NC State needed a fast start, and it couldn't have been more pleased with the first 15 minutes of the game against Florida State.
Two plays in, the Wolfpack led 7-0. A few minutes later, the lead was 17-7... then 24-7 after a ridiculous individual play by quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
That early, fast start allowed the crowd to get involved, and stay involved throughout the game.
BRISSETT VS. WINSTON
The first half, it was a draw at quarterback, and NC State had to like that. Pack junior Jacoby Brissett had completed 14-of-20 for 215 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston had completed 14-of-21 for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
In the second half, Winston came out and threw an early interception that led to a Wolfpack touchdown. However, after a FSU score, Brissett fumbled while being sacked, giving the Noles the ball in the red zone, which led to a touchdown and FSU's first lead of the game.
Brissett finished 32-of-48 for 359 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and Winston was 26-of-32 for 365 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Wolfpack signal-caller made plenty of plays in the battle, but Winston and FSU won the war.
STOPPING THE GROUND GAME
NC State had control on the ground to start the game, rushing for 86 yards to just 16 for Florida State in the first half. However, the Noles took over in the second half behind strong running from tailback Karlos Williams, who totaled 126 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
The Wolfpack had its moments rushing the football, mainly junior Shadrach Thornton, but couldn't develop a consistent threat in the Wildcat and once behind, had to turn to the air.
Overall, Florida State finished with 166 yards rushing to 161 for the Wolfpack.
BEND, BUT BREAKING
NC State's defense had made strides in the red zone, but they were awful today. They had plenty of chances to make plays, but didn't.
Florida State had six trips into the red zone and scored touchdowns all six times. NC State MUST find a way to force teams to kick field goals this season... it's critical to their defensive success.
NC State won the turnover battle for much of the game and every turnover is critical... the Pack even led in points of turnovers, 20-7.
However, what ended up being the critical turnover was the Brissett fumble. Leading by three, the Wolfpack looked to run a delayed screen from under center and Brissett held the ball too long. The ball was knocked loose on the sack by Florida State freshman Lorenzo Featherston. The Seminoles recovered and a few plays later took their first lead of the game.
With that being said, NC State was in the game because of their ability to force turnovers and capitalize after doing so.
You can't pin the loss on that one play.
THE PACK IS FOR REAL
NC State's level of competition has been questioned, but they came out today and proved that they can compete with quality competition.
They went right out Florida State, played aggressively on both sides of the ball, and took their shots at the defending national champs. At the end of the day, it wasn't enough, but even in defeat the team has to walk away with an increased level of confidence moving forward.
NC State trailed by eight with under four minutes to go and was a third-down stop from getting the ball back with a chance to tie. As three-touchdown underdogs, you can't ask for much more than that.
The biggest positive for NC State is they won't face an offense like Florida State's the rest of the year. In a league that REALLY lacks consistent quarterback play, the Wolfpack let it be known that they have a guy at the position who can make things happen in Brissett.