Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pack's Smith eager to atone for drop

After most of his teammates had left practice Wednesday, wide receiver Jay Smith still was on the field, catching extra balls.

Six days earlier, Smith had dropped a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone that would have given N.C. State the lead in the closing minutes of its season-opening, 7-3 loss to South Carolina.

"I'm trying not to let what happened Thursday night happen again," Smith said. "No excuses. Even though anything could be said - people say, 'Tough catch,' people say, 'Gotta make the catch.' Or whatever. I should have made the catch. There's no use being hard on yourself. Just go out there, get it fixed, put extra work in and get better every day."

Smith said all his teammates are eager to get to play again Saturday against Murray State to help purge the bad memories of losing to the Gamecocks. But it's likely that no one is more eager than Smith.

He said Bobby Blick, the graduate assistant who helps offensive coordinator Dana Bible coach wide receivers, has told him not to worry about what people outside the program are saying.

Teammates such as Owen Spencer, a wide receiver who had problems dropping passes last year, have helped Smith come to grips with his mistake.

Smith, a sophomore reserve who caught seven passes for 78 yards last season, is getting over the mistake by owning it. Two defensive backs swiped at the pass in front of him before it reached his hands, but he's not using that as an excuse.

"A lot of things could be said," he said. "Light in my eye, or didn't see the ball coming because of the defender swatting at the ball. But it still comes down to the same drill we do every day in practice, (where) the guy flashes his hands in front of you and you've got to make the catch, even though he flashes his hands in front of your face."

As his post-practice interview concluded, Smith was asked if he had anything else he wanted to say. Most times players say they don't, especially when they're asked probing questions by reporters about their mistakes.

But Smith wasn't finished talking.

"I just want to apologize to my teammates for letting them down," he said. "And I feel like every day I come out here in practice is a day where I have to work to get better and prove to them that I can make that play I missed Thursday night."

With all the extra work Smith is putting in, he'll probably make the catch the next time. But it's likely that no catch will ever force him to show as much character as last week's big drop.

Ken Tysiac