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October 25, 2013

First-down defense key against Seminoles




No. 3-ranked Florida State is averaging a staggering 53.2 points per game, giving credence to what do you work on first in stopping the Seminoles.

FSU (6-0) is averaging 210.3 rushing yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry, so that could be on area to slow down. The passing game has been even more devastating behind redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston. The Seminoles are averaging 341.3 yards per game and have a 20-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The offensive line has allowed 12 sacks through six games.

Creating turnovers is always important, but besides throwing three interceptions out of 177 passing attempts, the Seminoles have fumbled just once this season in 405 plays.

"They are very, very multiple and the things they are doing, they have a lot of good football players," NCSU defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable said. "Without me having to say it, we have a big challenge ahead of us. We've practiced well and the guys have had good energy. They've done a good job this week.

"You have to play great first-down defense. That is the start. They run the ball very well, and obviously pass well."

Winston started the season in spectacular fashion by going 25-of-27 passing for 356 yards and four touchdowns, plus rushing for a score in a 41-13 win over Pittsburgh on Sept. 2. He hasn't hit a speed bump since. The 6-foot-4, 228-pounder has gone 112-of-157 passing for 1,885 yards and 20 touchdowns, plus rushed three more scores.

"He is playing with a lot of confidence," Huxtable said. "I'm not saying he wasn't at the beginning of the year, but he has had a lot of success. He looks comfortable in whatever he is doing. He has a good arm and is a threat running the ball if you aren't disciplined in your rush lanes. He has been very consistent with their play."

Huxtable compared Winston to past Florida State star quarterback Charlie Ward, who he coached against when he was at Georgia Tech.

"He's a big dude and a strong kid," Huxtable said. "He is just a very good player. He is very well coached and I imagine he is a good worker in the film room. He's having a tremendous season."

Winston is surrounded by playmakers. Junior running backs Devonta Freeman and Karlos Williams both have breakaway speed. The trio of wide receivers — junior Rashad Greene, senior Kenny Shaw and redshirt sophomore Kelvin Benjamin — are all productive. Junior tight end Nick O'Leary also needs to be accounted for in the passing game, and is a threat to turn a short pass into a long gain.

"He has a tremendous cast around him," Huxtable said. "The tight end has caught a lot of footballs, and has good hands and runs good routes. There are several receivers who are very skilled. They are a very good offensive football team."

The trio of receivers could lead to more nickel defenses or dime. NC State freshman cornerback Jack Tocho returns to the lineup after injuring his shoulder following two first-half interceptions against Syracuse on Oct. 12.

"We'll play a little bit of both," Huxtable said. "We'll mix that up a little bit.

"I'm so happy for Jack and what a great kid. He is a young kid that plays like a veteran. He never flinches. He plays with such great confidence, and has a bright, bright future ahead of him for us."

Huxtable also welcomes back fifth-year senior defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop and junior defensive tackle T.Y. McGill from the ranks of injured Wolfpack players. The two weeks off have proven to be beneficial for NC State's defense.

"We've been doing what we do and lets correct some of the mistakes we've had," Huxtable said. "Lets focus on what we are supposed to do and guys being where they are supposed to be. Plus, our fundamentals in our tackling. That's been the major focus."

Huxtable praised NC State junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett in helping prepare his defense this week. The Florida transfer is sitting out the season due to NCAA rules.

"Jacoby has done a great job for us," Huxtable said. "He has been a tremendous leader over on that scout field. He has helped us every day by coming out with a positive attitude, and making sure that scout team is giving us a good look. He's going to be a tremendous leader for our football program."



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