There was little talk of Wake Forest among the N.C. State players on Saturday, which was understandable.
Put up 47 points on Florida State, win on homecoming at Carter-Finley Stadium, end a two-game ACC losing streak, and there’s nothing wrong with living in the moment and soaking it all in. To be sure,
Florida State has a Rome-in-ruins look to it in Willie Taggart’s first year as coach. He called his players quitters after a 49-point loss to Clemson, then talked about how much he loves his team Saturday after a 47-28 loss to the Wolfpack. It has been that kind of season for the Seminoles.
But beating FSU still has a certain sheen to it. And a look at N.C. State’s remaining schedule -- Wake Forest (4-5, 1-4 ACC) on Thursday, then Louisville (2-7, 0-6 ACC), North Carolina ( 1-7 , 1-5 ACC) and East Carolina (2-6, 0-5 AAC) -- has many Pack fans talking a 10-2 finish and a nice bowl trip.
“After we had a rough two weeks maybe people lost faith but we never lost faith,” Pack defensive tackle Larrell Murchison said. “We know what we can do, within ourselves and within our team.”
While the Wolfpack defense took some pops after giving up 41 points to Clemson, then 51 to Syracuse in a second loss, Murchison said the D-line paid it little attention.
“We’re on a social media ban,” he said. “We don’t need to poison our minds with that.”
The Pack (6-2, 3-2 ACC) won Saturday despite having two defensive tackles, Eurndraus Bryant and Shug Frazier, out with injuries. FSU was missing quarterback Deondre Francois, but James Blackman has a live arm and Tamorrion Terry is a receiver with big time speed.
The Seminoles hurt the Pack with some explosive plays as Terry caught five balls for 142 yards and two scores and D.J Matthews had 10 catches for 133. But the Wolfpack defense had five sacks, 10 tackles for losses and came up with two turnovers, a fumble recovery and interception.
The defensive pick in the second quarter had the Pack players wildly celebrating. It came from Murchison, who dropped back into coverage, the 6-foot-3, 290-pound junior showing off his vertical jump and good hands befitting a former high school running back.
“Nobody knows that around here so I’ve just got to show them,” Murchison joked. “I’ve never before in my life had an interception. It was a blessing. Just doing my job.”
The Pack turned the pickoff into points and a 27-7 lead, converting a fourth-down play on a Ryan Finley pass to Thayer Thomas and later Ricky Person scoring.
“It was awesome, a phenomenal play,” Pack coach Dave Doeren said of Murchison’s pick.
Not that Doeren liked all that he saw of his pass defense. The cornerbacks, he said, gave up too many big plays.
“Does it need to get better? Absolutely,” Doeren said. “If we limit the big plays we’re going to score enough points to win a lot of football games.”
Wake Forest will come in Thursday off a 41-24 loss to Syracuse, with a defense that has been battered during the season. It also was announced Sunday that quarterback Sam Hartman has a broken foot and will be out the remainder of the season, another blow for the Deacons.
A year ago, Wake Forest outscored the Pack 30-24 when N.C. State was ranked 19th. Finley was 34-of-52 passing for 327 yards and the Pack had 502 yards in total offense, converting on third down 14 of 23 times and holding the ball more than 41 minutes, but it wasn’t enough..
The Pack will hold Senior Night on Thursday and will have former defensive star Bradley Chubb back at Carter-Finley to honor his jersey number during the Denver Broncos’ bye week.
“The way we look at this game, we need to go be us,” Doeren said Monday. “We need to play the way we did Saturday. We played fast, we were aggressive, our guys didn’t beat themselves, we didn’t have a lot of penalties. We just played good, fundamental, tough football.”