As bad as last week was for the Boston College Eagles in their 48-14 pounding at the hands of Virginia Tech, one could argue that North Carolina State had an even worse day, losing 49-28 to hapless Duke. Both teams will be looking to move forward on Saturday in their pivotal ACC Atlantic Division showdown.
The Eagles (4-2, 2-2 ACC) host the Wolfpack (3-3, 0-2) at Alumni Stadium on Saturday in the teams' third meeting since former BC coach Tom O'Brien left for Raleigh.
"It's obviously a big deal to have Coach O'Brien coming back, it always is," said Alex Albright. "But it's definitely not anger, it's more of a friendly thing – you're playing the people who recruited you. You want to show them that they did a good job by recruiting you."
Still, while the players admit that facing O'Brien is particularly important to the older players, their focus is less on O'Brien and more on the Wolfpack as a team, as the Eagles jostle for position in the crowded Atlantic division.
"The [Tom O'Brien] storyline is in the shadows, lingering around," said Mike McLaughlin. "But, this is a huge game against a good Atlantic Division opponent… that's a bigger story, it's what we're more focused on."
"We all have a lot of respect for one another. We really respect their team and their staff and we think they feel the same way about us," he continued.
"We're not out there trying to beat Coach O'Brien," agreed safety Wes Davis. "We're trying to make it to the ACC Championship."
Leaders Seek Bounce Back After Team Meeting
After the team's tough loss on Saturday, Mike McLaughlin called for a team meeting on Sunday night, hoping to bring everyone back on the same page as they prepared for NC State.
"Yelling and screaming doesn't do much," said McLaughlin. "It was just gathering guys around and talking… any time you get beat like that, you need to regroup."
"We need to forget about last week. A good team moves on."
"The idea was to deliver a message that everyone will understand," he said. "I wanted everyone to understand how good we are as a team, and how good we can be."
I also wanted everyone to understand how big this football game is. For Florida State, with Game Day coming in, and with going to Virginia Tech, it's easy to say those are big games, and to get fired up for them. But this is the biggest game of the season, [in terms of] the ACC standings, and we have to be ready."
Albright said that at the end of the meeting, the team was feeling very positive, describing the meeting as "dramatic" and saying that by the end, players were "inspired, jumping up and down."
"We were really focused, and you could see the results of that on Tuesday when we came out and had a really good practice," he said. "People responded really well. There was no cliché stuff, it was all new things, to get us energized."
Wes Davis and Anthony Castonzo also reportedly spoke at McLaughlin's team meeting.
"We've all had letdowns in the past, whether it was in high school or here," Davis said. "Being emotionally invested in each game is critical."
"There are a lot of young guys, who maybe weren't emotionally ready for what was about to happen [on Saturday]. Guys were flat," he said. "People need to step up to get everyone going in the right direction," - hence the meeting.
Preparing For Wilson
BC is facing an onslaught of good quarterbacks this season – Riley Skinner, Christian Ponder, Tyrod Taylor, and, next week, Jimmy Clausen – but many of the Eagles defenders say this week's opponent, Russell Wilson, presents the toughest challenge of all.
Wilson, a sophomore from Richmond, Virginia, has thrown for an ACC-leading 15 so far this year. He presents a serious dual threat, as in addition to his strong arm, Wilson is one of the better running quarterbacks in the conference. He has rushed for 214 yards, including 2 touchdowns.
"He's kind of like a hybrid between Riley Skinner and Tyrod Taylor," said Albright. "He can sit in the pocket and go through his progressions, but he also understands where the pressure is coming from, and can run if he has to. It poses a tougher problem."
"He's a real dynamic quarterback - it doesn't get much better than him," said McLaughlin. "He makes his reads like a Riley Skinner or a Matt Ryan, then if he has to he'll run like [Taylor]."
Mobile quarterbacks have been an Achilles heel for BC in recent years, and their experience on Saturday, in which they nearly hauled down Taylor early in the game for a key sack before he broke free and uncorked a long touchdown pass to make it 10-0, reminds them of the importance to contain Wilson.
"It's all about attention to detail," said McLaughlin. "One trip up, one mistake, and that can be seven points on the board."
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