NC State senior safety Hakim Jones went down with a hip injury early in the second quarter at Virginia Tech, and the Wolfpack defense fell apart.
"It was tough," said Jones, who was able to watch the rest of the game from the sidelines. "It was bad for everyone, not just me. It wasn't exactly my position that let us down. It was a team effort of not exeuting for the most part."
Overall, NC State's defense has performed well this season. The Wolfpack's among the nation's best in a variety of categories, outside of one: takeaways. Jones says the team has made that a focal point.
"Numbers-wise we're doing good," he stated. "The only thing we're lacking is takeaways. That's what we focused on during the bye week.
"We just have to want to get the ball. We run to the ball hard, and the film shows that, but there's not always a conscious effort to get the ball. That's what we have to do... get the football."
The Wolfpack has forced 12 fumbles this season but only recovered two. Obviously some of that is luck, but they do have to recover more moving forward. State's also struggled with interceptions, totaling just three whick ranks No. 105 nationally.
According to Jones, that's not all on the defensive backs.
"It's a group effort," he said. "The defensive line has to rush, we have to cover, and the linebackers need to do their job as well. We can't drop picks either. We've had five dropped interceptions this year, and those are mistakes. We have to capitalize on those opportunities."
Next up for the Wolfpack is a road test on Saturday at Wake Forest. Jones understands the team's struggles in Winston-Salem but believes this team can do what's needed to get the victory.
"It's their home-field advantage," he stated when asked why Wake's been successful. "We have to make it our home. It's an in-state game, and we need to treat it like a home game for us.
"I've been here a while, and it helps that we've already been on the road three times. We know how to respond off the bus. We need to start fast, but we have to finish how we start. That's what coach Doeren has been preaching... we need to start fast and end strong."
NC State thumped Wake Forest 42-13 last season in Carter-Finley Stadium, but the Deacs are much-improved offensively and could give the Wolfpack defense some problems.
"They look much better this year," Jones said. "They have more playmakers on offense and use both quarterbacks. They can pass and run... both of them. I think they are a much better team than they were."
The focal point for NC State could be sophomore tight end Cam Serigne, who leads the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns and is second in receiving yards. The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder is a major target in the redzone and on third down for the Demon Deacons.
"He's a good player," Jones said of Serigne. "He runs very good routes and has good hands. He doesn't make mistakes and if you don't make mistakes in football you can be a really good player.
"The thing is, you have to respect him, but you can't put all your eggs in one basket. They want you to do that. They'll gash you with someone else if you put too much focus on him. That can happen if you gameplan around one player. That's why we need to execute our technique and schemes. We have to execute the plan, and if we do that everything will be stopped."
As for Jones, he's ready to go after practicing all week.
"I'm good to go," he said, laughing. "They wouldn't let me practice if I wasn't so I'm ready."