Pack Pride's Top Performer: Thomas Teal

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Each week we'll profile a player of the game, and Thomas Teal takes home the honor versus Presbyterian.

After NC State finished 3-9 in 2013, Thomas Teal wanted to be sure he left the program in a better place. After the redshirt senior led his team to its first shutout in almost three years on Saturday, the Wolfpack have improved its win total from last season prior to the beginning of conference play.

Teal finished with six tackles, a fumble recovery, and a sack as NC State played stout defense for the second straight week and blanked Presbyterian, 42-0, at Carter-Finley Stadium. It was the largest shutout victory for the Pack since defeating Richmond by the same score in the 2004 season opener.

After allowing 53 points and 942 yards in the opening two weeks the young Wolfpack defense has buckled down. State has outscored the opposition 127-30 since trailing Old Dominion by 11 points late in the first half.

For the defensive tackle from Bennettsville, S.C., it is important to leave the Pack in a better place than last season.

"It means a lot to me," Teal said of improving after last season. "The young guys are picking things up fast and last season, to go winless in the ACC, left a bad taste in my mouth. It was hard to swallow. I am not a vocal guy; I try to lead by example. If they need help, they can ask me."

NC State head coach Dave Doeren knew patience would be required for the defense heading into the season.

"We are young in some areas," Doeren said. "I think we're improving. We have to play to our strengths. In game three we got better. In game four we got a little more better. We have just got to keep doing that. It takes time when you are playing the younger guys. The older guys have got to lead us."

Matt Dayes, who rushed for a team-high 86 yards on six carries--including a 68-yard touchdown run--has seen the defense improve over the season, both on in practice and on the sideline during games.

"I have seen a lot of pride from them," Dayes said. "They are shutting people down in the red zone. I think our defense has got a lot of pride in them and they are building confidence as we go on every week."

"We have made tremendous leaps," Teal said. "We have a lot of young players. It is very exciting. It is kind of sad that I am a senior, because you just look around and see all the improvements the staff is trying to make and to accomplish them with the short time they have been here, it is great to be a part of it."

With the defending national champions Florida State coming to Raleigh next Saturday, N.C. State will have to conjure more of the magic that has seen it limit its last two opponents to 205.5 yards per game over the previous two games.

But Teal, who played against Florida State in Raleigh when the Pack rallied from 16 points down to upset the Seminoles in 2012, knows that with Wolfpack Nation on his side, along with the steady improvement over the course of the season, anything is possible.

"It is not really who we face; it is about ourselves," Teal said. "We used the first four games as a stepping stone to get better each week. Florida State is going to be a hard game. I think we can be great. The crowd is going to be crazy. It is definitely going to be a lot of fun."

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