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With Atlantic hopes dashed, Wolfpack must readjust goals

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If N.C. State’s loss to Clemson meant the Wolfpack no longer had control of its destiny in regards to an appearance in the ACC Championship Game, then the defeat Saturday to Syracuse effectively ended any chance for an Atlantic Division title. 

N.C. State still has other things to play for. 

With only one 10-win season in program history, along with no appearances in a major bowl ever, there is a lot left on the table and the Wolfpack should be quite motivated in the coming weeks. N.C. State was ranked No. 21 in the first release of the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night.

It begins with a homecoming matchup Saturday against a struggling Florida State team that is 4-4 under first-year coach Willie Taggart. The Seminoles were thrashed by Clemson, 59-10, Saturday in what was the program’s worst home loss in its history. 

The Wolfpack knocked off Florida State last season in Tallahassee. N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren arrived in Raleigh six seasons ago to lead the Pack after guiding Northern Illinois to a berth in the 2013 Orange Bowl, where he would have faced the Seminoles. 

When he was hired, Doeren was tasked with the job of building N.C. State’s program to the level of those that the Wolfpack looked up to in the standings on an annual basis, and Florida State was in that group. 

Despite its current plight, Doeren still sees Florida State as a top-tier program capable of winning on any given Saturday. He is also grateful to be back at Carter-Finley Stadium. 

“I’m excited for our homecoming week here at N.C. State,” Doeren said . [It is a] 3:30 [kickoff], and a sold-out crowd. I look forward to having a great crowd of our fans and students’ section. It’s good to be back home after the road game. 

“Florida State is a very, very athletic offense. When you look at their skill players, it’s what you would expect to see. It’s without a doubt the best pass rushing defensive line in the league right now. They rotate quite a few guys in the middle and are athletic.  They play a lot of man and quarters coverage, but they are disruptive up front. They forced 11 turnovers and have 25 sacks.” 

 Germaine Pratt was perhaps the lone player to shine on N.C. State’s defense against the Orange. He had 16 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the loss Saturday en route to be named the ACC’s Player of the Week at the linebacker position. . 

 To return to winning ways, Pratt feels the Wolfpack defense needs to collectively improve. 

“The whole defense has got to look at themselves and get better,” Pratt said after the Wolfpack watched helplessly while Syracuse scored 51 points..”We got to look at ourselves in the mirror and compete when we have the opportunity to. You know what I mean? It’s a game that we love, all love, but we just got to keep going and get better as a unit. Just come back stronger and ready to compete against Florida State.”

Doeren expects his team to keep it moving this week with the Seminoles coming to Raleigh. 

 N.C. State has to readjust its goals to some extent, but the opportunity to be elite is still present for the Wolfpack. It requires not dwelling on the past — a problem some past teams had — along with shoring up its mistakes against two solid teams in the past couple of weeks. 

“We have just got to look at what’s most successful and how we can again help our guys to be in the best places they can be athletically to make plays,” Doeren said. At the end of the year you can look back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished or disappointed in. You don’t want regret as a football player. I think they understand they’ve played some good football teams, but we expect to win every game.” 

Louis’ college career potentially over

Redshirt senior Stephen Louis is out for the remainder of the season following surgery to repair a high ankle sprain he suffered at Clemson on Oct. 20. 

 “Steph, unfortunately, will be out for the season and is going to have a small surgery to repair a high-ankle sprain and we expect a full recovery for him,” Doeren announced Monday. “He’ll remain with our team as a captain and a leader and I know he will do everything in his power to return to full strength and expect him to.”

 “Whether we get a sixth year for him or not, I have no idea.  We just found out today that he was having surgery so we’ll just have to see where that goes. He may not want that, may be ready to move on. We haven’t had that discussion. We’ve called compliance about that. I don’t know if it’s real or not and we won’t for awhile. What I told him was let’s get you healthy.”

Pack looks forward to regular season

 N.C. State took care of Chowan, 111-62, in an exhibition tuneup Monday at PNC Arena.. 

 With its season opener against Mount St. Mary’s on Nov. 6, the Wolfpack was able to use a variety of lineups against the Hawks. 

 Kevin Keatts, entering his second season at N.C. State, was happy with one position group in particular. 

 “One of the positions I thought we’d struggle at, I thought guys played well...at the center position,” Keatts said “D.J. Funderburk went 7 for 7, and we might play Wyatt Walker a little bit at point guard.  He showed flashes of how he can pass the ball.”

 Five players scored in double figures for N.C. State in the win. Devon Daniels paced the Pack with 22 points, while Funderburk added 20 in the rout. 

 Keatts also was thrilled with other aspects of his team’s performance. 

 “I’m excited about where we’re at.  We have a lot of work, not a lot of work, but we have some work to do before we play next Tuesday,” Keatts said. “I wanted to play a lot of combinations and see how guys played together. We started the game small, and at some point we had a traditional four and a traditional five.

 “I thought we flew around tonight. We were in passing lanes, got some loose balls, got on the floor.  That’s a sign of a good team getting better. We took a few charges. I was excited about the way we played on the defensive end.”

Rob McLamb of Inside Pack Sports has covered N.C. State athletics and recruiting since 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @RobMcLamb.

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