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Dave Doeren
Zonovan Knight
NC State Football

LOCKER ROOM REPORT: Doeren, Knight Discuss Gator Bowl Loss

January 2, 2021

NC State head coach Dave Doeren and sophomore running back Zonovan Knight met with the media via Zoom to discuss the Wolfpack's 23-21 loss in the 76th TaxSlayer Gator Bowl to Kentucky.

NOTE: The press conference can be viewed in the player above.

Dave Doeren

Opening Statement

“It was a great football game. I’m proud of the way we fought back in the second half and had multiple chances to get it back and get a lead. Obviously, it’s one of those games when you lose by two points there’s a lot of plays you think about, and we were without a lot of players today. I thought our defense really battled not having Alim [McNeill] and Payton [Wilson] and Drake [Thomas] and Tanner [Ingle], the kids who had to play in their place played hard. Offensively, we just turned the ball over three times, missed two field goals. We had our chances to make that a different game and we didn’t. You have to give Kentucky credit for that. It was a really hard-fought game and a physical game, as I expected it to be. Proud of the way the kids fought, proud of our season. This doesn’t make me feel like we didn’t have a good season – we did. It was a great experience. I’m appreciative of the opportunity to be down here, and I’m really excited that so many of these players are back. It’s going to be a great offseason with them.”

On why he thought the game got so chippy...

“I don’t know. Maybe you should ask [Kentucky]. I’m not sure. There was a lot of stuff underneath, on the ground, in the piles and different things like that. It’s hard to say.”

On the reunion with other Youngstown alumni...

“Mark Stoops and I have been friends for a long time and have had great defensive talks with him through the years when I was coaching at Kansas and he was at Arizona. We recruited against each other in Dallas, Texas, all the time and got to know each other well. Then he became the defensive coordinator at Arizona and I was the defensive coordinator at Wisconsin and we would clinic together. We’ve known each other for a long time. We were both hired the same year at our respective schools. We’ve both done a lot of good things, and there’s not many coaches who have been at their respective schools for eight seasons. So I think it says a lot about what he’s done, what I’ve done, what our staffs and our players have done. Tim Beck and him obviously grew up together, so there’s a lot of respect.”

On how encouraging the young defense’s performance was today...

“It’s very encouraging. They were put in some tough situations after turnovers, so to have short fields and have a fourth-down stop like we did, did a lot of good things on defense today – did enough to win. Anytime you play a game without Payton Wilson, Drake Thomas, Tanner Ingle or Alim McNeill – and those are four really good run defenders against a really good rushing offense – we were concerned coming into the game about it. Not that we stopped the run, we didn’t, but we did enough and kept them off the scoreboard enough to give ourselves a chance.”

On if Payton Wilson and Drake Thomas were injured...

“Yeah, they were injured. Drake’s been injured and has been kind of playing through some things. Just from a recovery standpoint for both of them, we felt like to have them ready for next year and the way we want them to be able to play, we needed to do the things to them that were needed right after the last game.”

On what this team and season meant to him...

“I love these guys. The players, the coaches, the staff, we went through a lot. We went through a lot last season when there was a lot of people talking negatively about us. We stuck together, we came back with a growing attitude. We grew a lot together, we learned a lot from each other. A lot of guys stepped up this year and stepped into roles where they weren’t starters and injuries took place and guys would step in and just play. Isaac Duffy’s a great example of that. I know Bailey’s [Hockman] disappointed in himself, but he had a good season for us. There were guys who stepped up throughout the season. I love this football team, I’m excited about the guys that are coming back, and there’s a lot of positives that we can take from the season.”

On if he feels this was personally one of his toughest seasons as a coach with everything involved...

“Mentally, it was. The number of things that we dealt with that you have never been through as a coach trying to make decisions on, all the unknowns, and the thing was none of the leadership had any ideas – [inaudible] was trying to figure out his side of it, President of the United States doesn’t know what to do – everybody’s trying to figure out how to handle this. You just made the best call you could and you learned on the run. We had a lot of really transparent conversations. We made mistakes along the way, learned from them, but it was challenging. There were so many times you weren’t talking about football, and obviously that’s not what I was hired to do. The whole thing was upside down. I feel like we did a really good job managing it and learned a lot through it.”

Zonovan Knight

On why things got so chippy in between plays...

“I’m not sure. Most of the time I wasn’t really out there. I just think it was a matter of both teams just simply being undisciplined.”

On what the season was like for him and what he’ll take from this game moving forward...

“This game – I know I have to work on pass blocking more in the offseason. That’s kind of why they took me out in the end knowing it was kind of my weakness. I know that’s where my deficiency is, so I know I need to work towards that in the offseason and try to progress in that area.”

On what the energy was like on the sideline during the game...

“At the end of the game – after the touchdown – the energy just raised. Everybody was hyped on the sideline. Sadly, we couldn’t get the onside kick, and I think after that momentum kind of changed for us.”

On if he felt the game was so physical because of teams taking pride in their respective conferences...

“I honestly don’t think that would be the case. I think it was just emotions, people letting their emotions get the best of them.”

On the feeling after completing this season...

“I think everybody is relieved that the season is closing out, but in our case we aren’t satisfied with how the season just ended. We know what we need to work on going into the offseason, so we need to plan ahead and try to work on that during spring ball.”

On if he feels a difference between this game heading into the offseason and last year’s finale...

“Yes, although there was a lot of chippiness on the field, you could tell that on the sideline it was more of a family feeling versus last year it was more of individuals trying to do their own thing. On the sideline, people were keeping each other up, just motivating them, telling them we don’t need any more dumb penalties because it’s setting us back.”

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