Monday, December 9, 2013

Maybe NC State is the new Duke of ACC football

At a holiday party last week, I was asked about NC State’s dismal football season.
“Dismal?” I responded. “Yes, dismal indeed.”

So what do you think of the coach?
“Same thing I thought last fall when he was hired. Ask me in three years—now two—and I’ll tell you though the jury is deliberating.”

What did you think about his effort this fall?
“The record speaks for itself, but some of the play calling, especially the Monte Kiffin-like-onsides-kick fake punt against North Carolina and some other play-calling leads me to believe that he was in over his head this year. I’m not a coach, but been watching it long enough to understand what works and what doesn’t.

Other plays?
“Well, in that same game, when Carolina turned it over early, we ran four straight plays to the right and scored. It looked too easy. But there were no more runs to the right until late in the game. Going left was not successful. I just didn’t understand that play calling. My daughter always wants to know why teams run the ball where the defenders are. ‘Because they’re football coaches calling the plays,’ I tell her.

Anything else make it dismal?
“Sure, remember that opening game? Louisiana Tech? We’re up 24-7 at the half and a few thousand of my closest friends join me in the parking lot for food, drink and conversation. We were having so much fun we forgot to return to the game. It was out of control anyway. We won 40-14, but next thing I hear is the new coach chastising the fans, not to mention the monetary contributors to the program, for not watching the second half from our seats in the stadium. Dumb move on his part.”

Yeah, but he apologized later and encouraged more support inside the stadium.
“Right, but there’s a policy against outside food and drink, and the damn music on the PA system is too loud to allow for good conversation. So what does the coach do? He plays Richmond to a too-close-for-comfort result of 23-21 just to keep us in the stadium. It takes a 48-yard field goal with 33 seconds remaining to beat a team that’s Division 1-AA and finished the season at 6-6, better than our 3-9 but come on! If you’re going to play a team that you’re supposed to beat, don’t keep it close just to keep us in the stadium.”

What about the rest of the season? The coach says one play in the Clemson game made a difference for the rest of the season?
“One play? Really? If we score on that play, that end-around where the runner is said to have stepped out of bounds, it makes it closer but Clemson has a program the Wolfpack is nowhere near. Maybe instead of 26-14, it’s 26-21 or 33-21. Momentum is important but that one play didn’t make or break the season. Heck, we killed one of those directional Michigan teams the next week and then called it a season. The rest of the games, except for North Carolina, weren’t even close, and I’m not sure if we punt instead of doing the Monte Kiffin thing, that we can win that game.”

Anymore thoughts about this season?
“Yeah. I’m told by the coach that we were really, really inexperienced. Hmmmm. So the two-deep chart this year that had 75% of the players on the team that defeated Florida State in 2012 was inexperienced and not capable of better than 3-9. Come on coach. Don’t blame it on inexperience when there’s more to it.”

So you have doubts about the new coach?
“He’s not really new, just new to the Wolfpack this year, and by the time he got to the end of his freshman season, he was a sophomore, and it showed. He called my home twice before the last game to thank me for my support. Twice, not just once, the phone call went something like, ‘Hello, this is Wolfpack football coach Dave Doeren wanting to thank you for your support this season and to remind you that we play Maryland at home in our last game this Saturday. Our seniors need your support, so please be there.’ Those calls, that message wasn’t what I needed that week as we prepared for a gathering of 20 for Thanksgiving, a time to say thanks, not to ask for forgiveness. I think that’s what Dave wanted. Sounded like it, anyway. Sophomoric at best.”

Did you go to the Maryland game?
“Sure did. My daughter and I went. Tossed two of our four tickets in the trash; couldn’t find two others who cared enough. It was cold and windy and with absolutely no one near us to break the wind or to help stay warm, we left during the halftime. We were down 34-14, and the band was introducing the seniors—the band seniors—playing instruments in their last football game. They probably wanted to leave too. Never have understood why band members, cheerleaders, and dancers performing during their last football game are recognized. Why not honor all soon-to-graduate regular students with GPAs of 3.5 or higher attending their last football game.”

So, what about next year?
“I love to watch college football, and the Wolfpack is my team: Class of ’77; member of the Wolfpack Club; Lifetime Rights seat holder. So I guess I’ll ante up and get the tickets. Seven home games but get this: We open with Georgia Southern on Labor Day weekend Saturday. Okay, the Eagles were 7-4 this year and beat Florida at Florida but the Gators were 4-8 this season, only slightly better than the Wolfpack. We lost our last eight; Gators lost their last seven. I’m bracing for an opening day disaster. Then Old Dominion is in Raleigh. They were 8-4 but lost to East Carolina, Pitt, Maryland and North Carolina. So did State. The last one was something like 80-20. So, while ODU’s not my choice of opponent, the game could be another Richmond, competitive and probably come down to a last second field goal for State to win, another “keep’em in the seats” game. And we also play Presbyterian at home. Not sure of when, but are we are really looking forward to having the Blue Hose?”

You’re gonna buy tickets to those games? 
Shouldn’t State pay you for attending them?
“Good idea but I’m sure that’s not going to happen. These are money games. It used to be that State played at Georgia, at Penn State, at Nebraska for money, getting a large check to play there. Now, we play Presbyterian, ODU, Richmond, and Louisiana Tech at home for money, charging high ticket prices and paying those teams a pittance. On the other hand, the conference home games are Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Not too bad.”

So, what’s your prediction for next year?
“We play at Clemson, at Louisville, at North Carolina, and at Syracuse, all four probable losses. And, we play at South Florida, 2-10 this year, third game of the season next year.Let's see, Wake Forest gets a new coach. Georgia Tech, BC, FSU at home with the three supposed no-brainers…I’m guessing right now, we’re maybe 5-7, possibly 6-6 but no better and could be 4-8. Conference wins? One, maybe, Wake Forest. And, in 2015, it’s not much better unless we get a lot better. We actually play those money games at South Alabama and at Old Dominion. And, if neither of those are canceled in favor of an additional home game, we’ll have just six games at home, if we can find a couple of financially strapped suckers to come to Raleigh. My guess is the six-game season ticket will cost as much as the eight this year or the seven next. Got to make payroll.”

So you were expecting better than 3-9 overall and 0-8 in the conference this year?
“I have always been optimistic about Wolfpack football. Now I’m not so much. That could change with the wind. This year was a miserable season. Wolfpack fans deserve better, a lot better. I really don’t want to talk about it. Bad season, bad record, some bad first-year coaching, players in trouble with the law, no bowl game, and, Duke (not Carolina) was always in the headlines for good football. Duke football good! Can you believe it?!? Maybe NC State is the new Duke when it comes to ACC football.

So, tell me again, what do you think of your coach?
“The jury just started deliberations. Call me in a couple of years and I’ll let you know the verdict.”