11/16/11 — Stevens: O'Brien's days could be numbered as Wolfpack's coach

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Stevens: O'Brien's days could be numbered as Wolfpack's coach

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 16, 2011 1:48 PM

There comes a time in the tenure of a head football coach when expectations have to collide with reality.

That time may be now for N.C. State's Tom O'Brien.

The Wolfpack (5-5 overall) enter Saturday's home game against Clemson with its bowl aspirations hanging in the balance. The program has made just two postseason trips and never finished better than second in the ACC's Atlantic Division during O'Brien's tenure.

N.C. State is 30-30, including a 16-22 mark in ACC play during O'Brien's five seasons in Raleigh. O'Brien guided Boston College to eight consecutive winning seasons that each culminated in bowl appearances before departing to take over the Wolfpack program.

Somewhat surprisingly, O'Brien hasn't put that same stamp on the N.C. State program.

The Wolfpack have beaten rival North Carolina in each of O'Brien's five seasons, but have gone just 5-10 in winnable conference games against Maryland, Wake Forest, Duke and Boston College. Ultimately, some of the responsibility for those losses falls on O'Brien's players.

However, there is something to be said for a coach who draws the best out of his players for a rivalry game each season, but fails to do the same against equal or lesser opponents.

Despite playing a schedule that currently ranks as the 62nd toughest in the nation, N.C. State currently ranks toward the bottom of the ACC in points per game, total offense, rushing and red zone offense.

O'Brien came under fire prior to the start of the season after quarterback Russell Wilson transferred to Wisconsin. Wilson was released from his scholarship at N.C. State in early May after he refused to give up his pursuit of minor league baseball in the Colorado Rockies organization.

Wilson threw for more than 8,500 yards in his three seasons in Raleigh with 76 touchdown passes. He rushed for 1,089 yards and 17 touchdowns. In 2008, Wilson became the first freshman in conference history to be named the first-team All-ACC quarterback.

Last season, Wilson led the Wolfpack to a 9-4 record and a victory over West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Red-shirt junior Mike Glennon has replaced Wilson as N.C. State's starting quarterback. Glennon has thrown for more than 2,200 yards this season and has 20 touchdown passes. He's also been picked off 10 times and six of those interceptions have come in the last four games.

Glennon isn't nearly the athlete that Wilson is and he doesn't come close to putting the type of pressure on defenses that Wilson does while running the ball. Perhaps the greatest difference between Wilson and Glennon was Wilson's ability to mask some of the Wolfpack's otherwise glaring weaknesses.

The inability to beat lesser opponents, an inconsistent offense and a quarterback controversy have led to five average seasons in Raleigh for O'Brien. He may not get a sixth.