Remember the Mission

The nice thing about a new season (especially with a new coaching regime) is the fresh hope it brings. Everybody starts 0-0, and almost every opponent has some question marks. Unfortunately, the Pack stands at 0-1, and the short-term prospects aren’t good. After all, if UCF had so much as a competent QB, they would have hung 50+ points on our defense last night. We played better in the second half, but the blown coverages were still too numerous to count.

That doesn’t mean you have the right to be discouraged. We hired Tom O’Brien to build a program, one that wins consistently and competes for championships. We didn’t hire him to make chicken salad out of chicken shit. Success at the latter is by no means a sure sign of success at the former – see Amato, Chuck and Sendek, Herb.

In the “scouts’ views” section of my hard copy Sporting News college football preview, the ACC “insider” said (re NC State) something to the effect of “they will be horrible this year, since not all of the leftovers are going to buy into TOB’s system, but mark my words – he’ll win a conference title there.” That’s fine with me – how about you? Break as many eggs as you need to make the omelette, Coach. I’m not interested in any more “Band Aid” solutions for Wolfpack athletics.

You know what kind of results Coach O’Brien can achieve once he has his personnel in place – you saw him do it at Boston College. I still consider that his floor, not his ceiling. By year three, I expect to see measurable improvement. Harrison Beck will be a redshirt senior, and if needed, Mike Glennon a redshirt freshman. The 2-deep will be filled with legitimate, D-1 caliber offfensive linemen. There will be less flash, maybe – but more football IQ. What you saw last night was a combination of staff and players getting used to each other, along with the net result of several consecutive mediocre and unbalanced recruiting classes. 3-9 teams that lose three players to the first four rounds of the NFL draft tend not to be much better the next year, if they haven’t been recruiting extremely well.

In retrospect, when we saw the first week depth chart released, we should have known that there was trouble, and it went deeper than the QB position. It’s clear that alot of players that needed to step up for us to be successful have not done so.

Want a reason for great optimism? Despite the crowing we heard from BC fans, Tom O’Brien and Dana Bible were not predictable. They did anything but play it “by the book” – changing QBs when the need became painfully clear, throwing a decently long pass to Marcus Stone on 4th and inches (after earlier struggling with power running in that situation), and making a gutsy, mathematically correct decision to go for it on 4th down with time running low in the 4th quarter. One gutsy call worked, and one didn’t (although I’m not sure we would have been in much better shape even if we had punted, in which case it was essentially risk-free, mathematically speaking) – but that’s not how you judge making the right call. The risk/reward ratio was favorable, and both calls showed great situational awareness (perhaps Amato’s weakest trait – maybe after ego). Every justified risk won’t produce a favorable result – but that’s why it’s a risk. Ask yourself this – had you been a Golden Knights fan last night – didn’t you hope State would try running up the gut again on 4th and inches? And that we would send the punt team out on 4th and 6? That’s generally a good way to test a coach’s decisionmaking. My long-standing pet peeve is coaches worrying about criticism if they don’t play by the book, and the play doesn’t work. It’s both cowardly and illogical. From my vantage point, O’Brien and Bible showed both balls and brains last night, and that will reap great rewards long-term.

Another positive – TOB eschewed Tony Haynes’ attempts to make happy talk in the post-game interview. O’Brien certainly acknowledged the second-half improvement, but also the much less comfortable truth that we have a long way to go before being a respectable team, let alone a good one. He was pissed, and I like that. We’re all on your side, Coach. It was a revealing first game, and I’m sure the staff learned alot from it.

On the QB situation, you saw what a good coach (which O’Leary certainly is) will do after studying film on Daniel Evans. Stack the box and blitz – if we can’t give him good time to throw, he can’t get through his progressions fast enough, and doesn’t have the athleticism to get away and buy time for himself. He also is susceptible to tipped passes b/c of his height, and there’s just not enough velocity on his passes to make defenses pay a high price for their aggression. That’s not a knock on Evans – it’s just the simple fact that he profiles as a solid backup who has his best success in short bursts of exposure. Beck, being the superior athlete, was able to make quicker reads, and force balls into smaller windows. The defense also had to respect his deep ball, even though he didn’t connect on it often. That’s why I said all along that I really wanted him to win the starting job, and that it would mean trouble if he didn’t.

About BJD95

1995 NC State graduate, sufferer of Les and MOC during my entire student tenure. An equal-opportunity objective critic and analyst of Wolfpack sports.

'07 Football General NCS Football Tom O'Brien

29 Responses to Remember the Mission

  1. VaWolf82 09/02/2007 at 2:35 PM #

    I disagree about going for the 4th and 6 with about five minutes to go in the game. Here are UCF’s 2nd half possessions up to that point from

    3 plays for 8 yds TOP: 2:03 minutes
    3-5………….. 1:37

    I would have punted and taken my chances with the defense.

