Saturday, September 7, 2013
6:00 pm (EST), ESPN3
Why You Should Give A Hoot: NC State kicked off the Dave Doeren era in Raleigh with an impressive rout of Louisiana Tech, 40-14. Despite losing starting QB Brandon Mitchell to a left foot injury, the Pack dominated from start to finish providing a jolt of momentum and optimism to start 2013.
Richmond had its own reason to celebrate on the opening weekend, blanking VMI, 34-0. The always-dangerous Spiders improved by five wins to go 8-3 a year ago.
Why Richmond Might Win: The Spiders play disciplined, assignment football, led by defensive linemen Kerry Wynn and Evan Kelly. They yielded just 174 total yards in Week 1, and will be facing an NC State offense that'll be using backup QB Pete Thomas for at least the next month. You can never overlook a Danny Rocco-coached team.
Why NC State Might Win: The Pack will have its biggest advantage at the point of attack, when Richmond has the ball. State played well defensively on Saturday, which was somewhat overshadowed by the 40 points it scored. The D-line, comprised of Art Norman, T.Y. McGill, Thomas Teal and Darryl Cato-Bishop, is one of the sneaky-good front walls of the ACC.
Who To Watch Out For: How does the role of rookie RB Matt Dayes change now that Shadrach Thornton's suspension has been lifted? Dayes debuted by turning 17 carries into 84 yards and three scores.
- It's a good thing Thomas spent the entire offseason thinking and preparing as if he was going to be the Pack starter. Now he is.
- The biggest concern on Saturday for the new-look NC State secondary will be containing Richmond WR Ben Edwards. The All-CAA performer caught seven balls for 95 yards and a touchdown in Week 1.
What Will Happen: This is a very tricky potential trap game for NC State. The joy of last week is behind them, and Clemson is waiting in the on-deck circle. Richmond will be prepared on Saturday, remaining close behind the effort of its defense.
However, the Pack will find a way to wiggle out of an FCS upset, spearheaded by the play of the improved up-tempo offense.
Prediction: NC State 33 … Richmond 23
Line: NC State -23
Must See Rating: (5 Olbermann - 1 Total Divas) … 2
NC State Offense vs. Richmond Defense
BUILD ON LAST WEEK
When it comes to running the football, NC State has been inconsistent at best over the last several years. The Wolfpack unveiled a new look in the run game a week ago and you have to credit the coaches for coming up with different looks and formations to manufacture yards in the run game.
Expect more of the same this week as State will likely continue with one back sets, Pistol formations, jet sweeps and the Wildcat. The only negative will be that Richmond will have game film to evaluate so they will not be caught off guard. The Pack will likely add some new wrinkles in the run game and there should be a talent and depth advantage for State- particularly as the game wears on.
Like last week, State has to have success on first and second down and allow Pete Thomas to manage the game and not force him into a position where he has to bail the offense out of third and longs too often. Thomas wasn't flashy a week ago but he showed that he can manage the offense and can keep the chains moving when he was faced with manageable down and distance.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF PLAYMAKERS
FCS programs are at a numbers disadvantage because they can only offer up to 63 full scholarship players. This means that State should have a number's advantage and one area they can try to exploit is at the skill positions.
The Pack has speed at the wide receiver position and a talented trio of running backs in the backfield. State should be able to get these players the ball out in space and force the Richmond defenders to make plays out in space. State doesn't necessarily have to go deep down the field. The Pack should be able to utilize swing and screen passes that will spread the Spider defense across the field and give the Wolfpack skill guys an opportunity to turn short plays into potential explosion plays.
JUMP OUT EARLY AND LIMIT MISTAKES
Richmond will not be intimidated by NC State. They've played their share of FBS programs over the years and the Spiders have owned Duke. Since 2006 Richmond has beaten the Blue Devils three times. State isn't Duke but the Pack can't afford to take the Spiders lightly.
Defensively, Richmond has a veteran squad. The Spiders starting 11 is completely comprised of juniors and seniors. They have good size, averaging roughly 270 pounds across their front four and 227 pounds in the linebacker corps.
Richmond won't give NC State a thing so the Pack has to continue to play sound, error free football like they did a week ago. State's focus, demeanor and attention to detail a week ago was impressive- particularly for a first game.
