Following a 24-14 setback to Georgia Tech on Saturday, State coach Chuck Amato termed the loss "embarrassing," saying, "We owe more to everyone to play better." The statement was taken by some as an apology to the fans from Amato for a brand of football that has led to some catcalls from the Pack faithful.
"I probably used the wrong word. I had a slip of tongue there," said Amato of using the word "embarrassing" in a teleconference yesterday. "I was more upset. I was upset because of the people that are doing a great job filling that stadium up. It can be frustrating for them, just like it is for the young men playing the game.
"My expectations are high; I am not going to change that. I am going to set them high and not lower my standards for anyone, because that is what I learned from the best."
In the devastating loss to the Yellow Jackets, the Pack once again was undone by penalties (nine for 94 yards) and turnovers (three, which led to 21 points for the Yellow Jackets). The storyline remains the same for the Wolfpack, which has outgained every opponent this season, yet still owns a 4-5 overall record and a 3-4 mark in conference play.
"You can't make these mistakes," said Amato. "We had four touchdowns taken off the board in three games we have lost."
One wonders when frustration will seep into the NC State defenders, if it hasn't already. A stout defense surrendered only 269 yards and forced three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns – a penalty erased one. The Pack "D" has shown a tendency to surrender the big play on occasion – Tech had offensive bursts of 38, 33 and 27 yards – but held the Jackets to just four third-down conversions in 16 attempts. The defense didn't allow a scoring drive of more than 49 yards. However, as has been the case so often this season, the offense turned the ball over in poor field position, giving opponents a reprieve and a short field.
And for a program that prides itself on the kicking game, the Pack once again fell short in that phase. John Deraney missed three field goals and the Wolfpack continued to sacrifice punt-return yardage for the opportunity for a block that never came. Kickoff returns continue to be an issue, with NC State continuously losing the field-position battle and forcing a stuttering offense to go 80 yards on just about every possession.
On the positive side, one prevailing theory is that the quick turnaround against the Seminoles on Thursday will be beneficial to the Wolfpack, since the team will not have much time to dwell on its disappointing three-game losing streak and the resulting criticism. On the flip side, however, losing a couple days of practice because of the short week could be construed as a negative for a squad that appears to need all the work it can get on the fundamentals.
Regardless, the showing against the Yellow Jackets pushed the Wolfpack's season past the crisis point and shifted the fans into near-panic mode. Proving that there is much to be salvaged from an unbelievably frustrating campaign will fall on the Pack's shoulders on national television in a matter of days, but it will take much longer for the sting of lost opportunities against the Jackets to subside, in a year that will likely be looked back upon with a feeling of, "What might have been?"