It’s natural, and understandable, to scan N.C. State’s schedule and look past Presbyterian to Florida State.
That’s what Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren is trying to avoid. N.C. State (3-0) has one more nonconference game this season, Saturday against the Blue Hose (6 p.m., ESPN3.com), before ACC play begins with the 2013 national champions and No. 1 team in the country on Sept. 27.
But the preparation and anticipation for Florida State will have to wait.
“This is not a week where you look forward, it’s a week where you look inside,” Doeren said Monday.
“You can’t get ready to play the conference schedule we have and ever think that any week isn’t the biggest week on the schedule.”
Presbyterian, a tiny college in Clinton, S.C., is best known around the Triangle for the basketball fan who got ejected from the Smith Center during a 2009 game with North Carolina. The Blue Hose compete in the Big South in the Football Championship Subdivision and upset in-state foe Furman 10-7 Saturday.
Because Georgia Southern and Old Dominion have transitioned to the Football Bowl Subdivision, a win against Presbyterian would count toward N.C. State’s bowl eligibility. So there’s meaning to the game.
Will the Blue Hose put a scare into N.C. State? Probably not. Presbyterian opened with a 55-3 loss at Northern Illinois, but Doeren is not interested in taking any chances, even after the Wolfpack put up its most complete performance of the coach’s short tenure in a 49-17 win Saturday at South Florida.
There’s still much work to be done, Doeren said, to catch up with the rest of the ACC. N.C. State went 0-8 against the league last year.
“We’re trying to close gaps and trying to chase people that beat us last year and get into position to beat them and be a relevant team,” Doeren said.
It has helped that the Wolfpack has stayed healthy on offense, especially on the line. The same five linemen have started the first three games. Last season, right tackle Tyson Chandler missed the first game and then left tackle Rob Crisp missed the final 10.
The line, a weakness for the better part of 10 years, has shown tremendous improvement through three games. N.C. State has averaged 5.7 yards per rushing attempt, up from 3.8 last season. Saturday, the Wolfpack ran for 315 yards, the program’s best output in 10 years.
“Last year, in Game 3, Joe Thuney played three different positions by now, we had our third different tackle playing and we were on our second quarterback,” Doeren said. “It’s just different.”
The line, which features four regulars from last year’s team – Chandler, Thuney, Alex Barr and Quinton Schooley – has allowed quarterback Jacoby Brissett to be sacked only three times. Last year’s team gave up 35 sacks in 12 games.
And, in turn, Brissett’s passing ability has helped his line look good. He has completed 69 of 98 passes (70.4 percent) with seven touchdowns and just one interception.
“I do think that being able to throw the football does help our offensive line, it takes some of the pressure off of them,” Doeren said. “You can’t just line up and blitz.”