Coach Doeren and NC State's players have mentioned Jamison Crowder all week as the guy they have to limit if they are going to slow down Duke's offense.
Crowder, a junior from Monroe, North Carolina, leads the team in receptions (60) and receiving yards (769). Duke uses him in a variety of ways, either on fly routes or underneath screens where he can make plays in space. They just want to get the ball in his hands as many times as possible.
That carries over to special teams, where he is a game-changer. Crowder is arguably the league's top punt returner, as he already has two scores this season.
NC State was crushed by a player similar to Crowder earlier this season (Wake's Michael Campanaro). To win today, they must not allow Crowder to be a difference maker.
WINNING THIRD DOWN
NC State has struggled at times defending third down this season... they can't today.
The Pack is allowing conversions 37.6% of the time on third down, which ranks No. 61 nationally. That's not good, and even worse, some of the conversions were on third-and-long... a down that is heavily in the defense's favor.
Success for the Pack will start by winning on first down and getting the Blue Devils off schedule. The Pack needs to limit their run and screen game on first and second down and force quarterback Anthony Boone to make plays on third down.
Look for State to try and apply pressure with their front four and allow their trio of linebackers to flow and make the plays. If Duke is forced into long third downs consistently, it forces them to attempt to make plays they don't want to have to make. This will also open the door for potential turnovers.
Duke has been just as bad converting third downs. They are rated No. 70 in the nation, converting just 39.6% of the time. Obviously Duke has had issues on that down, and NC State has to make sure it stays that way. This will obviously be a key down in the matchup.
Sometimes, it's just that simple.
NC State has to make more plays than they've been making, and that is in all phases. When there's a ball on the ground, recover it. If you're in a position to force an interception, catch the ball. Third-and-1 and you have the ball-carrier short of the marker, stop him.
The Pack hasn't been able to get over the hump late in games... they haven't made the plays down the stretch that they needed to make to pull out a victory. That's a big reason why they're on a four-game losing streak.