RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Turnovers are plaguing North Carolina State entering the final month of the Atlantic Coast Conference schedule.
The Wolfpack lost eight turnovers during a three-game losing streak entering Saturday's visit from No. 19 Florida State. That's more than the team lost in the first five games combined, even with one of those played during hurricane conditions.
Reversing this sudden trend is critical for a team struggling to find its footing ever since a crushing loss at Clemson on Oct. 15.
''I agree with you: we can't turn the ball over,'' coach Dave Doeren said. ''We have to do everything we can as a football team. Because of the (small) margin for error, we have to be positive in the turnover margin. That's the No. 1 reason you win and lose games - in pro football and in college football.''
N.C. State (4-4, 1-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) had three turnovers through the first four games. The Wolfpack then had two during almost-unplayable conditions of driving wind and rain from Hurricane Matthew but still beat Notre Dame.
But the numbers are up ever since.
N.C. State lost two in the loss at Clemson, the last an overtime interception thrown by Ryan Finley to seal the loss. The Wolfpack followed with three turnovers in a blowout loss at Louisville, then had three more in a home loss to a Boston College team that went winless in league play last year.
There's little that the Wolfpack players and coaches can say, other than to accept blame for mistakes and promise to get it fixed.
''It starts with me, it's my responsibility to make sure the offense is on the same page and doesn't turn the ball over,'' first-year offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz said. ''I accept it, it's on me. We've got to me more detailed.''
Finley's play has been the most obvious change. He didn't throw an interception through his first five games, but he's had two in each of the past three.
''I think the defenses we've played the last three games are probably better,'' Finley said, ''but at the end of the day, it's on me. You can't turn the ball over.''
The turnovers have come as the Wolfpack's ground game sputtered, offering little offensive balance by managing just 45 combined yards in the past two games. Doeren also pointed to eliminating penalties to help ease the pressure on the offense; N.C. State has committed 27 penalties in the past three games.
''We can get them to be forward-thinking and I think that's where our approach is right now,'' Doeren said. ''We're not looking back. We have to look ahead.''
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