NC State has lost its last three games against Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, with the last victory coming way back in 2001. And if the Wolfpack expects to pick up a victory over Wake Forest tomorrow, it will have to play at a high level against a balanced and well-coached Demon Deacons squad.
Senior Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for an offense ranked first in the conference in total offense.
Following Saturday's victory over Pittsburgh, Coach Tom O'Brien was quick to point out just how much work he felt the Wolfpack had to do before it could be considered a good team. He didn't let his team get too high after its 38-31 win, but instead brought the Pack down a notch. He pointed specifically to penalties and missed tackles, two things he said must improve before the Wolfpack could compete at a high level.
Senior running back Toney Baker said the team responded well to O'Brien's post-game talk and has worked hard all week in preparation for the Deacons despite feeling good about beating the Panthers last week.
"It's pretty much the same routine," Baker said. "Of course everybody feels good from the win, it always feels good the week after a win but you know Coach O'Brien is doing a really good job getting us focused for this game. What's done is done. We have to look forward and that's what we're doing right now."
The Wolfpack offense will look to continue its impressive early season play when it faces a Demon Deacon defense giving up nearly 19 points per contest. Wake Forest's defense, which had to replace several mainstays from its 2008 team, is allowing 350 yards a game so far this season.
State's offense, which is averaging nearly 50 points a game in its three victories, will certainly look to take advantage of a Wake Forest defense that has some questions early on.
Despite the performance of the State offense during the last three weeks and the questions about the Demon Deacon defense, Baker said the Pack will have to play at its best if it expects to pick up its first ACC win of the year.
"We know they're going to be physical and they are going to be very disciplined so we really just need to be on our A game," he said. "Just follow what we're supposed to be doing because they're good guys. Their linebackers are pretty good; their defensive line is really good so we have to come ready to play."
After finishing its non-conference schedule at 3-1, NC State has put itself in a good position to play its way into a bowl game as it heads into conference play, but as is the norm for O'Brien-coached teams, its one game at a time for the Wolfpack.
Baker said Saturday's ACC opener against Wake Forest is simply the first opportunity for the team to accomplish its goals for the season.
"My expectations are to win every game, and I know as a team that's our expectations," he said. "But the key is just taking it one game at a time. We feel like if we're focused and we do what we need to do we should come out with a victory every game, it doesn't matter who we play."