Dave Doeren is fully aware of what Georgia Southern’s football team did in its last game against a major Division I-A opponent.
But the N.C. State coach knows where he wants his team to be focused for the season-opener on Saturday afternoon.
“There’s a big focus just on us,” Doeren said Monday. “In Week 1, a lot more teams beat themselves. That’s what we can’t do. We want to beat Georgia Southern, not beat ourselves.”
The Eagles, in their last season at the Division I-AA level, went to Florida last November and stunned the Gators with a 26-20 upset. Coach Jeff Monken, a former Paul Johnson assistant, was subsequently hired by Army but quarterback Kevin Ellison, who ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns against Florida, is back.
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New coach Willie Fritz, who ran a successful I-AA program at Sam Houston State, probably won’t run the same triple option as Monken, but Doeren has prepared the Wolfpack for anything.
“All opening games, there’s a lot of ghost chasing,” Doeren said. “You have to cover all your bases in Week 1, regardless of who you are playing.”
Doeren knows one thing for sure about the Eagles, who moved to Division I-A and will compete in the Sun Belt Conference this season.
“We know going on the road for them is not going to be something that startles their football team,” Doeren said.
For N.C. State, there is enough internally to worry about going into the opener. The Wolfpack ended the 2013 season with eight straight losses. Since the last game, a 41-21 loss to Maryland, Doeren has brought in 31 true freshmen and will start three of them – guard Tony Adams, receiver Bo Hines and defensive tackle B.J. Hill – and two more redshirt freshmen. There were 14 first- or second-year players on the depth chart released on Monday.
“We’ve got a lot of young players, everybody knows that, “ Doeren said.
There are enough holdovers from last season to remember the disappointment of a 3-9 season. The Wolfpack hasn’t won since a 48-14 rout of Central Michigan on Sept. 28. The way the season ended, served as motivation this offseason, senior defensive tackle T.Y. McGill said.
“It left a nasty taste in our mouths,” McGill said. “We just put that in the back of our minds through the offseason and we just grinded like we never grinded before here.”
New quarterback Jacoby Brissett transferred from Florida before the 2013 season but said he only talked with one former teammate about Georgia Southern. The Eagles caught the Gators, who finished 4-8 last season, between a tough home loss to South Carolina and the annual date with Florida State.
Georgia Southern has the Wolfpack’s full attention. The Pack is ready to start the season the right way, Brissett said.
“It’s just time to go,” Brissett said.