Controlling emotions is key in rivalry games
Posted November 1, 2013
Updated November 2, 2013
There is always a lot of noise about rivalry games, and that's just fine. Fans love them, and even when two teams are struggling like North Carolina State and North Carolina have this season, there is always interest.
After all, people need something to talk about in the break room on Monday, right?
That said, the winner of Saturday's game in Raleigh (12:30 p.m., WRAL-TV) won't be the team that embraces the rivalry best. It won't be the group that keeps its emotional level sky-high for four hours.
The winner of Saturday's game will be the team that manages the pregame emotional high and delivers 60 minutes of solid football. When we played big games in Greenville, I would always remind my players to be excited but stay controlled. NC State and North Carolina will both need to do that Saturday, and the team that stays sharp for four quarters will probably end up winning.
For the Tar Heels, Saturday is another chance to continue turning the ship in the right direction. I was completely shocked that North Carolina was able to beat Boston College the way it did a week ago, but Larry Fedora and defensive coordinator Vic Koenning get a lot of credit for the team's improvement. They are turning the needle around midseason, and that's a tough thing to do at the college level.
The Tar Heels have successfully integrated two quarterbacks into the lineup, and it's helping them get the most out of their offense. The defense is playing better, too, and they've shown some improvement in the last two games.
For the Wolfpack, Saturday's game is almost a relief. Dave Doeren won't have to worry about a hangover based on what happened a week ago in Tallahassee. I would have taken a copy of the game film to the practice field this week and burned it.
The game against Florida State is over.
As for the NC State offense, I expect improvement from Brandon Mitchell. When players return from injury, that first game is almost always ugly. He didn't look comfortable, and he never got his eyes downfield. I expect him to play better this week.