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An Interview With Andrew Carter Of The Orlando Sentinel

October 27, 2010
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Andrew Carter of the Orlando Sentinel

When it comes to covering the Florida State Seminoles, Andrew Carter of the Orlando Sentinel is one of the best in the business. He also happens to be an N.C. State graduate and a fellow alum of Technician, which means the State/FSU game every year isn’t just another game on the schedule.

I sought out Andrew for an “e-terview” to get his thoughts on this week’s game, as well as life as a State grad living in the heart of Seminole country:

1. You’ve entrenched yourself pretty well in Orlando as the FSU beat writer, but you’ve always been up-front with your readers about being a State grad and alum. When the State/FSU game rolls around, do you catch any grief from passionate FSU fans about being objective, either playfully or seriously?

I don’t catch a lot of grief but there are some Florida State fans who ask the same kinds of questions whenever this game comes around: Who do you want to win? Are you rooting for the Wolfpack? Things like that. My answer is pretty much always the same, especially if it’s a night game: I’m rooting for a quick game that’s not in doubt in the fourth quarter. A better answer would probably be: I’m rooting for my laptop and hoping it doesn’t crash while I’m on deadline. I think – at least I hope – that those kinds of questions are more playful than serious. And while it’s probably true that any alum wants to see his alma mater do well, it’s also true that Chuck Amato helped beat the fan out of me long ago. I write that in jest, but it was back then in the middle of the Amato era at N.C. State when I learned a lot about covering a beat objectively.


2. What led you from the third floor of Witherspoon Hall and the Technician offices down to sunny Tallahassee? Were you looking for a change of scenery? Greater career opportunities? Or perhaps just a job, period?

Probably a mix of all three of those things. After I graduated N.C. State in December 2003, I became a sports reporter a few months later at the Rocky Mount Telegram in Rocky Mount, N.C. I covered high schools and some colleges there, and did a little bit of everything – designed pages a few nights a week, took high school scores on the phone. It was an all-encompassing experience. I also applied for a lot of jobs I had no chance at whatsoever. One of those, I thought, was at the Orlando Sentinel, which was looking for a high school sports reporter. I sent down my stuff, not expecting much to come of it. Then a few weeks later the sports editor there called me and invited me down for an interview. I covered high schools for a while in Orlando, but I had – and still have – a lot of strong editors who gave me a chance to do a variety of things. In the summer of 2007 our Florida State beat came open and they asked if I might be interested. I thought it was too great of an opportunity to pass up, so I moved to Tallahassee and have been here since. I’ve been extremely fortunate. Leaps from Rocky Mount to Orlando aren’t supposed to happen but it happened for me and I’m grateful.


3. It seems since the late 90s, State and Florida State have had a heightened sense of “connectivity” between themselves. The Pack was the second team in conference history to beat FSU when they shocked them in Carter Finley in 1998; State hired their assistant head coach in ’99 following FSU’s national title; the Pack became the first ACC team to beat the Noles in Tallahassee when State knocked them off in 2001; they won two in a row against the Seminoles with their win in 2002; and there was the Daniel Evans miracle in 2006 to beat the Seminoles once again in Chuck Amato’s final season.

I hesitate to go so far as to call it a “rivalry,” but there’s a palpable difference in anticipation of the annual FSU game among State fans versus games against other Atlantic Division foes. Do you get that same sense from FSU fans? How do they view the N.C. State game every year?

You’re right – there definitely is something different about this series. I don’t know if I’d call it a rivalry, either, and certainly Florida State fans are more interested in beating Miami and Florida than they are with beating the Wolfpack (Just like N.C. State fans are more interested what happens against North Carolina). But these games are different. It seems to me that a lot of Florida State fans have a high level of respect for N.C. State. I think that for a while – especially early in the Amato era at N.C. State – that a lot of Seminoles fans viewed N.C. State as Florida State’s greatest threat in the ACC. Certainly that changed when the ACC expanded and when the Amato era ended badly. But that respect level is still there. And Florida State fans still view the Wolfpack as a nemesis.

To me, it seems that N.C. State fans once used Florida State as a measuring stick. If the Wolfpack could beat the Seminoles – even hang with them – it was a sign that N.C. State was headed in the right direction. I think now Florida State fans might be viewing this game as a measuring stick, too. N.C. State was one of the first ACC teams to have success against the Seminoles. And the Wolfpack’s success, in some ways, signaled Florida State’s decline. So if Florida State is to reclaim that dominance, it has to start by handling teams like N.C. State. If Florida State wins big on Thursday night, I’d imagine that some Seminoles fans would conclude that FSU is indeed on the way back to being what it once was, because it would have whipped a program that has given Florida State so many problems over the years.


4. I can’t think of another team responding as well from a beat-down as did FSU following their game against Oklahoma. The Noles were beaten and humiliated that day 47-17 (and honestly it wasn’t even that close), but since that game they’ve been on an absolute tear, outscoring their last five opponents 168-60. What changes did the coaching staff make following that game, and/or what other changes in attitude or approach did you gather occurred at that time?

