NC State Beat: The Pack Remain a Mystery

Through just four games, NC State has shown just about every persona a college football team possibly can. In Atlanta, against Tennessee, the Pack seemed overwhelmed, as if the moment was too big for them. Against UCONN, the Pack seemed dejected, as if the loss to Tennessee had derailed their entire season. Then against South Alabama, NC State looked complacent, taking their foot of the gas way too early. And finally, last week against The Citadel, State dominated a far weaker opponent from start to finish, and showed the type of desire every fan wants to see within their team.

Obviously, these different personas can be analyzed many different ways. Some may say that the Pack are far too inconsistent, which may be true. Others may say that State has improved each and every week they have stepped on the field. And, of course, many will say that they still haven’t shown they can compete with the upper half of the ACC.

Quite frankly, I don’t know what to make of this NC State team. I’ve watched every minute the Pack has played this season, many of them twice, and still cannot figure this team out. There are moments where they show the athleticism, skill, and desire needed to compete with Florida State, and Clemson, for a spot in the ACC Championship game. But, there are also times when they seem to be going through the motions, almost like they believe they can just show up and beat anybody.

No team, no matter how talented, can merely show up and expect to win week in and week out. The Pack has to play every game as they did last year, when their season was on the line. They have to play with a fire and passion every week, or they will continue to just be an okay team. This team can be better, and should be better as each week passes. If we know anything about TOB teams, they do improve as the year goes along. They always have.

Not to go all overly optimistic State fan here, but there are a few indicators from the past few weeks that show the Pack can still compete for the ACC Championship.

Improvement Each Week

Yes, I am the same guy who just last week said that you can’t take anything away from a win over a FCS team. And I still firmly believe that. However, while you may not be able to take anything away from a team’s performance against a FCS team, you can take a lot away from their metal make-up. As I said earlier, against Tennessee, the Pack looked overwhelmed, and unsure of themselves. By the time they stepped on the field against The Citadel, NC State had an edge to them, a certain swagger if you will. They expected to win they game running away, and they did just that. We have only seen an NC State team with this type of mentality once under Tom O’Brien, and that was 2009, when the Pack won 9 games and fell just one win short of the ACC Championship Game. This team was finally having fun again against The Citadel. And if that continues, watch out for the Pack.

The Schedule is Favorable

Before you even ask, the answer is yes. I do see Florida State and Clemson looming on NC State’s remaining schedule. But the other games should go the Pack’s way, if they take it one game at a time. There are three games remaining on State’s schedule against Coastal Division teams. Other than Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson, Tom O’Brien has the best winning percentage among ACC coaches against Coastal Division teams. O’Brien is 11-4 overall against the Coastal, and 6-1 against those teams on the road. Also, other than Florida State and Clemson, the remaining teams on State’s schedule have been unimpressive. Even if State were to take losses to Florida State and Clemson, we could still be talking about a 9-3 regular season.

State May Have A Rushing Attack

NC State has not had a 1,000 yard rusher since 2002, and under Tom O’Brien has never been a threat to beat you on the ground. However, true freshman Shadrach Thornton turned some heads Saturday, when in his first college game he rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns. His 145 yards were the most for a Pack running back in his first game, since Joe McIntosh back in 1981. Not only did Thornton have a good day this past Saturday, but NC State rushed for more yards as a team than they ever have under TOB, gaining 282 yards on the ground. That’s the highest total rushing yards for State since 2005. Yes, it was only one game against The Citadel, but we have never seen a State team run the ball like this under Tom O’Brien. If the Pack can establish a solid running game and take pressure off of Mike Glennon, watch out.

Obviously, lots of things can change. We’ve seen a different NC State team seemingly every week this season, and that could continue to happen. However, there are signs that point to the Pack maybe finally putting everything together and making a run as they begin the ACC portion of their schedule. Only time will tell.

The Pack may still be a mystery right now, but one thing is for sure, there is a lot of football to be played. And I for one am not going to count the Pack out quite yet.


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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