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N.C. State seems to always be missing one or two things in each game this season. Lately, the Wolfpack has been outworked and dominated inside.
After Miami went into PNC Arena and outrebounded N.C. State in a five-point win Saturday the 14th-ranked Seminoles took it to another level. Florida State imposed its will on the Pack en route to a 95-71 thumping Wednesday.
The Seminoles outrebounded N.C. State by a resounding 49-25 margin. FSU hauled in 21 offensive boards to only eight for the Wolfpack.
“I thought the difference in the game was the 21 offensive rebounds,” N.C. State head coach Mark Gottfried said. “You can say all you want to say about a lot of things, but it comes down to that. We have to be able to get a rebound.”
Florida State enjoyed a 20-point advantage in points scored in the paint.
“They could have had 40 in the paint,” Gottfried said. “Twenty is lucky to be honest, it could have been worse.”
On the occasions when the Wolfpack was able to get the Seminoles to misfire, the ball usually ended up in a FSU player’s hands and the next attempt found its mark.
“At times we defended them pretty well and couldn’t get a rebound,” Gottfried said after the loss to the Seminoles. “Therefore, they get nearly 20 points on second-chance points. We turned it over a few times and that led to some points, but I thought the difference obviously is giving them 21 offensive rebounds.”
The Pack has a pair of in-state rematches coming up. N.C. State travels to Wake Forest Saturday before hosting North Carolina midweek. Both schools defeated the Wolfpack earlier in the season.
While there have been various struggles over the course of the season, N.C. State has competed with top-tier teams when they are playing near their peak. To stand a chance, the Wolfpack has to do better on the boards.
[Abdul-Malik Abu] has to get more than six [rebounds],” Gottfried said. “Omer [Yurtseven] has to get more than five. They have to get more with all the minutes they played. Ted [Kapita] comes into the game and gets one rebound. He has to do a better job, but all our guys — it’s not just our big guys, it’s everybody.”
On Tuesday, N.C. State defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen accepted a job offer to coach the same position for the New Orleans Saints. Nielsen leaves Raleigh after four seasons with many memories and gratitude for those who helped him with the Wolfpack.
The Wilson Times spoke with Nielsen as he prepared for his next challenge.
WT: Congratulations on your new job with the Saints. This must be an exciting move for you.
Nielsen: I appreciate that, thank you very much. It’s great to be a part of this organization, coaching staff and Coach (Sean) Payton, and I am just excited about the move down here.
WT: How did this unfold? Did you anticipate leaving N.C. State this year?
Nielsen: Well, first of all, I was extremely happy at N.C. State. It really didn’t have anything to do about N.C. State though. It’s a goal of mine, something that I’ve wanted to do — coaching in the NFL — and when this opportunity arose, I became very interested in it.
WT: Does the fact that the NFC South is a tough division make the job seem more daunting or appealing?
Nielsen: Not necessarily, I just think it’s the opportunity to be in the NFL.
One, I don’t think it really mattered where it was, but when you’re fortunate to get a call from the Saints and this organization, and what they’ve done, it’s very exciting and I’m very grateful for the opportunity that they’ve given me. I can’t really wait to get going here; we don’t have practice yet. That time is too far away from me, but we got a lot of time until then. I am looking forward to really getting to know everybody in the building going down there.
WT: How do you feel about what you have accomplished at N.C. State?
Nielsen: I don’t really look at it personally what I’ve done. I look at it as what we’ve done as a defensive line as in the group.
The guys in that room, they’ve given everything that they have for the program, for what we’ve done defensive line wise in terms of scheme with Coach (Dave) Huxtable. [They] really have given themselves to N.C. State and the program.
When players do that, it makes it very easy to coach them. They’re focused on their development and the team’s winning. When that happens, I think you create something special as a group, and in a room.
I think in the future, as long as the guys stay with the things that got them to where they are in terms of practicing hard, and the toughness, and the skill development you know? Playing with an edge, they’ll have the best season [in 2017] that they’ve had defensive line wise in the last four years.
WT: Many project N.C. State as a team and the defensive line as a group to do well in 2017. Did that make the decision harder?
Nielsen: Yeah. It wasn’t an easy decision, but that’s what my expectation is for the guys. But ultimately they have to do it — stay in the mindset of constant improvement and working everyday to become the best players that they can possibly be. Don’t take anything for granted. Which I think they will, I think they’re in that mindset.
Like I said, it wasn’t easy to leave those guys. I love my room. Everybody in there gave me everything that they had and I can’t appreciate those guys enough.
WT: Do you expect to one day see some of your former N.C. State players in the NFL?
Nielsen: That’s an ultimate goal for those guys. We talk about it a lot. That’s the driving passion for the skill development. Playing hard and everything like that, but once we talk about it, it just kind of stays in there. I don’t think about the next level with them at that time.
We’ll see what happens after the season and I’m sure that many of them are going to have an opportunity.
WT: Will you have to change or adapt some to the NFL versus coaching in college?
Nielsen: No, I’m not going to change my approach because it’s all about relationships.
You develop a relationship and understand where somebody is coming from on both sides. You’re working towards the same goal, a common goal. I think that that’s what’s most important, whether it be tough or not, football is the commonality in what we do and I’m here to help players develop and become the best that they can be. When they understand that and where I’m coming from, they get it, and it’s a give and a take.
That’s what we had there. That’s my approach and I’ll keep that here. I’ve already started to contact the guys, started to get to know them, talk to them and develop that relationship. So when practice comes around they get in the building, and they know me rather than just somebody coming off the street.
WT: What type of reception and feedback are you getting from New Orleans?
Nielsen: It’s been great. Everybody’s welcome me very warmly, and the players have been good — the guys that I’ve talked to. I am just getting into it, but they’ve been very accommodating and I can’t thank them enough.
WT: What message would you have for N.C. State as you leave?
Nielsen: First of all, thank you to Coach Doeren for giving me the opportunity. Dave Huxtable, our defensive coordinator. George Barlow, Clayton White, those guys in the defensive staff room, along with our quality control, and GA’s have been unbelievable to work with.
I’ve grown very close to Hux and I really appreciate him helping me grow in my career. My players have been unbelievable and very easy to coach. The fans at N.C. State, when we first got there were a very warm welcome.
I’ve made a lot of friends in Raleigh, N.C. State alumni, and just running out in Carter-Finley Stadium on a Saturday afternoon — it’s an unbelievable experience and it’s because the fans that attend the games, and tailgate and get in there, and scream their heads off.
It really is a fantastic place for everybody who’s involved in N.C. State football or administration, and the organization, I say thank you. I enjoyed my time there. I’ll look back on it, and for a time I’ve look on it very fondly and just remember things that brings a smile to your face — a meeting with administrator, player or coach.
It was a great time in my life and who knows, maybe we’ll do it again someday?
Rob McLamb has covered NC State Athletics and recruiting for Pack Pride (Scout.com) since 2012. You can follow him on Twitter @RobMcLamb.