If South Carolina was a really bad headache, then Murray State and Gardner-Webb are two extra strength Tylenol and a good night’s sleep.
Last week wasn’t how anyone expected NC State’s season to start. Disappointment and disenchantment have spread pretty quickly through the Wolfpack fan base. Three points in 60 minutes will bring out a lot of negative emotions, especially when the team has had potentially good season ruined by ugly starts in the past.
But head coach Tom O’Brien probably best summed it up when he said on Monday that ‘you’re never as good as you think you are and never as bad as you think you are.’ The Wolfpack might not be as good as we thought before Thursday, but certainly aren’t as bad as they looked against South Carolina.
The good news is that the players appear to have already moved on. The disappointment that was so evident in their voices immediately after the loss is gone. The coaching staff has keyed them in on some specific problems and set them to work at fixing those problems. That’s all this team needs right now, to refocus on improve.
And that’s just the kind of opportunity FCS teams provide. No one wants to play these games twice in one year, but the way scheduling worked out this season it was just about the only choice the Wolfpack had to fill out its 12-game schedule.
But this might be a good year, and a good time, for these games to come up. Young reserves such as Rashard Smith, James Washington, and Terrell Manning can gain experience, and players like Jake Vermiglio, Jamelle Eugene, and DeAndre Morgan will have more time to heal up.
Murray State is coming off a 5-7 season but just ran over lowly Kentucky Wesleyan by a 66-10 score, so by no means should the Pack expect to just show up and roll over these guys.
Same situation with Gardner-Webb the next week, who blew out Mars Hill 58-14 in their opener and return 20 combined starters from a team that nearly won at Georgia Tech (10-7) in 2008.
Also, State only has to look a few miles west to see that it is possible to lose to a FCS school.
But a whole lot would have to go wrong in the next two weeks for the Pack to not pick up two wins. Short of Harrison Beck taking over the body of Wilson, fans should feel pretty safe about the next two weeks.
So the Pack is lucky, in a way, that the schedule falls the way it does. Had Pittsburgh or a conference rival been looming this Saturday, the team would be in danger of repeating the sputtering starts that have plagued them the last few years. Barring some sort of disaster, the Pack will be going into the Pittsburgh game with a 2-1 record.
Sure it’s not the same as undefeated or even 2-1 against three FBS schools. But a winning record will get this team its confidence back. NC State hasn’t been a game over .500 since the first game of the 2006 season.
Don’t dwell on that too long though; you don’t want to get another headache.