I remember sitting in Carter-Finley on Philip Rivers’ Senior Day. State was choking against Maryland, and with under three minutes to play, the Terps missed what would have been the game tying extra point. I swear to God, I turned immediately to my family and said “Great, now we will lose in regulation.” Which we most certainly did.
State went on to beat a comically inept Kansas team in a meaningless minor bowl game, but what could have been a special (or at least very good) season had slipped away. And that was pretty much it for the Chuck Amato era. The window had slammed shut, and nothing epitomized the floundering to come better than that game against Maryland.
Flash forward to today. A game with the Atlantic Division title on the line for the Pack. A game that we only needed to win because of Tom O’Brien’s inexplicable decision to punt late against Clemson (after numerous blown opportunities to put the Tiggers away). A mediocre opponent with nothing to play for, whose spirit should have been crushed after finding themselves in an early 14-0 hole.
Of course our sphincters slammed shut. Of course we spit the bit. Of course we allowed Maryland to go on a 38-3 run and win the game. Of course we pissed away a “once in a generation” opportunity for a special season. We are NC State. That’s just how we roll.
Tom O’Brien proved his skeptics right. He can’t win the big one. He does get tight in pressure situations. He is a “football Sendek.” At least he probably won’t get a parade for matching Amato’s high water mark (5-3 in conference play). We’ve learned that much from past experience, one would hope.
Just like that chilly fall afternoon when Rivers threw his last home pass – Russell Wilson threw his last ACC pass today. And just like I strongly felt then, I feel it now – the window has slammed shut. It’s not going to happen for NC State under Tom O’Brien. Unless the “it” you are looking for is an 8-win season and a minor bowl bid. Blech.