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Wednesday, October 9, 2013
After tough losses, three teams regroup

By David M. Hale

This wasn't how it was supposed to go. NC State was playing well, off to a 3-1 start under first-year coach Dave Doeren, having weathered the storm of losing its starting quarterback in Week 1 and poised to snap a long road losing streak to struggling Wake Forest. Instead, the Wolfpack limped out of Winston-Salem with a loss for the sixth straight time, suddenly 0-2 in the conference.

But the aftermath, receiver Bryan Underwood said, was actually not much different from any other week.

"We just pretty much watched the film, we figured it as a learning experience," Underwood said.

For NC State, it was a painful lesson, but the Wolfpack are not alone. Week 6 proved to be a turning point for a handful of ACC teams that entered Saturday with inflated expectations but ended the day dealing with the fallout of ugly losses.

The task now is to find a way to figure what went wrong last week and begin rebuilding confidence for what lies ahead.

"The mood in the locker room is pretty much determination to get back after it and prove to the fans and the world that we're not going to let one game take us down," Underwood said.

Terrel Hunt
Quarterback Terrel Hunt couldn't provide a boost for Syracuse against Clemson.
It's a sentiment shared at Syracuse, where the Orange were fresh off two dominant wins and dreaming of an upset over No. 3 Clemson before reality hit with devastating force. New starting quarterback Terrel Hunt struggled mightily, and Clemson rode a 35-7 halftime lead to an easy win.

It was hardly the outcome Syracuse had envisioned, but it was an opportunity to measure itself against the ACC's best.

"They’re the No. 3 team in the country for a reason, and they showed that they are a really good football team," tailback Jerome Smith said. "That’s our goal for the future -- to become a team like that.”

If NC State's loss came as a surprise, and Syracuse's thumping was a disappointment, what happened to Maryland was potentially devastating.

The Terrapins opened the season 4-0 for the first time since 2001, and they came to Tallahassee ranked No. 25 in the nation. They left on the wrong side of a 63-0 defeat -- the worst in history for a team ranked in the top 25.

Coach Randy Edsall took the bulk of the blame in the aftermath, but he said his team would be resolved to improve moving forward.

“We weren’t very good, and Florida State’s a very good team," Edsall said. "I know the guys in the locker room. I know who they are, and I know the resolve that we have, and we will be back, and we will look at this and get better.”

But rebounding from a tough loss isn't always easy. The expectations a team worked so hard to build quickly disappear, and the risk in the aftermath is that players lose interest in the details.

Underwood knows how it works. NC State has endured its share of highs and lows during his time in Raleigh, so he knows what to watch for on the practice field after a tough loss.

"Focus and mental toughness," Underwood said. "I just want to see my guys be more focused and mentally tough to get their minds right for Saturday and be ready to go."

NC State hosts Syracuse on Saturday, ensuring one team's season will be rejuvenated, while the other will take another step in the wrong direction.

Maryland has a chance to put its blowout loss in the past when it hosts struggling Virginia.

That's the best cure for what ails a team after disappointment. Just getting back on the field marks a turning point.

"Those kids are smart enough to understand," Edsall said. "We will look at it and move on. We can’t dwell it. This one is over with. We'll learn from it just like the other ones, and now we move onto the next one.”