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NC State Football

Dave Doeren: "I'm Really Proud Of The Fight In Our Team"

October 17, 2020

While the serious injury suffered by quarterback Devin Leary (along with injuries suffered by safety Tanner Ingle and linebacker Isaiah Moore) clouded the day somewhat, NC State came up with its third straight win Saturday, beating Duke 31-20 to improve to 4-1 on the season. 

The defense came up huge again, with three interceptions and a blocked punt for a touchdown, led by Payton Wilson’s 19 tackles, two picks and half a sack. Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren spoke to the media following the big win, here’s a full breakdown of everything he had to say: 

Opening statement

It’s great to be 4-1. I’m really proud of the fight in our team, the resiliency. I think we shot ourselves in the foot, penalty-wise in the first half, and made it really hard. We settled in. I thought the defense in the second half was outstanding. Losing both our starting safeties, one to the ejection and the other to an injury. I was so proud of Isaac Duffy-Webb, a walk-on safety from Clayton High School that’s earned a scholarship. The way he came in, he didn’t just play, he played well. Devan Boykin coming in and breaking up a pass in the end zone at the end. 

Just guys being resilient. [Payton Wilson] obviously stood out, Jaylon Scott, the takeaways on defense. Offensively, we didn’t have a great game. We turned the ball over twice. I thought we were physical in the second half in particular, especially in the fourth quarter. I thought our run game picked up at the end of the game, did some nice things. We made some tough catches. Thayer’s catch was unbelievable in the end zone. 

[Bailey Hockman] stepped in, did some things well and didn’t do some things well. It’ll be a great opportunity for him. We probably won’t have [Devin Leary] for a while. I don’t know the exact injury, lower-leg injury, but it doesn’t look like we’ll have him for a while. Once I know, probably Monday, I’ll be able to give you the specifics. He’s a tough kid, and I hate it for him to get injured like that. I know what this game means to him and what this team means to him. It’s next man up. Bailey, Ben Finley and Ty Evans will have to get ready to roll for us at quarterback.

But it was a great comeback win. Guys just kept responding. The blocked punt for a touchdown by Levi Jones and Max Fisher was a huge play in the game. Give Duke credit. They had a good game plan. They attacked us and did some things early in the game that got us behind. 

What was it like for you to see Devin go down the way he did and come back on the sideline to be there for his teammates?

He loves his teammates. He’s a great young man. I feel for him. He’s worked really hard, and he’s playing really well. I thought he got concussed when I saw the hit, the targeting hit. I thought he was concussed, and when I went down there, it was his ankle that he was worried about. They’ll have to do the X-Rays and all that to figure out what it is. But I knew he’d be back on the field if he could be to watch, because that’s what he said, ‘Tell these guys to finish.’ He’s got a lot of guts. He’s a tough young man. 

What did you say to Devin when he was down? 

I was just trying to comfort him. Usually when you get down there, you’re just trying to figure out what’s wrong. I thought he was out, like I said. So I was trying to get out there to see if he was awake. He was wide awake. He was very alert. He just said, ‘My ankle’s bothering me.’ He was breathing and I just said, ‘Hey, relax, take a deep breath. The doctors will be with you.’ I just tried to get him calmed down so that they could get a good evaluation on him. He was very coherent, very understanding of what was going on. He started talking about his teammates at that point. 

This is the third straight week you’ve had a player ejected in the secondary. What does it say about the depth you have back there to have guys stepping up each week? 

First of all, we’ve got to learn how to tackle with our head not being involved in it. It’s hard when a player’s going on. The elevation changes on a runner sometimes and as a runner you’ve already launched at a certain level, and then you end up not hitting them where you thought you were going to hit them. That’s a hard play, but we’ve got to really get better there. 

As far as stepping up, I couldn’t be prouder. It was Rakeim Ashford early in the season, and then it was Devan Boykin and now it’s Duffy-Webb. And then you saw Pierre-Louis do it. It’s just like a revolving door back there. And they’re getting results. That’s just a credit to coach [Tony Gibson] and the defensive staff. Coach [Joe DeForest], coach [Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay], those guys have had to play a lot of guys. But Duffy was ready, and you’ve got to give that young man a lot of credit. 

This is the second week in a row Vi Jones has blocked a punt. Was this the same situation? 

He does have a knack for blocking punts, but this was a called block. Last week was a return and he was just the guy forcing the punt. This week was a called blocked punt. Coach [Todd Goebbel] had a good scheme, and Delbert Mimms was working up the field to keep their guy from getting down on Levi. Levi took a good angle and made a play. It was great to see Max. Max Fisher’s a guy that plays receiver that we moved to safety because of our injuries there. So he’s a guy who’s been selfless. He probably would be getting playing time on offense. He’s had to learn how to play our defense the last two weeks, so it was great to see him get rewarded with that touchdown. 

Did you look at the guys at halftime and see that once they cut back on the mistakes they could come back and do what they needed to do?

It wasn’t a real ra-ra talking there. It was very matter of fact like, ‘Hey, we’ve got eight penalties for 106 yards and they have one for 10. They’ve blocked a punt for a touchdown, we’ve blocked a punt for a touchdown. The difference is us beating us. If you guys would just play football and quit being idiots, we’re going to win. You’ve got to own it, be a man, step up and start playing the way you’re coached.’ They did. We’re a young football team. I saw a stat the other day that 66% of our snaps are by freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores. We’ve got to be able to be a little more mature, even though we’re young in what we’re doing on the field. It got fixed in the second half, so it’ll be a teachable moment tomorrow. 

All your wins have come in different kinds of ways with the comeback, how much does that help this team in the long run? 

I think our confidence is really high. I think we handle adversity well. There isn’t any flinch. The guys understand that they can come back and they’ve done that multiple ways, as you mentioned. It’s a very confident group. I know they’ll be excited for what’s coming up this week against another in-state opponent. We need to get healthy. That’s my concern right now. We’ve got a lot of guys beat up.

How big is it to have Ricky Person and Bam Knight to close things out with the run game? 

It’s critical to be able to stay on the field and finish a game like that. Those kids are hungry. I think that running back room has a lot of character. I think they’re competing, cheering for each other but competing against each other. They want to outdo each other in the game. And they want the ball. They want that football. I think our offensive line takes a lot of pride in how hard they run. It’s a good group. I think [Jordan Houston] gets left out of that group, but Jordan does some good things for us too there. We missed Trent Pennix tonight. Trent’ been coming on for us in practice, so that’s another back. 

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