Oct. 28, 2011
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- When Florida State and NC State renew their rivalry at Doak Campbell Stadium, the coaches and players from both teams know there's a good chance that Saturday's game will be a close one.
Just look at the recent history.
In the 31-game series history between the Seminoles and Wolfpack, the two programs have battled to 12 one-score outcomes. Of those 12 seven-points-or-less games, six have taken place since 2001. FSU's 34-28 loss in '01 was followed by a 50-44 win in '03, a 17-10 win in '04, back-to-back losses by scores of 20-15 and 24-20 in '05 and '06, respectively, a 45-42 win in '09 and finally a 28-24 loss last season.
Throw in NC State's 17-7 win in 2002 and FSU's 27-10 and 26-17 wins in '07 and '08, respectively, and there hasn't been an outcome between the two that was more than two scores since 2000 when the 'Noles punched the 'Pack 58-14 in Raleigh, N.C.
"It's always close when we play them," FSU senior running back Jermaine Thomas said. "It's always a good game and we expect it to be like that again."
Thomas knows something about good games in the series. His career-best 186 yards on the ground in the 2009 game are the most rushing yards ever by a Seminoles (4-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) player since the two teams started playing back in 1952.
Against a Wolfpack (4-3, 1-2) team that ranks 67th in the nation in total defense with an average of 388.86 yards allowed per game, a little more Thomas magic could do the trick in this new tradition of tight tilts between the two.
Thomas burst out of his senior shell against Maryland last weekend with a season-best 86 yards rushing and one score. If not him, than the reigning ACC Rookie of the Week, Devonta Freeman, could be the difference for FSU, which as a team has run the ball better, committed less turnovers and played better defense during its current two-game winning streak.
"We are still able to run the football and mix the run and the pass and keep balance so you don't get one-dimensional," FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said, "which can make you get penalties when you play from behind because you are having to throw it from behind and all those things. I think defensively we are playing much sounder."
The Seminoles will need to continue that level of even defensive play once the ball is kicked off at noon on Bobby Bowden Field.
Unlike the last two weeks where there wasn't one "true" home-run threat playing for either Duke or Maryland, NC State's T.J. Graham epitomizes the term. Graham can knock one out of the park from his starting wide receiver spot or in the return game where he excels on both punts and kickoffs.
In close games, protection of the football is even more critical than usual so Florida State must also avoid costly turnovers on Saturday. Sparked by David Amerson's nation's-best eight interceptions, the Wolfpack rank seventh in the country in turnover margin.
After a five-turnover debacle against Wake Forest, the Seminoles have committed just two turnovers combined in the wins over the Blue Devils and Terrapins.
Whether it's a close game or a large-margined win by either team, make sure to keep your Internet browser locked on Seminoles.com. Join us on Saturday morning for the official "It's Gameday" video featuring Ryan Pensy and Scott Kotick and then take part in the official game chat that will be linked to the front of this web site.
The game will air live on ESPNU but if you are unable to watch, follow @FSU_Football on Twitter for play-by-play information and @BrandonMellor for additional analysis. Once the game is over, Seminoles.com is your official home for coach and player reactions, video interviews, a game recap and much more.
OFFICIAL FSU INJURY REPORT FOR NC STATE:
OUT FOR SEASON