Oct. 5, 2012
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- For the first time in 2012, No. 3 FSU is leaving Florida -- a state that was very kind to the Seminoles during the month of September.
After jumping out to a 5-0 record following four consecutive home games and a matchup in Tampa last weekend against USF that felt in many ways like a home contest because of the number of 'Noles supporters in the stands, Florida State plays at NC State (3-2, 0-1 ACC) Saturday night at 8 p.m.
But moving to 6-0 for the first time since 1999 is no guarantee as FSU has had its share of struggles in Raleigh, N.C.
The Seminoles (5-0, 2-0) are just 3-4 in the last seven games at Carter-Finley Stadium as the two teams have alternated victories on the Wolfpack's home field since 1998. A win Saturday would not only continue that trend but it would mean that the Seminoles' withstood a bounce-back effort by NC State, which was embarrassed a week ago when it allowed Miami quarterback Stephen Morris to throw for an Atlantic Coast Conference-record 566 yards passing in a 44-37 Hurricanes' win.
"They'll make adjustments," FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said. "They've got a great staff and they'll make some adjustments."
While the NC State defense faces the tall task making those adjustments against an EJ Manuel-led offense that currently ranks ninth in the nation with an average of 544.40 yards per game, FSU's vaunted defense must face the talented Mike Glennon, who, despite throwing for 130 yards in last season's 34-0 loss in Tallahassee, has the utmost respect of Fisher and his staff.
A close friend with fellow Virginia native Manuel, Glennon is widely considered one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC and a potential high NFL draft selection when he is on his game.
"Glennon, you give him looks all day, he'll rip you apart," Fisher said. "He can throw that football to all parts of the field and I think you have to be dominant up front. I think we have to give multiple looks in the secondary to be able to cover, make tight windows to be able to throw and not allow them to run the football.
"If they can do both, we can be in trouble."
FSU's defensive efforts so far this season make the possibility of those types of issues unlikely.
The Seminoles' defense is surrendering just 20.80 yards per game (good enough for third-best in the entire country) and the team is in the top five nationally in both rush and pass defenses. Defensive ends Cornellius Carradine and Bjoerrn Werner are the top two pass rushers in the conference and the 'Noles boast an impressive group of defensive tackles that have acted like wrecking balls through the first month of the season.
"They turn [Carradine and Werner] loose because those guys in the middle can eat up a lot of blockers and those guys set the edge and get up the field and create all kind of havoc," NC State coach Tom O'Brien said.
Carradine, Werner and the deep rotation of defensive tackles may find even more success than normal Saturday because of the Wolfpack's revolving door on the offensive line. Injuries will force NC State to use its fourth combination of starting linemen in six games against a Seminoles team that ranks first in the ACC in sacks per game.
NC State is currently 11th in the league in sacks allowed with an average of 3.2 per contest.
Unlike the last two weeks when FSU's defensive front was focused on keeping mobile quarterbacks Tajh Boyd and B.J. Daniels in the pocket, the strategy will be the opposite this time around against a pure pocket passer like Glennon.
"[Glennon] can kill us just by staying in the pocket too much," FSU senior defensive tackle Anthony McCloudsaid. "By throwing the ball with accuracy and stuff so we've got to get him moving outside the pocket and see how he does on the move."
As for Manuel, FSU's signal caller will have his own test orchestrating an offense in a hostile environment for the first time since last November against Florida. Manuel spent the week at practice whispering to his teammates amidst artificial crowd noise to simulate what it will be like when they can't hear him well Saturday night.
The redshirt senior is hoping his play on ESPN2 puts the Wolfpack crowd into its own whisper.
"I'm one of the type of people that, I used to watch Reggie Miller, he'd be the kind of guy that used do this when he knocked down a three and the crowd was yelling and that kind of stuff," Manuel said. "When we have an opportunity to do that to an opposing crowd, that makes us feel good as a team."