RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State entered the season figuring it could count on returning All-American David Amerson to make things difficult on receivers downfield. Instead, the cornerback is having a rough season heading into a home game with No. 3 Florida State.
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State entered the season figuring it could count on returning All-American David Amerson to make things difficult on receivers downfield.
Instead, the cornerback is having a rough season heading into a home game with No. 3 Florida State.
Amerson set an Atlantic Coast Conference record with 13 interceptions last year, but he's faltered in the each of the Wolfpack's two losses. He had a miserable afternoon in last week's loss at Miami, from jumping offside trying to block a short field goal to repeatedly getting beaten in coverage for touchdowns.
"You've just got to move on from it," Amerson said. "You can't let it carry on to the next game or throughout the season. You just have to forget — short-term memory."
Amerson has plenty to forget from last week's 44-37 loss to the Hurricanes. He gave up 14- and 24-yard touchdown passes within a span of 2 minutes in the first quarter, then was beaten on a 76-yard TD pass when he thought the play was dead on an offside call and the receiver sprinted right by him for the catch late in the quarter.
Things didn't get much better after halftime. He jumped offside trying to block a short field goal, giving Miami a first down that led to a short touchdown run a play later. He gave up another TD pass midway through the fourth quarter, then was the last defender with a desperation chance to drag down Phillip Dorsett from behind on the go-ahead 62-yard scoring pass in the final minute.
The Wolfpack (3-2, 0-1) certainly could use a big performance from Amerson against the ACC's best offense, particularly considering N.C. State could find itself essentially eliminated from the Atlantic Division race with a loss against the Seminoles (5-0, 2-0) on Saturday night.
Coach Tom O'Brien said he has spent some time talking with Amerson and said he believes the cornerback has been distracted by off-field issues. O'Brien mentioned chatter on social media, where Amerson's recent play and how it affects his NFL future has been a popular topic.
"It's going to be a great challenge for him," O'Brien said. "I think he's gotten away a lot from the fundamentals. It's been stressed the last couple of weeks, but if it doesn't hit home after last Saturday, it ain't going to hit home."
Amerson's struggles were a few of many for the team, which had six turnovers and 14 penalties — the most in six years under O'Brien and the most for the program since 2004.
"He's a competitor," safety Earl Wolff said of Amerson. "We're all competitors. We're going to continue to fight."
Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel said Amerson's presence in the secondary would force him to be more precise with his passes.
"I know our receivers are looking forward to that matchup," Manuel said. "We have guys who are 6-6, 6-5, and then our speedy guys can run down the field on them and make plays."
Amerson was a high school safety who started nine games at cornerback as a freshman in 2010 before turning in last year's record-breaking season in his first full year as a starter. That included winning the Jack Tatum Award presented to the nation's top defensive back and earning All-America honors from multiple outlets, including as a second-team selection by The Associated Press.
But he got off to a bad start when he was beaten on a pair of long touchdowns in the opening loss to Tennessee in Atlanta, the second being a 72-yarder in which receiver Zach Rogers sprinted right by Amerson at the line before making the catch and the long run to the end zone.
Amerson has grabbed three interceptions this year to tie the school's career record of 16 held by two other players, though he knows all the mistakes have overshadowed the first half of his junior season.
He seemed comfortable with the high expectations coming into the year, saying he had to be ready for teams to challenge him by throwing his way. His demeanor doesn't seem all that different now, saying he remains confident in his abilities and needs to get back to "just playing fundamental football."
"It just came down to not making plays — my eyes not in the right place and stuff like that," Amerson said. "That's what it comes down to, just not making plays."
Associated Press writer Brent Kallestad in Tallahassee, Fla., contributed to this report.