Florida State at NC State brings memories from 30 years ago when ‘Noles first joined ACC

N.C. State coach Dave Doeren was discussing Florida State on Monday and the game this week against the Seminoles when he gave a brief scouting report.

“It’s the most impressive Florida State team we’ve played in a long time,” Doeren said at his weekly news conference. “They seem to be playing really fast. Offensively, it’s what you think when you turn on film of Florida State. They usually have tremendously good skill players, and they do. Their receivers are fast. … They’re very balanced, averaging 200 yards plus in rushing.

“On defense they’re fast. They don’t do a lot but they do it well. Their D line is active. They do play a lot of press coverage on the outside and force you to make contact catches.”

Fast, active, balanced? Impressive?

That’s the 4-1 FSU team coached by Mike Norvell coming to Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday. It’s also the same words used through the years by N.C. State coaches Dick Sheridan and Mike O’Cain, Chuck Amato and Tom O’Brien, and now Doeren.

Flash back to the fall of 1992, when Florida State was just beginning league competition and the face of ACC football was about to change — for the better, perhaps for the survival of the conference.

These days, much is made of the revenue gap between the ACC and the Big Ten and SEC. Thirty years ago, it was more about the talent gap — FSU’s vs. anyone else’s in the ACC — that had everyone talking.

The SEC is where longtime Florida State coach Bobby Bowden wanted to be, with the thought that it would be better for recruiting. But the decision was made to go to the ACC as its ninth member and Bowden first brought his third-ranked Seminoles to the Triangle in September 1992 to face the Wolfpack, then ranked 16th and coached by Sheridan.

The day before the game, the ‘Noles sauntered into Carter-Finley for a team walk-through. It was a confident, saucy group, a team that was good and knew it was good and knew that you knew it was good.

Quarterback Charlie Ward, who would win the Heisman Trophy in 1993, was throwing some passes and the others running drills when Bowden strolled over to a group of reporters in the end zone.

“How y’all doing?” Bowden said, talking for about 10 minutes and being his usual entertaining self.

The questioning done, Bowden asked what else the reporters needed and someone mentioned maybe talking to Ward.

“Go on out there and grab him,” Bowden said.

Told Ward seemed to be, uh, busy at the time, Bowden laughed and said, “Oh, go on out there, he’ll stop.”

A couple of reporters carefully weaved their way through the players. Ward stopped, casually tossing the ball to another QB, to hold court.

The immediate thought: This is a different breed of football team.

The next day, the Pack defense was giving Ward fits until the FSU offense arrived with major wattage — TD passes of 60 and 32 yards late in the first half. As Bowden put it, “Charlie started to come around.”

Final score: FSU 34, N.C. State 13. The Seminoles won as they almost always did in the next decade and longer, dominating the conference, winning 15 ACC titles, winning three national championships.

To have a chance against Florida State, other teams in the ACC recruited more speed, recruited Florida more, pumping more money into facilities. The league expanded, adding Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College, then Syracuse, Pitt and Louisville — Notre Dame also joined, although not for football.

As the revenues of college sports pivoted more and more to football, the ACC was better prepared as a football conference, no longer so reliant on its rich basketball history.

The Wolfpack hired Amato, a former Wolfpack player and longtime FSU assistant, as its head coach in 2000. His first assessment: only a couple of his Pack players would have been on the two-deep at FSU. There was much work to do, for N.C. State and everyone else, and much has been done.

Doeren was in his early 20s when Florida State joined the ACC and said Monday he doesn’t have the same degree of appreciation that others do for the impact FSU football has had for the conference. He does admire Bowden, who died in 2021 at 91, and the impact he had on coaches and college football.

“I grew up being a great football fan and watching all of Bobby’s teams,” Doeren said Monday. “Bowden (was) a mentor and a role model in this sport for coaches. I’ve studied them and loved watching them play.”

Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis (13) tries to avoid LSU safety Jay Ward (5) during their game in New Orleans on Sept. 4, 2022. Gerald Herbert/AP
Florida State quarterback Jordan Travis (13) tries to avoid LSU safety Jay Ward (5) during their game in New Orleans on Sept. 4, 2022. Gerald Herbert/AP

Doeren is studying another quarterback this week — FSU’s Jordan Travis. The 6-1, 212-pound redshirt junior is the only FSU quarterback, including the elusive Ward, to rush for more than 1,000 career yards.

“He’s very athletic. He can run, run with the football,” Doeren said. “Comparing him from last year to this year, last year I thought he was an athlete playing quarterback. This year he’s a quarterback. He’s thrown accurate passes. He’s reading coverage. He’s giving receivers chances to make plays. He’s moving around in the pocket. He’s playing really good football.”

Starting time for N.C. State at Syracuse

The Wolfpack’s game Oct. 15 at Syracuse will have a 3:30 p.m. start, the ACC announced Monday.