Dave Doeren tried to take responsibility, or at least he thought he did. He said he wasn’t going to point fingers. He said this loss was all on him. He couldn’t even get that right.
There was no excuse for N.C. State’s 21-14 loss to the Eagles, no excuse for a game plan that failed to exploit N.C. State’s quickness advantage against Boston College’s defense and gave up three touchdowns to a team that had scored 44 points in four ACC losses, no excuse for the plethora of boneheaded penalties (again) – including the botched formation that cost the Wolfpack a touchdown against Notre Dame and did again Saturday, at a much higher cost.
When you lose at home to Boston College, a team that had lost 12 straight ACC games going back to November 2014, it’s the coach’s fault, no matter what else went wrong. And Doeren tried to say the right things. He really did. “It always comes back to me. I know this,” Doeren said. “I’m not going to walk in there and point fingers at anybody.” But he couldn’t help pointing fingers, once again. Every complaint about execution was a reminder that it was someone else’s fault. It always is.
“We have a busted coverage, a guy playing over-aggressive in the run game.”
“We did not make enough plays. We didn’t. I wish we would have, obviously, yes. Was it emphasized? Yes it was.”
“We ran that play in practice every day right. I don’t have an answer for you. When it’s on film correctly four days in a row it should be on game day.”
“It was an obvious draw-screen down, and we give up a screen that gets them inside the red zone, and they score two plays later. Those things can’t happen. They can’t.”
“It just comes down to better execution. We’ll sit in there tomorrow and talk with the guys about having a greater focus on the little things we have to do.”
“We had a touchdown called back on an illegal formation. Those are the kind of plays, while I’m standing here disappointed and everybody’s looking at you, because we beat ourselves. We did. And that always comes back to me and I’ll take that. I understand that.”
Doeren has blamed the fans (after his first game!), the officials, his predecessor, the opposition and, most of all, his own players over and over again for failing to execute apparently impeccable game plans. Even when he tried to shoulder blame Saturday, he couldn’t help doling it out instead.
Whether he realizes it or not, Doeren is cooked at N.C. State. Between the terrible losses and the incessant finger-pointing, he has few allies left. But it would cost N.C. State unavailable millions to buy out Doeren’s contract, and athletic director Debbie Yow would prefer not to saddle her successor with a new coach after she is expected to retire in the summer of 2019. All of which means Doeren would really have to force her hand – and at 3-11 in ACC home games he’s certainly giving it his best shot.
Despite the howls from fans, it wouldn’t make sense to make a change in midseason anyway. The Wolfpack could yet beat Florida State or Miami or North Carolina and win a bowl game and go 10-2 next season, and at that point Doeren would be able to complain about the fans not coming back after halftime all he wants and no one would care.
The evidence so far suggests that’s extremely unlikely, and as the path to a bowl becomes more difficult and the truly awful losses mount – East Carolina lost five straight after beating N.C. State, before winning Saturday; Boston College’s other wins this season were against Massachusetts, Wagner and Buffalo – his not-my-fault schtick continues to wear thin.
Saturday, after a loss that transcended the boundaries of what is acceptable at N.C. State, there was only one direction to point any fingers. This is Doeren’s program, and in his fourth season it just isn’t good enough.
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock