NC State opened the Dave Doeren era with an impressive 40-14 win over Louisiana Tech on Saturday. The Wolfpack combined a balanced offensive attack with an opportunistic defense to notch their first win of 2013.
Pack Pride takes a look back at the game.
In A Nutshell
This simply boiled down to the more talented team coming out on top. NC State unveiled a new, exciting offense with Brandon Mitchell at the helm. The Pack ran out of a variety of formations and utilized motion to keep the Louisiana Tech defense guessing and on its heels. State was able to put two touchdowns on the board in its first two drives and forged a 24-0 lead late in the first half.
Defensively, the Pack gave up yards but was able to stave off early Bulldog scoring threats by forcing turnovers on a couple of drives. Throw in a career day by K Nik Sade and it all added up to a convincing Wolfpack win.
Before we touch on any individual play you have to give credit to the NC State coaching staff. While many have labeled Doeren's staff as great recruiters, the biggest question asked by many NC State fans was whether this group can coach. The answer to that on Saturday was a resounding ‘yes'.
Under Chuck Amato there was tons of excitement but an overall lack of discipline. With Tom O'Brien, the discipline was better but the program lacked enthusiasm. Doeren's group seemed to give the best of both. The team appeared much more excited and upbeat but controlled on the football field. Preparation is a Dave Doeren staple and it was obvious against Louisiana Tech.
First games can be error-filled and understandably so as college teams have no preseason games to work the kinks out. You have to give credit to Doeren and staff for having their team sharp and focused. There were only five penalties and a couple of those were questionable. In fact, we recall just one pre-snap penalty which is very commendable.
State turned the ball over once, had very few dropped passes and virtually no blown coverages on defense. Other than a couple of instances, tackling was good.
As a whole you have to give the staff an A for the way the team performed and did the little things. They also managed the team's emotions on the field and looked solid from start to finish.
2013 has been a tame summer by North Carolina standards but Saturday was different. With high humidity and temperatures in the 90's, conditioning could have been a big question but NC State never really seemed to miss a beat.
With a noon start, the Wolfpack players held up extremely well against Louisiana Tech's fast-paced offense. While the Carter-Finley crowd cooked, State rotated players frequently, particularly on defense and didn't show any ill effects from the heat. Hats off to the strength and conditioning staff for the preparation leading up to Saturday's game.
Impressive Debut For Canada
This is a given for the NC State offensive line- the Pack doesn't have the talent or the numbers to simply line up and blow people off the ball. You have to give credit to offensive coordinator Matt Canada for coming up with inventive ways to manufacture yards on the ground. There were jet sweeps, zone reads, wild cat, pistol and power pistol formations. While State's ground attack isn't necessarily complicated, it created enough confusion for Louisiana Tech and the Pack has been nearly unbeatable when they've rushed for 200+ yards. On Saturday they amassed 237.
The passing game wasn't complex either but it was effective. State used numerous swing passes and slants and mixed them in with a few down field throws. The receivers executed and it culminated in a very balanced offensive attack. The team appeared well-prepared and the new look was entertaining. Obviously, the talent level the Wolfpack will face will ramp up each week but Saturday showed a nice base from which to build.
Stat Of The Game
Time of possession- on a day where temperature and humidity are such a factor, perhaps nothing more crucial than time of possession and NC State dominated that category on Saturday.
The Wolfpack held a 41 to 19 minute advantage and you're not going to lose many games like that. In the second half, Louisiana Tech had six possessions but managed just 6 minutes and 35 second of total possession time (1 minute, six seconds per possession). This kept the Wolfpack defense fresh and completely wore down the Bulldog defense, allowing State to shorten the game.
Player Of The Game
K Nik Sade: We know, we'll get to Matt Dayes in a second. But for our money, Sade was outstanding and showed the talent we've been looking for since he arrived at NC State last year. The former staff felt like Sade had all-american type potential and he lived up to that on Saturday.
He put seven of nine kickoffs through the end zone and nailed all four of his field goal attempts including a long of 45 yards.
Headed forward, the challenge for Sade will be to show consistency. If he can carry this over throughout the 2013 season then the kicker position becomes a huge weapon for NC State.
Pack Pride has been trumpeting the talent of Matt Dayes to anyone that would listen for the last nine months. When Dayes gets to the second level he brings a cutting ability that the other Wolfpack running backs lack.
While not a burner, Dayes showed glimpses on Saturday of the potential he has when he gets in space matched up one on one against a defender. 84 yards on 17 carries was impressive as were Dayes' three touchdowns. He averaged nearly five yards per carry and seemingly got stronger as the day wore on. If this weekend was any indication, there are plenty of big Saturdays ahead for Dayes.
Things To Improve On
NC State did a lot of things well on Saturday. While you don't want to take away anything from the effort, the fact of the matter is State beat a Louisiana Tech team that was 120th in defense a year ago and lost more starters than any other team in football. The Pack should've won the game and to their credit, they did so convincingly.
State knows that Pete Thomas will be their quarterback for the next month or so which means they can develop a game plan that accentuates his strengths. While not perfect Saturday, Thomas did what Doeren has asked and that was to manage the game and not lose it. We give Thomas high marks for doing exactly what was asked of him.
Defensively, State got lost in coverage on occasion. It didn't happen but a couple of times but the Pack needs to clean that up headed forward. There were also times when Louisiana Tech RB Kenneth Dixon broke into the second level and there wasn't a linebacker to be found. State's LB's have to do a better job of getting off blocks, run to the ball and make sound tackles.
The Pack takes on an FCS opponent next Saturday as State faces off against Richmond. The Spiders return 17 starters from a team that went 8-3 a year ago. Richmond tallied better than 500 yards of offense this past weekend in beating VMI, 34-0.