NC State coach Tom O'Brien isn't in unfamiliar territory with his Wolfpack squad in a must-win situation against Maryland on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.
O'Brien talked about the season, what makes the Terrapins dangerous and how the Pack have navigated through injuries, during his weekly ACC coaches' teleconference.
Below is a transcript from O'Brien's teleconference:
"We're certainly hard at work trying to get ourselves organized to play a dangerous Maryland team. Our focus is on ourselves and certainly we understand how important this game is to this football team and our program. Certainly, being Senior Day, it adds more to the game on Saturday. So look forward to kicking it off Saturday at 12:30 p.m."
What are the things that make Maryland a dangerous team?
"They're in a situation that they have nothing to lose. They can play this game anyway they want. It's the last game of the year. This is their bowl game. This is their last chance to go out on a winning note. I would guess it's been a frustrating season for them, so it's their chance to go out on a high note."
Do you expect the same kind of response this week as last week to earn a bowl berth?
"Well, we're going to have to have the same kind of response. Anything less will not give us an opportunity to win. You look at the last two [home] games, victory over North Carolina and Clemson. We need the same electric atmosphere in the stadium. It will be a special day for this group of seniors and this football team. Our back is against the wall. We're in the playoffs. Winning, you play again. Losing, you go home."
What's been the key there of late?
"The key was as soon as the game was over Saturday, we talked about we can't fall into the trap that we did two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, we're in the locker room, we're all excited, played great against North Carolina, then went to Boston College and didn't play so great. We played a great game again last Saturday, so what are we going to do? We have to grow up. We have to mature. We have to understand the task that's ahead of us. We have to put this one behind us like we have when we've lost, to go in, and focus on Maryland and get ready to play a great football game."
You've had a couple of really kind of frustrating seasons at NC State when it comes to injuries and extenuating circumstances. Given all the things that you've had to overcome, has this been the most frustrating one? Or because of the way this team has responded, is it one of the more rewarding ones?
"I think it's both. Certainly it's been very frustrating to this point certainly with where we thought we were coming into the season. But if we can accomplish this feat and beat Maryland and go to a bowl game. You look at the second half of the year, three of the [first] four road games were on the road, and we had to win one in Virginia. That was the bad news because we had to kick the season off. The good news is three of the last four games are at home. Each time we've played one of these games at the end of the year, it's been a back against the wall, you have to win. So we're in a situation where we can control our destiny and make this a real rewarding year for a lot of the seniors and this football team going forward."
Fans have a tendency to have knee jerk reactions and make generalizations long before the season's over. But as you know it's a marathon, not a sprint. How tough is it to keep your players from falling into that trap and understanding it's a long season?
"Unfortunately, we've had experience with some of these injuries before. I think the kids just keep focus, and they keep grinding away. That's what we talked about. We knew that we lost [sophomore running back] Mustafa Greene for the year, we lost [redshirt sophomore] Jarvis Byrd, our starting corner for the year. [Fifth-year senior defensive end Jeff] Rieskamp was gone for the year, and [senior fullback] Taylor Gentry, we didn't have a lot of hope when he went down. Those four guys are pivotal parts. But the other guys had a chance to get back. It was just a question of how fast they could get back to help us."