The strange thing is, Jimbo Fisher insists that nothing changed after the Oklahoma game. The post-Oklahoma turnaround has been a frequent discussion point down here among fans and those in the media and whenever someone asks Jimbo about it, he says the same thing: I didn’t change a thing. The way Fisher tells it, the team met in as it usually would in the days following that game. And the coaching staff made it clear to the players why Florida State was beaten so badly, and how it happened. There was no screaming, Fisher said. No pointing fingers. No dramatic changes. Just a review of why the Oklahoma debacle happened. Fisher and his staff preached the importance of believing in the changes Fisher had implemented, believing in the defense that new coordinator Mark Stoops had installed and believing in, well, everything the team had been working on for months. In short, Fisher told the team that it wasn’t about to abandon anything. The Oklahoma game was unique, too, in that the Sooners’ no-huddle just destroyed the Florida State defense. Defensively, the Seminoles often were still trying to figure out where to line up when Oklahoma began its play. The Seminoles’ inexperience in a new defensive system really showed during that game, and it got ugly fast. In a credit to Fisher and his staff, the Seminoles quickly put that defeat in the past and they moved on.


5. Given both teams have had 12 days to prepare for this game, which team do you think has benefited the most from the added preparation time?

I’m sure both teams needed it from a physical standpoint. From a mental standpoint, it’d make sense to me if N.C. State needed it more, given the difficult loss at ECU. Florida State, though, desperately needed some time off to rest and try to become healthy. After the Boston College game on Oct. 16, Fisher said the team was banged and bruised and that the off week came at a perfect time. If this game had been played a week ago, Florida State probably would have had a good number of starters sitting out with injuries. Christian Ponder among them. I don’t see the time off as a great advantage for one team over the other. They both needed it, though probably for different reasons.


6. Christian Ponder has been dealing with an elbow injury but appears he’ll start. Do you foresee this injury impacting his play at all? What impact will losing the starting guard, David Spurlock, have on FSU’s solid rushing game? Are there any other injury concerns the Noles have heading into the game?

Ponder will almost certainly start, unless there’s some kind of unforeseen setback that comes up between now and Thursday night. He rested that injured right elbow – he suffered a ruptured bursa sac – all of last week and just resumed throwing again on Saturday. Ponder said the injury has actually been a blessing, because during his time away from practice last week he discovered a mechanical flaw that he has addressed. Ponder would never admit that an injury affected his play but I think the elbow injury did hinder his ability to throw against Boston College, which intercepted him three times. If he’s hit – more like when he’s hit – on Thursday night, he admitted that the elbow injury would likely cause him some discomfort. How much – who knows? The good thing, he said, is that he has played through the pain before and that now, after receiving more than a week of treatment, he is probably better-suited to play well if the elbow is indeed bothering him. As for Spurlock, I don’t think losing him will have too much of an effect on Florida State’s ability to run. In the Boston College game, Bryan Stork filled in nicely for Spurlock and the coaching staff isn’t expecting much of a drop-off.


7. Assuming the current weather prediction holds and the skies are dry Thursday night, how do you see this game playing out?

My expectation is that this will be another close, entertaining Florida State-N.C. State game. I think Russell Wilson – though he’s had some interception problems of late – offers Florida State its greatest defensive challenge since the Oklahoma game. The Wolfpack receiving corps will also test the Seminoles’ talented, but young, cornerbacks and secondary. One of the keys for N.C. State will be to take advantage of its early scoring chances. Miami failed to do that and Florida State quickly made that a lopsided game. For the Seminoles, establishing the running game and defending the pass will be equally important. If Florida State does both those things well it should win. But it should be a fun game with a great atmosphere.

–&– 

 

Many thanks to Andrew for stopping by R&R. You can read his stuff with the Orlando Sentinel here, and be sure to follow him on Twitter @OS_AndrewCarter for plenty of updates leading up, during and following the game.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Core permalink
    October 27, 2010 10:09 pm

    Nice interview from Andrew Carter. This series seems to get the Wolfpack’s juices flowing since the days of Amato and all the Florida kids playing against their high school buddies. The measuring stick comment was right on the money. Competing and beating FSU always validates that your program is moving in the right direction. Our league needs FSU to return to being a viable championship contender in order for the ACC to be more relevant nationally. I really enjoy your site and all it offers. Keep the info comin’ man!!

    • October 28, 2010 8:47 am

      Core, thanks so much for your kind words. I’ve been light on content of late due to a lot of things at work, but I’ll try to keep the info flowing!

      And you’re right…Andrew was spot on about this game being a measuring stick for both teams. If State wins tonight, it rubber-stamps this year as a special one with the potential for even better things the rest of the way, and if FSU wins convincingly, a lot of FSU fans will start buying into the “We’re back” talk. If they lose to State, I think a lot of FSU fans hoping to make that leap will be very disappointed.

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