Changing of the guard
When starting right guard Zach Allen got hurt last week, NC State replaced him by moving reserve Cameron Fordham in Allen's place, in addition to bumping center Camden Wentz to the spot, while bring backup pivot Joe Thuney into the game. The formula worked to perfection tonight, while the Wolfpack limited the dangerous Florida State front to just one sack. Before last week, Wentz noted he had not played guard since Pop Warner football.
"It's still something I'm getting used to," he said. "As long as they're asking me to do it, I'm going to keep doing it. Am I completely comfortable with it? No. Did I make some mistakes when I was at guard tonight? Yeah, but I've got to continue to progress at two positions now. For us to be successful, I have to do that and I'm going to continue to work hard at it.
"It's a patchwork offensive line right now, we're down some guys that have played a lot. But guys are stepping up. We have a redshirt freshman, Joe Thuney, who came in, played against the No. 3 team in the country and held his own pretty well."
According to Wentz, it was the result of the sum of all parts being greater than the individual parts.
"It wasn't dominating," he said of the line's performance. "It was a group of guys working hard to fulfill one dream. When there were mistakes, we didn't put our heads down, we didn't quit. There was always six guys rallying around each other. That's all we've got right now, so we have to be each other's brothers and continue to progress with what we have. We did what we had to do to win, that's all you can ask for."
NC State coach Tom O'Brien mentioned it in his postgame press conference, and so did nearly every player we talked to after the game - the crowd and atmosphere at Carter-Finley on Saturday was absolutely electric. Primetime games in Raleigh have certainly been Florida State's Kryptonite.
"There's something about this place at night, it's just electrifying," Wentz said. "I argue that it's the most electrifying place to be in at night in the ACC. That crowd tonight was unbelievable. They were there from the first snap to the last snap. Personally, I would've liked to see them on the field at the end of the game, but I know they're not allowed to. We have tremendous fans, it really showed and helped tonight."
"We were getting the crowd into it, we fed off the crowd and each other," receiver Bryan Underwood, who set the school record with a receiving touchdown in six straight games, said. "It was a dream come true, it was a blessing. We've been working hard all week after that upset last week. We just wanted to come out there and fight. We hung in there and played as a team."
Also, the crowd gave us this priceless GIF.
Confident despite last week's mistakes
NC State had a disappointing performance last week, no doubt about it. However, they bounced back like they have so many times before under O'Brien and shocked the world on Saturday night. The key, several players said, was never losing their confidence.
"You saw that last week, we weren't going to quit, but we came out on the wrong side of it," Wentz said. "This week, we didn't quit and we came out on the right side of it. I'm sure you've heard from everybody that it was a total team effort, but it really was."
"Last week is last week, this is a new week," cornerback Dontae Johnson said. "Preparation was a lot different this week, we prepared a lot better, a lot harder this week. We paid attention to small details, and it was evident. It showed out there on the field tonight."
"We were disappointed last week because we show ourselves in the foot," defensive end Mike Rose, who had the key blocked punt, said. "I feel like since we executed, we did what we know we can do. We know we can win, it doesn't matter if it's the No. 3 team or the No. 1 team if we go out and execute."
Despite the loss to Miami, which Underwood even called an upset, NC State moved on and rebounded in its next chance, to move to 1-1 in the ACC.
"We didn't want to play like we did last week," cornerback Juston Burris said. "We wanted to come in against the No. 3 team in the nation and make a statement; 'this is our identity, this is how we're going to play from here on out.'
"We're always a group. No one person gets beat, we all get beat. We had to come in here and be a team. When we succeed, we succeed as a team. We never lost confidence.
"We knew we weren't going to lose. There was always a feeling, there was a feeling in the locker room before the game."
"Right from the first snap [we thought we could win]," Wentz said. "We weren't coming in thinking that we were David and they were Goliath. We've beaten this team before and they're a great football team, but we weren't coming in not sure if we could win or not. If you come in not sure that you can beat somebody, you're not going to beat them. We came in 100 percent believing that we could beat them and it proved throughout the game that we could hang in right there with them. In the end, it went our way."