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Brissett, Wolfpack put early success to test

The last time Florida State lost a game, Jacoby Brissett was on the winning side.

This was in the waning days of Brissett’s time at Florida, in November 2012, at a point when it was becoming obvious he’d never get his chance to be on the field and lead an offense. He’d come to Florida for games like this, but it wasn’t his time.

In the time since, Florida State has won 19 straight games, and Brissett has played in just four. But those four games have been impressive, and the new starting quarterback at NC State is eager to finally get his chance to showcase his offense on a national stage. The Wolfpack plays host to the top-ranked Seminoles on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2).

Brissett leads the ACC in completion percentage, passing touchdowns and passer rating. Since a first-half interception in NC State’s opener against Georgia Southern, Brissett has tossed 108 straight passes without a pick -- the second-longest active streak in the nation.

But for the young Wolfpack, that showcase game hasn’t happened yet. The highest-ranked opponent NC State has faced, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index, was Georgia Southern (68) and that leaves plenty of room for doubters and plenty of questions -- even within the locker room.

Brissett has played well, and he has been around big games before, but this is a new experience.

“I haven’t played in a game like this,” Brissett said. “I can’t sit here and tell you I have the answers. I don’t.”

Through four games, though, Brissett has been exactly the answer NC State’s offense was looking for.

A year ago, Brissett was relegated to the sidelines after his transfer from Florida forced a redshirt season. On the field, NC State was a disaster. First-year coach Dave Doeren didn’t have a quarterback to fit his offense, didn’t have the receivers to make plays, didn’t have the bruisers in the trenches to open up running lanes. The result was a winless season in ACC play.

This year, things have changed, and it starts with Brissett.

“We’re able to be balanced because we can throw and catch,” Doeren said. “We couldn’t do that last year. You’re having some consistency in your front five and you have a quarterback that balances your offense.”

That balance won’t come quite so easily against Florida State. Brissett hasn’t attempted more than three passes against the blitz in any game so far this season, but the Seminoles are apt to bring pressure. Brissett hasn’t been rattled by a pass rush, but Doeren called FSU’s Eddie Goldman “the best defensive tackle in college football.” The ground game is averaging 6.3 yards per carry, but Doeren remembers last season, when NC State averaged less than 2 yards per carry in the first half against FSU, with one-third of its rushes dropped for a loss. The Wolfpack went to the locker room trailing 42-0.

The Seminoles’ defense hasn’t looked quite so strong this season, and Brissett changes the dynamic for NC State. But that’s a wide gap to close.

“Last year, they kicked our butts,” Doeren said. “I hope its a better matchup, for our sake, but I still see first-round draft picks all over the field for them.”

Brissett isn’t interested in that history, though. He’s not interested in the game two years ago when No. 3 Florida State fell to an unranked NC State in Raleigh. And he’s not interested in his time watching his former teammates at Florida upend the Seminoles either.

This is a fresh start for NC State, and that means anything is possible. That means hope, even if it doesn’t offer many assurances -- even for Brissett.

“We’ll have to see how he responds,” Doeren said of his QB. “They’re the No. 1 team in the nation, and it’s not every day you get to see a team like that. He’s won state championships in basketball and football. He’s brought us back in two games we were losing, so I think he’s a gamer. But this is a different test against a really good football team.”