The Seminoles will take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack this Saturday at Campbell Stadium at 7:30 on ACC Network.
NC State is 3-1 on the season with wins over East Carolina, Western Carolina and Ball State and a loss against West Virginia.
The last time the two schools faced off on the gridiron was in 2018. The Wolfpack won the game decisively 47-28. The last time FSU won a game in the series was in 2016 in Raleigh, 24-20.
James Blackman suffered a MCL sprain and could be sidelined for the game. If he can’t play, graduate transfer Alex Hornibrook will take his place as the starting quarterback. Blackman was spotted throwing the ball in practice but it is hard to come back from that injury in a week. I think the coaching staff is just trying to make NC State prepare for both QBs and Hornibrook will get the start.
The Swiss Army knife on defense Jaiden Lars-Woodbey is out for the season with an unspecified lower leg injury.
Observations from last game
For the second game in a row, FSU did not turn the ball over. On top of that they only committed 5 penalties. Playing this kind of mistake free football could help turn the season around.
Hornibrook looked comfortable and decisive in the Seminole offense. He was 15/20 for 255 yards and 2 TDs. Hornibrook may not have the speed of Blackman but he is mobile and can tuck it and run if needed. Blackman throws with more zip down the field but Hornibrook is able to deliver the short throws more accurately and with better timing.
The lineup changes to the defense seemed like it helped against the run. Louisville averaged 259 yards per game on the ground but in this game only gained 125 yards.
Wide receivers coach Ron Dugans has gotten his position group to really buy into being complete players. It was evident in the 1st quarter as Keith Gavin was able to block two Louisville defenders to help Warren Thompson get off a nice catch and run.
Florida State offense versus North Carolina State defense
For at least the last 3 straight years, North Carolina State’s defense is clearly better at defending the run and than they are the pass. NC State averages giving up 99 yards on the ground per game, which is good enough for 21st in the FBS. In contrast they are giving up 278 yards through the air per game, which is 93rd in the FBS.
Larrell Murchison is a senior run stopper that can put some pressure on the quarterback as well. Murchison also provides lanes to make it easier for linebackers Payton Wilson and Louis Acceus to disrupt the rushing attack. Safety Tanner Ingle likes to stick his nose in the fray to stop the running backs but the fact that the safety leads the team in tackles tells you that he has to make tackles after someone catches the ball too often.
Opposing teams have found success in attacking cornerback Chris Ingram through the air but he has taken advantage of the opposing QB’s aggression with two interceptions. The rest of the first-team defense is filled with upperclassman, but once you get to the backups experience is hard to find. With this in mind, Florida State’s high tempo offense could present problems for the Pack. Blackman put up big numbers against the Wolfpack in Raleigh last year against a more talented defense and patchwork O-line. I expect whichever QB plays will have a good game passing. The offense will need to sustain a few long drives and turn their red zone opportunities into touchdowns to keep NC State’s offense off the field.
Florida State defense versus North Carolina State offense
Matthew McKay is the starting quarterback and he has 958 all-purpose yards to go with 7 total TDs and only one interception. Backing up McKay is former Seminole Bailey Hockman. The main offensive weapons are receiver Emeka Emezie running backs Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person. Receivers Tabari Hines and Thayer Thomas to go along with tight and Cary Angeline can give the Seminoles problems as well.
The offensive line features three juniors and a senior. The line has done a good job of keeping their quarterback up right this season with only 4 sacks allowed. FSU has struggled with quick shifty receivers for quite a few years and I don’t expect it to change on Saturday. Emezie, who has 25 receptions for 252 yards, is not only quick but he is big enough to beat people down the field. NCSU’s offense reminds me of Virginia’s in that they have a true dual threat QB with big-play receivers and do it all running backs. However, the Wolfpack are more inclined to use some tempo to help wear defenses down. The young backup defensive lineman like Tru Thompson and Dennis Briggs will need to play well to give the starters, Robert Cooper, Marvin Wilson and Corey Durden, a breather so they are fresh for the fourth quarter.
The aforementioned Thayer Thomas is also a threat in the return game. So much so that he leads the ACC in return yards per attempt at 17.3. Last weekend against Ball State, Thomas had a 76-yard punt return for a touchdown. Trenton Gill has been solid as the Wolfpack punter and kicker Christopher Dunn has been quite the pleasant surprise with his only 2 misses coming from over 50 yards.
It will be a battle of the punt returners as Seminole fans know that DJ Matthews can rip off a huge return as well. After a hot start to the season Ricky Agauyo missed badly on his 3 field goal attempts versus the Cardinals. It will be interesting to see how much more slack Coach Taggart will give him or will we see freshmen Ryan Fitzgerald get an opportunity. It looks like punter Tommy Martin has done enough to take the job from Logan Tyler.
FSU faces another beatable team at home to try to get above .500 for the first time since the Wake Forest game last year. This will be a tight game but I think the Seminoles will pull out a victory due to NC State’s inability to stop Blackman and/or Hornibrook and the passing attack.
‘Noles 38 NC State 34.