RALEIGH – N.C State coach Tom O’Brien has seen his team bumble away a win at Miami only to follow that with an upset of highly ranked Florida State.
Now with the Wolfpack heading to Maryland, O’Brien is hoping his team can even out those up-and-down ways while continuing its history of playing well following a bye week.
“As I tell them all the time,” O’Brien said, “all the things said about them after Miami weren’t true and all the things being said about them after Florida State aren’t true.”
N.C. State (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost 44-37 at Miami after surrendering a final-minute touchdown on Sept. 29. But the Wolfpack came home and rallied for a 17-16 win against the then-No. 3 Seminoles.
N.C. State then headed into an off week, allowing the players to savor a home win against a top-10 team for the second straight season before getting ready for the Terrapins (4-2, 2-0).
“I think the bye week really actually helped us out,” senior defensive end Brian Slay said. “We had a chance to let the win soak in, we had a whole week off to rest our bodies. So now coming back this week, it was right back to business like a normal week.”
With a 4-2 record after bye weeks under O’Brien, N.C. State has proven it take advantage of its down time to make adjustments and correct lingering mistakes.
The focus during this off week was to eliminate the turnovers that plagued the Wolfpack in losses to Tennessee and Miami, as well as the mistakes that led to surrendering big plays on defense in those losses.
“Of course they get an extra week to prepare for us and their bodies are probably rested, but everybody has byes,” Terrapins linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield said. “Everybody goes through the same procedure, so it’s not anything that’s going to give them a tremendous advantage over us.”
The Wolfpack hasn’t done well in College Park, losing five of six there, including blowing a 14-point lead in the 2010 game when a win would’ve sent N.C. State to the ACC championship game.
But O’Brien also knows that the FSU win means the Wolfpack could win the league’s Atlantic Division and reach the league title game in Charlotte by winning out. N.C. State would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Seminoles in the division, while its loss to the Hurricanes came against a Coastal Division opponent.
It’s a long way off, of course. But N.C. State is at least in position to think about that goal.
“In the scheme of things, it was much better to beat Florida State than it was Miami,” O’Brien said. “If you’d have said you’re going to be 1-1 in those two games, we picked the right one to win for us to being able to get to Charlotte. So now we have to continue to win.”