RALEIGH, N.C. -- A Florida transfer, North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett is no stranger to the SEC. But it’s a different SEC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, that Brissett decided to familiarize himself with over the summer.
“I’ve invested in stocks and I never thought I’d do that,” Brissett said. “I’ve always watched it throughout college and a little bit through high school. That stuff is just fun. That’s something I do in my spare time now. I’ve got stock in Apple, so I literally sit on my phone and watch it go from up one cent to down one cent. It’s going up fast. They just released a phone, so it’s going to go up a lot.”
As Brissett fidgeted with a Samsung Galaxy with a broken screen -- he said Apple “already has enough of my money with the stocks” -- in between bites of broccoli at the Backyard Bistro down the road from Carter-Finley Stadium, NC State’s new starting quarterback turned his eyes toward the five giant projection screens at the front of the restaurant.
The middle screen was showing a live feed of Dave Doeren’s coach’s show, about 20 feet to the left of where the show was actually happening. The Cleveland Indians were winning an insignificant game against the Kansas City Royals on the far left screen. And in between those two was the Florida-Alabama game from last Saturday, which Brissett watched as if it were live.
The fact that Brissett, who has thrown for 1,005 yards and 10 touchdowns with just one interception through four games with the Wolfpack, was on the opposing sidelines the last time the Seminoles lost a game (to the Gators on Nov. 24, 2012, in Tallahassee) feels like a game note. It's something for the announcers to use as an extra nugget after mentioning that the ‘Noles lost in Raleigh that same season despite leading 16-3 entering the fourth quarter.
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Brissett still keeps up with some of his former Florida teammates, most notably Ravens safety Matt Elam, whom he texts whenever he needs a laugh or just to take his mind off of football. Elam played with Brissett in West Palm Beach, Fla., at William T. Dwyer High School, where the pair won a 4A state championship over Niceville during the 2009 season.
For the most part, though, the Gators chapter is over.
“He doesn’t talk a lot about that place,” Doeren said. “He doesn’t. He’s been really good about how he wants to be accepted here and this is his school. Yeah, he did go there, but that’s not where he is anymore. I think he gets sick of talking about being there, to be honest with you. He came here to start over, not to continue to talk about what used to happen.”
Brissett would prefer to talk about the present, but if he mentions the past it’s to share what he has learned with the young players Doeren brought to Raleigh in his first full recruiting class. “They’ll listen to whatever you say,” Brissett said.
That sharing didn’t happen last year. Brissett sat out the year due to the NCAA's transfer policy, and the Wolfpack's season spiraled downward. Nobody wanted to speak up because nobody wanted to be the guy who called out his teammates and then gave up three sacks or threw three picks on Saturday.
Morale was down (Doeren even mentioned during the show having to overcome a “sense of entitlement”), mistakes were plentiful and the injuries piled up. All of that contributed to NC State losing its last eight games of the season after starting 3-1. No bowl game. Nary a conference win.
The question Doeren kept asking his team in the offseason was: Do you guys want to go through that again?
“The thing that Dave has a great ability to do is get everybody moving in one direction,” Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey said.
Carey was the interim coach of the Huskies after Doeren took the NC State job on Dec. 1, 2012 and coached Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl against none other than Florida State in the team’s 31-10 loss to the Seminoles. Doeren was in the stands, and “he was torn up,” according to Carey, not being able to coach that game.
Doeren is quick to point out how often the Wolfpack lost last year despite being just one score away heading into the fourth quarter. He pushed the team to be better conditioned this summer, having them go out and run at 3 p.m. during hot afternoons.
And he brought in motivational speakers like former NFL player Eric Thomas, who challenged the team to honestly say what percent they were giving in games last season. When some guys answered “70” or “80” percent, Thomas asked them how much further they could go if they raised that number up to 100.
Last year’s Florida State game was not one of those times when conditioning or effort failed NC State. The Seminoles flat out blew the doors off. Florida State capitalized on three Wolfpack turnovers and jumped out to a 35-0 lead in the first quarter before winning 49-17. It could’ve been worse, at least Florida State took out its starters really early.
After the game Doeren said “that’s what a championship team looks like,” and he was right as the ‘Noles finished the year unbeaten and won the BCS national title.
Doeren isn’t sugarcoating this year’s game. He readily acknowledges the odds are stacked against his young team, highlighting that NC State will have to give maximum effort to close the gap withnbsp;the Seminoles, and Vegas agrees -- the initial line was 24 or higher in favor of the ‘Noles, although movement on the NC State side had dropped it to as low as 19.
“I told them, 'No one thinks you’re going to win, so you might as well freaking go out there swinging,' man,” Doeren said. “We’ve got nothing to lose. Our quarterback thinks we’re going to win, and because of that we’ve got a chance.”
That’s what Brissett does for the Wolfpack. He gives NC State an element it just didn’t have last year. A former top-100 player, he has the size and the arm strength that, well, gets you an offer from Florida. HIs opportunity with the Gators didn’t work out, but as with other familiar faces in new places, the transfer was a blessing for Brissett, who is starting to buy into what Doeren and offensive coordinator Matt Canada are telling him.
“You put all your trust in one coach, and then things change,” Brissett said. “Then you sit back like ‘Dang, this can’t be real.’ When I was [at Florida] I understood the business part of college football. I came in [to NC State] thinking all these coaches are the same. That’s why I had my guard up a lot when I first got here. But at the end of the day, they aren’t. Some coaches are different.”
Brissett doesn’t try to complicate matters. He prefers the quiet. On game day, he gets up early at the team hotel and takes a walk with one of the operations people. His friends tease him because he spends a lot of time by himself in his room in the dark, where he counts tiles on the ceiling or thinks about his mom, who raised him and his three siblings by herself. He puts on “massage” music or works his way through "The Office" on Netflix for the sixth time to stay relaxed.
It’s not a complicated matchup Saturday, although it certainly won’t be quiet. NC State is at home against the No. 1 team in the land. A win isn’t likely, but it isn’t impossible. As Brissett notes, “Who said that Florida State is supposed to come in here and just win? Nobody wrote a commandment where that’s supposed to happen.”
“I was at Wisconsin the year we went to the Rose Bowl, and we beat Ohio State when they were the No. 1-ranked team at Camp Randall,” Doeren said. “That was a phenomenal experience. It meant a lot for our players. I don’t know if we’re capable of it, but if we could pull it off it would be a validating deal for all the work they’ve put in. For me it would be great because I could say, ‘See what all that work did?’ That’s the ultimate goal.”