Wolfpack ready to play host to No. 1 Seminoles

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 27, 2014

RALEIGH (AP) — Florida State has had plenty of trouble at North Carolina State — especially when carrying a national ranking.
The top-ranked Seminoles have lost their last two games in Raleigh heading into Saturday’s game, including one two years ago that was their last Atlantic Coast Conference loss.
Overall, ranked FSU teams have lost five of seven in Raleigh dating to 1998.
“The field sits close to you,” FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. “It’s down in a pit so it’s a little different, and they have a passionate fan base and they have very good players and they’re coached well. You combine all those things, it makes for a tough venue.”
Florida State (3-0, 1-0 ACC) was ranked No. 3 when it last visited in October 2012. The Seminoles took a 16-0 lead before the Wolfpack rallied to win 17-16 on a last-second touchdown pass.
“I don’t know if it was a turning point,” Fisher said. “It was some awareness and a wakeup call knowing that you had a game and you let it slip away. Hopefully it doesn’t happen again.”
FSU has won 16 straight against league opponents since and owns a school-record 19 straight wins overall, which includes last year’s unbeaten run to the national title behind Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Jameis Winston.
Winston is back from a one-game suspension for making an obscene public comment on campus last week. Backup Sean Maguire led the Seminoles to an overtime home win against Clemson.
The Wolfpack (4-0) have already surpassed last season’s win total against a soft opening schedule and beat Presbyterian 42-0 last week. Things will get much tougher with eight straight league games for a team coming off its first winless ACC record since 1959.
“We just talk about it as the opportunity that’s in front of us,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “There isn’t an athlete in the world that doesn’t want to play against the best. They’re the best until they get beat so it’s an opportunity for us to play against the best team in the nation.”
“And you know, why not us? That’s the approach we’re taking.”
Here are things to know about the Wolfpack’s game against the Seminoles:
WOLFPACK’S RUN GAME: N.C. State has built a productive ground game with the rotation of Shadrach Thornton, Matt Dayes and Tony Creecy. The Wolfpack averaged 248.8 yards rushing in the first four games, including three straight 200-yard rushing performances for the first time since 1994. “We’re really ready to step up to the plate and take the challenge,” Thornton said.
FSU’S FRONT: Florida State lost starting nose tackle Nile Lawrence-Stample for the season after tearing a pectoral muscle last week. That’s a major loss on the interior defensive line for a team that ranked 81st nationally against the run.
BRISSETT’S SHOT: Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett has stabilized the Wolfpack’s offense and leads the league with 10 passing touchdowns. Now Brissett gets his chance to play a big game in a Wolfpack uniform. In a twist, Brissett was on the Florida sideline but didn’t play when the Gators handed the Seminoles their last loss in November 2012.
PROVE IT: The Seminoles were thrilled to prove they aren’t a one-man team by beating Clemson without Winston, a fierce competitor and will surely want to shine in his return. The Wolfpack, meanwhile, could use a good showing to prove that 4-0 start wasn’t solely the product of a favorable schedule. “Being 4-0, I’ll take it any day,” Doeren said. “I’m proud to be in that position.”
DOMINANT FORM?: There’s no way around it: FSU just hasn’t shown the dominant look of a year ago. No team got closer than 14 points during the regular season last year, but the Seminoles have had to fight to win two of their three games so far. Will FSU refind its dominant edge against N.C. State, a team the Seminoles led 35-0 in the first quarter last year?
Associated Press writer Kareem Copeland in Tallahassee, Florida contributed to this report.
Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap