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November 17, 2010

Tom O'Brien

THE MODERATOR: We now welcome NC State head football coach Tom O'Brien. We'll bring on Coach O'Brien, ask for a brief opening statement, then go to questions.
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, we're certainly working hard trying to get ourselves ready to go play a really good North Carolina football team. Should be a great game and a great day. We look forward to the 12:00 kickoff on Saturday.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Coach O'Brien.

Q. Tom, last year obviously Dana wasn't a part of the game, had been in the hospital only a week before the game. How remarkable do you think it is he's back with the team? Do you expect this game to be particularly emotional, given what happened last year?
COACH O'BRIEN: Dana would have to answer the question about the emotional part for him. I think it is pretty remarkable certainly that his disease was one that, I don't know exactly what the percentage of success ratio it was, but certainly had a lot of things to overcome and a lot of things had to go right for him to be in this position that he is. So he's very fortunate and we're very fortunate that he's still with us.
I know the team has respected everything he's done. He's had some ups and downs this year throughout the season. He still has, to my knowledge, a lot of the chemotherapy in his body, the poison or whatever that's there. Sometimes he struggles with it. He keeps getting better each and every day. It's a great thing for us that he's going to be able to go with us to Chapel Hill.

Q. I know these things are hard to anticipate, but did you think at all he'd be able to contribute the way he has this year, especially the way your offense has performed?
COACH O'BRIEN: He made it through spring practice. He started feeling much better during the summer. Being able to go through camp, especially as hot as it was, that was part of it. It was brutally hot down here to go through the two-a-day segment. Once he was able to withstand that, I think he felt good about where he was. As long as he felt good about where he was, where he was headed, then I certainly did.

Q. Coach, I know Russell Wilson's numbers speak for themselves. Can you tell us what his leadership has meant and how he's developed in that regard over the last three years?
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, I think he's grown up a lot. Certainly as you play in your first year, especially as a quarterback, you're more worried about what goes on around you. The more that you feel comfortable being the quarterback and understanding what you're supposed to do, the execution of things on the field. The other part of it comes in, that you're going to be the leader, you're going to be the focal point, you're the guy they look up to in the huddle.
More and more he's assumed that responsibility. He did a tremendous job here through this stretch that we're in right now, especially after the open week. He stepped it up even more. He's just done a phenomenal job. He has natural leadership abilities but I think he's taken it even to the next level.

Q. When you say he stepped it up...
COACH O'BRIEN: Much more vocal and also in his actions on the practice field. I think that's where it really comes into play, to make sure that everyone's going at a pace that he deems is the correct pace to be going in practice. It picks up the whole practice. It makes you practice better, which ultimately will make you play better.

Q. Coach, could you tell me how you feel about where the program is.
COACH O'BRIEN: I think we're definitely on the way. I think we had some situations the last two years that didn't allow us to get to the position that we're in today. But certainly when you look back, and this is the first time you've won seven games here since 2003, I think it speaks volumes to the direction the program is headed.

Q. Is there anything now in year four that you know maybe you didn't in year one in terms of what it would take to build the program?
COACH O'BRIEN: No. I think we came in here, we had a plan, and we stuck to our plan. The plan was set back by deflections and by injuries, not having a consistency on the football field that you need. At this point last year we were starting our ninth different defense in ten games.
We've gotten that consistency, we've gotten a little bit of maturity, we've gotten a little bit of depth. I think it's only partially showing what we can accomplish here.

Q. Tom, last year when this game with North Carolina was hanging in the balance, y'all had the ball, timeout, you call Russell over, Let's relax, finish this off. Key drive there that won that game. Do you think there's any carry-over from that performance at the end that y'all played with sort of maturity, finished the game off, went into the off-season with the win? Did that carry over to this year at all?
COACH O'BRIEN: I think certainly it did. If you go back to even the year before, Russell going down at halftime in the Bowl game was somewhat of a harbinger we looked at all last year. By the same token, the last game we had last year was a performance we had at the end of the year against North Carolina. I think that set up the table for where we were headed, what we were doing, the belief that we could be a good football team. We just needed to stay healthy and have a normal year.
That's what we've had. We've shown the ability. We're 7-3, but the 3 losses have been in overtime, the last three minutes of football games. We've become much more competitive. In order to be a championship program, you have to become competitive first.

Q. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but games like that add maturity to a program as well, whether you've won or lost. Seems like this team has played with a lot of maturity.
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, last year we didn't have any because of all the freshmen. We talked about it in the off-season. They should be much better in the maturity factor because they have played and competed. The story goes back to the Wolff story when he made the statement in the weight room, Now I realize how much I didn't know last year. So they were able to take that step.
This is an important time, an important game for a lot of these kids. It's going to be fun to play this one on Saturday.

Q. Tom, could you talk about how far Owen Spencer has come since you've been there, especially off the field.
COACH O'BRIEN: Well, I think Owen is really a case in point of a guy that has really worked so hard. He's not a very vocal guy. He's kind of a quiet guy. But he is a guy, whether it be in the strength and conditioning area or on the practice field, has always gone full speed at everything he's done. He's gotten better because of it.
Certainly capped it off with a really nice catch and run for a touchdown. Had a nice day in his last day playing in Carter-Finley Stadium, which I think is great for him. Now we just want to finish the season off. We have two road games to go, none bigger than the one Saturday in Chapel Hill.

Q. During that first year, how close did he come to not being on this team at this point?
COACH O'BRIEN: I don't think there was any situation that would have not kept him on this football team at this point. He came in January when we came in. We've been through this all together. He's been a joy to be around.
THE MODERATOR: Coach, thanks for being with us. We look forward to talking to you next Tuesday. Good luck this weekend.
COACH O'BRIEN: Thank you.

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