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October 29, 2014

Scott Shafer

COACH SHAFER:  Looking forward to being back at home and bringing a well‑coached NC State team in here, having a good ACC battle this weekend.
With that, any questions.

Q.  Had a chance to speak with AJ Long yesterday.  He sounds like a young man who is focused on being a perfectionist out there.  Sounds like he's his own harshest critic.  How much do you think that kind of helps shape who he is as a quarterback in terms of his film study, how he prepares for games?
COACH SHAFER:  I think you definitely hit the nail on the head.  AJ is his own biggest critic.  He wants to win.  He wants to do well.  He wants to please.
I don't know if I've really been around anyone that was worth a grain of salt that wasn't that way.  He's fun to coach.  He's working hard at it.
He had a hell of a task last week, going against the number three defense in the country, number one defense in TFLs, lost yardage, in those areas.  So it was a great challenge for him.
He came up a little short.  For an 18‑year‑old kid going into Death Valley, hell of a situation, but one that you learn from.  I always felt like you learn more, especially at quarterback, from your failures than you do your triumphs.
I think AJ has postured himself well preparing for NC State to make that comeback and feel good about his progress as he moves forward.
But he's a great kid to coach.  Loves the game.  He's a gym rat.  We're just happy to have him in our program.

Q.  It sounded like he was really, really hard on himself in that game, even though that is one of the toughest defenses he'll probably ever face.  Is there a way to get him to not be so hard on himself, or do you like the fact he's critical on his performance?
COACH SHAFER:  Well, the good thing about AJ is even though he's extremely hard on himself, he's one of the guys that he'll just go out there and play the next game, the next practice.  That's what he did yesterday at practice.
Some guys, they compartmentalize, they freak out a little bit.  That's not who AJ is.
We had a talk at halftime.  I said, Listen, I know you're struggling.  He had a couple snaps he dropped.  His eyes were all over the place.
I said, I know you're struggling.  I want you to take a second and think about the best game you ever played in, just for a second here.  We talked about that.
How did you feel?  Relaxed?  Everything felt slow, right?
Yeah, coach, it was slow motion compared to all the guys on the field.
Right now it's the opposite because you're getting stressed out in situations against a great team.  You need to slow your process down, breathe, see what you're taught to see.
That was the biggest disappointment for him is he just didn't see some things that he saw against Florida State, that he saw against Wake Forest.  I think that mindset for a young guy like himself is, Okay, where did I make these mistakes and how am I going to practice not going back and making the same mistakes this next week?
There's a sense of calm when you go that route.  Then when you build it up, get to practice, say, I've done the preparation, now just play.  He's really good at doing that, at saying, Let's just go, let's just play.
I'm confident that he'll come back and have a great game this week.

Q.  What is the relationship like with you and Coach Doeren coming into the league as first‑year head coaches at the same time?
COACH SHAFER:  We have a very good relationship.  I got all the respect in the world for Dave.  Known him for quite a few years.  We both worked at Northern Illinois, which is near and dear to my heart.  He hired a bunch of guys that I worked with over the years.  One of them I recruited, Frismon Jackson, played for us at Northern Illinois.  Matt Canada and I were graduate assistants and student assistants at Indiana.  Mike Karanovic, I had Coach Novak interview and hire as our video coordinator at Northern Illinois.  There's a lot of guys.  Clayton White, Clayton I hired as my secondary coach at Western Michigan, then he came with me to Stanford.
The familiar side of things, it's like brothers playing brothers, to be honest with you.  Ton of respect for Dave, the job he's done.  Wonderful wife.  Like value systems.  We have a lot of similarities in what we believe football can do for young men.  I always felt like Dave and that staff, they have a high sense of integrity for the business, doing it the right way, without shortcuts, all that.
Great respect for him.  I know he'll have his team ready to play this Saturday.

