|COLLEGE FOOTBALL PACKAGE: O'Brien not looking back as Wolfpack struggles, Eagles soar|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 17 October 2007 13:08|
In his first season since making the switch, O'Brien's former team is unbeaten, ranked No. 3 and in the hunt for a national championship. His new team is a one-win disaster, racked by injuries and turnovers.
O'Brien isn't looking back.
``I'm really happy for those kids,'' O'Brien said of the Eagles. ``I think they deserve everything that they've attained. They've got a heck of a football team. ... But I'm real happy to be here, too. This wasn't a one-game or one-year deal. This is a five- or 10-year deal. Time will tell.''
He paused, then added with a slight grin, ``But I knew what I was doing.''
At first glance, it would seem hard to agree.
O'Brien nursed the BC program back to health after a gambling scandal, helping the Eagles become Big East Conference contenders and a regular on the bowl circuit. He also shepherded them through a messy move to the Atlantic Coast Conference. After all that, it seems he should be savoring the rewards as the Eagles (7-0, 3-0 ACC) soar to new heights with the players he recruited.
But the appeal of coaching at a state university with a rabid fan base, expansive facilities and the willingness to spend money on its football program was too enticing for O'Brien to ignore. He left the Eagles in December to take over at N.C. State, which reached the top 10 with quarterback Philip Rivers in 2002 but has known little more than mediocrity in the years since.
His former players sound like they feel for their coach's struggles, though they've also moved on with Jeff Jagodzinski.
``I'm indebted to him for the opportunity that he gave me,'' quarterback Matt Ryan said. ``But that's his decision. It was his decision to head down to N.C. State and we all respected that. I'm sure it is tough for him to watch some of the guys that had worked so long with him having some of the success that they're not having this year, but it's his decision.
``It's tough to watch him down at N.C. State and know that it's such a great coaching staff that's struggling right now. I'm sure they'll have a lot of success in the future.''
O'Brien said when he left that it was a good time for a change and he was excited about the Wolfpack's long-term fortunes, citing the charged atmosphere in an upgraded Carter-Finley Stadium when the Wolfpack rallied for an improbable win against O'Brien's Eagles last year.
But all the excitement is in Chestnut Hill, Mass., this year.
After starting unranked, Boston College now has its second-highest ranking in school history and their highest ranking in 65 years - BC was No. 1 for one week in 1942 - and boasts a Heisman Trophy contender in Ryan. If the Eagles keep winning, they can secure a spot in the Orange Bowl as the ACC champions in their third season in the league. Or maybe they'll be playing for a national championship in New Orleans on Jan. 7.
``It doesn't surprise me that they're undefeated,'' O'Brien said. ``They've got a heck of a football team.''
At this point, the Wolfpack (1-5, 0-3) would settle for a lot less.
O'Brien's team has struggled more than expected, earning its only win against Wofford of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). N.C. State has lost 12 straight against Bowl Subdivision opponents, including nine in the ACC, and four of its loses in 2007 have come by at least 17 points.
Injuries have played a role, with tight end Anthony Hill and running backs Toney Baker and Andre Brown lost for the season. But N.C. State has also been undone by a revolving door at quarterback, a defense that can't get off the field and the nation's worst turnover margin.
O'Brien is also working to cut down the penalties and undisciplined play that seemed to mark predecessor Chuck Amato's seven-year tenure at his alma mater. But time is running out for the Wolfpack to get back to a bowl game.
Still, O'Brien sounds content in Raleigh - even as he sounds a little like a proud parent as he talks about the Eagles.
They sound convinced that he'll do for the Wolfpack what he did for Boston College a decade ago.
``He's definitely going to put things together,'' BC linebacker Jolonn Dunbar said. ``He won't accept anything else. That's the way he's always been - perfection.''
AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary contributed to this report.