NC State Beat: Time to Move On

Last Friday night, I sat in the Georgia Dome dejected, and searching for answers. Nothing that transpired on the field in front of me made sense. I spent the majority of the third and fourth quarters not cheering for the Pack, but wondering what was wrong with the team that I was so excited about watching play in 2012. I could not put my finger on how Tom O’Brien’s deepest, most experienced, and talented NC State team was getting manhandled by a Tennessee team that while good, was not good enough to treat NC State like a non-AQ school.

It has been a week, I can still hear ‘Rocky Top’ playing on what seemed like a constant loop, and I sit here still not knowing exactly what went wrong.

Tennessee was a good SEC team. They were not an Alabama or LSU, but they were a very good team. And they deserve all the credit in the world for what they did to the Wolfpack.

However, I refuse to believe that Tennessee is simply that much better than this NC State team. Call me crazy, and say that I don’t know what I am talking about, but no one can prove to me that Tennessee was good enough to turn Mike Glennon into Jay Davis (Philip Rivers’ successor), and David Amerson into, well, someone other than the All-American he is.

I do not buy that. I cannot buy that.

What ultimately happened to NC State is what has always happened to NC State at the beginning of the season during the Tom O’Brien era. They came out flat, and unprepared for the environment they would have to play in.

Under O’Brien, the Pack is 0-4 in season openers against FBS opponents, losing to UCF, South Carolina twice, and now Tennessee. Even last season against FCS opponent Liberty, NC State looked like they were a step behind their opponent in basically every aspect of the game. And that Liberty game was actually a lot closer than the 43-21 score indicated. These slow starts have become an unwelcomed, embarrassing State football tradition. And they must stop now.

Throughout the week, even when this weekend’s game has been closer than the last, the talk around Raleigh has been about the Tennessee game. Everywhere you turn someone is either talking about how bad State played, or how Tennessee fans “showed up” State fans in the attendance department. Issues that have no bearing on this weekend’s game against UCONN, or the rest of the season for that matter.

All the talk is understandable and expected. There was so much hope and optimism for this NC State football season. Coaches, players, fans, and even those in the media, really thought that this was going to be the year Tom O’Brien and the Wolfpack put it all together and made a run at that ACC Championship that has eluded them since 1979.

However, now is not the time to abandon that optimism, or downgrade expectations for the 11 games remaining on NC State’s schedule. Now is the time to move on from a disappointing start to the season, and focus in on begin the team most everyone thought State could be, and should be.

It is time to move on, and that starts Saturday against UCONN.

Heading into Saturday’s game, NC State finds itself in a familiar situation. During the TOB era, the Pack has now started the season 0-1 four times. In the previous three instances, State is 2-1 after dropping their first game of the season. The downside to that, though, is that only one of those three games was against an FBS team like UCONN. In that game, the Pack was dropped by Boston College, 37-17.

If this truly is, as O’Brien has constantly said, his deepest and most experienced team, State should be able to right the ship on Saturday and take care of business against the Huskies. The Pack enters the game as a 4-point favorite, and ultimately should be able to win by more, if they play up to their potential.

The Tennessee game was the first game of the season. And while it may be cliché to say, you simply cannot make assumptions about an entire season based on one game. And you especially cannot make broad assumptions based on one game, in a neutral site against an SEC team, regardless of who that SEC team is.

The Pack will be fine. Are there a lot of mistakes that must be addressed before State takes the field Saturday in Connecticut? Absolutely. But every issue the Pack had last week against Tennessee can be solved with simple adjustments.

The intestinal fortitude of this NC State team is being tested early, and that could ultimately be a much better scenario than finding out later in the season that this team has no fight in it. Obviously, everyone would have loved to have started out the season with a win, in the Georgia Dome, against Tennessee. But we cannot go back in time, or play them best two-out-of-three. State has to keep the hand they’ve been dealt. Their backs are against the wall right out of the gate. How they respond on Saturday against UCONN will give a glimpse into what the rest of the season still holds for NC State.

Make no mistake, NC State is still talented enough, and experienced enough, to give Florida State and Clemson a challenge for that Atlantic Division title down the road. Some things have to be ironed out first, but luckily there is ample time between now and those games.

The Tennessee game is over with. It is time to move on from it and set the tone for the rest of the season Saturday. It is up to the leaders of this NC State football team how the rest of this season will go.

Will they break through? Or just be another mediocre NC State football team?

 


NC State blogger Spencer HardisonSpencer Hardison has been writing about NC State athletics for over a year for various web sites, and has been talking about and passionately pulling for the Pack since the day he was born. He lives by the idea that numbers never lie, and firmly believes that defense wins championships. Spencer is one of the more opinionated and passionate people you will ever meet. Basically, he’ll argue with a wall, if said wall doesn’t agree with him. All in all, Spencer loves to be opinionated, make bold statements, and prove to everyone that he is right and they are wrong. Oh, and Taylor Swift has written three songs about him. You can find Spencer on Twitter at @SpencerHardison.

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