RALEIGH After a press conference that lasted less than two and a half minutes, NC State coach Dave Doeren ripped the stat sheet from the podium, balled it up and slammed it into the trash can. The fourth-year coach couldn’t get out of the room quick enough following a devastating 24-20 loss to Florida State.Doeren’s demeanor likely embodied the feeling in the locker room for a Wolfpack team that dropped to below .500 for the first time since 2013, his first season in Raleigh. His players felt that same sentiment.”We got a lot better in one week,” Doeren said. “But it hurts not being able to salvage that, just like it always does. They’re hurting right now.”NC State’s loss was its fourth straight, all coming in ACC play. It was also the Wolfpack’s fourth loss by seven points or less. To top it all off, the loss was yet again decided by one play a dropped interception in the end zone by Shawn Boone that would have avoided a touchdown on the next play.The missed interception was Boone’s second on back-to-back possessions the other was on an overthrown ball by Deondre Francois with both leaving Boone slamming his fists on the field. Not to mention Boone was the player in coverage on Travis Rudolph’s game-winning touchdown.Doeren didn’t give an initial opening statement in the presser and gave short answers. But instead of harping on Boone, he stood up for the safety following the game.”I told him I loved him, and I do,” Doeren said. “He’s crushed. This means a lot to these guys, man. What do you think he’s gonna be?”As for the players, linebacker Jerod Fernandez said Boone was still sitting with his pads on when he left the locker room. Fernandez described how he tried to uplift the sobbing safety before heading to his media availability.”I went over there to him and just talked to him,” he said. “That’s our starting safety and he’s going to remain our starting safety. I’ve got all the faith in the world in him. I just don’t want him to be down on himself because we’ve still got three players left and we need him. We love him, and he knows that.”Team captain Bradley Chubb also consoled Boone in the locker room.”I told him he was my brother,” Chubb said. “I love him. I mean the game didn’t come down to him. I could have did a lot more throughout the game and throughout that last drive. Don’t put your head down because it’s not just a Shawn Boone thing, it’s a NC State Wolfpack defense thing. It’s not on him, I put that on me.”NC State had a chance to win the game with 3:09 remaining on the clock, but the drive stalled out on an overthrown pass from Ryan Finley to Nyheim Hines. While Hines totaled career-high 11 catches for 124 yards, he couldn’t quite come away with the completion to continue the drive.He may have put together the best performance of his young career, but the sophomore didn’t make any excuses about the final play.”I’ve gotta get to that ball,” Hines said. “… I just saw the ball and it was a little out of my reach. I’ve gotta dive or do something, leave it all on the field.”Hines’ play wasn’t the only highlight for the Pack. The defense played well all game, limiting the ACC’s leading rusher Dalvin Cook to 65 rushing yards despite allowing him to get in for a touchdown late. Nyqwan Murray had a breakout game with 153 yards, but no other FSU receiver had more than 68 yards.Matt Dayes also got back on track after being bottled up by Boston College the previous week, finishing with 131 total yards. Even with the offensive output, Dayes didn’t have an answer for why the Wolfpack fell short yet again in ACC play.”It’s very frustrating. I almost feel like we’re cursed,” Dayes said. “We’ve got to dig deep and come back to work this following week and prepare for the next game. … It’s tough. We won all aspects of the game but we’ve just got to finish. That’s what we’ve been struggling with in the last few weeks is finishing.”Three weeks ago when NC State dropped a dramatic game to Clemson, the team laid an egg against Louisville and dropped a puzzling game against Boston College. All seemed to be right again with Doeren’s team leading the No. 19 team in the country heading into the fourth quarter, but it was handed another loss.Now comes the tough part: Not allowing this loss to crush them in the weeks to come again. Before the Pack closes the season out with Syracuse, Miami and North Carolina, an agitated Doeren was clear when asked whether or not this would be a similar situation to the loss in Death Valley.”No I don’t,” Doeren explained, “It’s a new game next week.”Syracuse is a winnable game. So is Miami at home, especially with the Hurricanes losing four straight before getting right against Pittsburgh. However, with a 3-12 mark at home and 7-22 record overall in the ACC, time is running out for Doeren to turn the program around.
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