answer your first question, no, I've never had four home games in a row with a 10-day prep. At Wisconsin we did open up with a bunch of home games one year, but we played straight through that year, we didn't have a bye. That part of it's unique."
"It's not like we're going a long ways. It's pretty close as far as this trip. But it's different for sure to play your fifth game on the road, to have had a bye week somewhere sandwiched in there before we played Clemson. It's definitely different."
As far as the routine is concerned, how do you get your kids to break what they've known for the last five weeks? "We actually changed the routine for the week. We do some things different. Normally as a team you stretch in one area. We go to a different area and stretch. We do everything on opposite fields just to kind of make our guys have to function in a different way for the week."
"It's been something that we did at Northern. It was good for us. They get used to the change. Every time we go out on the field, it's different than they're used to. We talk about it a lot. It's not something we're ignoring. We're talking about the routine change and we want the kids to embrace it."
You talked before the season about wanting to be a better road team this year. How do you as a coach try to get that wish to go into effect? "It's something obviously you spend time talking to your team about. It's a challenge we made a long time ago for our program to move from a challenging opponent to being a contender. We have to be able to take our show on the road, bottle up our energy we have at Carter Finley, take it somewhere else. Whether it is loud there or quiet there, we can't care. We have to be able to play within ourselves and block out the distraction, or not be brought down by the lack of energy at some schools where they don't have crowds, and just play exactly the same way we would play in our own stadium."
"We talk about it. We spend time talking about it. It's been a big conversation piece this week obviously. But in the off-season it was something we talked about a lot."
I wanted to ask you about the fact you're getting your wide receivers into play in the running game. Is that something you've always done? Can you talk about why you do that, how effective it is. "It's something that I really believe in. The misdirection part of our offense is very important. My goal from a defensive background is to test the edges and the soundness of people's games. We're going to pull them laterally with our jet game, our arounds, and we're going to press them vertically with our zone and power schemes. It puts a lot of stress on the defense."
"I think it's something that allows us to utilize our speed. It helps our offensive line, because it pulls people out of the box. If they're not going to pull out of the box, we're going to hand it off to those guys and let them run. If they are, it gives us a chance to run up inside against numbers."
The last two weeks especially, Bryan Underwood, he's been very explosive. He had 10 touchdown receptions last year. Talk about the importance of getting the ball in his hands. "He's practiced better. In the last two weeks he's had his best two weeks of practice. He's gotten the ball more because of that. A lot of these guys didn't have good practice habits, didn't go fast all the time. That's not something that we encourage now. He's bought into the fact that when he practices fast, he plays fast."
"As long as he keeps doing that, he's going to be a weapon for us, and we're going to find a way to get our weapons the ball."
Recap your first four games. What do you have to work on this week against a really tough Wake Forest team? "Each week is a little different. Our biggest issue has been change in the lineup. This will be the third game in a row we've had the same offensive line play together. I'd like to see fewer tackles in our backfield because of that. That will be a challenge, because Wake has a great nose guard. I really like how hard their defensive ends play."
"That's the big thing, is we want to keep people out of our backfield and limit the number of plays that are made back there. That's a big goal for our offensive line in this game. It would be impressive for them to attain it."
"Second thing, and we got better last week, hurt us at Clemson, is to continue to minimize the pre-snap things that we do from an illegal formation or a guy jumping off-sides, just have not beating ourselves."
"Then defensively the takeaways I think are huge. We're on defense getting three takeaways a game, it's remarkable how much better we play on offense because of field position."