PEELER: Avoid The Poison, O'Brien Says
Nov. 1, 2010
BY TIM PEELER
RALEIGH, N.C. –Whenever NC State football coach Tom O’Brien needs words of wisdom, he always draws on his wealth of knowledge from his former boss at Virginia, George Welsh.
And Welsh, the grumpy grandpa of ACC football, always knew the truth about hype: It’s worse than Kool Aid.
“George always used to say, ‘It’s poison – if you swallow it, it’s going to kill you,’” O’Brien said Monday at his weekly press conference.
Just like last week, when he said the NC State-Florida State game was the biggest in his four-year tenure in Raleigh, O’Brien needs to keep his team grounded if it is going to make a serious run at the ACC’s Atlantic Division championship and qualify for the ACC title game in Charlotte on Dec. 4.
The No. 23 Wolfpack (6-2 overall, 3-1) held steady against the Seminoles, in front of a friendly crowd at Carter-Finley Stadium, creating a turnover that preserved the 28-24 victory in the final minute of the game. But this week’s challenge is tougher, as O’Brien and his squad head to Clemson’s Memorial Stadium – aka Death Valley – to face the nemesis Tigers.
Clemson has owned this series ever since 2003, when senior quarterback Philip Rivers led the Wolfpack to a 17-15 victory at Carter-Finley. The Tigers have won six in a row since then, including three straight games with a three-touchdown margin of victory.
Saturday’s noon game at Death Valley is now the most important game that O’Brien has coached in his four years at NC State. A win would solidify the Wolfpack’s advantage in earning the Atlantic Division titlle. A loss would give that advantage right back to Florida State, despite the fact that the Wolfpack owns the tiebreaker between the two schools.
O’Brien and his charges know they have a difficult challenge ahead of them. Saturday’s game against the Tigers is the first of three road contest in the regular-season’s final four games. The Wolfpack lone remaining game at Carter-Finley is the Nov. 12 Homecoming matchup with Wake Forest.
“We are going to have to be road warriors, obviously,” O’Brien said. “It’s a tough challenge, but it’s what we have to do. I saw the last time that we played three road games in November was 1973. So we caught the wrong year for this to happen, but that’s the schedule.”
O’Brien has been a strong finisher in his first three seasons with the Wolfpack, who own an 8-4 record during the month of November under O’Brien. Two years ago, the Pack swept four straight November games to qualify for its only postseason bowl game of O’Brien’s tenure.
Perhaps it’s a testament to where the program is that few people have made a big deal that the Wolfpack is bowl-eligible again. There’s been much more focus on the Atlantic Division race.
“We aren’t really concerned about being bowl eligible,” said senior tight end George Bryan. “We want to go to a bowl that really means something. We have to win some more games.”
The Wolfpack also has to be more focused. Each time it has won a big game – at Georgia Tech on Sept. 25 or against Boston College on Oct. 9 – the Pack has suffered a disappointing letdown, losing fourth quarter leads against Virginia Tech and East Carolina for its only two losses of the year.
“This is a big football game,” O’Brien said. “They continue to get bigger each and every week. That’s the exciting thing. It’s neat to be in position to play for the things we are playing for right now.”
The coach gave his team two full days off following the win over the Seminoles. The Pack is rested and ready to go against a Clemson team that is recovering from a loss at Boston College on Saturday. That outcome only increased the buzz around the Wolfpack locker room achieving big goals.
“The talk about going to the ACC championship game is buzzing around right now,” Bryan admitted. “But we have four more games to win to get there. That is what we need to be thinking about.
“We haven’t beaten Clemson since I have been here. That’s something we want to change.”
You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.