NC State receiver Bryan Underwood might be best recognized for the touchdown he didn’t score. With his team trailing 13-7 midway through the third quarter against No. 3-ranked Clemson, Underwood sprinted 83 yards into the end zone, where one official signaled a touchdown. Another official whistled the play dead, though, because he thought Underwood stepped out of bounds.
Even without that touchdown, Underwood has still had an important role in NC State’s offense. He was the Pack’s leading rusher against Clemson, and he currently ranks fourth on the team in rushing and third in receptions. He’s averaging 75 all-purpose yards per game.
I spoke with Underwood this week to get his take on where the program stands under first-year coach Dave Doeren heading into Saturday’s game at Wake Forest:
Have you guys exceeded your expectations so far?
Bryan Underwood: So far we have. We started off a little slow in a couple of games but we’ve made a lot of adjustments on certain game plans. Whatever we had in the summer or a previous game, we may throw that out and come out with something new. Our intention is to execute whatever game plan we have for that week, for that following opponent, and so far I feel like we’ve been able to do it.
Since I have had the chance to talk to you, I have to ask you how much that touchdown run against Clemson is still bugging you?
BU: (He laughed) Like I tell everybody, it’s not really bothering me. The refs made their own calls. I wasn’t really paying attention to the sideline, I was just trying to get into the end zone. You can only move forward.
Knowing you came so close against Clemson, what do you think you guys are capable of in the Atlantic Division race?
BU: We’re taking every game one by one, but we have high expectations for ourselves. We take every day seriously, even days we’re not supposed to be in the stadium. We just meet up as an offense to have a little bit of a walk-through, brush up on certain routes and defensive coverages. We hold everyone accountable and hold high expectations for ourselves and we put so much work in, we don’t expect anything less than our best, and so do our coaches.
Tell me your perspective on the quarterback situation. From what I understand Brandon Mitchell should be coming back here in the near future, but Pete Thomas has also started playing better. What’s your scouting report on those guys and that situation as a whole?
BU: I check on Brandon every day, every time I walk into the stadium, [to] see if he’s doing OK. He has the same face on every day, smilin’, saying don’t worry about it, he’s coming back as fast as he can. He’s working hard. Pete is progressing his game and it shows on the field. He’s getting a lot more comfortable in the pocket, he’s reading defenses and learning what type of plays to call and where his reads should be. As far as Brandon and Pete when Brandon comes back, I feel like they’re probably going to end up using both. I don’t think the coaches are going to completely choose one guy because we have a lot of weapons. We’re still going to use the freshman quarterback Bryant Shirreffs and he’s going to add some more to our arsenal. Like I keep telling everybody, you can’t focus on one guy. If you do, you’re going to be in trouble because we have so many weapons.
What’s your take on Wake Forest based on what you’ve seen from them? Clearly the Demon Deacons have been struggling.
BU: We’re going to approach the game just like it’s any game, whether it’s Clemson or Alabama. They may have struggled in the beginning, but from what I’ve seen of them, they have a really athletic defense. Their noseguard, Nikita Whitlock, they have a really good secondary, they’re athletic, pretty decent speed. They’re veterans. They’ve seen a lot of things, been on a big stage before, they bounce back from bad games to having a good game. We’re going to get a good game plan ready for this week and see what we can do.
What do you think of the job Dave Doeren has done there so far?
BU: He’s exceeded all of my expectations. He’s just like my old high school coach. He came in, he had a game plan, he got everybody on board. He’s energetic. He’s in your life. There’s not a day that goes by where he doesn’t have enough energy for the whole entire team. He’s done good with coaching for the games, getting us prepared, getting our bodies right, the personnel they have for offense and defense. They’ve just done such a phenomenal job. I’m glad to be a part of it.
What are some things you feel you guys need to work on in order to really be a contender in the Atlantic Division?
BU: Being more consistent. Even in practice it shows, where we may have a decent practice Monday or Tuesday and come back Wednesday and have a bad practice. I would say we have to be more consistent. We have to keep focused on what we’ve been coached all week and execute in the game like we do in practice.