|Two-game winning streak gives O'Brien, N.C. State evidence of progress|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 29 October 2007 10:28|
They're taking better care of the ball, and their quarterbacks. They're making more key tackles and limiting their opponents' big plays.
Not coincidentally, they're winning.
While Tom O'Brien - who left Boston College for the Wolfpack after last season - is reluctant to credit N.C. State for turning the corner just yet, a modest two-game winning streak has given him evidence that things finally are starting to change.
``I don't think we'll know until the end of the year, but we're certainly making steps in the right direction,'' O'Brien said Monday. ``A lot of the things we had to do to be a good football team, we've done for two weeks.''
The past few weeks have been full of the types of firsts O'Brien envisioned when he left a loaded roster in Chestnut Hill, where the undefeated Eagles are now ranked No. 2 in the nation, for a rebuilding job at N.C. State.
The Wolfpack's win over East Carolina two weeks ago was their first over a Bowl Subdivision team in more than a year and first on the road since 2005. That was followed by a tight victory over then-No. 21 Virginia, the program's first against a ranked team since October 2006.
The Wolfpack (3-5, 1-3) are still stuck at the bottom of the league's Atlantic Division, but more importantly, they're 2-0 since a back-to-basics bye week marked the midpoint of the season. It allowed them to tinker with what failed to work during the first six games.
``We had to do some soul-searching, see how much you wanted it,'' cornerback Jeremy Gray said.
The Wolfpack revamped the secondary and changed the defense from a man-to-man system to one with zone principles. They simplified things on both sides of the ball, because as O'Brien said, ``if you're thinking, you're stinking.''
They've improved the blocking up front and have kept quarterback Daniel Evans safe in the pocket. After allowing an average of nearly three sacks through six games, they've given up a total of four in the two wins.
They haven't allowed a touchdown covering more than 20 yards in two games, after previously giving up six of them.
But the most significant change at N.C. State is a renewed dedication to protecting the ball. After averaging nearly four turnovers through six games, the Wolfpack have given it away just three times total over the past two games.
``We've created opportunities on defense for the offense, and they've taken advantage of it,'' O'Brien said. ``We haven't lost scoring opportunities as many times as we did in the first half of the year by turning the ball over.''
The recent success also seems to solidify the players' belief in their new coaches' plans, and give them some tangible validation that they're headed in the right direction.
``The trust wasn't as much about the players as it was in the coaches,'' running back Jamelle Eugene said. ``We always believed the coaches were trying to do the right thing, but I don't know if we bought into it all the way. ... The coaches always trusted in us and believed in us, and it feels like we're returning that trust and belief, and it's paying off.''