Maryland has enjoyed a reputation of being a team that can beat the Wolfpack silly, no matter how talented NC State may be. Maryland beat NC State in 2010 during our 9-win season and came close to beating an 8-win NC State with their rebuilding 2-10 Terrapin team. NC State has to ask themselves this: do we believe that Maryland is somehow harder to beat than other teams, or is it just a Maryland Myth? Do Wolfpack fans REALLY have something to fear going into College Park this Saturday at 3:30?
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
The common belief is that NC State “traditionally has a problem with Maryland”. This is simply NOT true. NC State is 31-32 overall against the Terps since first meeting in 1917. Before Coach Friedgen came to College Park (significant bookmark), NC State lead the series by a 27-25 margin. At best, NC State and Maryland are long-time conference rivals. To say either program has “trouble” with the other is being gracious.
THE FRIDGE EFFECT
Coach Ralph Friedgen, better known as “The Fridge”, is well respected in the coaching community (and for good reasons). He came to Maryland following 10 years of non-winning ACC seasons and immediately placed the Terrapins at the #1 slot in the ACC as well as a #10/#11 national ranking. Not a bad opening act for a new coach. He went bowling 7 out of his 10 total seasons while at Maryland and proved to be a bit of a problem for NC State. In his first season, they beat a 7-win NC State. In 2002, the season NC State would beat Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl, Maryland would again come out with a win. In fact, NC State is only 3-8 against Maryland while Friedgen was head coach. The only years NC State could beat Maryland were the years Maryland didn’t field a bowl-bound team.
At the end of the day, it begins to appear that NC State doesn’t so much have a hard time with Maryland is it did with their coach. Now that Maryland decided, in their infinite wisdom, to fire The Fridge after being named ACC Coach of the Year, Maryland is left with Randy Edsall. Edsall is a perfectly competent coach who did wonders at UConn, but he doesn’t have NC State figured out the same way The Fridge did. For this simple fact, alone, NC State’s chances of beating the Terps is much higher than it was from 2001-2010.
We all recall those years at State where “Dead Week” would come around and what I use to call the “F*** it” factor goes way up. You already have a good idea of how the semester is going to end and you just want to crawl across the finish line. As much as we all want to think our athletes are above and beyond such lazy phenomena, they aren’t. They are 18-22 (…23? ….24?) year old kids with a staff of angry old men yelling at them. The past several years, NC State was a very different team with a new coach and new team mentality, but the ills of teenage minds didn’t change at all. During Tom’s tenure at NC State, this year will mark only the second time that we have met Maryland “mid-season” rather than at the end of the year. The last time we met Maryland sometime other than the last few games was in 2008 when the Terps would end with a 8-5 record. It’s also worth noting that during that October game, NC State only narrowly lost to Maryland with a final score of 27-24 at College Park. This year, NC State is coming off a bye week, typically a godsend for Tom O’Brien, and still have bowl eligibility to fight for. It’s a high pressure, high demand situation that stands in stark contrast from 2011 when NC State was sitting at 6-5 with only a game against 2-9 Maryland standing between them and sweet, sweet Belk-y Bowl goodness.
Confidence becomes a weakness when it creates apathy. Tom O’Brien has proven a strong mental coach but is still succeptable to the same ills that plague even the best college professors. This year, NC State is facing Maryland at a far more involved point in the season than in many previous seasons.
MARYLAND MYTH: BUSTED
NC State doesn’t have a “problem” with Maryland. It may have a problem creating a gameplan to overshadow a talented coach or have a problem with keep the energy levels up throughout the season, but there is nothing mystical and magical about Maryland. Still, WolfpackWorld is not so naive to think that superstition doesn’t have it’s place in NC State athletics nor can we ignore the famous “NC State S***” moments made famous by twitter. What we can say is that there are reasons why NC State lost in the path and its letting staff and players off easy to ignore them.
Call them explanations; call them excuses. Whatever you call them, Tom O’Brien and the 2012 Wolfpack aren’t facing any of the same factors they have before. It’s time to bust the Maryland Myth, grab a road win, even out our face-to-face record, and get one game shorter to bowl eligibility. GO STATE!