    Speaking of punting…..31 yd average (long of 34 yds) is not going to get the job done over the course of the season.

  2. VaWolf82 09/02/2007 at 2:36 PM #

    The dashes ran together. Two of UCF’s possesions ended with negative yardage.

  3. Packaholic1 09/02/2007 at 2:55 PM #

    SFN: If you have nothing to contribute, please just go away.

  4. RochesterRedWolf 09/02/2007 at 3:13 PM #

    that play action pass on fourth down was ridiculous, as soon as i saw him fake the handoff i said: “TE!” “TE!” “TE!”

    I also think the reason TOB went for it in illogical situations is because UCF had already hung 25 points on us, what’s there to lose (the game u could say, but unless we were gonna shutout UCF or hold them to a low point total it didn’t matter at this point). I think he just wanted to see how much fight was left in them.

  5. Mr O 09/02/2007 at 3:18 PM #

    I just heard tht Toney Baker hurt his knee and is out for the year. Hopefully this guy’s information was bad, but it was generated from a solid source.

  6. Mr O 09/02/2007 at 3:22 PM #

    Confirmed by WRAL. Baker out for the season. Best wishes for a strong recovery!

  7. BJD95 09/02/2007 at 3:30 PM #

    VaWolf, when I have the time, I will go through how I believe the math to work. Short version is we have at least a 40% chance to make the 4th and 6, with a 50/50 shot to win if we do make it. .40*.50 = 20%. So, unless the raw percentage of our chance to win after (likely a 30 or less net) punt exceeds the residual chance to win if we miss the 4th down by more than 20%, then it was the right call.

    Frankly, even assuming best-case scenario (3 and out, we get ball back with around 2:30 and no timeouts around our own 20), I don’t think those residual odds of winning are as high as 20% (and certainly not appreciably higher). So to me, it’s a no-brainer.

    ^ Thank God Jamelle Eugene looked so good. Best wishes to TB.

  8. 98st8 09/02/2007 at 3:37 PM #

    Wow, the Baker injury certainly sucks and I feel bad for him.

    Curiosity here: Does anyone know when we last scored 20 points in a half? I have looked and kind find the answer. It seems that Beck was the silver lining in the game last night.

  9. buttPACKer 09/02/2007 at 3:38 PM #

    I agree completely with all you have to say. . . I agree, too, with the decisions Coach O’B made last night–they may not have worked out, but it shows he has guts.

    I can’t imagine anyone being to hard on the staff for any losses this season. . . The chicken analogy was pretty spot-on, and I have considered this season a throw-away from the outset. . . I hope we come out with a winning record, but I won’t sulk it is otherwise.

    I HAVE COMPLETE FAITH IN COACH TO’B AND HIS STAFF!!! This season my suck, but I have no doubt the Pack will rule this conference within a few years!!

  10. VaWolf82 09/02/2007 at 4:01 PM #

    Short version is we have at least a 40% chance to make the 4th and 6

    I should have said that I think that once State got to 4th and 6, the chances of winning were very slim. And I should have stated the obvious that the games wasn’t lost by that decision. The game was lost by absolutely horrible play on both sides of the ball in the first half.

    In any event, the odds of State making six yards on any one play is way less than 40%. If State’s offense was that good, then the last three seasons would have been alot better than I remember.


    That stinks about Baker. But the injury to Baker and Skinner at WF show several things that everyone should already know……it’s often a short trip from backup to starter.

    Fans that are interested in making projections should spend alot more time looking at the depth chart. The thinner the depth, the slimmer the chances of having a successful season.

  11. burnbarn 09/02/2007 at 4:02 PM #

    I liked when haynes asked coach what word described our offense in the first half and coach paused and said ‘bad’.
    He was all too right.
    I think when we got down 25-3, coach just tried some things to see what he could learn about his team in different situatons. He took full responsibilty for the ‘poor decisions’. I think he learned some things in the second half.
    I think Beck is a gamer… he deserves a shot. After he finally proved to himself that he was not going to connect on those deep balls at this point in the season, he settled down and had a solid half.
    The big concern to me were the dbs. We all thought they would be the strength and depth of the team.. well last night I am glad they qb could not connect.
    It will be year 3 before we really start to see anything. I hope i am wrong.

    Get well soon TB.

  12. choppack1 09/02/2007 at 4:23 PM #

    I mentioned this in another thread, but I like that the staff gave both Beck AND Evans a chance to overcome their mistakes.

    It’s hard for me to w/hold judgement on this staff when I saw what I saw in the 1st half. However, the staff showed the ability to make adjustments and the players showed heart. At the end of the day, that’s all I can ask from my team – just give 100%.

