Wolfpack cornerback David Amerson was beat bad on the play as he gambled and paid for it.
"We were in Cover Three, and they gave me two verticals," said Amerson. "There was one going down the seam and one going down the sideline, and the quarterback was looking down the seam. I saw [the receiver] open so I jumped the seam route and the quarterback threw it down the sideline to the other receiver."
The play eventually resulted in a touchdown in a game that had already been virtually decided, but the aftermath taught NC State head coach Tom O'Brien a lot about Amerson.
"It's really important to the kid," O'Brien said of Amerson. "Early in the year when he made the blow at the Cincinnati game, it was a big pass play, the game must have been replayed late that night on TV because Mike Reed said [Amerson] texted him at 2:00 in the morning and said, 'I just saw the play again. It will never happen again.'
"You can see his athletic ability, and it's really important to the kid. With his ability and will to learn the game he will get better each and every time he plays."
Amerson still shakes his head in disbelief when discussing a play that really didn't play a major role in the outcome of a Wolfpack win.
"It was messing with me that whole night," he stated. "I knew I just made the wrong decision. It happens, but it was messing with me. I kept playing the play back over and over again in my head. I knew I shouldn't have done that."
That type of mindset has helped Amerson play his way into NC State's starting lineup five games into his true freshman season. After playing just three snaps in the Wolfpack's win in Atlanta, Amerson earned the start the next week at home versus Virginia Tech, playing 66 snaps and totaling five tackles at boundary corner. In Saturday's victory over Boston College, the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder led the Wolfpack in tackles with eight, including seven solo stops.
"We thought from the start that [Amerson] might be a special-type of player," said O'Brien. "He gets better each and every week and hopefully he can continue to get better."
"Playing in the games has been big for me," said Amerson. "You get more comfortable with the players around you and you get more comfortable with all the hype entering the game. It helps your confidence... going out there and playing.
"Every week is a challenge for all of us. We've just got to go out there and make plays, whether it's against the run or pass, and win games."
Amerson and fellow true freshman Dontae Johnson both started in the secondary versus BC, joining sophomores Earl Wolff and C.J. Wilson. Sophomore safety Brandan Bishop came off the bench to record two interceptions and earn ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors. The Wolfpack's young secondary has been a pleasant surprise for the coaches and fans this season, but they will really be tested on Saturday.
East Carolina features one of the best passing attacks in the country, as the Pirates are averaging 297 yards passing per game (No. 13 nationally) and 37.6 points per game (No. 12 nationally).
The focal point of the secondary has to be stopping Pirate star receiver Dwayne Harris. In just five games Harris has already totaled 40 catches for 457 yards and five touchdowns, and he might be arguably the best wideout the Wolfpack faces this season.
"He's one of their big playmakers," Amerson said of Harris. "We have to be aware of where he is at on the field at all times."
A Greensboro, North Carolina native, Amerson is familiar with the East Carolina program. The Pirates offered him a scholarship during his recruitment out of Dudley High School and heavily pursued him. He knows he is about to play his first true rivalry game in what should be a hostile environment.
"It's an in-state game so to me it's very important," said Amerson. "I know to me, as well the whole team, it's very important. We've got to win all our in-state games.
"From what I hear it's already sold out so I know their stadium is going to be packed. It's a big rivalry game for us as well as them so I'm pretty sure there is going to be a lot of animosity in the stadium. They are pretty hyped up about it, but we are too."
"It's real big," he added. "I don't think any of us want to lose anymore. We want to get to the ACC championship and every game is big for us. We're taking it one game at a time. The next game is the most important game."