RALEIGH — The course of N.C. State’s 2012 season defies description, so Earl Wolff created a new word for it.
After Saturday’s 27-point home loss to Virginia, on the same field where the Wolfpack upset Florida State a month earlier, the senior safety said: "I feel like we’re too sometime-y."
As in, sometimes the Wolfpack can be great (see the 17-16 win over the first-place Seminoles) and sometimes it can be bad (see the 33-6 loss to the last-place Cavaliers).
Which Wolfpack team will show up for Wake Forest this week? Safety Brandan Bishop has an idea. He knows which version of the Wolfpack he hopes is history.
"Quite frankly, it was embarrassing this weekend," Bishop said Monday. "We don’t want to feel the way we felt all weekend. We don’t want to disappoint our fan base or school anymore."
At 5-4, N.C. State’s season is teetering on the edge of disappointment and disaster. With a veteran offensive line, quarterback and secondary, the Wolfpack had hopes of a 10-win season in August.
Coach Tom O’Brien, who is not prone to hyperbole, described his sixth team as his most experienced and deepest.
Even after a stumble out of the gate to Tennessee, the Pack recovered to win five of six games before an emotional loss to North Carolina on Oct. 27. Then came the puzzling effort in last week’s loss to a Virginia team that entered the game on a six-game losing streak.
Given Saturday and Sunday nights to process the Virginia loss, O’Brien said the answer going forward is a sharper mental focus.
O’Brien said it’s his job to get the players’ "minds right and get them focused on the things that are important. Then they have to believe in it and they have to do it."
Pressure is mounting on the team and O’Brien, especially after the depths of the Virginia loss, but the coach said the team needs to focus on the task at hand.
"What (the fans) say and what they think, that’s all well and good, but it really doesn’t affect what we do at all over here," O’Brien said.
Bishop said O’Brien tells the players all the time, they’re not as good as people tell them after a win and they’re not as bad as they’re told after a loss.
"It doesn’t matter whether it’s negative, positive, it doesn’t matter," O’Brien said. "The best thing they can do is not pay attention."
The Wolfpack can still make a late bowl push. It closes the season with home games against Wake Forest and Boston College with a trip to Clemson in between.
Last year’s team won its final three games, including an upset of a top-10 Clemson team, to finish 8-5 after a 2-3 start.
The 10-win barrier for this season went by the wayside, but the team can still match the most successful three-year stretch in program history (26 wins).
"We’re not going to quit, we’re not going to give up," Bishop said. "I know what we’re capable of and I still believe in our guys and I think with a better effort this weekend, we can get back on track and finish strong."
O’Brien sounded confident Monday his team would do just that.
"You have bumps in the road but you continue to fight through it and you continue to get better and you’ll be better in the long road for it," O’Brien said.