  13. EverettBeez 09/02/2007 at 5:03 PM #

    I watched them interview Coach Miller of App on ESPNews, and was asked about playing 1-A schools. answered the great experience it was for his teams, and then said that he though Carter – Finley was far louder then The Big House!
    Keep up all the good work all ya’ll that go to the games. (a bit far for me to go from Alabama)

  14. tractor57 09/02/2007 at 5:29 PM #

    I saw that interview also. Coach Miller and the football players handled themselves very well even though the media really wanted a ‘dis’ of Michigan.

  15. wufpaxno1 09/02/2007 at 6:06 PM #

    ^ Apps coach is Jerry Moore, not Miller, but it was a great complement to our fans here at State.
    What I saw last night did not discourage me, but gave hope to what surely will be a bright future. We had many games over the past couple of years in which we have played better in one half then the other, the difference in last nights game is that the improvement came in the second half and was due to coaching and not luck.
    Though I liked the guts TOB showed going for it on fourth and six, I must respectfully disagree that it was the mathematically correct call. At the time we had 4.5 minutes and one time out left, we had been successful in shutting down the UCF offense in the second half, and we where only down by two. Why give UCF a short field and the opportunity to put the game beyond two points with a field goal. A punt, even of only 31 yards, would have left State with a shorter field, or at worst put UCF in the position of having to punt it back to one of the most dangerous weapons that we had on the field last night in Blackmon. No matter how you do the math, State would have ended up in better position had they punted, unless State had made the first down, which is what I am assuming you are basing your premise on. But even then, there are long odds on 4th and 6, because it makes it an almost obvious passing down, which takes away 50% of the playbook and assuming that there were a 50% completion rate that still only leaves a 25% chance of success.
    We can all second guess the call, but it is the one that was made, and I must admit, I love the fact that TOB had the balls to make it.

  16. MadWolf92 09/02/2007 at 6:49 PM #

    I simply enjoy the fact that it’s a *debatable* call. Certainly we can see the pluses and minuses of either side of the decision, but I’m also pleased by the fact that, debatable call though it was, O’Brien chose the *ballsier* option.

  17. Delete-Me 09/02/2007 at 7:48 PM #

    Two meaningful plays last night:
    1. Beck’s first long ball pass, incomplete.
    2. TB’s long run, right after that incompletion.

    Welcome back unpredictability for the opposing defense.

  18. acc10k 09/02/2007 at 8:06 PM #

    Search through last year’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback archives on ESPN to find his speculation that at some point, a coach will try going for it on (virtually) every fourth down. Short version: The chance of keeping possession is worth more than the ~30 yards you gain with guaranteed loss of possession. The only times it really mathematically works out in favor of punting are some combination of: really adverse yardage to go (>10); really bad field position; big lead relative to time left in the game; or big favorite who wants to reduce variance rather than maximizing advantage.

    When you have fourth and six, in your own territory, and are losing with less than five minutes to go, the odds are you are that you are going to lose. You want to MAXIMIZE the variance in outcome at that point – that’s why basketball coaches foul when they are losing late. It amazes me that coaches ever give up possession in such a situation. The other factor was we had already scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Punting lets UCF reestablish equilibrium. The only even remotely questionable decision strategically in that series was not treating 3rd and 6 as if it were a four-down situation. Run there probably would’ve caught them off guard, certainly would have made it a shorter fourth down play.

    Another factor – we had a two timeouts, were outside the 40, and had virtually shut them down in the second half. A three and out was going to leave them outside field goal range and give us over two minutes. And we almost certainly would’ve had the three and out if not for the penalty on third and eight. Not that what happens in a particular instance validates a decision that has to be made based on probabilities. But its worth noting that even after the fourth down DIDN’T work, we were on our way to having a decent amount of time for another drive, until the ghost of Amato popped up.

  19. haze 09/02/2007 at 9:50 PM #

    ^ Nice post.

    By “ghost of Amato” I’m assuming you mean the in-bounds reception with about 15sec to play. No doubt that we were still in it until then.

  20. VaWolf82 09/02/2007 at 10:45 PM #

    The only times it really mathematically works out in favor of punting are some combination of: really adverse yardage to go (>10); really bad field position; big lead relative to time left in the game; or big favorite who wants to reduce variance rather than maximizing advantage.

    Making use of a national average is only meaningful if your offense is average (or better). As we’ve discussed many times, State’s offense is way below average in every category.

    Personally, I was hoping to see Darrel Blackman receive a punt with two minutes to go in the game down by two.

