Wolfpack gets early start in bowl preparation
ORLANDO, Fla. - When it comes to preparing a team for a bowl game, North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato has things down pat.
Prior to taking over at North Carolina State two years ago, Amato was an assistant at Florida State the previous 18 years, during which the Seminoles never missed a bowl game. Amato handled postseason operations - game preparation, travel, itinerary - in his final 14 years in Tallahassee, and Florida State went 12-2 during that span.
He is 1-0 in bowl games at North Carolina State - the Wolfpack defeated Minnesota last year in the Micronpc.com Bowl - and he is looking to improve on that mark Thursday night, when his team (7-4) faces Pitt (6-5) in the Tangerine Bowl.
Amato's philosophy is to spend at least a week at the site of the bowl game so his players get all the "good times" out of their system early, then get focused on the game. North Carolina State arrived here Friday - six days before the game - because some team members had to complete final exams.
"You enjoy yourself, but you also have to find a happy medium," Amato said. "Our main purpose here is to do business, to win, because that carries over into the off-season. I want to get all the play stuff done in a hurry, that's just me. I want them to get tired in practice. You start out by giving them a late curfew, but as you keep getting them up early in the morning, they want to be in bed."
Unlike the Wolfpack, Pitt will have only three days of practice here before the game. The Panthers were scheduled to arrive this morning, then hit the field in the afternoon. Only time will tell if three days will sufficiently prepare the Panthers, who have won five games in a row.
"Everybody does things different ways," said Amato, whose team won four of its final five games. "My way might work for me, but not the next guy. There is no set way to do this. You just have to hope that come game day the kids are ready to play. It's that simple."
Former Pitt tight ends coach/recruiting coordinator Curt Cignetti now works on Amato's staff, in the same capacity. He spent three years on Pitt coach Walt Harris' staff before leaving for North Carolina State after the 1999 season.
Cignetti not only recruited a good number of current Panthers, but he also has a great understanding of Harris' offensive philosophy. Whether that works to the Wolfpack's advantage remains to be seen.
"The bottom line is, the kids still have to go out and execute," Amato said. "There's no question he knows the personnel, but sometimes when you think you know too much about another team, things get complicated and you try to do too much."
Amato paused before paying a compliment to Cignetti.
"He's extremely intelligent," Amato said. "My problem now is trying to hold him here. He's going to have a lot of opportunities in this business."
Not one player from North Carolina State flew on the charter to get here. Most arrived Thursday to take in the sights and the nightlife. A good portion of those players were hurting Friday when Amato held a 7:30 a.m. practice. ... The Wolfpack worked out yesterday morning, then went to see Shamu at Sea World.