RALEIGH, N.C. — Florida State assistant coach Chuck Amato had been back to Raleigh numerous times since his tenure as Wolfpack coach ended after the 2006 season.
He has family here. He has many friends here. But he knew it would be different to be in Carter-Finley Stadium again, a stadium that saw nearly $100-million in renovations thanks in large part to the excitement he generated when he became the coach at North Carolina State, his alma mater, in 2000.
"It's going to be tough to walk out of that locker room onto that field," he said recently, "and see what a big-time stadium it is and what a great place it is — the kind of emotion those fans got into games, those fans are the reasons we won that Boston College game and that Florida State game that year. It was deafening in there. It was absolutely deafening in there."
As soon as he finished grading the Miami film from the Oct. 4 game, Amato said it hit him that he was actually going to be back in his old house.
That's when he turned his attention to game tape of the Wolfpack and he "saw the field and the stadium and the players and the red-and-white block S. You know, all the things that make North Carolina State such a great place."
Stump speech: When N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien was still at Boston College, he and his staff sent some recruiting material to QB Russell Wilson, but not a lot. Once he moved south, however, he retargeted Wilson and got him.
"He was obviously on their list here, and they were very high on him," O'Brien said. "The people who were on the staff who stayed with me when I had no assistants raved about him as an individual. And when I had the opportunity to watch him on tape, he obviously made a lot of plays.
"When you met him as a person, you knew he was a special kind of a guy. He had tremendous confidence in himself. He might end up being president some day."
If a vote were held at the half, Wilson would have carried North Carolina. He was 6-of-9 passing for 65 yards and a touchdown and ran once for 25 yards in the half; he finished 13-of-25 for 181 yards.
Flag bearers: FSU's young offensive line struggled in the first half with five penalties for 45 yards as well as allowing QB Christian Ponder to be sacked three times. But N.C. State had no sacks in the second half.
Lineup changes: Injuries forced the Seminoles to tweak their starting defense with Kendall Smith at linebacker for Dekoda Watson, Darius McClure at free safety for Jamie Robinson, and Korey Mangum for Patrick Robinson at cornerback. Watson and both Robinsons played in the half. But Watson aggravated his injured left elbow and starting RG Will Furlong injured his left foot in the half.
Another homecoming: FSU redshirt junior DE Everette Brown, from nearby Stantonsburg, was busy scrounging tickets; he ended up with 61 for family and friends.
Thursday nights on ESPN: The Seminoles improved to 5-4 on ESPN games on that night. They had lost their previous two, at Wake Forest last year and at N.C. State in 2006.
Fair item: Traffic was an issue for the game, more so than on an ordinary weeknight. Across the street from the stadium, the popular North Carolina State Fair opened at 3 p.m. Thursday. For those wondering, the Wolfpack entered 16-16-1 when it played at home during the fair. It had lost the previous two and five of seven.