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Friday, October 16, 2009
BC looks for turnaround

EAGLES HEAD HOME LOOKING TO REGROUP By Brad Zak This isn't Mike McLaughlin's first time around the block. As a Boston College football player, McLaughlin has suited up for two ACC championship games, three different coaches, and over a dozen meaningful conference contests. Following a lopsided 49-14 loss in Blacksburg to Virginia Tech, the senior captain knows the Eagles are at a critical juncture in their quest to remain ACC Atlantic Division champions.

"This game [against NC State] is the biggest of the season, because of what happened last weekend," he said. "We've put ourselves in the position that with winning an Atlantic Conference game like this, it doesn't really get any bigger as far as standings go."

On Sunday night after returning to Chestnut Hill, McLaughlin organized a team meeting to help keep the Eagles focused. As a second-year captain, McLaughlin has seen the value such a meeting can hold for a team on the brink. After two midseason losses last year to conference foes North Carolina and Clemson, the team held a meeting to prepare for an important stretch run. The Eagles went on to win four straight games and the division crown.

"Mike McLaughlin really does a great job of getting us motivated after [a loss] like that," said senior defensive end Alex Albright. "[Mike] feels a lot of responsibility any time we lose, being that he is the captain. I felt people responded very well to this meeting. & A lot of people felt really inspired."

Having early-season road games against Clemson and Virginia Tech hasn't helped an Eagles team that depends heavily on freshmen and sophomores. However, after the loss to Clemson, BC ripped off two consecutive wins over conference foes Wake Forest and Florida State.

As stagnant as the offense has been on the road, averaging only 108.5 yards per game and not yet scoring in the first three quarters, it seems to find its stride in Chestnut Hill. At home, the Eagles are scoring an average 35 points and gaining almost 400 yards per game.

Despite their Jekyll and Hyde nature, the Eagles have a good shot at earning another ACC title. The winner of this week's Clemson-Wake Forest showdown only has to lose one more game for BC to control its own destiny. It also helps the Eagles' remaining conference away games are against Virginia and Maryland; much less daunting than visiting Death Valley and Lane Stadium.

Next up is a game against old coach Tom O'Brien's North Carolina State Wolfpack. Many people around Chestnut Hill still hold hard feelings toward O'Brien after his abrupt departure to a divisional opponent in 2006. Regarding O'Brien's return, McLaughlin said, "It's more in the shadows now. You hear it lingering around. The first time we played them it was a pretty big deal. Now you're not putting a name on it, you're not saying O'Brien and the Wolfpack. This is just more of a must-win."

O'Brien hasn't fared well against his old school, losing in his first two contests against the Eagles. His defense is still trying to find its identity after getting torched for 459 yards through the air last week against Duke.

Saturday will be a big test for this young Eagles squad. It will reveal a lot about the players' ability to shake off a loss and rally around the enthusiasm generated from their team meeting.

"I've been around a long time. We always say the right things, all the clichés, but no one knows what will happen until Saturday," said safety Wes Davis. "It's more about the result on Saturday, and that's more important."