On Saturday, the Wolfpack football team lost to Maryland. It was the team's sixth loss on the year, the fourth in a row. With the score tied at 24, the Terrapins marched the length of the field in the final minutes to kick a game-winning field goal, the third time in as many weeks the Pack let a game get away in the final moments.
So, as a State fan, you should be pissed right now about the state of the football team. Right?
I don't think so. Here are three reasons why.
- The Pack fought tough as significant underdogs: State entered the game 10.5-point underdogs, according to the degenerates in Vegas. While betting lines are more a function of betting patterns than legitimate predictive analysis, they do offer an idea on the public sentiment of how a game will play out and, as we've all seen plenty of times, betting lines can be eerily accurate (how many times have you seen a pick-six in the final minute help the favored team cover by one point?). In a game a lot of folks (including a large number of State fans) expected to go Maryland's way in a huge fashion, it was tied at the half and right up to the end. Not bad on a drenched day on the road.
- The continued growth of Russell Wilson as a quarterback: Quite simply, folks, this is the first legitimate quarterback to suit up in Red and White since Philip Rivers. Going for 3-for-3 passing and rushing for 13 more yards, Wilson led the team on an opening drive that consumed 7:48 and set a tone for the rest of the game. He'd finish the game 18-of-28 for 187 yards and two rain-soaked scores. After years of watching quarterback futility over the last five years, it's nice to see finally a quarterback who looks in command of the offense.
- The improvement of the offensive line is keeping pace with Wilson's growth: Just as Russell Wilson continued his maturation process with a solid game in College Park, the offensive line that looked so horrible to start the season is now giving Wilson plenty of time to operate. Case in point: on one play in the fourth quarter, Wilson took the snap and stood in the pocket 11 seconds before taking off for a 20-yard rush. Now, if that doesn't seem that impressive, take a moment to count off One Mississippi, Two Mississippi, etc., all the way to 11. In football time, that's an ETERNITY. The line continued to block that entire time, chipping rushers here, stoning rushers there. After Wilson went through his entire read progression about four times, I guess he just got bored and decided to take off.
But the Maryland game highlighted positives for the Pack, particularly on offense, when kept in the larger frame of the rebuilding project that continues on in year two.
For me, it's not so much about wins and losses at this point; it's about development, teaching and depth-building. If we're in this boat in year five after all the teaching, development and depth has been (hopefully) built, then we've got serious problems, but put away the pitchforks for now and keep your chin up. The close losses now should translate into close wins soon enough.