Close calls and crushed souls: NC State versus top 25 teams
The stat sheet and trash bin never had a chance.
After N.C. State’s heartbreaking loss to Florida State last season, in a display of raw emotion Dave Doeren took out his frustrations on both.
“I don’t remember that,” Doeren joked this week. “I must have had something to drink afterwards to erase it from my memory.”
The normally phlegmatic coach wasn’t the only one searching for a home remedy after last year’s 24-20 loss to the Seminoles in Raleigh. It was the most recent in a frustrating string of difficult losses to top-25 opponents by N.C. State under Doeren.
The Wolfpack (2-1) gets another crack at the Seminoles (0-1), ranked No. 12 by the AP, on Saturday on the road. It’s a chance for a little payback with FSU, which trailed by double digits in each of the last three meetings but came back to win each time.
“It’s always a big opportunity any time we play Florida State,” junior running back Nyheim Hines said. “We can sit here and say, ‘It’s just another team,’ but everyone knows that’s a lie.”
In the bigger picture, it’s also a chance for a signature win for the program under Doeren, who has a 0-9 record against ranked teams and is 11-25 against Power 5 opponents.
“We’ve been waiting for these games,” senior receiver/running back Jaylen Samuels said. “We’ve said it every year, we need to get one of these games against the Florida States, the Clemsons.”
Doeren has an 0-8 record against the Seminoles and Tigers, who have combined to win the last six ACC titles, and each has a national title during Doeren’s tenure.
The Wolfpack certainly couldn’t come any closer than it did last year, outplaying both Atlantic Division heavyweights but coming up short on the scoreboard.
Both losses, 24-17 to No. 3 Clemson, and 24-20 to No. 19 Florida State, left an emotional mark. Kyle Bambard missed a 33-yard field goal at the end of regulation that would have given N.C. State a 20-17 win over the Tigers. Safety Shawn Boone dropped an interception in the end zone late in the fourth quarter which likely would have given the Wolfpack a 20-17 win over the Seminoles.
That’s why Doeren memorably tore up the stat sheet and slammed the trash bin after a brief press conference after last year’s loss to FSU. The players were hurting, Doeren said then, and there was nothing he could say to help them.
“My frustration for anything with these kids is they work really hard and they’re great kids and I want them to win,” Doeren said. “That’s the hardest thing is when you feel like they did everything right and they don’t get to feel that in the end.”
N.C. State’s last win over a ranked team was a 17-16 upset of No. 3 FSU in 2012. The Noles’ national title juggernaut wiped out Doeren’s first team, 49-17 in 2013 in Tallahassee, Fla. The past three games in the series could have gone either way.
N.C State led 24-7 and 31-21 in 2014 before Jameis Winston led the Noles to a 56-41 comeback win in Raleigh. The Wolfpack led 17-7 in the first quarter in 2015 at FSU before Jimbo Fisher made a quarterback change and Sean Maguire came off the bench to lead the Noles to a 34-17 win. The Wolfpack led 20-10 in the third quarter of last year’s game in Raleigh.
“That game two years ago (at FSU) and a lot of the games last year came down to not executing,” Hines said. “If we execute and don’t give the game away – and don’t beat ourselves – we’re going to be in the game.”
When Doeren was hired, N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow’s goal was to build a top-25 program. The best way to be a top-25 team is to beat top-25 teams. Doeren, in Year 5, has to prove he can win games like this. Doeren is not interested in making this game about the lack of a signature win on his resume.
“That would be great to have that for the program,” Doeren said. “To me, it’s all about the players and the work that they’ve put in. … It’s not about me, I’m going to be fine.”
Doeren said he believes all of the close calls and tough losses the past four years have happened for a reason and there’s a payoff awaiting the players and the program.
“They’ve been fighting to get themselves in position to win games like this, and it’s time to go win one,” Doeren said.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
NC State at Florida State
Where: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee, Fla.