Bowens Remains Upbeat

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State lost its best wide receiver on Friday when head coach Tom O'Brien announced that junior Donald Bowens would miss the 2008 season with a back injury.

"It's a tough loss for the football team," O'Brien said at NC State's Media Day. "He came out and started to practice and didn't feel right. We had him evaluated, and he came back and tried again. Finally this week, he had another procedure that showed there was a hairline fracture in his back. When you lose your most experienced and best receiver coming back, that certainly hurts you when you're trying to find a quarterback.

"That's a tough situation to be in and a tough situation for him to sit out this year." In the past we've faced these situations, and one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. We're just waiting for another man to step up and take that opportunity."

"It's pretty disappointing for me personally, and the team as well," said Bowens. "We just seemed to be coming back together and so much happened. We've just got to move on with it.

"It hurt pretty bad... being excited about the season and being one of the leading receivers. It just is something you've got to move on with. It's just a minor setback... not major. That's the whole idea."

Bowens played in 2006 as a true freshman, registering 16 receptions for 200 yards and two scores. He really came on last year when he was the Wolfpack's top reserve wideout behind seniors John Dunlap and Darrell Blackman.

As a sophomore, Bowens posted the team's best reception average at 15 yards per catch. He totaled 41 receptions for 598 yards and three touchdowns. Bowens had a breakout performance in his start against Virginia, recording 11 catches for 202 yards and two touchdowns. Those were the top marks ever posted by a NC State sophomore.

"It's a tough loss for the football team."

Bowens wasn't sure when the injury actually occured.

"I don't even know how it happened," he said. "It was just something we found. It's not even a fracture. It's just a little small deal. It's nothing big. That was it. I don't really want to talk about the whole process, but we did different tests and that was what it was.

"I'll sit out this season, and I still have my redshirt. I can still do various things to stay in shape. It's pretty much just a rest factor. I'll be a junior when I come back next year... ready to go."

Poised to have a breakout junior season, Bowens was considered by some to be one of the top wideouts in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Admitting that he is past the initial shock, Bowens is looking forward to the future and helping his teammates on the practice field.

"It's pretty tough coming in and expecting big things and big things for the team," he said. "Just not being there to be able to help out and contribute to the team, it kind of hurts. Everything happens for a reason.

"I'll still be there for the guys all the time. Especially the receivers... leading and helping them with the things they need help on."

With Bowens sidelined, NC State must have the other receivers step up and fill his shoes. Adding back tight end Anthony Hill will help, but the Wolfpack needs experienced players like Jarvis Williams, Darrell Davis, Geron James, and Owen Spencer to pick up their play and the younger guys like Jay Smith, Steve Howard, and T.J. Graham to be ready to go.

"Anyone of those guys can make plays," said Bowens. "Anyone of those guys can step up. Definitely the veteran guys will step up more, but they know I'll be there for them.

"It can be anyone. More than likely it will be the veteran guys like Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis. Those two guys will step up."

"When one guy goes down, the next guy has to be ready to step up and play."

"We're a young group, and we are going to be together for a long time," said Spencer. "We just have to make plays. Just like [Bowens] did last year when John Dunlap was out, we've got to step up and make plays. The coaches put us in the game, and they have confidence in us that we can produce.

"Everything happens for a reason. God works in mysterious ways, and we never know what to expect. It can be the best thing to ever happen for him or for me. We just have to look at it that way. Personally, I just go to him for guidance. Donald Bowens, he's a great leader on our offense and I ask him a lot of questions... whenever I have trouble I go to him and he helps me out."

NC State has had its share of injuries. Bowens is out and tailback Toney Baker isn't 100% following knee surgery. Safety Clem Johnson could be lost for the season, and another safety, Javon Walker, is still working his way back from offseason knee surgery.

Bowens believes there are other players capable of making plays for the Wolfpack.

"There are other guys that can definitely step up and play big roles on the offense and defense," he said. "When one guy goes down, the next guy has to be ready to step up and play."

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