State 'in a ditch' after BC loss
RALEIGH — North Carolina State is trying to resurrect its season — again.
The Wolfpack overcame a slow start to claw back into contention for a bowl berth, only to have a loss at Boston College place their postseason hopes back in serious jeopardy.
N.C. State (5-5, 2-4 ACC) must beat No. 7 Clemson and Maryland in back-to-back weeks to qualify for a bowl.
“We’re in a ditch,” coach Tom O’Brien said Monday. “We’ve got to dig our way out again. We found a way to get out before, and we’ve got to find a way to get out now. We lost a football game, but we still have attainable goals. We have to make up our mind where we want to be in December.”
That could be difficult against a Clemson team that has seven straight wins in the series and already has clinched the Atlantic Division title. The Tigers, who rallied past Wake Forest last week, lead the conference in scoring and total offense.
“It’s going to be a tough one, but it can happen,” N.C. State safety Earl Wolff said. “They played Wake Forest last week, and Wake Forest almost got them. I think we can get them. It’s a home game, and our crowd brings us a lot of energy. So we’ll come out pumped up on Saturday.”
Energy was an issue for the Wolfpack at Boston College. A week after beating archrival North Carolina for the fifth time in a row, N.C. State fell behind 14-3 against the Eagles in front of thousands of empty seats.
Since 2007, N.C. State is 1-3 in the game following a win over UNC, losing to division rivals Boston College, Maryland and Wake Forest once each. The Wolfpack’s win over the Tar Heels in 2009 was the season finale.
“Certainly, you’ve got to learn how to win after you beat Carolina,” O’Brien said. “I mean, you have to do that. That’s part of growing up as a program. It’s a sign of immaturity, a sign of inexperience, whatever you want to say. That’s a problem that we have to work on.
“Beating Carolina is really important here, but it isn’t the end-all of a season. We have to be able to take that next step as a program.”
N.C. State, which had won three of its last four games before last week’s flop, is looking to get back on track offensively. The Wolfpack scored a combined 23 points in their last three games, averaging just 3.6 yards per play during that span.
Clemson has yielded an average of 35.5 points in its last four games, so N.C. State has hope.
The Wolfpack also have a track record of late-season success under O’Brien. They put together a four-game winning streak late in 2007, won their final four regular-season games in 2008 and finished 2010 with wins in three of their last four games.
“Oh, we’re down,” receiver T.J. Graham said. “But that’s when we play our best, when our backs are against the wall. I guess we’re not a front-running type of team. We like to be in a hole. It’s kind of fun.
“You’ve noticed that over the past couple of years, we’ve always made it tough on ourselves somehow. And we always come out.”