RALEIGH, N.C. — It wasn't critical comments from N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien that got the USF defense fired up for Saturday's game. It was the response defensive coordinator Wally Burnham made.
"Once he fired back, the whole defense fired back," LB Tyrone McKenzie said after USF's 41-10 victory. "You know we're going to back him up. … When you have a coach like that, who has that swagger like that, you can't help but play with swagger."
Two weeks ago, O'Brien said USF wasn't one of the programs he consulted in the offseason about how to contain the spread offense because of its 56-21 Sun Bowl loss to Oregon last season. "That was the spread that they were defending," he said. "If they're the gurus, we'd better go somewhere else."
In responding last week, Burnham said, "I forget what bowl game they were in. That's all I've got to say." N.C. State was 5-7 last season and didn't go to a bowl.
Burnham said he thought his players would be motivated by O'Brien's comments and didn't mind letting them take the slight personally. "We'll take anything that helps us," he said.
RANKINGS: USF is No. 10 in both major polls. It moved up three spots in the Associated Press rankings and four in the USA Today coaches poll, in which it's tied with Georgia. USF is 12th in the first Harris Poll, which is used in calculating the BCS standings.
Mompremier update: LB Brouce Mompremier, who injured his neck against Florida International two weeks ago, took his first steps toward returning, running in his jersey and shorts with the linebackers at Sunday's practice.
Times correspondent Joe Rienzi contributed to this report.