RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State blew one chance to knock off a Heisman Trophy contender and top-10 team. The Wolfpack can’t afford to sulk — not with a shot at another one up next.
N.C. State — the only team in the FBS so far to play consecutive road games against top-10 teams — hopes the lessons learned against Deshaun Watson and fourth-ranked Clemson will pay off in this week’s visit to No. 7 Louisville and Lamar Jackson.
“Our players are excited about the opportunity, and as much as it hurts not to get what you want out of a game, we can’t dwell on that,” N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said Monday. “Our identity is moving forward, and we’re not going to focus on what we don’t have.”
Namely, an upset of a top-10 team — one that seemed firmly in hand in the closing seconds.
The Wolfpack (4-2, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) did enough things right against the Tigers — forcing four turnovers, including the first pick-six of Watson’s career — to put themselves in position for the upset, and they hope some of the things that worked in that game also will work against the Cardinals (5-1, 3-1), who sure looked vulnerable the night before against Duke .
“Defensively, we can’t lick our wounds,” Doeren said. “We’ve got to get back to it.”
It’ll also help if the Wolfpack can win the time of possession battle, much like the Blue Devils did when they kept Jackson and his high-powered offense on the sideline. Duke had a 15-minute advantage in time of possession in its 24-14 loss at Louisville, while N.C. State has had the ball longer than opponents in five of its six games.
That includes that game against the Tigers that the Wolfpack seemingly had won, with only a 33-yard field goal separating them from the signature victory of Doeren’s four years at the school.
But Kyle Bambard pushed the kick wide right, and just that quickly, a Wolfpack loss in overtime seemed inevitable.
Watson threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Artavis Scott on the Tigers’ OT possession, and Ryan Finley threw his second interception of the game — and the season — on N.C. State’s lone offensive snap in extra time.
Doeren said when his players returned to practice Sunday, they were “angry, disappointed, mad,” but were “really good about wanting to move forward.
“At the end of the day, you want to say you gave yourself a chance to win,” Doeren said. “We didn’t find a way to get it done, and (now) where do you go from here?”
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