NC State's defense took the brunt of the blame after allowing Tanner Price and Wake Forest to put up 34 points and 438 yards of offense. It was just the third game in the last year that the Wolfpack had given up at least 34 points. The other two -- both losses -- came against Virginia Tech and Maryland in 2010.
But even in post-game disappointment, several players -- and even O'Brien -- talked about the need to move on. The need to fix problems and get better. Redshirt senior linebacker Audie Cole was one of them.
"After you lose you can harp on it a little bit, but I'm pretty much over it as soon as it's over," Cole said. "You can't change anything. All you can do is get better. There is no reason to sit there and mope around about a game from the past because you can't do anything about it now."
Many players expected to be moving on as early as Sunday, a day NC State normally practices. But rather than getting back on the field, State spent more time breaking down film of the game in an effort to start fixing the mistakes that cost them against Wake.
"We used our time wisely to break down what happened last Saturday and put it behind us," O'Brien said Monday.
Cole, who said he was more upset than angry with what he saw on tape, said Sunday's film session was an important step in moving on. As one of the leaders of a defense that gave up 400 yards for the second week in a row, Cole said understanding exactly what went wrong against Wake Forest was crucial.
"We didn't look good on film," he said. "We were making mistakes that we don't normally make. It wasn't that we were out of position, we just reverted back to bad habits. Bad habits kill you. That's what we're trying to get fixed."
Despite being in position to make plays, Cole said it's tough to overcome poor habits and even tougher -- at times -- to break those habits during the game.
"Once you kind of get in bad habits it's tough to get out of it," he said. "It snowballs and you keep doing bad things and the next thing you know we're losing a game I think we should have had."
Following the film session Sunday and another day off Monday, Cole said the entire team was itching to get back to the practice field Tuesday and start prepping to play South Alabama. Cole said the entire defense had things to start working on.
"We responded good," he said. "We had one of our best practices. Making plays, people doing what they are supposed to do with the fundamentals. I think we responded well."
That response will continue throughout the week leading up to Saturday's game against South Alabama, a program that hasn't lost a game in its short football history.
In its third year, the South Alabama program is in a transitional stage and is considered part of the FCS subdivision. It will be a full FBS program beginning in 2013 and will compete in the Sun Belt Conference beginning that fall.
While the Jaguars will provide another challenge for the defense, Cole said he's glad NC State gets to play a non-conference game in week three.
The Wolfpack will actually get two chances -- Saturday against South Alabama and a Thursday night game against Cincinnati -- to correct bad habits and improve as a team before Georgia Tech comes to Raleigh Oct. 1.
"We have to fix some things and get things straightened out before we get back to the ACC," Cole said. "We were ready to come into the game last week but we just got back into bad habits and kind of killed ourselves. We have to fix those things. We had a great practice today, and we're just moving forward now."