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NC State may have buried more than one loss in Death Valley

Brian Utesch/Icon Sportswire

North Carolina State seems to have added to the gravestones at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium, a place that is known as “Death Valley.” The Wolfpack’s loss there two weeks ago appears to be a lost game followed by a lost season.

Sometimes a team never recovers emotionally from a loss. Considering North Carolina State fell 21-14 to Boston College on Saturday upon returning home to Carter-Finley Stadium, it appears to be more and more the case with the Wolfpack.

N.C. State had Clemson beaten on the Tigers’ field. All the Wolfpack needed was a 33-yard field goal as time expired for a 20-17 victory to add to a win over Notre Dame. That would have provided back-to-back signature victories for head coach Dave Doeren’s program.

Instead, the kick drafted wide right. Clemson survived in overtime with a 24-17 win.

One week later N.C. State traveled to Louisville and was embarrassed by the Cardinals 54-13. It was the same Louisville team that lost at Clemson 42-36 in the final seconds, but it wasn’t the same N.C. State club.

The Wolfpack didn’t bounce back this week, either. Adding to the sting, Boston College (4-4, 1-4 ACC Atlantic) won an ACC game for the first time since 2014.

There will be no breakout season for Doeren in his fourth year in Raleigh.

“Obviously, I’m very disappointed that we didn’t find a way to win that football game, and I take responsibility any time we don’t,” Doeren told the media after the game.

“There were plays that we could have made and didn’t. There were calls that we could have done better and didn’t, and it always comes back to me.

“I know this, I’m not going to walk in there and point fingers at anybody; we’re going to go back to work. We’ve got four games left. We’ve got Florida State here next week and we’ve got to play a lot better, a lot better.”

N.C. State (4-4, 1-3 ACC Atlantic) will be underdogs in at least two of its remaining games — they are against Top-25 teams. After next week’s home game against Florida State, the regular-season finale is Nov. 25 at North Carolina.

The other two contests are at Syracuse (4-4, 2-2 ACC Atlantic) and at home against Miami (4-4, 1-3 ACC Coastal). Those two clashes will answer the question if N.C. State can recover emotionally from the Clemson loss.

Doeren is a smart enough coach to recognize he can’t blame the players for a lack of effort. That will only make his players crawl deeper into the hole they dug.

His postgame comments — accepting the blame without prompting — were needed from him.
Adding to the sting of the loss was that Boston College hadn’t won a conference game since 2014. That said, it is not fair to dismiss the Eagles as a pushover. They suffered narrow conference losses last year.

This season Boston College wasn’t competitive against Clemson (56-10) and Virginia Tech (49-0), but the Eagles only lost to Georgia Tech 17-14 and Syracuse 28-22. Such results still have Boston College in the bottom half of the ACC Atlantic, but the Eagles are no worse off than the Wolfpack.

“I’m proud of our football program,” B.C. Coach Steve Adazzio told the media. “I’m proud of our football players and team. They played with unbelievable resolve and took a step forward today in learning how to bring the best out of each other.”

N.C. State’s players brought out the best in each other two weeks ago, but they left that loss behind buried in Death Valley.

Follow Tom Shanahan of Today’s U on Twitter @shanny4055.

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