  21. bTHEredterror 09/02/2007 at 11:41 PM #

    You guys play way too much Madden. It is rarely if ever a good idea to go for it on 4th and anything less than 3 at any point in your own territory. The most likley “variance” is the opposition only need one first down to be in scoring postion rather than four or five. The only reason we didn’t get the ball back at our own 20 (at best) was O’leary was scared to punt (can’t blame him), and chose to go for it on our side of the field. I appreciate the 4th and 6 decision, if we’d have punted instead we gain 30 yards in field postion, which we likely would have lost from the punt back. I think all the risks were in part to develop a sense of urgency, which was sorely lacking up to that point.

    The 4th down call I really question was the one right before the half at our 37, that gave them another FG. We were less than 3 scores down, and there wasn’t enough time for their RB to carry it all the way down to FG range himself. The real problem was our inability to stop #24, we had to run blitz and were lucky not to get caught out in play action those few times WRs were running free.

  22. RochesterRedWolf 09/03/2007 at 3:41 AM #

    ive thought about it alot…we punt in that situation, well the punter up to that point had not been so good. Say he punts it a little better than his average, 35yds. Even if we hold them three and out, and they punt back, like bTheredterror said, their punter was doing great and boomed one earlier. We may have lost alot of field position. Also you have the possibility of mishandled snaps, blocked punts, although UCF would probably have played coverage anyway. I just think TOB wanted to “shake up the world” given that we had already gotten spanked in the first half. And i bet if we had won, TOB would probably have looked about as sullen as he looked after the game. A win would have been nice, but alot of the flaws were revealed in the first half.

  23. GAWolf 09/03/2007 at 9:21 AM #

    I have two thoughts and one question after the game:

    Thoughts –

    1) Listening to the game on the radio I started laughing about half way through the first half and told my brother that our idiot-fans (not all of our fans mind you) will literally break the internet if this play continues for an entire game. Thankfully it didn’t and I am here and able to post with our non-idiot fans on today. I have not yet even looked at PP in an attempt to not have to laugh at my own kind. I predicted this loss to anyone who would listen and believe there is more to be excited about than disappointed. And that’s coming from a fan who is pretty negative in general.

    2) I want to give kudos to a one Mr. DrBadgerPack or whatever his name is. It brought pure joy to me to see an NC State professor care enough about NC State sports to post on this site. This is perhaps the greatest achievment in recent NC State sports history. Only when our academic leaders enjoy, appreciate and support our student-athletes will we see true success in athletics. And that by no means means “cheating”. At Georgia, for instance, where sports are a true religion on campus the professors get up for game days as much as the kids. I pray that one day our school can enjoy that kind of atmosphere. So without sounding too much like a tired Bud Light commercial, here’s to you College Professor who actually likes football.

    (New side thought after reading the news: Terrible, terrible news about Baker… that COULD turn out to be a blessing. Has he redshirted already? I don’t think so. But if so, likelyhood of a medical redshirt could be very real, correct? Regardless, I hate to hear it and wish him well.)


    1) For you guys who were at the game and witnessed the many blown coverages that didn’t hurt us, and also witnessed the woofing and smack-talking from our Defense who was getting thrown around like ragdolls, DID OUR DB’S YAP AT GUYS WHO CLEARLY BEAT OUR D ONLY TO GET OVERTHROWN???? That was one of my pet-peaves under Amato and if that crap is still going on I wish I could stand on the sidelines for one game with TOB with a shock collar. It works on our hunting dogs, it should work on our knuckleheaded Defensive Backs. And one more thing, I didn’t say anything about the photographs from Media Day, but unless you’re going to be elite, you don’t deserve to take pictures with hand signs. That crap needs to go. When you average a pick or two a game, do whatever you want (within reason). Until then you simply don’t deserve it.

    IN CONCLUSION, the poster above who said bad habits aren’t remedied overnight is a very smart man, and that’s exactly why I didn’t expect us to win this game in the first place. AND, thank you DrBadgerPack for showing us that our administration CAN support our athletic teams. I can’t WAIT to watch the BC game.

  24. choppack1 09/03/2007 at 9:50 AM #

    Re: 4th Down call late in 4th quarter.

    This is one of those situations where one could criticize or justify whatever decision is made. At the end of the day, going for it on 4th down allows us to control our own destiny more than a punt would have. Also, we were only averaging 32 yards a punt – so they’re getting the ball back at the 30 – you give them one first down and we probably end up getting the ball back around the same spot. Still – I can see it both ways.

    Bottom line – the defensive substitution penalty was a real killer. That contributes to their first down and cost us a lot of time.


  1. StateFans Nation » Blog Archive » Beck to Start @ BC - 09/03/2007

    […] It doesn’t come as a surprise, but Coach Tom O’Brien confirmed today that redshirt sophomore, Harrison Beck will start at quarterback when the Wolfpack travels to Chestnut Hill to battle Boston College on Saturday. […]

Leave a Reply