Statistically, NC State has one of the best defenses in the country, but even one of the unit's best players, junior defensive tackle B.J. Hill, believes the group got off to a relatively slow start.
"We've come a long way since the first couple of games of the season," said Hill. "I think we started slow the first four games, but we've picked it up the last few weeks. I think we've been playing some good ball so far. We just have to keep it up."
His head coach agrees. The Wolfpack is starting nine juniors and two seniors, and that's played a major role in the Wolfpack's improvement.
"I think being a good defense is about accountability first and how much your role affects everyone else on the field," said Doeren. "[Just] understanding you have to do your job and not try to make someone else's plays.
"They are playing with a lot more confidence too, which helps... there's a lot more experience there too. You go through growing pains when you play younger players, and you hope on the back-end you see the reward. That's already happening."
"We'll play as hard as we can and give everything we've got for the person beside us and behind us," added Hill. "We want to work with the linebackers and play hard."
The Wolfpack turned heads with their play over the weekend in limiting Clemson to just 17 points in regulation in Death Valley. The Wolfpack forced four turnovers and held the Tigers to just 3.0 yards per carry. It was a very physical game that ended in agonizing defeat. Hill believes the physicality has to be a common trait of the defense, and they've put the loss behind them.
"We just want to be physical every game," he said. "It's not just because we were playing them, we just want to be physical against anybody we play.
"We've pushed [the loss] to the side. It was a bad loss, but we couldn't dwell on it. We're ready to play again."
Next up is a matchup with arguably the most dangerous offensive player in the country: Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. The talented sophomore has already accounted for 30 touchdowns and is averaging 440 yards per game in total offense.
What is the key for the Wolfpack's defense against the dual-threat standout?
"We have to be disciplined," said Hill. "That's our word of the week: discipline. We have to be disciplined in our fundamentals and techniques... how we rush, how we do everything."
The mindset remains the same... go 1-0 each week.
"That's our expectation this year," stated Hill. "Don't lose anymore games and go 1-0 for the rest of the season, each week. If we do that, go 1-0, it will take care of itself."