NC State focuses on Louisville in short week

Pack players give up Twitter to focus on No. 17 Cardinals

NC State coach Dave Doeren has the Wolfpack back in the polls, just in time for a matchup with Louisville. Jim Dedmon / USA TODAY Sports)

RALEIGH — Jaylen Samuels last tweeted on Sept. 27. Kentavius Street on Sept. 25. Darian Roseboro’s last tweet is from Sept. 30. On Oct. 1, Nyheim Hines sent a quick retweet, and Kelvin Harmon posted, “Back to the lab again.”

Don’t expect to see much more from the Wolfpack over the next two days.

Louisville is coming to town.

“On Thursday night, we’ll have two top-25 teams fighting on national television,” said coach Dave Doeren, who last tweeted on Sept. 23. “I told them to get off social media and focus on the game plan. We only have a couple days to learn it, to get it right.”

No. 24 NC State is hosting No. 17 Louisville on a short week for both teams. Doeren opened his Monday press conference by saying, “Welcome to Wednesday of game week,” as the team scrambles to prepare for the defending Heisman Trophy winner in Cardinals’ quarterback Lamar Jackson.

“They’re a great team,” Doeren said. “Obviously, their Heisman quarterback returning that leads the ACC in total offense with 575 yards a game, 40 points, 300 yards passing. He also leads his team in rushing.”

NC State vs. Louisville
Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh  |  Thursday, Oct. 5, 8 p.m.  |  ESPN

Jackson torched the Wolfpack last season, passing for 355 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for 76 yards and a score, doing most of his damage in the first half as the Cardinals built a 44-0 lead, en route to a 54-10 pounding of the Pack.

Doeren worried last week about how to motivate his team to play a Syracuse team that NC State had beaten the year before. Clearly, last year’s game should provide plenty of ammunition for him as he shows the team lowlights in the film room this week.

“I don’t think we’ll have to show them any of it,” Doeren said. “Not to take anything away from Louisville, because they beat us, but we didn’t play well at all in that game.”

The Wolfpack had lost a heartbreaker to Clemson, after nearly derailing the Tigers’ national championship season in Death Valley, the week before. State missed a late field goal that would have given it the victory, only to see Clemson win in overtime. The team then dwelt on the loss, allowing Clemson to beat them twice.

“We were still not over what happened the week before,” Doeren said. “Whether that would’ve changed outcome or not, we’ll never know. Our players have a bad taste in their mouth from how we played. It wasn’t our best coaching. It wasn’t our best playing. We’re playing against a team that’s gotten best of us the last three times we’ve played them. I don’t think last year’s film is needed to motivate our team.”

To avoid dwelling on a game like last year’s Clemson loss, this year the team has preached a “24-hour rule.” The players and coaches agreed to forget about the previous game after a full day, in order to focus on the next challenge. It came in handy following the win at Florida State, when the Wolfpack was able to refocus and fend off Syracuse the following week.

The rule, and the team’s maturity, have helped NC State to avoid distractions.

“We’re an experienced football team,” Doeren said. “We’ve never had that before. In the past, we were building a program. In a lot of cases, we were playing sophomores and freshmen. That’s not what we have this year. So we haven’t paid any attention to negatives or positives. We’ve focused ourselves on the task at hand.”

“I’ve been impressed with our preparation for every game this year,” Doeren continued, “whether we’re playing Furman or Florida State. I just think they’ve bought into the process.”

The process gets a bit of a tweak during this short week. Doeren has had to make a bit of an adjustment to the 24-hour rule.

“They get 12 hours, this week,” Doeren said, “or maybe it’s the eight-hour rule. I told the team, ‘You don’t get 24 hours for this one.’ We’ve already two days removed (from the week).”

Not that the players needed much coaxing to forget about the Syracuse win and focus on the ESPN Thursday Night game against Louisville. The switch in mindset came almost immediately after the game, in the locker room.

“You could feel it,” Doeren said. “I told the guys how proud I was of them, but you could feel immediately how excited they were for the next matchup.”

They were excited enough to be willing to give up Twitter, at least for a few days.