N.C. State ready to bounce back

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 9, 2003

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Tears were shed in the locker room following a weekend upset, but North Carolina State was brash and confident again Monday talking about its showdown with No. 3 Ohio State.

''We're going to go out and put our hands on guys and be physical,'' said defensive back Greg Golden. ''We don't back down from anybody at N.C. State. That's the attitude coach (Chuck) Amato wants us to have.''

After season-ending wins over Florida State and Notre Dame capped a school-record 11-win season in 2002, Wolfpack fans circled the team's third game of the year at Ohio State.

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It was being billed as a statement game for a program trying to move into the big time.

However, the Wolfpack tripped up against the Demon Deacons last Saturday, losing 38-24 and disappointing many supporters who believed quarterback Philip Rivers could lead the team into national title contention.

That dream may be gone now, but a win over the defending national champs in Columbus, Ohio, would give No. 24 N.C. State (1-1) a major boost in the polls.

''Everyone is kind of brushing us off now because we had the terrible loss to Wake,'' wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. ''A win would put the Wolfpack back in people's minds.

''Nowadays everybody is loving the role of the underdog so we're accepting that role this week. Being a captain on this team I've got to convince some of the young players to have a mindset that we can do this. We're going to match their intensity and do whatever it takes to win this game.''

Amato plans few changes for the game against the Buckeyes (2-0), saying his young defense is getting better with each practice.

''We have been practicing 15 days in the spring and 29 practices before the first game, now in one week we're going to make a lot of changes?'' Amato said. ''If you were a kid you would say, 'What's going on here?'

''Our team is confident. They are not going to stop being confident.''

The Wolfpack started 9-0 last season before a three-game losing skid in the ACC. However, the team rebounded with the two key season-ending wins over the Seminoles and Fighting Irish.

Golden said this year's team can draw on last year's losses.

''Hey, we've lost before and now this is our chance to prove we can come back,'' Golden said. ''We took three hard losses in a row last year and we came back pretty good. You have to look at losses like they are wins sometimes. Everything happens for a reason.''

''One game does not make a season,'' Amato added.

Amato was in good spirits Monday, laughing when asked if his team would be intimidated by Ohio State and its crowd.

''Gee, I hope they get off the plane,'' he said of his players. ''If they get off the plane we've got a chance. I hope I don't have to prod them off.''

Amato also put a gag order on questions about the Wake Forest game halfway through his news conference. When the request was broken on the very next question Amato said, ''Am I speaking Italian up here?''