It is a team game.
When NC State thinks about the missed opportunities that cost the Wolfpack the game in Greenville versus East Carolina Saturday it will be a collective angst. Each position group did its part.
For Dave Doeren and his coaching staff the itemizing of what went wrong likely began on the bus back to Raleigh. For fans and pundits it was much sooner.
There can be some conjecture as to whether a particular person should receive blame but it was clear immediately that NC State did not start the contest with the same intensity that ECU did.
The Pirates wear the mid-major label well. When East Carolina gets its shot at a major conference school, particularly those in the ACC, they swing for the fence.
And ECU hit a homer against NC State once again.
NC State beat East Carolina in several major statistics. Sadly for the Wolfpack, it was not limited to positive stats. Penalties were a killer for State. The Pack had eight to only four for ECU and it seemed that each infraction Doeren’s team committed was more critical than the last.
"The penalty is a focus thing," Doeren said. "Just lining up offside, that's total concentration."
Focus and concentration is exactly what NC State will need to have over the course of the season, especially over the next four weeks.
Doeren and his players will have to remain steady while the ground around them shakes. The rumblings started before the team took off its pads in Greenville. A potential win over Old Dominion and the bye week that follows will not placate those who contend that NC State is not heading in the right direction.
"I told them we have ten games left and we can decide what we want to do with them right now," Doeren said. "I'm not pointing fingers at them. I said I lost the game, you lost the game, we lost the game. We need to get back to work and go win one together."
A team that was projected to finish around .500 is suddenly taking serious grief for being at that mark after only two games. How they respond has ramifications that could potentially impact more than just this season.
At this point, however, it is all just speculation. The growth of the program is more about simply the growth of this season’s team. If the Wolfpack exceeds expectations, the ECU loss -- as painful as it is for NC State -- can be taken in the context of the big picture.
NC State just has to make sure that big picture is something worth looking at. They have at least 10 more chances to do so.