I’m going to be the first admit, I haven’t really cared for Tom O’Brien during his time at NC State. I felt he had underachieved in his first 3 seasons with losing seasons in each one. This wasn’t what O’Brien was brought to Raleigh to do following the departure Chuck Amato. He made coaching at NC State look about as fun as going to the dentist. Last year the Wolfpack behind All-ACC QB Russell Wilson won 9 games. I dismissed the season to the brilliance of Wilson. I wasn’t buying into O’Brien.
After an embarrassing 44-14 beating at Cincinnati and a largely uncompetitive 45-35 home loss to Georgia Tech, I was looking at O’Brien as a guy who may not finish out the season with a job. Wolfpack fans deserved better than what O’Brien was giving. Then a funny thing happened. The Wolfpack put a modest 2 game winning streak together beating Central Michigan and a good Virginia team on the road. There was a setback at Florida State, but the Pack were getting healthy, Mike Glennon was gaining confidence at QB, and David Amerson was picking off anything thrown in his direction.
They beat UNC for the fifth straight time, and then there was flawless performance in a 37-14 win over soon to be ACC Champion Clemson. A season ending win over Maryland, and NC State entered the Belk Bowl with some momentum. That momentum carried over to the bowl game where NC State beat Louisville 31-24 to finish the year 8-5 and on a 3 game winning streak. This was a beat up team in early October that could have packed it in. The rough start also ignited more criticism of O’Brien for basically showing star QB Russell Wilson the door before the season started. That decision certainly wasn’t helping things either.
You have to give credit to O’Brien for leading NC State through that part of season and to an encouraging finish to the 2011 season. I still say O’Brien did an underwhelming job to start his tenure at NC State, but this year was his finest effort yet. Maybe just maybe I was wrong about him…