CHAPEL HILL — The overriding theme of NC State's locker room following UNC's 43-35 win over the Wolfpack on Saturday afternoon was that it will be difficult to get over the loss, but they have no choice. Tom O'Brien asked his players if they wanted to quit, and he got the answer he was looking for.
"It's going to take a day or two to get over this," fifth-year senior left guard R.J. Mattes said. "It's a big in-state rivalry loss, to lose the way we did. We got a lot to play for. We can't have one loss turn into two. We still got four games left. We're going to come out and make sure we play hard all four and hopefully win all four."
Fifth-year senior cornerback C.J. Wilson gave the defense a big lift in his return to the field after an uneven season.
"It hurts, we all know it hurts," Wilson said. "As a senior, and my fellow seniors, we are just to talk to the team cause when we're up, we got to finish it. We missed a lot of opportunities."
The Pack is at home for the first time in over a month against Virginia next Saturday, who will be coming off a bye week.
"It's a tough loss, but we have to focus up and get ready for the next game," redshirt sophomore receiver Bryan Underwood stated.
Wilson's big afternoon
This was probably not the senior season that Wilson had envisioned for himself. He had to sit out the first four games of the season for an academic suspension, and in the process lost his starting job to junior Dontae Johnson. Then the development of redshirt freshman corner Juston Burris made Wilson relegated to even less playing time. He did not see a snap from the field on defense at Maryland last Saturday.
Wilson made several big plays against UNC. He tipped and then intercepted a pass in the end zone, literally ripped the ball out of the hands of freshman receiver Quinshad Davis at the NCSU 10, broke up another pass and finished with five tackles, four of them solo.
Wilson though was anything but happy after the loss.
"The only time I am satisfied is when we win," Wilson said. "I'm really not satisfied until it has 0:00 up. It was good to make a play, help my team, but I would trade all that in for the win."
Mental mistakes costly
Both sides of the ball struggled with mental miscues. The defense was set back on its heels in the first quarter by a UNC blitz that included a variety of trick plays as head coach Larry Fedora opened up the playbook as expected.
"We knew coming into the game they were going to do something," Wilson said. "They were going to come out and do something, some kind of trickery. From what I had seen, it kind of caught us off guard, but coming into the game we knew something was going to happen, we just didn't know what."
After weathering the storm when they fell behind 25-7, the Pack rallied to seemingly take control of the game at 35-25 in the fourth. It could have been even greater though if the passing game had not been plagued by dropped passes.
Underwood, who finished with six catches for 118 yards and two scores, was guilty of the drops, too. He actually had the first two of many in the game.
"Big rivalry, away from home, and everybody is just anxious and jittery," Underwood said. "Lack of focus and doing the right things we've been doing all week. It was just our fault on that."
Respect for Bernard
UNC redshirt sophomore Giovani Bernard continues to make a case for being the ACC's offensive player of the year. He rushed 23 times for 135 yards and two scores, caught eight passes for 95 yards and of course had the game-winning 74-yard punt return for a score.
"We knew he was a good back coming into the game," Wilson insisted. "We knew we had to attack him early. We knew who he was, we knew what to expect, that he was a good back.
"He's going to make some plays here and there. After the game I still think of him as a good back. I know he's going to make the plays here and there."