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North Carolina State understands that technically the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic Division is still up for grabs. The Wolfpack is also pragmatic.
Clemson controls its destiny by virtue of a 38-31 win Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium that pushed the Wolfpack out of The Associated Press Top 25. The No. 4 Tigers, also fourth in the College Football Playoff rankings, also have two games in hand on N.C. State as they have only one game remaining in conference play while the Wolfpack still has three, including a tough road contest at Boston College.
The message this week for N.C. State after two brutal losses is to worry about what it can handle and not concern itself with the hypotheticals of others.
The adjusting of goals based on the current situation has begun. N.C. State has only one double-digit-win season in program history. The Wolfpack have never finished 7-1 in league play.
Both of those eventualities remain out there for the team, but it all starts with the game Saturday against Boston College.
“Our team was great,” N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren said of the Wolfpack players attitude a day after the Clemson loss. “I think they understood the value of the film and the importance of moving forward.
“With this senior class, we have the chance to play for a lot. There’s still a 1-0 mentality with a lot out there. If they can win out they can win 10 games and it’s been done once in program history.
“That’s where our eyes are right now and it starts with this game.”
The Atlantic Division is generally considered one of the toughest divisions in the nation. N.C. State managed to navigate through Florida State, Louisville and Syracuse, which beat Clemson, before falling short against the Tigers.
Yet road games versus Boston College and then Wake Forest still remain before the Wolfpack concludes the regular season at home against North Carolina.
There is no respite in the ACC, particularly in the Atlantic. While tough, that is just the way N.C. State likes it.
“It shows our character,” junior running back Reggie Gallaspy II said of playing a tough conference schedule. “It shows how gritty we are. ... There is still a lot in front of us.”
“I believe we are in one of the best conferences in the NCAA,” Senior Offensive Lineman Tony Adams added. “At least top 3, especially this side — the Atlantic side. Going against teams like Boston College; they did really well against Louisville and Florida State themselves so they one of the hotter teams coming out over the past three weeks.
“Every week we have to come out ready to go, especially with it being this physical this week.”
PACK PUTS ON AN EXHIBITION
N.C. State began the Kevin Keatts era moving fast with players who can handle the ball getting preference in an exhibition win Friday.
The Wolfpack started two guards, Markell Johnson and Lavar Batts, who can distribute and get to the rack. The hounding defense the duo can play also was helpful, as N.C. State forced 26 turnovers in its 109-66 rout of Mars Hill.
There was also 27 points in transition, something Keatts told Wolfpack Nation to expect when he was hired.
All in all, it was a solid evening for N.C. State.
“I thought we did a better job getting back in transition,” Keatts said of the win as compared to their previous scrimmage. “I’m so proud of this group. Everybody played extremely hard for me on both ends of the floor. We go into every game trying to get 40 deflections, and we had 53 tonight.”
Johnson finished with 16 points and 12 assists. The Wolfpack had six players score in double-figures, led by 19 from Torin Dorn Jr.
“I think we’re good but we have to improve everyday, just keep improving,” Johnson said. “We have to improve on guarding the ball.”
N.C. State opens its season Friday night at 7 at home against VMI.
Keatts is excited to begin and liked what he saw in the exhibition game last week in PNC Arena.
“This is a beautiful arena,” Keatts said. “I know when we start playing this place will be packed because we have a fun style. I felt at home. I felt relaxed, and I think my players made it that way for me because they played so hard on both ends of the floor.
“As a coach, we never think we’re ready. I have a week to clean some stuff up, but you’ll know the guys in the locker room will compete and play hard all the time, even if we don’t do everything right. I do think they are playing with great energy.”Rob McLamb has covered NC State Athletics and recruiting for Pack Pride (Scout.com) since 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @RobMcLamb.