The Florida State game was barely over when B.J. Hill had already started thinking about N.C. State’s next game.
The senior defensive tackle celebrated the Wolfpack’s 27-21 win over the Seminoles with coach Dave Doeren, linebacker Jerod Fernandez and safety Shawn Boone near midfield at Doak Campbell Stadium.
Doeren put one arm around Fernandez and the other around Hill to soak in the moment, N.C. State’s first win over a ranked opponent in five years.
“We ain’t done yet,” Hill shouted on the field. “We ain’t done. We got a long way to go, man.”
The moment was captured by N.C. State’s video crew and posted on its Twitter feed. Hill knew what he was doing. It was a message to his own teammates and a warning to everyone else.
“It just came to me,” Hill said. “I want to motivate our guys and get them going.”
The Wolfpack (3-1, 1-0 ACC) gets Syracuse (2-2, 0-0) on Saturday in its first ACC home game of the season. This is not the first time Hill, a 6-4, 315-pound space-eater in the middle of N.C. State’s defense, has taken the role as lead motivator.
After the season-opening loss to South Carolina on Sept. 2, it was Hill the next day that sent out a group text to his teammates telling them to forget it and move on to the next game.
Hill, a four-year starter, is an effective motivator, senior defensive end Bradley Chubb said. Chubb, who was outstanding in the win over FSU, might be the star of the defense, but Hill is the “father figure,” Chubb said.
“When he speaks, everyone listens,” Chubb said.
N.C. State has a “24-hour” rule – one day, win or lose, to think about the game they just played – but Hill wasn’t willing to wait that long after the FSU win.
“I want to win the rest of the games this season,” Hill said. “I don’t want to lose. That’s my goal.”
First things first, N.C. State has to avoid a letdown against Syracuse, a two-touchdown underdog. The Orange gave LSU everything it wanted last week on the road, a 35-26 loss. Quarterback Eric Dungey has thrown for 1,052 yards and has the potential to exploit N.C. State’s shaky pass defense.
But matchup logistics aside, the game is about how N.C. State will handle success. In the preseason, the Wolfpack was pumped up as a potential playoff darkhorse.
That didn’t go well.
“We had all that preseason hype and we lost,” junior running back Nyheim Hines said.
“Everybody was saying we’re bad,” Hines said. “Now, it’s the opposite.”
The key is not to listen either way, Hines said. Besides, Hill’s message seems to getting through.
“If we want to be a great team, we can’t have just one win on the season that’s worth something,” Chubb said.
Following up a big win against Florida State has been a tricky proposition for the Wolfpack. Last week’s win over FSU was N.C. State’s eighth since 1998. The Wolfpack is 2-5 in the game after a win over the Seminoles.
“We’re trying to do things people haven’t done or haven’t done in a really long time,” Hines said.
For the current players, until last week, that had meant beating a top-25 team. That goal is in the rearview mirror. The question is how will N.C. State handle it?
“I mean we haven’t really had a big win like that since I’ve been here,” Hill said. “So we’ll find out.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio