College football: Bowl-bound Wolfpack focuses on fundamentals
RALEIGH ó Tom O’Brien knew a little something about winning bowl games at Boston College. Now the coach is trying to prepare N.C. State for its first bowl game in three years.
The Wolfpack (6-6) put together a season-saving turnaround by beating Miami to close the regular season, securing a date with Rutgers in the Papajohns.com Bowl on Dec. 29. N.C. State is carrying a four-game winning streak into that game, though the second-year Wolfpack coach figures a postseason win will only further validate the team’s progress.
“I think it shows the direction of the program, that everything’s heading in the right direction,” O’Brien said Tuesday. “I’ve said all year that I’m positive that I know we’re headed in the right direction, and it just validates it and gives proof to the fact that there is going to be a heck of a football team here.”
Many of the Wolfpack’s players haven’t participated in a bowl game before considering the program’s last bowl trip came in 2005. But O’Brien’s long run of bowl success could make up for some of that inexperience.
Before arriving in Raleigh at the end of the 2006 season, O’Brien had rebuilt a Boston College program that is preparing for its 10th straight bowl trip. O’Brien won his last six bowl games at BC, a streak that began after a 62-28 loss to Colorado in the 1999 Insight.com Bowl.
That experience shaped how O’Brien has the Wolfpack preparing for Rutgers.
“I got waxed my first (bowl) year by Colorado and did a bad job, so we certainly changed some things from there and got into a rhythm of how we think we should do this,” O’Brien said. “I think as important as everything else is the team buying in.
“That first year we went at Boston College to (play) Colorado, they went to win the game and we went to go to a bowl game.”
O’Brien said the team has spent the past week of practices working on fundamentals such as tackling, ball drills and footwork as it tries to get back into rhythm since it hasn’t played a game in more than two weeks. There’s even a few two-a-days scheduled during preseason workouts.
The Wolfpack likely won’t start focusing on the Scarlet Knights until this weekend.
“Everybody was getting reps: 1s, 2s, 3s and sometimes the 4s,” cornerback Jeremy Gray said. “We’re just working on ourselves right now. It’s getting our individual skills back and getting back the feel for the game.”