NC State Wants To End 0-For-Division-Road-Games Streak This Week
NC State’s 17-16 win over Florida State two weeks ago was a potential season-changer for the Wolfpack. But after a bye week to bask in the victory, NC State (4-2, 1-1) is ready to get back to business at Maryland (4-2, 2-0). “This is going to tell us where we want to go, whether we want to just stay complacent with a Florida State win and that would be our season, or whether we want to go farther in the season,” NC State wide receiver Quintin Payton said.
Losing after a big win has been a bit of a trend in recent Wolfpack history. The best example was 2010, when NC State won at Georgia Tech and started 4-0 before falling in a close one at home to Virginia Tech. They got a huge win over Boston College the next week, finally beating head coach Tom O’Brien’s former school, a week before losing at a mediocre ECU team in overtime. They followed that up with a win over a ranked Florida State team before losing at Clemson the next week.
But in 2011, the roller coaster ride of NC State football seemed to even out towards the end of the year. They won their final three games, beating a top-ten Clemson team at home and then coming back for a win in the regular-season finale against Maryland.
The comeback is what’s key there, though: for awhile, it looked like the same old Wolfpack was back. They inexplicably crushed Clemson the previous week. Nearly three quarters of football later, they were down 41-14 at home to a two-win Maryland team. “You never want to put yourself in that position. Looking back, I think we tried too hard early. I’ve certainly never been in a situation where you had to score 35 fourth-quarter points,” O’Brien said.
And yet, they did: NC State scored 42 unanswered (35 in the fourth quarter) to win, 56-41. O’Brien knows that this year’s game will be different, though. “Their psyche at that point, they were a 2-9 team and now they’re 4-2 and they’ve won two in a row and they’ve won two ACC games. Certainly going to College Park has been a tough place for us to play,” he said.
But every Atlantic Division venue has been tough for the Wolfpack, seemingly: they are winless on the road in division since O’Brien took over as head coach. “It just means I’m a bad coach against opponents in our conference on the road,” O’Brien said dryly. “It’s my fault when we lose. I’ll try to be a better coach this week.” He added a derisive sniff.
Maryland has been one of the places NC State has had a chance to win a division road game more often than not under O’Brien. But Byrd Stadium is one of those sneakily difficult places to play for all ACC teams, not just NC State. In 2010, NC State only had to beat Maryland to win the Atlantic Division crown, and they led by 14 points late. But Maryland came back to win 38-31.
“It was cold,” defensive end Brian Slay said of his memories of that game. “It wasn’t a good trip to say the least. They spoiled our chance to go to the ACC Championship game a few years ago. So we’re going to keep that in mind and also just try to go out there and use what happened two years ago and be the first time in awhile that’s won at Maryland at NC State.”
NC State is 2-3 against Maryland under O’Brien and has lost eight of the last 12 meetings. This will only be the second time NC State and Maryland have faced off with NC State coming off of a win under O’Brien, and NC State is 1-1 in those games (including last year).
NC State has control of the Atlantic Division at this point after beating Florida State. The win over Florida State can revitalize this team for the second half of the schedule, but only if it takes care of a team it should beat.
The 2010 loss is still on the minds of this NC State team. A lot of the players remember it very well, and don’t want history to repeat itself. “(The team) was saying how two years ago Maryland ruined (Atlantic Division title hopes) for us, so let’s not let it happen again at Maryland,” Slay said.
Moments in NC State-Maryland history: Sorry in advance, NC State fans. But it’s the Torrey Smith game in 2010.
And sorry about this one too, but with a Doc Walker “locked up in the closet” reference and a long Chris Turner run, I had to:
But I’m going to make up for it now (from last year):
And from 2009:
And of course, the NC State-Maryland rivalry gave us this from Ron Cherry, otherwise known as one of the most important moments in ACC history.
Prediction: NC State, 26-13. Maryland’s defense is very good, but the offense is…not so much. And NC State’s defense is playing with renewed confidence after controlling Florida State’s powerful offense two weeks ago. At some point, O’Brien has to win a division road game. This feels like that point.