PEELER: Time To Be Bounce-Back Pack
Oct. 4, 2010
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. – NC State’s football team faced a huge test last weekend, and suffered a narrow loss to Virginia Tech after building an early lead.
Now, what head coach Tom O’Brien wants to find out is how his team will handle such a setback.
By the players own admission, they have not handled losses well in previous seasons. There was some sniping, some finger-pointing and some immaturity. To hear some of the players tell it, there was a sour atmosphere in the lockerroom that no one wants repeated.
Of course, it makes a big difference that this year’s edition of the Wolfpack (4-1 overall, 1-1 in the ACC) built a little positive momentum by winning its first four games. Every other team under O’Brien lost its first game of the season, and then a couple more. Two of the Wolfpack’s first three teams under O’Brien, because of injuries, lack of depth and other reasons, made the turn at the midway point of the season with losing records.
And last year’s team lost its next two games after a 3-3 start.
The current Wolfpack will have a winning record at the halfway point, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s noon game against Boston College at Carter-Finley Stadium, which will be televised on the ACC network.
But the upperclassmen on the team are trying to make sure that the team stays upbeat and positive about last week’s loss, despite its overall disappointment in letting the game against the Hokies slip away.
“Guys in the past haven’t always been positive about losing,” said senior wide receiver Darrell Davis. “They have pointed fingers and gone their own way. We are just trying to keep everyone together and let them know it’s not always bad when you lose.
“There are some positives that can come out of a loss.”
Davis is optimistic that the players who stepped up immediately after Saturday’s loss will have a positive effect on their teammates. It’s not just the three team captains: linebacker Nate Irving, wide receiver Jarvis Williams and quarterback Russell Wilson. It’s veterans who have seen the negative effects losing can have on the lockerroom: defensive linemen Markus Kuhn and Michael Lemon, offensive tackle Jake Vermiglio and others.
“I think they are going to help us bounce back from this loss,” said sophomore safety Brandan Bishop. “It’s a credit to our senior leadership. It’s Monday and we have let it go. We are in Boston College mode. They are a good team too. You have to move on.”
And learn a few difficult lessons.
“This past weekend was tough,” Davis said. “It was a humbling experience. But one loss doesn’t crush us. We have a chance to meet them again.”
For now, though, the Wolfpack is preparing to face its coach’s former team, which it has not beaten in the three meetings since O’Brien took over the reins in Raleigh. Last year, at Chestnut Hill, the Eagles rolled to a 52-20 victory.
O’Brien knows his offense can’t have three turnovers, like the trio of interceptions thrown by Wilson against Virginia Tech. It has to tackle better, especially in the secondary. And it can’t give up big plays on special teams. For the second time in five games, an opponent returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
“There are some things we have to correct on the practice field this week,” O’Brien said. “I think our guys understand that each week is a different challenge. Just as they couldn’t let a victory affect the way they prepared for a game, they can’t let a loss affect the way they prepare for this game.”
O’Brien isn’t particularly sentimental about facing the school where he coached for 10 years and led to eight bowl games. He tries to look at it as another game on the schedule. Besides, there are only seven players that he recruited still on the Eagle roster.
“There has been a lot of turnover,” O’Brien said. “That’s the way it was when I went from Navy to Virginia and Virginia to BC and BC here. The longer your times goes, the less your ties are to the program because of the players.
“I haven’t beaten them since I have been here, but there are a lot of teams I haven’t beaten. It’s going to happen someday. Hopefully, it will be this Saturday.”
You may contact Tim Peeler at firstname.lastname@example.org.