N.C. State learned more in a loss to Florida State than in any of its eight wins last year.
The Wolfpack (6-3, 2-3 ACC) gets another crack at the Seminoles on Saturday on the road. It’s almost more of a “thank you” game than a “payback” game.
Last September, N.C. State led the No. 1-ranked team in the country 24-7 after the first quarter, and 38-28 in third quarter. But the Seminoles, led by quarterback Jameis Winston, scored 28 of the game’s last 31 points and pulled away for a 56-41 win.
Even before the 19th-ranked Seminoles (7-2, 5-2) arrived on the schedule this week, N.C. State’s players and coach Dave Doeren have spent a good deal of time talking about last year’s FSU’s loss and what the team learned.
“Just because you do well in the first or second quarter, doesn’t mean you’re going to win the game,” sophomore linebacker Airius Moore said.
There was too much of what Doeren has called “scoreboard watching,” in the second half. FSU was on a mission for an ACC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff, while N.C. State got caught up in the moment.
N.C. State’s defense, in particular, couldn’t match its intensity from the first half after Florida State regained control of the game in the third quarter.
“If we could take the first half defense for the entire game, there’s no telling how that game ends,” senior defensive end Mike Rose said.
Winston, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, ended up with 365 passing yards for four touchdowns and two interceptions.
Winston got the win, but N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett went toe-to-toe with 2013 Heisman Trophy winner with 359 passing yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Brissett had the play of the year in the ACC in the first quarter on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Johnathan Alston, when he dodged three FSU defenders and scrambled all the way over to the FSU sideline before finding Alston in the end zone.
Brissett, who grew up in Florida and started his career at the University of Florida, is not much on grudges or nostalgia.
“We can’t go in there thinking it’s going to be like last year,” Brissett said.
Doeren reiterated the value in playing all four quarters to his team throughout the offseason and has repeated the mantra of “finish” and “four quarters” since the season started.
Given how N.C. State was able to compete with Florida State – the Wolfpack had a season-best 520 yards of total offense – there is some confidence to be take from last year’s game.
“We’ve got to take another step now and see if we can go down there and do better than we did a year ago,” Doeren said.
The third-year coach also pointed out the opportunity for this year’s team to end a 10-year drought at Doak Campbell Stadium and the chance to match the 1957 N.C. State team for the most road wins (5) in a season. That ACC championship team won 7-0 at Florida State.
“That’s what this is all about; it’s about how can you create history? How can you create a legacy?” Doeren said.
Doeren was proud that this senior class had already helped end long losing streaks at Wake Forest, where N.C. State hadn’t won since 2001, and at Boston College, where N.C. State was 0-5 in ACC games.
In all, the Wolfpack is 4-1 on the road this season.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio