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Instant analysis: Pack's direction unclear

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RALEIGH -- Last year, after a big win over Pittsburgh, N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien was basically despondent, ripping his team in the postgame press conference and lamenting, more or less, that the Wolfpack wouldn’t win many games playing like that.

He was right. N.C. State was 3-1 at that point and went 2-6 the rest of the way for its third straight losing record under O’Brien.

So what did O’Brien say after Thursday’s resounding 30-17 win over Cincinnati? “I don’t know what kind of football team we have.” That raises the issue whether this was a step in the right direction for the 3-0 Wolfpack or whether O’Brien once again saw warning signs in the performance.

“I don’t know what to say,” O’Brien said. “Sometimes we look real good. Sometimes we look real bad. Bottom line, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

(I should note here for the record that I wrote basically the opposite of O’Brien’s comments after the Pittsburgh game, that O’Brien was underplaying a good performance to keep his team from getting too confident. Needless to say, I should have taken him at face value.)

The good news for the Wolfpack is that Thursday’s win offered much more hope than the Pittsburgh win last season, even against a much less powerful opponent. (Needless to say, Cincinnati will not be repeating as Big East champions.)

Russell Wilson looked the best he has this season. Mustafa Greene looks like the answer at running back, at least for the moment, after Dean Haynes was stricken with a bad case of fumblitis. And the defense, despite two glaring coverage breakdowns, applied pressure with regularity and ferocity against dangerously versatile Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros.

Perhaps more important, the Wolfpack’s young defensive backs and linebackers, so overwhelmed last season, are looking more like ACC players. O’Brien noticed that, at least, in Thursday’s performance.

“We’re a better football team,” O’Brien said. “We’ve grown up. We’ve matured. A lot of things that got us down before don’t keep us down.”

All told, N.C. State has taken care of business against three unimpressive opponents, albeit under difficult circumstances with the five-day turnaround between the Central Florida game and the Cincinnati game. That alone is a step in the right direction, and with should-win games at East Carolina, at home against Wake Forest and at Maryland, the Wolfpack is halfway to a bowl.

If all goes right from here, anyway.

“This year, we still have a lot more work to do,” Wilson said. “We just have to be confident and come out with a swagger every single day in practice. We have a lot of talent and a lot of potential but we have to keep working on it and get better.”

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VPI couldn't beat state with 22 guys on offense or defense.

Sure hope you are right.

Off to the YSU game. Enjoy the rest of your football Saturday (and I don't mean that sarcastically). :-)

David glenn

Did anyone hear his opening remarks comcerning ncsu and if the other teams scared them in the ACC anymore?

If Miami, FSU, VT, GT or UNC had played WCU, @ CFU and Cinncy they'd be undefeated too.

Also, If ncsu had played LSU, @ Ohio st, @ Oklahoma, @ KU and against Boise they would have lost as well.

I'm all for giving ncsu their due, but David Glenn just makes me throw up sometimes with all the goodwill he promotes.

Relax

Come on pal. Nobody has State playing for the championship. They have beat who's been in front of them. That's all. They did start well last year and fell flat on their faces. That said, there is no reason not to be excited about a 3-0 team. Enjoy the success when it comes. There will be time to lament, when things go wrong. FYI, it's ok to be optimistic. If the defense continues to play well and the receivers catch the ball, State should be in every game. Tenuta and Archer have some young players who may determine whether this is real or fool's gold once again.

Not quite gatr.  VT lost to

Not quite gatr.  VT lost to JMU.  GT lost to Kansas.  UNC has played one game.  You can't say that all of those teams would be undefeated had they played State's schedule so far.  Besides, wasn't it the UNC fan base last year that kept touting off something like "1-0 > 0-1, no matter who you've played"? 

By your logic

How many times have y'all beaten GT and VPI with this similar team?

My logic?

Sorry, I'm not following.  What exactly are you asking me, or what are you getting at?

My logic is simply questioning how anyone could say VT would be undefeated if they played State's schedule, considering they couldn't even beat an FCS team at home.  I could see you making the argument for Miami, because they actually showed us something against OSU, but we still don't know how good/bad FSU is, GT lost to a KU team that lost to an FCS team the week before, and UNC has played and lost one game two weeks ago...so they aren't even in the discussion.

When State fans were using the SOS excuse at the beginning of last season, you guys all threw it out the window.  Why change it up now?

Ok

So I guess Boise would have lost to JMU by 2 pts? No. The JMU loss was a by product of the tough loss to Boise and taking them lightly. Do you disagree?

The last thing I wanted to say is you guys have played three less than stellar teams. You won them which is what you were supposed to do.

I do not recall the SOS argument last year, but I will not say it didn't come up.

We'll know more about state in a month. You certainly have played well so far. It has been fun to watch.

I just vehemently disagree with David Glenn when he says state shouldn't be scared of these other teams when state hasn't played near the schedule thus far. That's all.

Fair enough.  I will at

Fair enough.  I will at least agree with you on a few points.  We will definitely know more about the Pack in about a month.  Also, should everyone else be afraid now?  No, of course not.  As the broadcasters of the game put it last night, "IF they can play like that and continue to get better, then State might be able to contend for an Atlantic title division".  Lot's of work to be done, but at least there is finally some realistic hope there.

like Diamond Rio said ...

we'll meet in the middle.

no one should be scared of anyone in the literal sense when it comes to college football.  so i retract that part.

how bout this.  they will not be favored in any of those games at least at this point.  it will be an uphill battle all the way and a near perfect game will need to be played in order to win.  can they?  absolutley.  time will tell.  i've ben impressed so far. 

