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Is it difficult to balance the rivalry factor with the “all games are equal” approach?
“I don’t think that you ever have to worry about it. In any rivalry game, there’s an emotional factor. I think kids get up for it. Most of these guys played high school football against a lot of them, obviously, and they know each other pretty closely, so that’s the emotional aspect of it. It’s still about preparation, making sure that you’re prepared to play well and making sure that we fix the things that didn’t allow us to play well last week.”
On Russell Wilson:
“Like all guys that are good athletes, and you hear this term all of the time, but it’s really accurately in describing him is the ability to extend plays. There are rhythm quarterbacks – 3-step, 5-step, 7-step drops – and the ball is out of their hands, boom, and it’s gone. He’s got the ability to move around in the pocket, slide to the outside, he can throw the ball well on the run and then they move him schematically. A lot of times people may think it’s a scramble when in fact it actually isn’t. It may be a full movement, it may be a bootleg or a naked or a waggle, something like that gives him a chance to be outside. They utilize his skills very well. He’s got a very accurate arm and he throws the ball well.”
You’ve lost three straight to N.C. State. Does that add to your passion for this game?
“You want to win this game for a multitude of reasons. It’s a rivalry game. It’s a big instate rivalry and it’s also a ACC game. It’s a game obviously everyone associated with this program wants to win very badly.”
On the running game’s ability to sub in various players and still have success:
“We didn’t have as much success as we needed to, and that’s not to diminish what Anthony did. I thought that Anthony did a very good job. I think our offensive line has improved over the last couple of years and has had the ability to stay healthy for the most part. Alan Pelc missed a little bit of time during the course of the season, but the consistency of the same guys playing week after week has obviously helped.
“I think the guys in the system know the plays, and I think John Shoop and Sam Pittman – the guys that devise the running game – I think they do a pretty good job of figuring out what are the runs that fit the other team’s schemes and defenses. We try not to do much experimentation on Saturday. We try not to say, ‘This might look like a great idea on the chalk board.’”
On Shaun Draughn:
“We didn’t tax him very much [against Virginia Tech], but he came out of the game good. I think he’s dramatically better than he was going into the game… Hopefully he’ll be at or close to 100 percent this week.”
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Would it be fair to say that this rivalry has meant more to N.C. State than to UNC over the past three years?
“I wouldn’t say that. People might say that on the outside from what they say, but it’s meant just as much to us as it has to them. I think for myself and for a lot of the seniors on this team, it’s going to mean a whole lot to us this year because there’s a lot riding on this game for us as well as for them. They’re going to be very jacked up because this game kind of determines their fate, so we’re going to have to come out with a lot of fire.”
Does the N.C. State fan base’s comments about the NCAA investigation add any motivation?
“You know, no matter what we do over here, they’re always going to give us crap for it. That’s one of the things I was thinking of – they’re probably just loving it over there. I bet you they’ll have a lot of stuff to say during the game. Who knows what, so it should be interesting.”
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On losing three straight to N.C. State
“It bothers me personally, just because when I first started getting recruited, N.C. State was one of my top picks. So it’s a little bit personal for us.”
On placing an emphasis on the rivalry:
“Coach Davis really doesn’t put one team above another, and it’s obvious that these guys kind of have us circled all year. Maybe it’s not like that this year, I don’t know. But they talk a lot of junk, which is fun to read and listen to, but when we step out on the field, the players have to take it more personal than the coach saying it’s just another game.”
Have the players been talking about what this game means?
“Yes, definitely the seniors. We can’t go out on a ‘L.’ It’s our last game in Kenan, we can’t do that. Just the ability to beat these guys for the first time… Just like Virginia. That was something that we all talked about, and doing it there was even bigger for the senior group, because we remembered the last time we were there. So that’s just what we are thinking about – we can’t go out on a ‘L’ in our last game here in Kenan, especially to N.C. State. We can’t do that.”