Pressure on O'Brien to finish strong
Posted October 29, 2012
"Are you finished?"
A simple question put forward to NC State players by head coach Tom O'Brien after Giovani Bernard ripped out their hearts in Chapel Hill. According to O'Brien, the team responded with an angry "no."
It's now up to the coaching staff to properly channel that anger in the final stretch of the season.
The Atlantic Division is out of reach unless Florida State wants to hand it back to the Wolfpack with another loss of their own, but the Wolfpack can still close out the year with 9 wins. NC State historically responds well after losses under O'Brien and they have a favorable home schedule with contests against Virginia, Wake Forest and Boston College (8-16 combined this year). The great unknown will occur in Death Valley, where the concepts of "NC State Stuff" and "Clemsoning" will do battle.
"Are you finished?"
Pose that same question to NC State fans and the answer might be different from the players. No doubt athletics director Debbie Yow spent a good chunk of the weekend soothing another round of baby colic from angry fans, which is expected after such a dramatic loss to the in-state rival.
The winning streak and potential ACC title run are toast, so the knee-jerk reaction is to demand change in Raleigh. Worse would be to completely check out on football and simply turn attention to a hyped basketball season. The damning apathy would be ironic considering a similar line of thinking has been fodder to blast North Carolina fans the last five years.
It's natural for fans to already have their minds made up about a coach by the time they enter their sixth season. O'Brien detractors? Quick to pounce on conservative play-calling against North Carolina and the soft defense against Maryland that was bailed out by a lucky bounce off the goalpost. O'Brien supporters? Rationally not throwing out five years of beating the Tar Heels and viewing November optimistically.
Either way, Yow is in a tricky spot with O'Brien.
So let's go ahead and put this out there since folks are bringing it up. O'Brien is probably safe if NC State gets to at least 8 wins and a quality bowl game.
Regardless of where you stand, know this -- it would be difficult to sell NC State to prospective coaches after firing a guy who potentially wins 9 games with a bowl victory and tripped up once against the rival. This ain't the SEC.