History on Wolfpack's side when it comes to recovery

jgiglio@newsobserver.comOctober 29, 2012 

— Tom O’Brien only had one question for his N.C. State team after Saturday’s 43-35 loss at North Carolina.

"Are you finished?" O’Brien said he asked his dejected players about the rest of the 2012 season.

With the five-year winning streak against UNC over, plus any rational claim to the mythical "state title" with it, and the end of the most realistic shot at an Atlantic Division title, it was a valid question from the sixth-year coach.

"They said ’no,’” O’Brien said in his somber post-game remarks on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.

"We’ve got the month of November to go play. I think (the players) are angry and they better be angry."

At 5-3 and with four regular-season games left, and potentially a bowl game, there is one preseason goal left for the Wolfpack: a 10-win season.

N.C. State has been playing football since 1894 and only once has ended a season with double-digit wins. That carrot is out there, but it would require consistency from the Wolfpack, which hasn’t won five consecutive games since the 2002 season. That’s also the same year N.C. State went 11-3.

Resiliency and winning at home have been the two hallmarks since the start of the 2010 season. The Pack is 10-1 after a loss and 14-2 at home.

State closes with home games against Virginia (2-6), Wake Forest (4-4) and Boston College (2-6). It also has to go to Clemson (7-1), where it hasn’t won since 2002.

Still, motivation will be an issue for the Wolfpack after Saturday’s loss. After beating Florida State on Oct. 6, N.C. State had controlled its own path in the division.

With two ACC losses, the Pack will need the Seminoles to lose in either of its final two conference games — at Virginia Tech (Nov. 8) or at Maryland (Nov. 17) — plus, win the rest of its games.

"There’s enough leadership on this football team and enough character on this football team, that we’ll find a way to scratch it out," O’Brien said.

There’s also bowl position to play for over the final month of the season. The Pack needs one more win to qualify for a bowl. It’s clear the more State wins, the better its case. But where N.C. State might end up is anything but clear.

N.C. State played in Charlotte last year in the Belk Bowl, and Orlando, Fla., in 2010 in the former Champs Bowl.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta is second in the ACC bowl order, after the BCS selections, but N.C. State started the season in Atlanta.

The Music City Bowl in Nashville against an SEC team might be the best bowl option, but that’s not what the team’s focus is, receiver Bryan Underwood said.

Virginia comes to Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday for homecoming. The only positive from losing to UNC might be there can’t be a "Carolina hangover" for the Wolfpack, which lost the game after UNC wins in 2007, 2010 and 2011.

Asked what N.C. State has to do after Saturday’s loss, Underwood said:

"Just keep our heads up. It was a tough loss but we’ve got keep our focus up and get ready for the next game."

Only time will tell if the Wolfpack will be able to do that.

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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