NC State football coach Dave Doeren has had a chance to review the video of Saturday’s 38-21 win at Virginia and while he was happy that all three phases of the game made significant contributions — an effort he described as “complementary football” — he added that that are still aspects that can be improved heading into this week’s game at Duke.
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 an awesome win on the road. To play three straight road games and win back-to-back ones, I thought we really played complementary football in this game. The offense got us off to a lead and the defense stopped the run, forced four turnovers. Special teams, I thought we punted the ball really well. We blocked a punt, Thayer (Thomas) had a nice return, scoring on defense at a time where we needed some momentum with Alim (McNeill’s) play.
“I think we were very efficient in the run game. We definitely had some great runs after contact. Combined between Ricky (Person) and Bam (Zonovan Knight), we had 91 yards after contact in that game at the running back position. I was proud of those guys. It was a big point of emphasis. The receivers made some contact catches against tight coverage and Devin (Leary) put the ball in some good spots on some critical areas on third down.
“From an offensive standpoint, positives; we didn’t give up a sack against a very good front, multiple defense that does a lot of good things. (We) rushed for four-and-a-half yards a carry with no fumbles. I thought Emeka (Emezie) made some really nice catches, Cary (Angeline) had a nice touchdown, Thayer and Porter (Rooks) both made big plays for us in the pass game.
“I thought Devin was really good early. I think in the second half, it was wet and it was a tighter game, and we had some throws he could have made and he’ll learn from. But he did some good things. There’s some things he’ll learn from in this game. It was obviously a defense that gives you a lot to look at. So for Devin, I think that’s an experience thing. The more that he gets to see those things change on game day, the better he’s going to be.
“I was very proud of our backs and their ability to get yards after contact. It’s not always pretty running the ball against a loaded box. Those guys had a lot of attitude runs. I think that feeds our offensive line and our tight end group to play hard for them.
“The negatives on offense, we were poor on third down throughout the game. Both of our opening drives in the first and third quarter, we were three-and-out. We had three penalties on offense to open the second half. On each of those three possessions, we started on first and 10 with a penalty. So we beat ourselves and it put us behind the chains. It’s hard to play football that way in the ACC.
“On defense, positives — we stopped the run. I thought their tailback was a really good player coming into the game. I thought our defensive line really battled. The linebackers fit the ball well, we tackled well. We forced four turnovers. We played really well on third down. I thought Tony (Gibson) did a really nice job mixing coverage and pressure and not making the defense predictable. I thought the goal line stand, second time here this season, to have a goal-line stand was awesome to see.
“The kids played 100 snaps on defense, so they played a lot of football in that game. We were able to play a lot of players. Everybody we brought on the trip that was healthy was able to get in the game, almost. The best part was we scored, there’s nothing like a big man touchdown. It was fun for the team and for Alim to get that opportunity. I was happy for him.
“Negatives on defense, we’re young in the secondary, especially when Tanner (Ingle) went out. There’s just pictures that happen, formations, there’s information the offense gives you by formation that we’ve got to be better at communicating. It didn’t cost us. There weren’t any busts or anything like that, but you can anticipate things. That’s an experience factor that we’re missing right now.
“The defensive offsides penalties were critical errors in the game and obviously an area that we need to improve and we’ll work hard on this week. The score before the half on defense, we had a post coverage called. There should have been a guy right in the middle of the field and a true freshman doesn’t do his job right there. He’ll learn from that.
“At times, in the second half, we were out there a lot and you could see the impact that had on our technique at times, particularly in coverage. We’ve just got to play tighter coverage when we’re in man-to-man and when we do that, we’re very effective.
“I thought our special teams, for the most part, were really good. I think Chris Dunn definitely deserves a mulligan. He missed a long field goal, it was a high snap and then he had a miss later in the game which is uncharacteristic and I know he’ll bounce back from that. I thought Trent Gill was fantastic in this game, our punter, holder and kickoffs. All his kickoffs were where we wanted them to be, great distance and hang. He two pooches inside the 10, one inside the five.
“I thought Thayer had two good returns. I thought Levi (Jones’) blocked punt was a great play. He did a really good job communicating with coach (Todd) Goebbel on the sideline previous to that play about how they were protecting and that he could beat his guy … using technique. So I was really happy for him. It should have been a scoop and score opportunity that we didn’t get, but we got the ball there. I love blocking punts. I thought that was awesome.
“The fake punt was probably the most disappointing part of the special teams. We actually repped that play in practice. We aligned properly, defended it and just didn’t in the game, so that’s an area we’ve got to get better. I love the way our guys are buying into their preparation and practicing with an edge. They’re seeing that their investment does give them results, and two weeks in a row, something we can build on that way.”
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