When senior middle linebacker Nate Irving is in the starting lineup, NC State has a 13-5 record. In the win over Georgia Tech, Irving tallied a career-high 16 tackles, including 4.5 behind the line of scrimmage and two sacks. He was named the National Defensive Player of the Week by Walter Camp Football Foundation for his performance. He followed that game with another strong outing against Virginia Tech, making 13 stops, including two for loss and a sack. Irving leads NC State and ranks seventh in the ACC in total tackles and sixth in the league in tackles for loss. His 26 career tackles for loss has moved into a tie for 14th-place in school history. I spoke with Irving earlier this week, and he was in a hurry to get to a team meeting. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
As a leader on the team, what have you done or said to keep everyone upbeat heading into the BC game?
Nate Irving: Just put that game behind us. There’s nothing we can do about it. Just take from it and learn from it and move on.
What happened in that game?
NI: We had some plays where we didn’t execute our defense the way were supposed to. We had freelancing and things like that. People played outside the scheme of our defense. And we just had some mistakes and miscues.
Do you think you guys were too confident and not focused?
NI: No, that’s not it. Our coaches made sure and we all made sure of each other we all kept level heads. We knew we could’ve just as easily been 0-4 as 4-0. We stayed level-headed and went out knowing we have to work for everything we get.
What has the season been like for you, obviously with everything you’ve been through to be having such an awesome season? Has it been a dream come true for you?
NI: It has been to see the team doing good as a whole.
Boston College has obviously been struggling a lot, what do you see from them on film?
NI: I haven’t watched too much film but from what we can see, they’re a big, physical team that’s going to come in and try and establish the run game like they did last year.
What do you guys need to do to finish out the season strong?
NI: Just trust in each other and trust in the defense.
How much of a difference has coach (Jon) Tenuta made, not only with the linebackers, but with the defense as a whole?
NI: He’s made a big difference. He’s made things on defense more fundamentally sound. Every player understands why we have to do certain things and the reaction of doing those things.
What’s been the best part so far about your return this season?
NI: Just going out there and being able to win games with my football team.
What got into you at the Georgia Tech game?
NI: It was just a credit to the front four. They did their jobs which showed on my part. I couldn’t have done it without those four guys in front of me.
Do you feel as good as you did in 2008?
NI: From the first game I’ve been feeling good. I don’t think I would’ve been able to come out unless I was feeling good.
Do you still sense that this is the season NC State players and fans and coaches have been waiting for?
NI: Yes. The season is not even half way over. We have a lot of things to build on.