Q.  So many teams are running short‑yardage plays out of shotgun formations.  I'm sure your team does it, too.  From a defensive standpoint, do you think there is any advantage as a defensive coach facing a team that is running a short‑yardage play out of the shotgun?
COACH SHAFER:  Well, if you look in the NFL, when they get into third down and one to two or two to three, they're passing the ball a lot more than running the ball.  In the college game, you get some of that, too.
But week‑to‑week, it's definitely different.  I don't know if there's an advantage or not.  There's always holes that you have to look at and figure out ways to plug them efficiently on defense without being unsound and giving up a play behind, moving people up in the gaps, that sort of thing.
To me you just have to look at every team you're playing.  When you get to that segment, short yardage, you have to say, How can we defend this the best with always keeping in the back of your head how can we be sound.
Third‑down‑and‑one turning into a first‑and‑10 as opposed to a touchdown because you overdid it is something that I'm always wary of.  I think there's merit to making people drive the ball.  Long drives usually don't finish in touchdowns.  They're usually field goals, if you look at it.
That's kind of the way I look at that short‑yardage, shotgun stuff.

Q.  Back to your offense, do you still have an under‑center quarterback sneak in your playbook?
COACH SHAFER:  No, we've been under center, as well.  It's still in our playbook.  We've gone from under center pretty much every game.  Not a ton, but it's definitely there.

Q.  Looking back at the Clemson game, one of the things that surprised me a little bit was how much you threw the ball on first down compared to Wake Forest and Florida State.  Is that specific to what you saw against Clemson?  What are your thoughts on throwing a little more than running on first down against Clemson?
COACH SHAFER:  Well, you can't force things.  If they got eight or nine down, you only have six to block with, you better throw it.  If they only have five or six in the box, you want to throw it, you better run it.  That's really the simplicity of how you got to play the game.  Identify what you have in front of you.
It always ends up being a numbers game.  Good defenses try to show it one way, then change it, that sort of thing.
Clemson, as you know, I think they're number three in the country in total defense, number one in tackles for loss, or loss yardage.  We went into the game plan, a lot of plays you have the opportunity to run, it's not just like you're calling a run play and then running it.  It's you're calling a play, then you have an opportunity to get out of the play, take the numbers game.
A lot of those things happen on first down depending on who you're playing.  For us we go week‑to‑week on it.  The days of being able to line up and just try to run it right down somebody's throat regardless of the numbers are long past.  Now you have to be smart and play the numbers game.  To some degree it's a bit of a chess match.
Clemson, one of the best defenses I've seen.  I thought Florida State had a great defense.  I thought Notre Dame was an excellent defense, as well as Louisville.  But playing them all this year now, I got to hand it to Coach Venables and Dabo.  Clemson on at least that Saturday night was the best defense we played against this year.

Q.  You mentioned Matt Canada.  Do you have any good stories back from Indiana about you two guys coming in together and how fitting it might be to be coaching against each other on a much bigger stage.
COACH SHAFER:  Matt and I have coached against each other a bunch over the years.  I was at Illinois when he was at Indiana.  I was at Western Michigan when he was at Indiana.
Anyway, stories, I got so many stories.  I'd get in trouble if I tell them all.  We were young kids back then.  He was still a student.  I was a graduate assistant.
The best story I can tell, how we met.  Coach Mallory was the head coach there.  I was in my first year as a graduate assistant.  He came to me and said, Hey, I'm going to bring you three guys that want to be student assistants, but we can only hire one.  I want you to interview all three of them, then pick the best one that you think can do a good job.
So we had these guys in.  Matt was by far the best.  We hired him.  He and I worked a lot of hours together.  After I moved on, he was still a student at Indiana.  Then when I got to Northern Illinois, we had a job opening.  We went into coach Novak and said, Matt Canada is available, what do you think, give him a shot?  Without hesitation Joe hired him.  Matt and I worked together there for I think four years.
After the 2003 season, we all went our separate ways.
He's just a great coach, a great friend, one of my favorite people in the whole world.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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