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Game Preview: No. 2 FSU vs. NC State

Oct. 25, 2013

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INDIVIDUAL STATS COMPARISON

No. 2 Florida State Seminoles (6-0, 4-0 ACC)
Roster | Schedule | Stats | Game Notes
Head Coach: Jimbo Fisher
Passing leader
Player Pct Avg/gm TD Int
Jameis Winston 71.3 314.2 20 3
Rushing leaders
Player Att Yds Avg/gm TD
Devonta Freeman 75 469 78.2 4
Karlos Williams 31 263 43.8 6
Receiving leaders
Player Rec Yds Avg/gm TD
Rashad Greene 31 553 92.2 7
Kenny Shaw 28 530 88.3 3
Defensive leaders
Player Tkls Scks TFL INT
Telvin Smith 43 1.0 5.0 1
Lamarcus Joyner 33 3.0 3.0 1
 

NC State Wolfpack (3-3, 0-3 ACC)
Roster | Schedule | Stats | Game Notes
Head Coach: Dave Doeren
Passing leader
Player Pct Avg/gm TD Int
Pete Thomas 60.9 219.0 3 8
Rushing leaders
Player Att Yds Avg/gm TD
Matt Dayes 43 188 37.6 4
Shadrach Thornton 45 184 36.8 2
Receiving leaders
Player Rec Yds Avg/gm TD
Bryan Underwood 30 357 59.5 1
Rashard Smith 21 242 48.4 0
Defensive leaders
Player Tkls Scks TFL INT
Robert Caldwell 48 0.0 7.5 0
Dontae Johnson 39 0.0 0.0 1

#NCSTvsFSU infographic

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Brandon Mellor Brandon Mellor
Seminoles.com Managing Editor
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Key players: Offense

Florida State

35 Nick O'Leary

Jameis Winston joked at his weekly press conference Wednesday that O'Leary gets him in trouble at practice because head coach Jimbo Fisher thinks that he only targets the big tight end on each passing play and doesn't spread the ball around.

But as Winston told the media, can you blame him if he wants to get the junior tight end the ball on every play?

While the 'Noles trio of NFL-caliber wide receivers are dominating defensive secondaries, so too is O'Leary, who is doing his part to rewrite the stereotypes of FSU tight ends -- players that historically haven't been featured in the passing game.

O'Leary comes into Saturday's game on the heels of a career-high 161-yards performance against Clemson. Through six games, he has 16 catches for 293 yards and five touchdowns.

"I think he's being much more consistent," Fisher said. "I think he's learning blocking. I think his routes have gotten better because of the knowledge of offense. He's always a great ball-skills guy [and has] great instincts that way, but is now understanding coverages and how to sit down and get open."

 
NC State

8 Brandon Mitchell

NC State is pinning its offensive hopes on Mitchell, who is making his return to action after recuperating from a broken foot he sustained in the Wolfpack's season opener.

An Arkansas graduate that was able to play immediately at NC State this season, Mitchell beat out Pete Thomas for the starting job during fall camp. After leading the 'Pack on back-to-back scoring drives to start the season, he left the team's opener against Louisiana Tech with the injury midway through the first quarter on Aug. 31.

Thomas has played in Mitchell's place since the injury, but has only tossed three touchdowns with eight interceptions in NC State's three wins and three losses.

The return of Mitchell means that NC State is now more athletic under center. In his final year at Arkansas in 2012, the Louisina native showed his versatility by switching from quarterback to wide receiver to get on the field more.

"He can play," Fisher said. "He's a big strong, athletic guy, can throw it, run, he's a heck of a football player. They'll get him back and he's a guy that can move around. He's a good player now."

Key players: Defense

Florida State

22 Telvin Smith

FSU has had no trouble slowing down mobile quarterbacks in 2013 and Smith is a large part of that because of his speed and instincts.

NC State seams pretty excited to have the unproven Mitchell back under center because of his athletic ability and will surely try to utilize him in the running game on designed quarterback keepers. In his only game this year before injury, Mitchell ran five times and threw three times.

For Smith and the FSU defense, overlooking the Wolfpack is not on their to-do list.

"I think all the history of the letdowns and the false hopes that we've given the fans, I think that's driving us even more this year," Smith. "This team is just really driven off of all the old letdowns that we've had. Right now we are just more focused than ever and we are just ready to play."

 
NC State

48 Robert Caldwell

Caldwell has been NC State's best defensive player through six games in 2013.

A 6-foot-3, 250-pound linebacker, the Twentynine Palms, Calif. native leads the team in tackles and tackles for loss with 7.5.

As a defense, the Wolfpack will certainly have its hands full against the potent 'Noles and Caldwell must have a good game from his middle linebacker spot.

