Observations From the Game: FSU

Pack Pride takes a look back at NC State's blowout loss to Florida State in Tallahassee.

Sandwiched between a huge win over Clemson and a rivalry matchup with Miami next week, some thought that NC State may be a trap game for Florida State. That was hardly the case as the Noles crushed the Pack early and coasted to a 49-17 blowout win over NC State.

In A Nutshell

Too much size, too much speed and too much talent- that pretty much summed up the difference in Saturday's game between NC State and Florida State.

The Pack had an extra week to prepare for the Seminoles and FSU was coming off a huge win over Clemson a week earlier but neither made a difference in this game.

NC State looked tentative early and that's a recipe for disaster against a team as good as Florida State. QB Brandon Mitchell's first pass was an interception and it only went downhill from there. The Nole's offense sliced through the Wolfpack defense like a knife through hot butter and by the end of the first quarter the game was all but over with FSU holding a commanding 35-0 lead.

Disastrous First Quarter

Only the coaches know for sure but from the outside looking in, State appeared in awe of the Noles early on. FSU played at warp speed while the Pack looked unsure of themselves and it showed in their coverage, tackling, catching and pretty much every other facet of the game.

Florida State needed only 19 plays and 6:08 of possession time to forge an insurmountable 35-0 lead. The Noles are good but it's hard to imagine that NC State could really be that bad but for the first 15 minutes they were.

The Wolfpack's first six possessions resulted in three turnovers, three punts and a measly 48 yards of total offense. It's hard to remember the last time an NC State team was so over matched and taken out of a ball game that early and to that extent.

Brandon Mitchell

It's difficult to imagine a worse scenario for a return than the one Mitchell faced on Saturday. On the road with an amped up crowd celebrating Bobby Bowden day, Mitchell was rusty and that's putting it mildly. He made a couple of plays (inexplicable forward pitch to Tony Creecy and flip to Sharach Thornton out of the end zone) that could have potentially made things even worse for NC State. Mitchell appeared hesitant and his throws were off. Again, no one should have been surprised. He doesn't have a ton of experience at quarterback to begin with so Saturday's game was all but an impossible mountain for him to climb in his return as State's starting QB. The only positive you can take away from it is that Mitchell did get reps against one of the premier defenses in the nation and that should help next week against UNC. To beat the Heels he'll need to be light years better than he was on Saturday, however.

Shadrach Thornton

All during camp we kept hearing about the job RB Shadrach Thornton had been doing. That progression was sidetracked because of off the field issues but he finally had a nice breakout game against the Seminoles.

Thornton finished with 23 carries for 173 yards and two touchdowns including a tremendous 72 yard touchdown run where he hurdled an FSU defender and outran the Nole's secondary for the score.

Perhaps unnoticed has been Thornton's ball security. As much as anything that is what has limited his carries previously but he has done a great job of protecting the ball and as a result, his carries have increased. If Thornton can prove that Saturday's effort wasn't a one-hit wonder then that would be a huge boost for an offense that has been anemic through four conference games.


You can tell a lot about a coaching staff by how they and their team respond to adversity. Sure, you can't ignore the fact that State primarily played against Florida State's backups in the second half Saturday. But we liked the way Dave Doeren handled his team, playing the role of encourager instead of just sitting back and allowing the game to play out. At the end of the third quarter you could hear Doeren cheering on his team over the ref's microphone as he called out a penalty.

State forced a couple of turnovers, executed an onsides kick, had just two penalties and out scored the Seminoles 17-7 in the second half. If you're the Pack, you have to find whatever positives you can to build on.

Clearly the play of Shadrach Thornton is something State will try to build on. His effort was the best by an NC State running back in seven years. This has to be a huge boost for a team that has had trouble generating rushing yardage, especially out of the running backs.

Defensive Leader?

We doubt a single player would have made a difference on Saturday but one glaring hole facing the Pack is that they don't appear to have any leaders on defense.

During previous years when the Pack has had a decent defense there were guys, usually linebackers, that the defense could rally around and look to when the team needed a big play. When you look at the 2013 unit there's not a Stephen Tulloch, Dantonio Burnette or Nate Irving to be found.

Leadership can't be manufactured. It has to come from within the team but up until this point in the season it seems to be missing.

Tip of the Hat

I think you have to tip the hat to Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher for showing some class Saturday. A lot of folks took issue with the fake punt but clearly he was just trying to wake his offense up. There are plenty of coaches around the nation that would've hung a hundred on NC State if they could to impress the voters.

Headed Forward

NC State is coming off their worst loss of the year. UNC is coming off their biggest win of the year. Heel's TE Eric Ebron has already fired a shot across the bow of the Pack. The question is, is State good enough to do anything about it?

The Pack's offense has sputtered and hiccuped through an 0-4 conference record. It's unlikely that any effort they've shown to date will be good enough to win a game the remainder of the year.

State's defense, minus the Florida State game has been okay, not great by any stretch but good enough to give the Pack an opportunity to win. Unfortunately the offense has put the defense in a position to have to win games and they're just not that talented.

The bottom line is, 0-4 can easily turn into 0-8 if the Pack doesn't find answers soon. UNC is a winnable game but only if State can build on Saturday's run game and put together a more consistent passing attack. The Heel's offense will put a ton of pressure on the Wolfpack defense and if State want's to avoid an o-fer in conference play they'll need to play better than they have at any time in 2013.

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