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O'cain to Clemson Fans: Get in the '90s

Posted October 29, 1998

— North Carolina State coach Mike O'Cain has some advice for Clemson fans: forget the past because it may not happen again.

``Obviously, they had a lot of success in the early '80s, and to some degree they are still living in that era,'' said O'Cain, who quarterbacked the Tigers from 1973-76. ``College football has changed in that time.''

You want to talk change in the Atlantic Coast Conference? North Carolina State beat Florida State earlier this year, while Clemson lost to Wake Forest. The Wolfpack (4-3, 2-2) is fighting for a bowl bid, while the Tigers (2-6, 1-5) just want some respect.

O'Cain leads his team into Death Valley on Saturday. Clemson's Tommy West has felt pressure the past few weeks as the Tigers' season has dissolved into mush. Fans are jamming radio phone lines yelling for change.

But O'Cain, whose career hung by a strand following consecutive 3-8 seasons in 1995-96, said Clemson, like other schools, has been hard hit by scholarship limits, stronger academic standards and the Seminoles' ACC entrance.

``I think everybody expects it to be the same'' at Clemson, O'Cain said. ``But some people haven't come to the realization that there aren't that many teams that come in 10-1, 9-2 every year.''

Not everyone agrees with O'Cain's history lesson, including West and former Clemson coach Danny Ford. Ford, who led the Tigers to a national title and five ACC crowns during Clemson's glory years, thinks good players and well-executed plans will win games no matter the era.

``They still line up the same,'' Ford said. ``It's not clicking right now, but there's no reason why it can't.''

Ford led Arkansas to the SEC title game in 1995, but left last year after consecutive 4-7 seasons. This year, however, with players Ford recruited and developed, the Razorbacks are 6-0 in one of the season's most surprising stories.

West says he has some talented Tigers and has seen them blossom the past few games. Quarterback Brandon Streeter is throwing with more confidence, freshman Travis Zachery has gained 222 of his season's 441 yards the past three games and freshmen Kyle Young, Akil Smith and Neely Page could start on the offensive line.

``We haven't lived up to the expectations people had of us, which weren't very high to begin with,'' Young said. ``But we're not giving up.''

O'Cain has seen his team grow into bowl contention this season. Receiver Torry Holt leads the ACC with 133 yards per game and is second with 46 catches. Quarterback Jamie Barnette has thrown for 1,942 yards and 10 touchdowns, while the offense has gained more than 436 yards a game.

On defense, however, the Wolfpack is next-to-last in the league with 26 points and more than 200 yards rushing allowed per game.

O'Cain went 6-5 a year ago and got a contract extension. He thinks he was pretty much the same coach in 1997 as the one that went 6-16 the two previous years.

And he's pretty sure that West is the same coach who went to three straight bowl games and beat the Wolfpack the past three years.

``It's very unfortunate that our profession has gotten into such a win-win-win mode,'' O'Cain said. ``But that's all anybody wants to hear about.''

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