N.C. State was excited about facing Clemson in a matchup of unbeatens on Saturday, in a game anticipated since the start of the season.
Things might be a little more tense this week in a matchup of once-beatens.
The Wolfpack is coming off the 30-20 loss at Clemson, dropping to No. 14 in The AP poll. Florida State also suffered its first loss Saturday, losing 31-21 to Wake Forest to tumble out of the rankings.
Neither the Wolfpack nor the Seminoles want back-to-back losses, but one team will be saddled with that. It should make for that kind of game Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium, both teams a little salty.
As coaches like to say, the best tonic for a tough loss is to win the next game. That’s why many ask their teams “What now?” after a loss. Wallow in it or put it behind?
NCSU coach Dave Doeren is a “put-it-behind” kind of coach, even though a loss like Saturday’s to the No. 5 Tigers eats at him. It’s on to the next thing. It has to be.
The Wolfpack (4-1 overall, 0-1 ACC) had plenty of juice when it hosted Texas Tech a few weeks ago. State painted Carter-Finley red — the red LED lights did — and the Pack came away with a 27-14 win.
The Wolfpack will need that same kind of energy and effort against the rejuvenated Seminoles (4-1, 2-1). FSU coach Mike Norvell called the ‘Noles’ loss at home to Wake Forest disappointing, naming several reasons why.
“I thought our guys really started almost pressing when we had a little bit of adversity that showed up, we did a lot of uncharacteristic things,” Norvell told reporters Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida.
“I thought we did show heart. I thought our guys did battle back. But we made some mistakes throughout the game that you just cannot have and beat a good team. We lost our focus in times of adversity.”
That should sound familiar to the Pack. Sort of like a QB losing focus and fumbling a snap on a key fourth-down play in the fourth quarter — quarterback Devin Leary making that mistake against Clemson.
“Life’s not a fairy tale,” Norvell said. “You’re going to face some things. The key to it is the response.”
Game key: moving the chains
In Wake Forest’s win Saturday, the Demon Deacons hurt the Seminoles by converting 10-of-18 on third-down plays, running off 85 plays to FSU’s 63.
Norvell said the Deacons were “able to play ahead of the chains” and were in a lot of “third-and-manageable” situations.
The Pack offense was 5-of-14 on third-down conversions against Clemson, although NCSU had one more play than the Tigers in the game. The Tigers’ defense often made “manageable” unmanageable.
Wake Forest also hurt FSU with a balanced attack — 234 yards passing, 171 rushing. Can the Pack match that kind of balance this week, in the 8 p.m. game to be shown by the ACC Network?
Vegas betting odds
The Vegas oddsmakers have made the Pack a 3.5-point favorite over the Seminoles. N.C. State beat FSU 28-14 in Tallahassee a year ago as Leary threw for 314 yards and four scores.
N.C. State vs Florida State game and TV info
Who: Florida State (4-1, 2-1) at No. 14 N.C. State (4-1, 0-1)
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh
When: Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV: ACC Network