Jacoby Brissett, in theory, knows exactly what he’s getting into.
As a freshman at Florida, he threw 13 passes in a loss to Florida State, including a touchdown. That’s the theory. The reality is there’s no way to prepare for the Seminoles, especially not against the kind of competition N.C. State has faced so far.
Now four games into the second act of his career at N.C. State, Brissett has been rounding into game shape after playing only sparingly, if at all, over the previous three seasons. No one really knows whether four games are enough to get fully into the groove, but Brissett and the Wolfpack will find out Saturday. Quickly.
“It’s never enough practice time, playing time,” Brissett said. “It’s just another opportunity to get better.”
After four wins over what could charitably be termed lesser opponents, N.C. State will jump into the deep end of the pool. No. 1 Florida State will come to Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday, and the play of Brissett at quarterback will be critical if the Wolfpack wants to pull off yet another home-field upset of the Seminoles.
Brissett has shown steady improvement after a shaky opening half in an N.C. State uniform, getting better with every game. A redshirt junior, he leads the ACC in total offense (280.8 yards per game), completion percentage (69.7 percent), passer rating (166.7) and passing touchdowns (10), ranks third in passing yards, completion and yards per completion.
After a first-half interception in the opener against Georgia Southern, Brissett has thrown 108 passes without an interception and also has run for 118 yards and a touchdown.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said Monday he thinks Brissett is in “great game shape,” noting that the Wolfpack’s four wins have come under varying circumstances – from behind over Georgia Southern and Old Dominion, with Brissett leading both fourth-quarter comebacks, and more authoritatively over South Florida and Presbyterian.
“He’s had both situations,” Doeren said. “He’s had to throw the ball and get us back in the game. Even last week, we didn’t have a good rhythm in the first quarter. We got into empty and threw a bunch of quick passes, and he got into a rhythm and all of a sudden things took off for us again.
“He’s been able to be a catalyst for us, but he’s also been able to be a game manager.”
Still, there’s no getting past the quality of opposition so far compared to Florida State. The Wolfpack is going from some of the worst to one of the best, and as beneficial as the playing time has been for Brissett, the degree of difficulty hasn’t pushed him the way an ACC opponent would, let alone the Seminoles.
Brissett has faced only a handful of defensive players who would even earn a scholarship from Florida State, let alone see any playing time. It will be a completely different kind of challenge, about as stiff a challenge as there is in college football – certainly within the ACC, only going to Tallahassee would be any tougher.
“They’re fast, they’re strong, they’re everything you’d want in a defense,” Brissett said. “We just have to come out and play a little faster, a little stronger and just execute our plan and everything will play itself out.”
That’s why Brissett transferred to N.C. State and why Doeren so badly wanted him at Wisconsin and N.C. State: To play, to lead, to be the quarterback in moments like this.
Brissett’s Wolfpack moment has arrived. Not even he knows whether he’s truly ready for it, but he’ll find out quickly Saturday.