NC State football coach Dave Doeren has had a chance to review the video of Saturday’s 30-29 win at Pittsburgh, and while he’s thrilled at the result and effort his team gave in all facets of the game, he said that are still areas that need to be cleaned up heading into this week’s game at Virginia.
Here’s what Doeren had to say about the game and the Wolfpack’s effort in it during his regular weekly media conference on Monday …
“It was great to go on the road and beat a top 25 team in Pitt, particularly when we were coming off a game where we performed as bad as we probably could have. To see the fight and resiliency of our staff and our players and how they worked through that and learned from it, I’m very proud of them.
“The positives of the game offensively were obviously the finish, the two-minute drive at the end with (1:44) plus and no timeouts — they operated, the poise of Devin Leary, the way the guys caught the football, Thayer (Thomas) on the fourth down conversion, the protection by the linemen against a really good front, the backs and tight ends. It was a great moment.
There’s been a lot of good quarterbacks here. I think it takes a lot out of a guy on the road against a defense like that to take a team down the field and score a game-winning drive like he did. No offensive turnovers. We were 50% conversion on third- and fourth-down when we combine those two downs and distances. We were 100 percent scoring touchdowns in the red zone. We gave up one sack against a very good defensive front.
I thought individually, Devin played a great game; four touchdowns, 300 yards plus, no interceptions. He was very poised and accurate. He gave his receivers and tight ends and backs a chance to catch the ball. Cary Angeline and Emeka [Emezie] both performed well catching the football and making big plays and I thought Dylan Parham was really physical in the run game in this game for us at tight end.
“Ricky (Person Jr.) made some critical runs in short yardage where there wasn’t a lot there. That helped us stay on the field and a couple of times there was an unblocked player that he just made miss or ran around or ran through. I’m very pleased with that.
“The negatives on offense, we need to continue to improve our short-yardage run game. We’re making plays, but it’s not as clean as it could be. The opening drive of the third quarter we came out and got three-and-outed. That’s something where we want to create momentum in that opportunity. Operationally, I thought that as good as Devin was, there were some things in the RPO game that are there for him to take advantage of and he did at times. It’s just being consistent.
I love the way we battled. I didn’t like the procedural penalties. We had three. I thought our cadence was a weapon in this game and it beat us three times. All three of them were at the receiver position and jumping offsides.”
“On defense in a positive, we stopped the run. (They) had less than 100 yards rushing, less than two-and-a-half yards per carry. We overcame a busted coverage the second play of the game. It didn’t rattle the guys. I thought they played really well after that series.
“Really the story of the game was the red-zone defense. They were down there five times and only got two touchdowns. We held them on a goal-line stand and potentially would have had another. I thought we stopped them on the one sneak. He definitely did not have forward progress, but they ruled it a touchdown which is really tough when they got down there. We played really well on third down throughout the game.
“Individually, I thought Levi (Jones) was very impressive. He played four positions in the game for us with what happened to Tyler Baker-Williams being out. Levi had to learn Sam, which he always has, nickel, he played our dime and he also played an extra backer position on the goal line. I was very proud of Levi in this game. He had some extra effort plays.
“I thought Malik Dunlap played the best game of his career. He tackled well. He had a big hit on a bubble and a nice tackle on the line of scrimmage early in the game. Drake (Thomas) and Payton (Wilson) were both very physical and active. I thought Isaiah (Moore) had some really good plays running through and disrupting things. I was really impressed with what Josh Pierre-Louis and Taiyon Palmer did finding out really Friday that they were going to be playing. They got one day of practice as a nickel going into that game, and their leading receiver coming into the game was their slot receiver. I’m very proud of those two young men.
“On the negative side defensively, the busted play on play two can’t happen. I didn’t think we aligned well when they went fast tempo to some of their formations and getting that cleaned up. We had to substitute a lot just due to our personnel issues we had with Tyler being out. Twice they broke the huddle with 12 men on the field and were not called for it, which forced us to have to use timeouts in substitution. We didn’t have enough timeouts at the end, so we ended up with a 12 men on the field penalty.
“Those are things we’ve got to do better, but we also need the rules to be the rules. I felt like we lost contain on a few unblocked plays off the edge that could have ended drives. One of them was a fourth down where Payton lost contain and it could’ve been a stop.
We had three costly defensive penalties. It was a great teachable moment with Josh Pierre-Louis. He targeted the quarterback and if he is six inches lower on his contact that’s a pick six and we are up 24-7. Instead they stay on the field and get a field goal, so it was a 10-point swing. We had a third-and-16 defensive holding and a (defensive pass interference). There’s some things we’ve got to clean up there.
“Special teams wise, Chris Dunn continues to be a weapon. Our kickoff, Trenton Gill, is doing a great job kicking off. I think he’ll tell you that he had a subpar day as our punter, one he’ll get better from. We just missed some opportunities. We were close to blocking a punt. We were late off the football and missed it by an inch. You’ve got to be able to take every inch you can get when you are rushing a punt and we were short. Dylan Parham gave a great effort, he was just late off the football. I thought our kickoff return was poor, and we’ve got to clean that area up.
“Overall I’m just super proud of the group. When you watch the film, it’s a game where you feel like you could have won decisively if some things changed, but they didn’t. We stuck together and hung in there. It’s an opportunity to learn from our errors.
“They learned that they have to practice a certain way if they want to play a certain way. I think that was really good for our guys to have that. We didn’t just win the game on Saturday. The team we talked about it yesterday, we won that game starting on Monday with their attitude, their performance, their meetings, the way they practiced with great effort. Now we’ve got to learn from that. We can’t let a win on the road get to our head. We can’t at any means, at any time get a big head because of one thing we did well.”
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