One week, it's an indescribable disaster. A combination of penalties, missed assignments, players giving up on plays and turnovers leading to an embarrassing road loss to an unremarkable opponent. Players are getting called out, coaches are coming under fire and to top it all off the team has to turn around and play a top 5 opponent a week later. The whole thing looks like a sinking ship.
And then the next, this happens. The Wolfpack looks lifeless for a half, especially on offense, trailing 16-0 and appearing well on its way to a 2nd straight shutout at the hands of the Seminoles. But the Pack came out of halftime looking like a different team, shutting out the Seminoles over the final 30 minutes and scoring just enough – converting three fourth downs on a nerve-wracking final touchdown drive – to upset the No. 3 Seminoles.
"I'm not a big team meeting guy, but I think [the seniors] did a great job in a team-meeting only on Sunday," Tom O'Brien said. "I think we got rid of the Miami thing and got focused on Florida State."
It's a weird but familiar pattern for O'Brien's teams. Last season the Pack went to Boston College and lost to a very bad Eagles team, scoring just 10 points and looking well on its way to a losing season. But then the very next week they hosted No. 7 Clemson at home and didn't just win, they demolished Clemson to the tune of a 37-13 victory.
It happened in 2010 as well – the Pack was off to a tremendous 5-1 start before traveling to East Carolina, falling behind 21-0 and eventually losing in overtime. They followed that up the next week by upsetting an undefeated Florida State team at home – this might sound a little familiar – by winning in the final minute. This win did come thanks to the defense, or more accurately the slippery hands of Christian Ponder, who more or less dropped the ball at the two-yard line to give the Pack a win.
"We're able to pull together when adversity hits, we know the guy on the right and left of us is going to get it done," Quintin Payton said.
Perhaps Pack fans should just get used to it. Perhaps O'Brien and his staff are simply incapable of putting a team on the field that wins the games it's supposed to win and loses the games it's supposed to lose. Perhaps even his good teams are always going to have this schizophrenic streak.
The Pack now sits at 1-1 in the conference, tied in the loss column with both Clemson and Florida State and holding a tie-breaker over the Seminoles. None of the means very much with six games remaining on the schedule, but the Pack's win keeps the team in the race.
"This puts us right in the thick of things in the ACC," O'Brien said.
After a week off, the Pack has two straight road games before finishing the season with three of the final four at home. The only thing that is certain about the next six games is that they will absolutely not play out the way you expect them to. So hold on for the ride.