Desperate Pack in need of a win

The Wolfpack (5-5, 2-4 ACC) is in another of those tight squeezes, losing two of its last three games and on the verge of elimination from the bowl picture.

"We're down, but that's when we play our best, when our backs are against the wall and stuff like that," receiver T.J. Graham said. "We're not a front-running type team."

Pulling itself out won't come easy because the next opponent is Clemson (9-1, 6-1), which already has won the ACC's Atlantic Division.

The Wolfpack could be headed toward another non-bowl season and that is leading to increased grumbling about coach Tom O'Brien's tenure with the program. The Wolfpack went to bowls in two of his first four seasons.

Last season, the Wolfpack had a busy road stretch late in the schedule. This year, it's a reversal and the final two games are at home. But the mood has dimmed around the team after what has turned out to be another mundane season. Now, there will be a last-grasp effort to put a positive spin on it.


Tom O'Brien has led N.C. State to just one bowl game in four seasons. (Getty Images)
Because it played two Football Championship Subdivision teams, the Wolfpack must reach the seven-win mark to play in a bowl this year.

THURSDAY NOTES: N.C. State was flagged for only three penalties in its victory Nov. 5 against North Carolina, making the team at the second-lowest penalty yardage per game in the country at 31.9 yards per game. That was N.C. State's third game in a row with three penalties, but that stretch ended when it was flagged eight times for 56 yards at Boston College.

* N.C. State is 5-0 when forcing three or more turnovers in a game this season. The Wolfpack is 0-5 when causing two or less turnovers, something that happened in its most-recent game when Boston College gave up the ball only once on a turnover.

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: This unit hasn't scored more than 13 points in its last three games and that has become a major issue. Even though QB Mike Glennon completed about 70 percent of his passes (28 of 40) at Boston College, he didn't convert at the end with one of his most poorly thrown balls. The rushing attack needs to get moving again, especially as a means to keep the ball out of Clemson's hands.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The defense has been solid for much of the past month. But now there's another wrinkle that's necessary. Coach Tom O'Brien said the goal has to be to outplay the other team's defense. So even a stingy effort against Boston College, which gained 190 yards of total offense, wasn't enough. A healthier defensive line has helped across the board, limiting rushing up the middle and putting more pressure on quarterbacks and giving opponents less time to run downfield routes with their receivers.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're in a ditch. We found out way out before. We have to dig out again." -- NC State coach Tom O'Brien, knowing his team must win its final two games to reach bowl eligibility for the second year in a row.


TE George Bryan was a first-team preseason All-ACC selection. (Getty Images)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: LB Terrell Manning -- He's moving well on the defensive side and his pursuit of the ball gives the Wolfpack a significant lift. He's coming off a game at Boston College when he led the Wolfpack with 10 tackles.

TE George Bryan -- He has resurfaced as a threat in the offense and with the team sputtering at times it's a much-needed factor. Bryan has likely dropped off the radar for individual honors, but that doesn't mean he can't cap his career with some big performances as the most productive tight end in school history.

S Earl Wolff -- He has been a play-maker in recent games and the Wolfpack's secondary will be tested by Clemson. He has good mobility in the secondary and the Wolfpack will want more of that on display against Clemson's receivers.

ROSTER REPORT: RB Curtis Underwood is no longer on the Wolfpack's injury report, but he has fallen down the depth chart in favor of redshirt freshman RB Tony Creecy as the backup tailback. Underwood rushed for more than 100 yards in the opener, but he has had difficulty moving back into a prominent role. He might be limited to special teams the rest of the way.

* LB Dwayne Maddox is back in a starting role and this is the second time this season he has been pulled up from a backup position because of injuries at the linebacker spot. He made four tackles at Boston College.

* FB Taylor Gentry has missed more than a month since he was injured in the Georgia Tech game, when he played in the offensive backfield and along the defensive line. It might be hard for him to return by the end of the regular season.

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