State can go to bowl with win
RALEIGH — Nothing has been consistent this season about North Carolina State.
The Wolfpack have followed big wins with disheartening losses — and then followed those losses with impressive victories.
“We’ve been pretty inconsistent this year, and that’s not a quality that you like to have,” safety Brandan Bishop said Monday.
So coming off its biggest victory under Tom O’Brien — a shocking 37-13 rout of then-No. 7 Clemson — N.C. State must stop that trend this week when perennial late-season nemesis Maryland visits.
Otherwise, the Wolfpack will not qualify for the postseason.
“As I said to them, very seldom in life do you get a second chance,” O’Brien said. “But they’ve earned the second chance. They’ve given themselves a second chance.
“So if they’re going to go touch the hot stove and burn themselves again, that’s their deal. We’re in a playoff right now. Either win or you go home. They have to decide where they want to go.”
N.C. State (6-5, 3-4 ACC) has been anything but steady this season.
It knocked off Coastal Division contender Virginia, then was embarrassed at Florida State. A shutout of rival North Carolina seemed to have locked up a bowl berth for the Wolfpack, but the subsequent flop at Boston College put their postseason chances back in serious jeopardy.
Now the question is how the Wolfpack will respond following their surprising dominance of the Tigers. They need seven victories to qualify for a bowl because they played and defeated two FCS teams.
“We’re in the same situation we were going into Clemson — our backs still against the wall,” Bishop said. “If we don’t come up with a win this week, then last week doesn’t really mean anything. Our bowl hopes are still on the line and we still have to play like it’s our last game — because it could be.”
It doesn’t help that their next opponent — struggling Maryland (2-9, 1-6) — has spoiled things for N.C. State before.
The Wolfpack needed to beat the Terrapins at home in the finale of O’Brien’s first season in 2007 to gain bowl eligibility, but Maryland routed them 37-0. And last year, N.C. State went to College Park with a berth in the ACC championship game on the line — only to be denied in a 38-31 loss.
“There’s always teams in a conference that give other teams problems,” O’Brien said. “I don’t know if it has any bearing on this game. Certainly, it’s something that we’re not going to think about. … They’ve got to win this for a lot of other reasons than just because we haven’t beaten Maryland in certain situations.”
That’s why the process of moving on from the Clemson win started shortly after that game ended.
“As soon as we got off the field, it was like, ‘We’ve got to move on to the next game,’” running back James Washington said. “We can’t hang on to this one too long because we don’t want to have a drop just like we had after UNC.”
The Associated Press