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NC State Football

Dave Doeren: "This Team Just Fights"

November 28, 2020

Sometimes, you have to find a way to win ugly. That’s exactly what NC State football did against Syracuse Saturday, finding a way to overcome a litany of first-half mistakes and top Syracuse 36-29 behind a career day from Bailey Hockman. 

The Wolfpack now sits at 7-3 overall and 6-3 in ACC play on the season, tying a school record for conference wins in a season (though teams are playing eight ACC contests this year). The Pack will have a chance to break that mark when it closes out against Georgia Tech next week. Head coach Dave Doeren spoke to the media after the win, here’s a full breakdown of everything he had to say:

 Opening statement

I’m proud of our guys overcoming some miscues and good play by Syracuse in the first half. You can’t turn the football over and give up a kickoff return and play the type of game we want to. But this team just fights. They find a way to win. They support each other and pick each other up. 

I thought in the second half, offensively, we really threw and caught the football well. Our offensive line picked up their stuff and adjusted to the different stunts and blitzes they were giving us in the first half that we weren’t blocking well. The six sacks obviously set us back early in the game. Defensively, we kept it in front. We stopped the run and held them to less than 300 yards and I think 4 or 5 yards total rushing. It was a good performance overall by them defensively. They got put in a couple tough spots after the turnovers. We had a nice red-zone stop after the one on the 5-yard line. 

I’m happy to win a game. Winning ugly is OK. It’s a lot better than losing, I can tell you that. So we’ll take it.

Could you speak to Bailey Hockman’s play, particularly in the second half?

Like I said, I was really proud of the way he bounced back. I know the fumble he had on the goal line upset him. He was sick early in the week, and I think he got a little fatigued early in the game. I thought he did a really nice job at halftime settling in. He just gave our receivers a chance to make plays and they made them. He threw some really accurate passes and the guys made him look good making the catches for him. He read coverage. He stood in there and had time to throw, which obviously made a difference in the second half. I’m very proud of Bailey for the way he stepped up.

Is Bailey Hockman a good example of overcoming adversity and finding a way to get it done?

I think he’s a great example of overcoming adversity and there’s many of them on our team. I can tell stories for a long time on that. But he’s definitely very representative of a young man that’s overcome different obstacles and adversities. He obviously showcased that today in the second half.

What were your thoughts on some of the big plays they overturned?

The one that I thought was not conclusive was Bailey’s. It looked to me like he reached across the goal line and then lost the football. Our interpretation of a touchdown is you have to have control as it crosses the goal line, which he did. I’m not sure how they overturned that. I thought that was a bad decision on their part. 

The other two, I could see why they did. The fade on our sideline at the end of the game was a tough one to see on the screen. Maybe they had a better view of that. I think the one with Ricky, he was out when they froze it on the sideline there. 

How is it for a player or team to put plays like that behind them mentally?

That’s just crazy to have three plays overturned against you in one game. I need to go to a witch doctor and figure out a way to break a curse on that, apparently. 

How big is it to get Thayer Thomas in the offense? 

Thayer’s a great player. He’s a weapon. He got matched up one-on-one today a lot. He took advantage of that. It just depends on how people are playing us. Liberty had a nickel or Will that would reroute the slot receiver and keep a safety over him, so he was double-teamed a lot in that game. Teams that are going to leave him one-on-one, he’s going to take advantage of that. It’s just a matter of taking what you get, I guess. Some games are different than others on how they get played. 

What did you see from Syracuse today? 

I told our team all week that we’re getting a senior day performance out of these guys. I haven’t seen them quit. I know they didn’t play well against Louisville, but they played Boston College to a one-possession game. They were in the fourth quarter at Clemson. Sometimes players don’t understand what you mean by that, but they found out. Syracuse has a lot of pride, they’ve always been a bunch of tough kids. I have great respect for Dino and his staff. We got what I thought we’d get today. We got a team that was playing for their senior class in their last home game. So they deserve credit for that, and hopefully I’ll get the same out of our guys next week in our senior game. 

Did the chart say to go for two on the first one or was that a gut feeling? 

It said go for two in the first half and we said we wouldn’t do it until the second. I told the team at halftime we’re going to score on the drive, and we’re going to go for two and tie the game. I think it was the right thing to do. It allows you to know earlier in the half what you’re playing for as the game goes on, if you get it or don’t get it. I’d rather do that than wait until the end. It definitely says that early in the game, but for us, we don’t really like to do it until the second half. 

What was your message to your team at halftime? 

I was far from calm. I was very upset and I let them know it. I demanded that we play the way we’re supposed to play the game. I called on every position group to step up and give us what they’re supposed to, and that they’re playing for something that nobody in this school has ever done, and winning seven conference games. I’m not going to be around guys that don’t get that done because they don’t put their best out on the field. I’m proud of the way they heard the message, came out and played well in the second half. 

On the kickoff return, was it a sky kick by design? 

No, it was a poor kick by Trent Gill and we didn’t get off blocks and make tackles. We had three guys there on replay. Didn’t get it done. It starts with the kick. We’re trying to kick the ball in the end zone or between the hash and the numbers, and we kicked it right down the field. So that’s hard on your coverage unit when you do that, but we’ve still got to be able to get it down. 

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