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It would be easy for the Wolfpack to revel in Saturday’s win at No. 12 Florida State. There is an inclination to think that it could be a program-defining win.
The key is moving forward.
The Wolfpack have no interest in negating their big victory with an equally befuddling loss. N.C. State has beaten teams like Florida State before only to squander the gains elsewhere.
The focus is now Syracuse and the Orange has the Wolfpack’s attention. The idea that Syracuse, wedged in between FSU and Louisville on N.C. State’s schedule, will be overlooked does not seem likely to the fifth-year head coach.
“People brought that up to me already and I don’t look at it that way,” N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren said. “I’m watching Syracuse on film. They’re a really good football team.
“They lost a home game and their former head coach was the defensive coordinator at Middle Tennessee State. ... Anytime you play a team that can score, that has a quarterback that thinks he’s that good and that is that good, it’s not a trap game at all.”
Doeren does concede that there is some relevance in the Pack’s win.
“I told the staff, everything that you ask them to do now that’s hard, you’re going to be able to point to where it leads,” Doeren said. “Instead of saying you’re going to end up there you can show this is where it ends up, and I just think that’s a huge deal for those players to understand the hard work does pay off, and for all these kids that are seniors and particularly the ones that could have gone to the pros that came back.”
What Doeren especially liked from his team in Tallahassee was its quick start and its desire to close the game late.
“They wouldn’t be denied,” Doeren said. “I think that’s the thing that is cool on the sideline no matter what happened and even there at the end where we on to draw on offense and had a punt blocked and the safety and you kind of feel the momentum going the other direction the defense had a four-and-out and got him the ball back and then we ran the ball on third-and-7 and got the first down.
“We’ve kind of studied ourselves and just one thing we could improve upon after the third game was starting fast and winning the first quarter the way we were winning the second the fourth. We’re kind of 50/50 in the third. So it was an emphasis going into the Furman game, and we just carried it for forward.”
LEGS OVER DEPTH
Amazingly, the team with the most depth wilted down the stretch.
While the long layoff after Hurricane Irma probably had an impact, the Seminoles, despite one of the top defenses in the nation and a perceived superiority in depth, seemed to wilt down the stretch. N..C. State’s running game took off after intermission and a late run by Nyheim Hines, who finished with 94 yards rushing, sealed the contest for the Pack when FSU was desperate for a stop.
N.C. State was especially strong up front as the defensive line had four sacks and the offensive line only allowed one — an intentional grounding call on Jakobi Meyers. The Wolfpack also fared better than FSU rushing the ball in the second half.
“We owed that backfield that game,” redshirt-junior quarterback Ryan Finley said. “Against a good D-line like Florida State that is really, really exciting to see. We played really well.
“(Syracuse) is a new challenge. They have a lot of different looks. They will play some zone blitz. They are playing a little bit more man than they did last year, they are blitzing a little bit more than last year so we are ready.”
Dexter Wright Update
Redshirt junior Dexter Wright, a 2014 Hunt High graduate, missed the last three games after sustaining an injury in the season opener against South Carolina. He was cleared to play against Florida State but was unable to play.
“Dexter is still probably questionable,” Doeren said. “He practiced last Tuesday and (then) Wednesday couldn’t go so we have to see where he’s at. He said (Sunday) when I saw him he felt better than he did a week ago Sunday. It’s muscle tissue. It’s just a matter of how he recovers from it.”
BASKETBALL MEDIA DAY
N.C State head coach Kevin Keatts addressed the media Tuesday afternoon for the first time since the team returned from Italy over the summer.
Keatts would not discuss the recent arrests of four college basketball assistant coaches by the FBI in a two-year sting. Those charged in a corruption scheme involved various universities across the nation, along with two schools being named — including Louisville, where he was an assistant prior to leaving for UNC-Wilmington.
Keatts, however, was eager to talk about N.C State. His team won two games in Italy and lost one, with the defeat coming in double overtime.
“Italy was great,” Keatts said. “When you think about Italy, you remember I talked about before we went there, one of the things that I wanted our guys to do is to be able to bond. Regardless of what the outcome of the games are, to be able to get together as a team. I thought we did. I thought we saw some neat places.”
With the influx of new players and the excitement of practice approaching, Keatts is eager to get underway in earnest. He is especially happy with the interior players.
“I’m excited about our team,” Keatts said. “As you know, we’ve been working out two hours a week on the court, and I got to tell you now the two guys that I’ve been most impressed with throughout practice has to be Lennard (Freeman) and Omer (Yurtseven) . I think both of those guys have been extremely good players. I think they pushed each other really really hard throughout this process.
“We’re getting there. Obviously you know conditioning has been a deal for us and obviously I’m trying to get them in the best shape that they can be in for right now before they start playing. But we’re excited as any team in the country to be able to officially start practice on Friday.”
The skillsets of Freeman and Yurtseven give Keatts some options.
“Don’t be surprised when there are times that you’re going to see Lennard and Omer on the floor at the same time with this particular bunch,” Keatts added.
Keatts is clearly a competitive coach.
That trait has not gone unnoticed by his players. While it can mean extra work on the court for those who do not emerge victorious in drills no one is complaining.
“Everything we do, if it is competitive and you lose there is consequences,” Freeman said. “I feel like it is good. You play hard when you do things that you normally would not do because you get scared of those consequences.
“We are building habits so that we are able to compete, no matter what. We are just building habits for the games. It definitely does translate.”