NC State comes into Saturday's game ranked 28th nationally in yards allowed per game with 355.8 allowed per contest.

The Wolfpack are 51st against the run, 27th against the pass and 27th in scoring defense.

Four Downs: Key questions for FSU vs. NC State

1. Will there be a quiet fan in the house when #BowdenReturns?

Last time Bowden was around FSU, he was being carried off the Gator Bowl field.

Easy one. No way.

Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden will make his first appearance at a 'Noles game since his 2009 retirement Saturday when FSU hosts NC State and the living legend is sure to bring the house down.

As part of the celebration of Bowden's legendary career, major college football's all-time winningest coach will plant the spear during FSU's pre-game ceremony in a moment that won't soon be forgotten.

"It's what's right about the worl," Fisher said. "He made Florida State. He was Florida State. That's why we have this stadium, the facilities, that's why we have academics, that's why we have the school. That's why we have everything. Coach Bowden allowed Florida State to open the doors and raise money and be great to come to Florida State, not just athletically, but academically. I think it's what's right about the world. It's what's right for Florida State and it's great for college football.

" I'm extremely excited because he was my hero too."

Fans are encouraged Saturday to be in their Doak Campbell Stadium seats by 3 p.m. for a flyover and all of the pre-game Bowden festivities. For more information on the entire #BowdenReturns weekend, click here.

2. Will FSU overlook NC State?

FSU lost to NC State last season, 17-16.

If Florida State wants to potentially play for a national championship, it first has to get past NC State.

At 3-3 overall, beating the Wolfpack Saturday may not appear like much of a challenge for an undefeated 'Noles team that just bashed then-No. 3 Clemson last weekend, but consider this: In the last four times that FSU has been ranked in the AP Poll and played against un-ranked NC State, the Wolfpack has won all four matchups.

A season ago, Florida State went to Carter-Finley Stadium ranked exactly where it is now -- at No. 3 in the AP Poll -- only to see its nationa- championship chances dashed in 17-16 loss to NC State.

So this week, with the eyes of the country on the hottest team in the nation, Jimbo Fisher's message to his team has been clear: "Feel that pain," Fisher said. "You want that pain again? Don't prepare. You want to eliminate that pain? Prepare and take care of business."

The Seminoles didn't focus on the program's five-game streak of losses at Clemson's Death Valley prior to the 51-14 streak-busting blowout and they sure aren't dwelling on the second-half struggles that plagued last year's squad that fell to NC State.

But that doesn't mean they aren't aware of that pain. And it means that no matter what, FSU can't overlook the Wolfpack no matter what the team's record says.

"I wouldn't call it a revenge [game] because this is a totally different team," FSU junior wide receiver Rashad Greenesaid. "It's just a lesson learned."

3. Can FSU continues its defensive dominance?

The FSU defense is one of the nation's best.

After a wake-up call at Boston College late last month, the Florida State defense has turned in back-to-back defensive performances that has the entire nation buzzing.

Despite playing two top-25 teams, FSU dismantled Maryland (then-No.-25) and Clemson (then-No. 3) by a combined score of 114-14 over the past two ballgames and the playmaking ability of the 'Noles' defensive attack has been something to behold.

With a struggling NC State team next on schedule, FSU won't be playing the type of offense with nearly the same firepower as in recent weeks, but that doesn't mean Jeremy Pruitt's has turned down the intensity level at practice.

"We are just taking it one game at a time," Smith said. "We just know that at the end of the season if we've got a zero behind whatever number we've got in front of it, that's going to take care of itself. So one week at a time; one game at a time."

4. What will James Wilder, Jr.'s absence for the 'Noles' rushing attack?

Wilder suffered a concussion against Clemson.

Wilder sustained a concussion in the Seminoles' 51-14 win at Clemson last weekend and though he made progress this week in his recovery, FSU doctors weren't ready to give him the green light to play against NC State Saturday.

"He was close. He was very close," Fisher said about the junior tailback. "They really like it. That's why they reexamined him today and thought there might be a chance but just a little close and you can't risk those things."

So, what does Wilder's absence means for the Seminoles? Not much, thanks to FSU's depth. Devonta Freeman has carried the brunt of the load this season as the team's leading rusher. And while Wilder is dangerous in the backfield as a pile mover capable of wearing down defenses, converted safety Karlos Williams has proven that he can provide a change-of-pace from Freeman as well.

The Seminoles also have true freshman Ryan Green in the backfield should they need carries from the youngster and starting fullback Chad Abram is capable of toting the rock should he be asked to do so.

"I thought they had a really good week," Fisher said about the healthy running backs.

FSU injury report

Out for game
Out for season

 Doak Insider Podcast game preview

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