Coach Dave Doeren's UNC Scouting Report

Brett Friedlander

The NC State football team will make the short trip up Interstate 40 to Chapel Hill to take on rival North Carolina on Saturday.

It's an interesting matchup beyond the emotion that usually accompanies any matchup between the Wolfpack and Tar Heels.

While the teams came into the season with drastically different expectations -- with UNC ranked highly in the national polls while talking heads on the ACC Network speculated whether State could win even one conference game -- they both now find themselves in a similar place.

The Tar Heels are 3-1, but have dropped from a high of No. 5 down to No. 14 in this week's Coaches Poll after losing at Florida State last Saturday. The Wolfpack, meanwhile, has defied the "experts" by fashioning a 4-1 start that includes three straight wins. This will be the first time since 1993 that both teams are ranked when facing one another. 

Here's what Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren had to say about UNC, his success in Chapel Hill, the difference between the rivals and his relationship with Tar Heels coach Mack Brown during his regular weekly media conference on Monday:

"There’s good effort, there’s just got to be better execution. I think the guys are buying into preparing. They’re practicing with an edge. They’re seeing the results of their effort. Now we get to play a really good cross-town team. It’s a game that’s been going on since 1894. I know it’s a game that means a lot to both school’s fan bases, boosters and football clubs and teams and coaching staffs. It’s going to be a hard-fought game.

"They’re a very well-coached, veteran team with a lot of skill, a lot of team speed. Obviously they’re coming off a tough loss, but one in which I think they played really well in the second half. It really was a tale of two halves for them down there.

"They are 3-1. They’re an explosive offense. Their receivers do a nice job. They’ve got a blend of size and speed and you know Sam (Howell) is a tremendous quarterback. Their two tailbacks (Michael Carter Jr. and Javonte Williams) are really good players. They’re different from each other. They’re both explosive, both good in the run and the pass game. 

They don’t turn the ball over a lot. They’ve got a big offensive line. The tight end, (Garrett) Walston, is a good player. It’s going to be a good football game. It’s a great opportunity to play against a really good offense.

"Defensively, they lost some good defensive linemen last year. They look improved in the secondary, to me. I think their linebackers are the same kids. (Chazz) Surratt and (Jeremiah) Gemmel do a great job. They're active. They blitz a lot. They give you a lot of different presentations on defense. 

"They’re in both odd and even fronts. They’ll play cover-two, cover-three, cover-one, and they’re bringing different pressures from all over the place, similar to what we saw in some of the snaps with Virginia. They press you up on the outside. They’ve got big corners that are physical.

"It’s going to be a great challenge, a great opportunity and I look forward to playing them, as we do every year. It’s a chance to play against a top-20 team on the road again. It’s a chance for our team to overcome some things injury wise and really go up there and fight against a veteran team." 

On going 3-0 in his first three games at Kenan Stadium

"I know how big this game is to NC State, former players, boosters, alums, all those things. So I take a lot of pride in being able to deliver that to our fan base. I lost to them in Year One, so the first win over there was when Jacoby Brissett had a heck of a game. So it was great to get my first win over them over there. 

"I probably can’t do this in the proper order, but one of the wins over there probably saved my job. That was the year we missed a field goal against Clemson, went on a skid, then all of the sudden we finished strong and that one got us in a bowl game. So that was an emotional win.

But any time you play a rivalry that’s been going back since 1894, any time you play a game like this and you win it, whether it’s home or away, it’s emotional. Unfortunately, one of them was kind of ruined because we had a fight afterwards and felt like we were dealing with all that crap after the game instead of the win. 

"But I think with this football team, their football team, this coaching staff, their coaching staff, it’s about the kids. These guys work so hard. When you go in the locker room after an emotional win on either side, you’re going to feel that, and you can’t just play it off. It means a lot to you."

On Mack Brown saying the Tar Heels were overrated while the Wolfpack is underrated

"That’s nice of him to say that. I don’t really look at it like that. Every week we’ve got to prove ourselves, whether (or not) they pick us to win. Whether it’s no spread or we’re underdogs, we’ve got to show up. None of these rankings matter until the end of the season. It doesn’t matter where we’re rated right now. It didn’t matter last week. It didn’t matter the week before. It won’t matter until we play our last game.

"I think his team played really bad in the first half (at Florida State) and played really, really good in the second half. I’m sure he’s saying he wants that team to be the team that plays every game. That team is a really good team for UNC, that second-half team. So he’s got a very good football team. 

"He’s got a veteran football team. He’s got a lot of speed on his football team. I think he’s poor-mouthing that group a little bit right there. I think he’s got a really good football team."

On the differences in cultures between State and UNC

"I don’t exactly know what their culture is, so I don’t want to speak on something I don’t understand. I know what our culture is. It’s blue collar. I’ve said it many times, I came to NC State because I felt like I fit in. It’s a bunch of people that work hard and like to have a good time together -- very intelligent people, but very hard-working people. The blue collar, hands in your dirt program, that’s what we’re all about here.

"If you look at our fan base, they support every sport. They don’t just support football. I love them. You go to a wrestling match, it’s sold out. You can go to women’s basketball and it’s sold out. You come to football, it’s sold out. You go to men’s basketball, it’s sold out. So they don’t just support football, they support student-athletes. I think that makes our fans very special. That’s what we’re all about here. I think their school probably has their definitions of what they’re all about."

On his relationship with Mack Brown

"I’ve known Mack a long time. When I was at Kansas, he was the head coach at Texas. I recruited Texas and would run into him from time to time. I competed against him. He was always a great mentor in the business to a lot of young coaches. He’s a first-class guy. 

"When I came here, he congratulated me when he was with ESPN. Now that we’re on the other side of things competing against each other, we’re not talking the same way as we used to, but I know that there’s respect from both sides. He’s done a great job since he’s come back, and obviously the last time he was there he did a great job as well."

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