The details are still a little fuzzy, like a boxer trying to recall getting knocked out, but N.C. State’s defense remembers the gist of what happened against Florida State last year.
“It got ugly really quick,” N.C. State junior defensive end Mike Rose said.
The Seminoles’ 49-17 win in Tallahassee, Fla., last October was the kind of nightmare you don’t soon forget, senior defensive tackle Thomas Teal said.
FSU scored four touchdowns before N.C. State’s offense got a first down. The Seminoles led 35-0 at the end of the first quarter and coach Jimbo Fisher pulled almost all of his starters by the start of the third quarter.
“It was one mental mistake after another – missed assignments, blown coverages, not reading the right keys – just a bad effort from everybody overall,” Teal said.
The Wolfpack, 4-0 this season, is out to avoid a repeat of last year’s misery. N.C. State coach Dave Doeren believes his team, in the second year of his system and in better shape on offense with junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett, will be better prepared for the Seminoles (3-0), who enter No. 1 in the country and on a 19-game winning streak.
“We’re a different team than we were last year, that’s very evident when you watch that film,” Doeren said.
“I just feel better being here for year 2 and seeing the growth of our team and knowing that we have a quarterback that we can trust in situations to have a chance to compete in a game like this.”
Brissett has been good for the Wolfpack in his first four games since transferring from Florida. The junior has completed 83 of 119 attempts for 1,005 yards. He has 10 touchdowns and one interception.
Brissett’s passing ability, and an improved offensive line, has opened up N.C. State’s running game. The Wolfpack is averaging 248.7 rushing yards per game and has topped the 200-yard mark in each of the past three games.
While N.C. State’s offense has gotten better, Florida State’s defense has gotten younger. Doeren said FSU’s defense a year ago, which featured three All-Americans and four NFL draft picks, was special.
“Last year, I just think that their defense was so good,” Doeren said. “I’m not saying it’s not this year, but it was different than most college football defenses a year ago. There was across-the-board, first-round draft picks on every spot.”
“Now they’re just younger in some of those positions and don’t have the experience.”
It didn’t take long for the Seminoles to assert their talent advantage in last year’s game.
Running back Karlos Williams capped the Seminoles’ first drive with an 18-yard touchdown run, 1 minute and 58 seconds into the game.
N.C. State quarterback Brandon Mitchell threw an interception on the Wolfpack’s second play and FSU quarterback Jameis Winston responded with a 39-yard touchdown pass to receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
FSU’s offense ran 19 plays in the first quarter, 13 went for 10 yards or longer and five were touchdowns.
“I felt like we got into a situation where we were panicking a little bit,” Rose said.
Winston completed 11 of 14 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter alone.
“We knew they were good, but it’s not about how good they were, it was about how bad we were on that day,” Teal said.
Rose said it’s good to remember last year’s game and be motivated by it. He also said he remembers the Wolfpack’s 17-16 upset of then-No. 3 FSU in Raleigh in 2012.
“It was great,” said Rose, whose blocked punt helped spark a fourth-quarter comeback in 2012. “It’s good to beat any team, you want to be all the teams on the schedule, but it’s great to beat a team that people don’t think you can beat.”