After Belk Bowl Win, NC State’s Tom O’Brien proves doubters (like me) wrong.

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…


  1. Steve says:

    While I’m grateful that O’Brien pulled out an 8 win season, overall I’m disappointed with the offense’s performance and offensive coordinator decision making. I’m afraid we don’t have the coaching capacity to be a national contender. O’Brien and staff are reasonably good game prep coaches, the but staff, in particular, Dana Bible aren’t very good game coaches. On offense we don’t possess the killer instinct and mastery of the indirect approach, a trait which is what the great captains in military history possess and what made them great. Case in point, last night’s Belk Bowl, State has a one TD lead and basically just has to run out the clock to win. What did Bible do?–the expected—just run it up the gut and let Louisville put 8 in the box so that we had to turn the ball over on downs. So Bible forced the defense to win the game–and fortunately they pulled it off. Against a great team, the defense may not have been so fortunate. So why didn’t Bible, after the run on 1st down, have Glennon to run a 2nd down play-action pass faking to Washington or Creacy up the gut and then dumping to George Byran on a block and release short out route. Louisville would have probably bit down hard and George would have gotten a first. But to run it up the gut four times straight—FREAKING CAVEMAN football. Get me out of here on this stupidity. Get an imagination. The objective is call a play that the defense is not expecting. In this department Louisville beat us HANDS down. Another break or two for them and they would have beaten us in spite of the fact we whipped them for the most part. Since the addition of Jon Tenuta to the defensive staff, the defense has not played stupid ball the way the offense continues too…. State, an okay middle of the road team–yeah. With current coaching staff–a great team?—-not happening.

    1. Jfann says:

      Good comments Steve. I’m not enamored with O’Brien’s offensive philosophy either, but I give him credit for the season together. I think Glennon has the potential to be a very good QB. Let’s see if they open things up more next year.

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