Typically NC State practices on Sundays, but because of all the plays on a hot and humid Saturday afternoon at Miami, the Pack took a day off. The way head coach Tom O'Brien sees it, State needs all the advantages it can get heading into Saturday's showdown with No. 3 Florida State.
Last year after the Noles blanked the Pack 34-0 in a game where the score may not have been indicative of the on the field domination that afternoon, O'Brien stated that FSU looked like they were back to their past days of dominance.
"They are a year older, and they're better [now]," O'Brien said.
For the Pack to have any chance of pulling off an upset at Carter-Finley Stadium, State will have to limit its self-inflicted miscues, such as the 14 penalties and six turnovers at Miami.
"You get it turned around if it's important to the team cause they have to do it," O'Brien said. "We have evidence even here and going back years that we don't make mistakes like that.
"It has to come down to them and how important it is to them for the little things, and make sure they do the little things right, and then it'll be corrected."
O'Brien noted that FSU coach Jimbo Fisher has the Noles on a trajectory to take them back to the glory days for FSU when they owned the ACC and were national title contenders.
But he does not expect his team to be in awe Saturday night.
"Harken back to the Miami game, once again we lost that game," O'Brien stated. "All due respect to Miami, I don't think there is anybody in that locker room that thinks we got beat. We lost, and we got to figure out a way not to beat ourselves before we get a chance to win against a good football team.
"That's the focus this week: to get better individually, and getting better as a football team and then going out and playing a great game on Saturday night."
O'Brien added there were positives from the defeat at Miami. The Pack rushed for 224 yards despite playing behind a makeshift line that will change for the fifth time in six games Saturday. Starting right guard Zach Allen, a fifth-year senior, is unlikely to go for the FSU game after suffering a leg injury at Miami.
Redshirt sophomore Cameron Fordham, a LSU transfer, and promising redshirt freshman Joe Thuney, will likely split time replacing Allen. When Thuney is in the game, he'll play cente and starting senior center Camden Wentz will move to guard.
O'Brien stated that junior left tackle Rob Crisp tried to practice early last week, but after going through workouts Tuesday was unable to move well enough Wednesday to play with his lower back injury. His status remains uncertain for Saturday.
"We only have one starter in the spot that we want him," O'Brien said, referring to Wentz. "It's going to be a challenge up front for those guys up front. The other four guys we rather be playing with other guys got to block them. We got to be able to protect the quarterback. We have to be able to throw the ball."
Another key Saturday will be the play of struggling All-American junior corner David Amerson. After being lit up in the opener against Tennessee, Amerson seemed to be settling in with three interceptions in the next three games. He was beaten badly though on several occasions by Miami.
"I think film doesn't lie, and I think Mike Reed spent some time with him and I intend to sometime this week," O'Brien said. "It's question of fundamentals. He's trying to make plays, trying to make every play instead of doing his job.
"That's what you have to do, you have to do your job. If he does his job and 10 other guys does their jobs, then we when the football game."
- O'Brien noted that one of the reasons for the big plays teams have had throwing the ball on NCSU has been because the Wolfpack has not been as effective blitzing with its linebackers this year like they had been the past two seasons with Nate Irving, Terrell Manning and Audie Cole, all of whom are playing in the NFL.
"We don't have that level of play right now, but that's not their fault," O'Brien said. "It's because they have only played five games. They are still learning the position and learning how to get there."
- Miami junior quarterback Stephen Morris was able to break containment nine times against NC State Saturday, a number that was too high for O'Brien's taste. He stressed they cannot allow that to happen with FSU fifth-year senior signal caller EJ Manuel, the dual threat quarterback who threw for 380 yards and rushed for 102 against Clemson Sept. 22.
O'Brien said that Manuel reminded him of former Syracuse standout and NFL Pro-Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb.
"A big guy that could run and beat you throwing the ball," O'Brien stated. "He's a good pocket passer, but he's a guy that's more dangerous running the football once he gets on the perimeter. Unlike Morris, he'll pull it down and run. Last week [Morris would] get out of the pocket and want to throw it first. I think for Manuel it's probably 50/50 whether he is going to take off and run and look down the field and throw it.
- Freshman running back Shadrach Thornton backed up his 145-yard rushing effort against The Citadel by running for 87 yards on 17 carries at Miami. He did fumble once however, but O'Brien felt reassured after having a brief conversation with the rookie.
"As only Shadrach can do, he came out and promised me he wouldn't fumble again," O'Brien said.