N.C. State has covered both ends of the losing spectrum in its past two games.
Against Clemson this past Saturday, the Tigers put a whooping on the Wolfpack, as senior running back Tony Creecy described it, a 41-0 never-in-doubt home win for the Tigers.
The previous Saturday against No. 1 Florida State, the Wolfpack led 24-7 in the first quarter and 38-28 in the third quarter before falling apart late in a 56-41 loss.
Some coaches prefer the no-doubt variety, because it’s easier to get their players refocused. N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said Monday that neither experience is preferable.
“Losing stinks, however you lose,” Doeren said. “You watch the Florida State game and you’re mad because you know you could have won it.
“You watch the Clemson game and you’re mad because you didn’t have your guys ready. I felt awful after both. We just have to flush it and move on.”
That’s probably the best course of action for the Wolfpack (4-2, 0-2 ACC), which will host Boston College (3-2, 0-1) Saturday. Doeren said he showed some clips from the Clemson game to his players on Sunday but also spent an hour prepping for the Eagles, who lead the ACC with 316.8 rushing yards per game.
There’s no reason to beat down the players with all of the mistakes from the Clemson loss, Doeren said. There’s only so much to be gleaned from the game tape when the other team has more points (41) than you have passing yards (35).
Still, Doeren said, the breakdowns in pass protection, in particular, need to be solved.
“It’s one thing when you get body-on-body and they beat you,” Doeren said. “That didn’t happen because we didn’t make the right calls up front. Part of that’s probably the (crowd) noise, they couldn’t hear each other. Part of that is us not being us. We haven’t done that this year.”
N.C. State went into the Clemson game leading the ACC in total offense with 505.6 yards per game. The Wolfpack could only muster 156 yards against the Tigers, whose defense Doeren called “phenomenal.”
Quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who averaged 272.8 passing yards per game in the first five games, threw for 35 yards and completed only four of 18 attempts.
The lone bright spot for Wolfpack’s offense was it did rush for 121 yards with Creecy (seven carries, 43 yards) and Shadrach Thornton (six carries, 39 yards) averaging more than 6 yards per carry.
But with Clemson jumping out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter, on its first three possessions, N.C. State abandoned its ground game.
“When you get down like that, you have to resort to throwing the ball,” Creecy said. “They made us one-dimensional, and they just started teeing off on us.”
Creecy was surprised at the way the Wolfpack performed, especially compared to how it played against Florida State the previous week.
“We just weren’t the same team,” Creecy said.
It was a learning experience, Doeren said, and for the third-youngest team in country, one that was probably unavoidable. But at the midpoint of its schedule, there’s still plenty left on the table for the Wolfpack.
“All the things we’re trying to accomplish are still attainable,” Doeren said. “We’re not going to lose sight of that because of a game where we just didn’t play well or coach well.”