Despite back-to-back woodshed-whoopings, not to mention an increasing chorus of fans howling across the Wolfpack Nation for heads to roll on his staff, Tom O’Brien says that he is still confident in the growth process of the Wolfpack program under his leadership and that he does not believe that it is time to write off 2009 as a lost cause. In an entry on the sports blog of Charlotte.com, scribe Ken Tysiac reports that
“The first year, we finally figured it out,” O’Brien said. “So maybe we can finally figure it out now.”
O’Brien said he still believes in his players, and he remains confident in the rebuilding process he’s using because it worked when he was an assistant at Navy and Virginia, and when he was Boston College’s head coach.
“We’re playing probably younger kids than we ever wanted to be, but that’s a part of life,” O’Brien said. “You just keep your blinders on, keep focused week to week, and you know having been part of it for the fourth time, that it’s going to get better. It may seem like it’s getting worse at a point. But eventually it’s going to be very good.”
Whether those are the words of a steady hand at the tiller or the ones you might hear from someone re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic remains to be seen. With a 3-4 record – and only one win against a Bowl Subdivision opponent – NC State has five games and it needs to win all of them, or perhaps at least four in order to go to any bowl, even those in the lowest tier. Clemson, Virginia Tech and other ACC opponents await, making that seem unlikely at this point. The Wolfpack will first enjoy a bye week prior to traveling to Tallahassee to face an equally troubled Florida State team in a battle for the basement of the ACC Atlantic Division – perhaps the worst group in all of the major conferences.
That gives O’Brien and his defensive staff about 10-12 days to figure out how to rebuild a Wolfpack “defense” that is record-setting – in its ineptitude at stopping other teams. It’s 27th total defense ranking is a mirage built on one good performance in a 7-3 loss against South Carolina and two games against 1-AA competition. O’Brien cannot focus solely on defense. His 2009 team ranks 78th in punt defense with an average of 42 net punting yards, and 63rd in kickoff defense, clearly areas that need immediate improvement. On offense, the one unflappable Russell Wilson has thrown four interceptions in his last three games and would appear to have less mobility — thanks more to coaching than his own ability.