Gravley: State responds with win over Wake, but what's next?
Nov 11, 2012
As he does after every home game, NC State coach Tom O'Brien stood with his team as the band played the Alma Mater. As soon as the final note was sounded, O'Brien took the hat he was holding over his heart, lifted it high and gave it a wave punctuated with a "Yeah baby!"
The Wolfpack's win over Wake Forest was as much relief as it was reward. A third consecutive loss would have put O'Brien in scalding water that he may not have escaped. He may not have even coached the final two games on the Wolfpack's schedule.
Instead, O'Brien and his squad will play three more games which will include the program's third bowl game in a row and fourth under O'Brien.
With the lack of bowl eligible teams in the ACC, State's bowl destination could be better than their record.
Winning at Clemson will be incredibly difficult from a talent standpoint, and after last year's 37-13 thumping the Pack put on the Tigers at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The irony of State's last regular season game is O'Brien will go against the man who was his defensive coordinator at Boston College. It will most certainly be the final game for coach Frank Spaziani.
Let's play hypothetical here. With two wins in their last three games, NC State would finish the season 8-5, matching last year's mark and be one win shy of the year before. So in the last three years O'Brien's record would be 25-14. Is that a fireable record?
Tom O'Brien knows the microscope is aimed at him by the NC State administration. But the evaluation won't just focus of the last three years, it will be a view of his six-year tenure. Have they won enough?Where are they in recruiting? Have fan interest and financial contributions waned? Has the NCAA been on campus?
A group of people won't decide how long Tom O'Brien will be the head coach, Director of Athletics Debbie Yow will. In her first press conference as AD, she said the university would provide the resources all of their coaches would need to be successful. Being a perennial top 25 program is part of her definition of success. In the last six years under Tom O'Brien, NC State has finished the season in the AP top 25 once, in 2010 when they were 25th.
Yow is not afraid to make coaching changes. She has at NC State and did at Maryland. So far, O'Brien has been able to avoid an early exit with games like the 37-6 win over Wake Forest and the miracle rally against Maryland last year. Those are the kind of games that can cool the furnace.