NC State’s confidence rising with 3-0 start
There might be a surprise contender in the Atlantic Coast
Conference: North Carolina State.
After breezing through three nonconference games, the Wolfpack
(3-0) have joined Boston College as the only unbeaten teams in the
But now it’s time to find out just how serious their candidacy
is. They open ACC play this week at defending league champion
Georgia Tech (2-1, 1-0).
”Certainly, there’s a lot more confidence in this football team
being 3-0,” coach Tom O’Brien said Monday. ”But when you look at
the challenge staring us in the face, we’re not going to wear our
arms out patting ourselves on the back.”
With a quarterback who finally appears to have found his groove
after spending the summer playing pro baseball, and a defense that
has stabilized after what seems like perpetually shaky play, this
might shape up as the best N.C. State team that O’Brien has had
since he arrived in 2007.
For a change, the Wolfpack are off to a hot start. They’ve won
their first three games for the first time since 2002, when
eventual NFL first-round draft pick Philip Rivers was under
Now comes the next challenge: Winning their ACC opener. At no
point during O’Brien’s first three seasons in Raleigh has N.C.
State been above .500 in league play. They’ve started 0-3 in the
conference – or worse – every year under him.
The players say they don’t sense any overt extra pressure with
the ACC season starting, but admit it might be there underneath the
”It doesn’t really matter to us if it’s a conference game or a
regular game,” linebacker Audie Cole said. ”Either way, you
prepare the same. But we all kind of have it in the back of our
mind. We all know that we went 2-6 in the ACC last year … and
that’s something we’re not trying to repeat.”
There’s no doubt the Wolfpack have faced more resistance this
year than early in 2009, when their 3-1 start included wins over
two FCS teams.
But the competition still probably doesn’t compare to what
they’ll face in the coming weeks. After Georgia Tech comes a visit
from a Virginia Tech team that finally may have found its footing
after starting 0-2. Down the road they will take on Atlantic
Division favorite Florida State and tougher-than-expected
This year’s start included a rout of outmanned Western Carolina,
a win at Central Florida in which N.C. State held off a late rally
by the Knights and, just five days later, a thorough domination of
a Cincinnati team that’s transitioning to a new staff after the old
regime led them to consecutive berths in the BCS. Quarterback
Russell Wilson was one of the ACC’s players of the week after he
threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns in the victory over the
Still, O’Brien says it’s too early to worry about what will
happen once ACC play gets rolling.
”I think the most important thing we can do is focus on Georgia
Tech, and that’s the only thing we have control over right now,”
O’Brien said. ”That’s been how I’ve approached things ever since
I’ve been a head football coach. I don’t worry about what’s
happened in the past, other than to learn from it, make sure that
we don’t keep making the same mistakes and that we take the
positives and build on that.
”But you can’t be worried about what your record’s going to be
after the third game of the year. You have to focus on the team
you’re playing at hand, and then it’ll all shake out one way or
another. It doesn’t matter if we’re 0-3 or 3-0. We still have to
play Georgia Tech this week.”