The movie "Groundhog Day" may not be NC State head football coach Tom O'Brien's favorite movie, but he believes the film is a good reference for his team this week.
Despite a disappointing 14-13 loss at Clemson last Saturday, NC State starts this week exactly where they began it, tied with Florida State and Maryland in the loss column at the top of the Atlantic Division in the ACC and in control of their own destiny. O'Brien said the results of Saturday were good evidence why a team needs to stay level-headed and never get too down or too high.
O'Brien acknowledged that the Clemson loss was frustrating, especially since the defense played in his view their best game of the year, but the team cannot dwell on the loss because every game from here on out is a do-or-die for the team, according to O'Brien. He does not believe a three-loss team will make it to the ACC title game. He was happy with the attitude at practice Sunday, which O'Brien described as more upbeat than normal.
NC State hosts Wake Forest Saturday. O'Brien noted the Deacs' defense has played much better since making the switch to a 3-4 scheme during their bye week.
Here are some other topics of note from O'Brien's Monday press conference:
- Junior transfer J. Ellis Flint and freshman walk-on Chris Hawthorne will compete this week in practice to replace injured fifth-year senior kicker Josh Czajkowski, who hurt his hamstring trying to run down Clemson senior corner Marcus Gilchrist on a kickoff return.
Flint is a transfer from the now defunct Hofstra program and recommended to NC State after doing well at a summer camp. Hawthorne was described by O'Brien as a strong-legged kicker that has gotten better as the year went along. They would have liked to redshirted Hawthorne, but with a potential conference championship on the line they will use Hawthorne if needed.
O'Brien also lamented the fact that a missed assignment on the kickoff return ultimately set up the long run back by Gilchrist that led to the injury.
- Redshirt freshman running back Dean Haynes was cleared to play against Clemson, but O'Brien decided to take a cautious approach and not play him after he suffered a concussion against Florida State.
- Saturday is senior day, and NC State will honoring their seniors about 20 minutes before kickoff. O'Brien said this senior day means a little more to him because he knows the departing seniors better. He also believes this group proved that they could win at NC State and helped set the bar for future classes. He noted that State has not won seven games in a regular season since 2003.
- Redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson will be honored before the game. O'Brien said he has not received indication one way or the other about whether or not Wilson will return next season, and he will not have that conversation with him until after the season. O'Brien did not however that last year running back Toney Baker told him before senior day that he would come back for a sixth year, and ultimately he did not return. Baker did not get honored before the game last season, and O'Brien does not want history to repeat itself Saturday.
- Defensive end Michael Lemon, a fifth-year senior, lost both of his parents tragically, and so for senior day he has chosen to have the defensive line fill in as his family when he introduced before the game.
- The red zone offense will get a lot of focus this week in practice. NC State leads the ACC with six red zone turnovers and is 11th in red zone touchdowns. O'Brien said the coaches have to do a better job of putting Wilson in a position to succeed.
- O'Brien believes his decision to punt on fourth and one Saturday at the Clemson 43 with a little over three minutes left in the game was the right move. He noted that Clemson had gained zero yards rushing in the third quarter, and since State had all three of their timeouts, the Pack would have been in much better field position with a good punt.
Click on the link to listen to Monday's press conference: