NC State opened the season with a 48-14 win over William & Mary, and the defense held the Tribe to under 170 total yards while forcing two turnovers. Redshirt junior linebacker Jerod Fernandez was relatively impressed with the performance.
"I thought we did pretty well," said Fernandez. "There's always things we could get better at. I just think we did a good job... we got scored on, we talked on the sideline, settled down.
"The first-game jitters were going, everybody's blood's pumping, the adrenaline's going. We needed to settle down, sit back, and just play football. That's what we did."
Fernandez led the way, as he totaled a team-high seven tackles, including six solo hits. He also added a big interception late in the second quarter that led to a touchdown.
"It felt great because being linebacker, you don't really get to touch the ball that much," he said of the interception, laughing. "When you get it, you've got to be happy about it. I'd probably say the sack is probably [the best] feeling but a pick is definitely up there."
Next up for Fernandez and NC State is the first road game of the season, a trip to East Carolina. NC State has easily won the first road game each of the last two seasons, to South Florida (2014) and Old Dominion (2015) respectively, but this should be a much tougher task given the environment expected in Greenville.
What does Fernandez think of heading on the road for a rivalry game?
"Actually, I love away games," he said. "I like being booed, I like all the negative atmosphere, you know? That way we go in there with a chip on our shoulder and get started going."
The Pirates rolled up over 600 yards of total offense and scored 52 points in their opener, so it will be a challenge for the Wolfpack defense.
"We watched a lot of film,we started breaking film down the moment we got it," Fernandez said. "They're a good team, they've got some great athletes and they're whole line is pretty good. We've just got to come out and play ball."
Week two is here in a twelve-week season. Expectations for NC State might be low outside the program, but Fernandez believes the Wolfpack can have a special year.
"I feel like we're going to have a great season," he said. "I just keep saying it is on us. People [are] going off on the past, not finishing. We've been up on teams like Clemson and Florida State and just haven't finished. and I just think nobody respects us. We've got to earn it."