I don't get

What those teams have shown that would scare ANY bcs team. The acc is terrible top to bottom. Your logic is typical of other ecu educated morons that I know.

no

you're just too sensitive and can't take anything less than a coddling.

Glenn

Is an idiot.  However, I agree with him to an extent.  Sure, we probably would have lost most of those games, but I am not sure we would have looked as bad as FSU and Miami looked losing to OSU and Oklahaoma.  KU sucks and we definitely would have beat JMU at home.

What does getting beat as bad as UM and FSU ...

Got to do with the price of eggs in China? You still would have lost to them.

Oh, I dunno

3-0 seems like a pretty clear direction to me.

i too

did not get the title.  Hey Luke why not write: "As chaos-theory level prongs continue at UNC-CH, State is 3-0"

Like you title too

The title of this posting took a comment by TOB way out of context. The tone of the press conference was not negative at all.

LOL @ Chaos Theory

That sure fits!

honestly though..

isn't that what it seems like?  pull up the rug and "fractals" of improprieties that then cascade into other areas popup.

I might agree

If I had a clue what you were talking about. Just a humble accountant trying to decipher what sounds like "engineering-ese" to me.

TOB

TOB's coach-speak is dead on. Look, I'm as giddy as a school girl that State's 3-0, but they could still lose the next 9 games. Yes, I do feel this year's NC State football squad is much better than last year's squad, but there's a great deal of improvement to be made. Some things to work on: the punt team is still a concern. What's was up with those plays Cincy busted out for big yardage and TDs? 

If I'm the coaching staff, I enjoy last night's win till I get back to the film room this morning. I'd also give the players today off, but declare they better come back to practice on Saturday ready to rock-n-roll for next week. 

Hey, what about TOB stating his displeasure with all the fans not being back in their seats by the start of the 3rd quarter? Funny.  

Agreed

When I listened to TOB's comments this morning, I had no problem with them at all. Basically, he said that good things are happening because the players are playing and working hard. However, they are still making some mistakes that need to be corrected, because making those mistakes against better teams will cost them.

Bottom line-this team still has plenty of room to improve, but it is hard to imagine that they could have gotten off to a better start. Unless what we have seen so far is a mirage, this team should get better as the season goes on and has a chance to be very good come November.

my thoughts...

alot of pack fans are saying, "we only gave up 7, the other two TD's were on the 2nd stringers."  But remember, they are all on the same team.  If a first team player goes down, a 2nd stringer has to come in.  Our secondary actually looked great.  Alot of those sacks were coverage sacks.

No one has said this yet, but the pass-protection was absolutely amazing.  Mattes is a monster.  I can't imagine how good they would have played with Overgaard in.  Vermiglio, Crisp and Wallace are $$$ on the left side.  Read'em and weep opponents.  NCState will have one of the most dominant lines in College Football, if not by the end of this year, then beginning next year.

Also late in the game, the ground game was just brutal.  MG was bustin out 8-9 yard runs.

Last 2 TD's

This is no excuse, but the game was over at that point and I think the entire D was mailing it in at that point. For the first time in a while, I had absolutely no anxiety in the second half when those two scores happened.

Still, if I am TOB, I emphasize that you play hard to the final whistle. It is not good to get into the habit of taking plays off, no matter what the circumstances are.

NO comparison

Look. No one in their right mind is predicting a conference championship for State after the first three games. But, as much as I respect TOB as a coach, if he took the same tone tonight as he did after the Pitt game last year, he is making a mistake. (I haven't listened to the press conference yet, so I might make some amendments tomorrow).

Last year, State was pathetic against USC, pounded two overwhelmed 1-AA teams, and was lucky to beat Pitt. His team deserved the wake up call TOB tried to administer last year. But to say they are in the same position this year is just ridiculous.

This team is still a work in progress. But a win at UCF was considered a big deal before the game and then devalued afterwards. Cincy isn't the team they were last year, but that QB was dangerous. The Pack's defense had him befuddled and will continue to improve.The team overall looked better from start to finish than they have at any time in the last couple of years.

Now, State has 8 days to prepare for Ga Tech. I like the chances for stealing a win in Atlanta.

agreed

Actually this season is a little scary so far.  Things seem to be lining up just right, actually we have 9 days to prepare for GT (although i would imagine that TOB might give them an extra day off).

But yes, both lines i saw, UCF and Tonight had us as under(wolf)dogs.  And we are way beyond where we were last year.  What I like most are how solid both our two corners are CJWilson and Byers.  Byers is a real-hitter for a corner and they both make very aggressive plays on the ball.  One thing i noticed, and has always been a pet-peeve is that when you are tackling a guy from behind, why run into him and knock him 3-4 yards further.  Our LB's and Secondary prevented at least 3 first downs by making a concerted effort to pull the guy backwards and stop forward momentum.

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About the blogger

Luke has worked for The N&O since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. He can be reached at (919) 829-8947, @LukeDeCock on Twitter or luke.decock@newsobserver.com.
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