NC State head coach Tom O'Brien did not sugarcoat where his team stood after Saturday's 14-10 loss at Boston College. The Pack is 5-5 and needs to win out for a chance at a bowl game. It's a imposing assignment considering State is hosting No. 7 Clemson Saturday afternoon.
"You can't win two unless you win one," O'Brien noted. "We've dug ourselves a big hole again. We found our way out before. We'll have to find a way to get out of this one. This is a huge challenge."
O'Brien sensed that his team did not appreciate the challenge at Boston College. He noted that his team "didn't listen to me all week leading up to the game" about how BC was going to be a tough assignment despite the Eagles' unimpressive 2-7 overall record entering the contest.
Part of that can be explained on a UNC hangover. The Pack defeated their archrival 13-0 Nov. 5. O'Brien said that during his meeting with the coaches Sunday following the loss at Chestnut Hill, a couple of the assistants mentioned they "felt there were some things going on" after the Carolina victory.
"A lot of it is outside this building," O'Brien noted. "You're not the worst and you're not the best. We're not a great football team. We're a team that has to play extremely well all the time and at the top of our game to beat a good football team.
"These guys didn't understand going to Boston College, it doesn't matter what their record was, they were going to be a good football team that day because we were coming. When you look back on the tape, that isn't the same Boston College team that played the three previous weeks that played us."
Now State has found itself in a "ditch," O'Brien said, but he quickly noted that the Pack still has an attainable goal of a bowl game.
"We have to make up our mind, where do we want to be in December," O'Brien said. "It starts Saturday."
Clemson will not be an easy task. O'Brien said that the Tigers have the most explosive offense in the league because they can attack from so many directions.
"They have players at quarterback, at running back, at wide receiver, all that can beat you with the ball in their hands," O'Brien stated. "I think that's what sets them apart from any other offense. Other offenses may have a guy or two, but not four different positions or more that if they touch the ball they could go all the way."
O'Brien called Clemson freshman receiver Sammy Watkins, who has caught 68 passes for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns and rushed 24 times for 165 yards, the most impactful freshman he in the ACC he has coached against.
"He's fun to watch," O'Brien admitted. "I don't think I'll like watching him play on Saturday, but watching him play he's an exciting guy."
Safe to say Clemson will probably have the Wolfpack's attention more than Boston College, but NC State can only look back and wish they would have taken BC a little more seriously.
"College football, happens to everybody," O'Brien explained. "We did our best to not let it happen to us. The tough thing about going on the road three times out of four weeks is it's a pretty emotional four-week stretch and three of them were on the road.
"Certainly, you got to learn how to win after you beat Carolina. You have to do that. That's part of growing up as a program. It's a sign of immaturity, a sign of inexperience, whatever you want to say, that's a problem that we have to work on. Beating Carolina is really important here, but it isn't the end-all of the season. We have to be able to take that next step."
Click on the link below to listen to O'Brien's weekly press conference.
- O'Brien said that redshirt junior left tackle R.J. Mattes was held out of the first half at Boston College because of his ankle injury, but after fifth-year senior Mikel Overgaard struggled and Mattes assured them he could play, they played Mattes in the second half.
"He couldn't practice all week," O'Brien noted. "He said he warmed up and felt good, but playing on that turf with a bad ankle is not a good thing to do if you're not 100 percent. All the trouble that Overgaard had at left tackle in the first half with the pass rush, at halftime [Mattes] said he could play.
"We threw [Mattes] out there, he started holding his own so we stayed with him, and Overgaard was much better after starting nine games on the right side being at right tackle. We kept the quarterback clean and run block a lot better in the second half.
- O'Brien acknowledged that redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon's costly fourth quarter interception in the end zone was simply a bad pass on Glennon's part. Senior receiver T.J. Graham was running a corner route pattern and would have been open had Glennon thrown to the corner rather than more upfield.
However, O'Brien noted that Glennon still completed 70 percent of his passes and threw well for most of the afternoon. Boston College went to a 3-5-3 defense Saturday to take away anything downfield, and the Eagles paid careful attention to double coverage the speedy receivers running deep routes. That did allow the tight ends to be more open.
"The tight ends, both of them, were able to work the middle of the field which nobody has given us before but at the same time we got down there twice in the fourth quarter but didn't get the ball in the end zone," O'Brien said.
- One of the most puzzling developments this year is how can Glennon, almost 6-foot-7, have so many passes batted down at the line of the scrimmage. His fourth down and six pass with 1:10 left in the game was knocked down at the line, killing a potential game-winning drive and State's chances of a victory.
O'Brien agreed its hard to imagine how Glennon could have so many passes broken up.
"I don't have an answer for you," O'Brien said. "We've talked about it and we're looking at it. One of the things that is his strength is that he's oblivious to the rush and throws the ball. Some of the passes prior to this week were under routes inside that if the defensive guy gets his hand up you're going to have a chance to knock it down because of the nature of the throw that he has to make.
"The one on Saturday we're supposed to knock the end down, we don't knock him down. Those aren't high balls to throw."
- The offense has scored just 23 points in the last three games and failed to get over 300 yards of total offense in a contest during that span. O'Brien said the coaches have to find more ways to move the offense.
"What happens is that as you go through the year people see how you make plays and they take that away from you," O'Brien said. "You have to be able to do other things and then that comes back to us. We have to help to. We're all in this together."
- O'Brien did compliment the defense for a strong effort after a poor opening drive when Boston College marched down the field for a quick score. He noted that freshman T.Y. McGill did a good job when starting fifth-year senior defensive tackle Markus Kuhn went down with a muscle pull eight snaps into the game.
- O'Brien started Monday's press conference with a reminder that Saturday is the annual Toys for Tots game. Fans are asked to donate a toy or money for the Marine Corps' program that helps children in need over Christmas.