Jerod Fernandez excited about playing on national stage

Jacey Zembal, Editor
The Wolfpacker
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USA Today Sports Images

NC State fifth-year senior middle linebacker Jerod Fernandez knows night games in Raleigh are something special.

The No. 17-ranked Louisville Cardinals will be playing No. 24 NC State at 8 p.m. Thursday at Carter-Finley Stadium. The contest gives the Wolfpack program and players a national spotlight to showcase themselves.

“It’s going to be live,” said Fernandez, who has a team-high 44 tackles this season. “We sell out pretty much any game, playing Louisville, Clemson or Troy.

“The fans will be there, and they’ll be loud. With it being a night game, it’s going to be that much better.”

The hype of a prime-time game helped Fernandez solidify his previous commitment to NC State when he was going through the recruiting process. He took his official visit when NCSU defeated Florida State under the lights in 2012.

Fernandez is well aware that the Louisville at NC State game is one of the few live sporting events on TV that night. The New England Patriots at Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL game is the only professional evening sports event on television, with MLB's American League Division Series slated for a 4:08 p.m. opening pitch earlier in the afternoon.

“It is always exciting to play on national TV,” Fernandez said. “To play a top-25 team at home, it doesn’t get any better than that. Everybody will be watching and that includes NFL scouts and NFL teams. They’ll be watching as well.”

To jazz things up, adidas made special “Black Howl” uniforms for the Louisville game.

“We will come out and showcase to the world what we are really about,” Fernandez said. “We are usually at home wearing red and white, and for the military appreciation we had those uniforms. It’s nice to switch it up and come out with all black.

"We can be that black wolf.”

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Fernandez watched last year’s 54-13 Louisville victory over NC State twice since Sunday. He didn’t skip over anything and knows the Wolfpack has to correct the mistakes from last year.

“We have to contain the quarterback and be on top of routes,” Fernandez said. “We just have to play ball and play our ball.”

Fernandez also watched the Cardinals against Clemson and Murray State from earlier this season.

“I’m just trying to stay on top of it,” he said.

The Wolfpack knows Louisville junior quarterback Lamar Jackson, especially when he is on the run, is tough to contain.

“When we are in coverage, we have to plaster routes,” Fernandez said. “If we aren’t in coverage and playing zone, we have to keep him contained and wrap him up and get him down, so we can play another down.”

Fernandez recalled the last meeting with Louisville at Carter-Finley Stadium two years ago. The contest was during the day and Jackson was still in his infancy, making his debut as a starting quarterback. Louisville pulled out a 20-13 victory with Jackson rushing for 121 yards, including a 68-yard touchdown run, and passing for 103 yards and a score.

Fernandez had five tackles that game. However, he also knows that Jackson has — to put it mildly — improved a lot since then, and so has the Wolfpack defense.

“Lamar Jackson came in making plays, and he is still making plays,” Fernandez said. “You don’t win the Heisman for no reason. We just have to play ball and keep him contained.”

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