The Pack has to continue to avoid pre-snap penalties and turnovers. Richmond made a living last year winning the turnover battle and actually lead the FCS ranks in that category. The Spiders snagged 23 interceptions on the year so that's something Pete Thomas has to be aware of.
NC State Defense vs. Richmond Offense
NC State's defense played well against Louisiana Tech, and with a Thursday night game against Clemson looming they could potentially overlook Richmond. That would be a mistake.
Headed into the game, first and foremost is for the Wolfpack to avoid coming out flat and allowing Richmond's offense to get going early on. It is an experienced unit that played very well in the season opener, defeating VMI 34-0 while passing for over 250 yards and rushing for over 225.
They are a group that trusts their system and believes they can go into Carter-Finley Stadium and upset the Wolfpack.
NC State must stay focused on defense. You can say all the politically correct things- State must take the Spiders seriously, this could be a tough game, blah, blah, blah, but the fact of the matter is, the Pack should win this game... they are the more talented team.
However, that talent can be negated if State comes out sloppy, misses assignments and doesn't play with a sense of urgency. This contest should be an opportunity for the Wolfpack to improve and fine tune their defensive approach. The most important aspect of this is to remain focused on the task at hand and play solid, fundamental defense.
Michael Strauss is the signal-caller for Richmond, and he is playing behind an offensive line that yielded just five sacks last season. Yes, just five.
NC State's strength on defense is their line, and they have to win the battle in the trenches. The belief is, if they can get to Strauss they can rattle him and potentially force him into making the mistakes needed to create positive field position for the Wolfpack offense.
Getting this pressure would also allow the secondary to have to account for star wideout Ben Edwards the least amount of time as possible, which is a good thing. Edwards had seven catches for 95 yards and a score against VMI, and the preseason All-American is dangerous at all times.
Finally, the pressure could make Richmond a one-dimensional offense, which is a must for the Wolfpack. Richmond takes pride in running a balanced offense that can gain yards through the air and on the ground.
If the Pack can lock down Strauss and Edwards, they will be on the way to limiting Richmond's potent attack.
This is an area where State could have a big advantage.
Richmond returner Justin Grant is one of the top returners in the CAA, but the Pack has a talented returner in Rashard Smith. Also, kicker Niklas Sade is coming off a four-field goal performance against Louisiana Tech, showing increased leg strength that is pivotal on kickoffs.
Coach Doeren stresses the importance of special teams, and it was obvious the Pack had an advantage their last week. They need to win the kicking game again behind the legs of juniors Niklas Sade and Wil Baumann.
NC State Game Notes
NC State has faced the Spiders of Richmond 19 times in history, dating back to 1895. The Wolfpack has posted a 17-1-1 mark against Richmond since that first meeting, with the most recent victory a 42-0 shutout in 2004.
Thirteen of the contests have been played in Raleigh and the Pack's only loss was in 1970, when Earle Edwards squad dropped the opener, 21-6.
HONORING THOSE WHO SERVE
Saturday's game against Richmond will be NC State's annual "Military Appreciation" game at Carter-Finley Stadium. This event has become a fan favorite for the Wolfpack faithful, as the university pulls out all the stops to honor those who protect our freedom.
There are many special events planned for the day:
• Adopt-A-Serviceperson - Wolfpack Club members will be hosting troops at their pregame tailgates. The Athletics Department is providing complimentary game tickets
• Pregame Tailgate - Coca Cola and NC State Athletics are hosting a pregame tailgate party for 400+ military personnel, including the Wounded Warriors
• Wounded Warriors Walk of Champions - Escorted by the Patriot Guard motorcycles, fans are asked to join the band, cheerleaders and dance team at the North entrance at 5:00pm as the Wounded Warriors enter the stadium. The Wounded Warriors will be honored on the field during the game
• Halftime Ceremony - Will include a special military tribute by the NC State Marching Band, a full-field sized flag and parachute team jumping into the stadium.
• Pregame flyover
• Select ROTC cadets will be recognized on the field
• Military tug of war contest
• Military ‘shout-outs' on the video board.
THE DOEREN OF A NEW ERA
The Dave Doeren era at NC State got off to an aupicious beginning, as the Wolfpack soared to a 40-14 win over Louisiana Tech. The Wolfpack offense tallied 542 yards in the opener, the most for State in a season opener in over 20 years (The Pack had 592 against Western Carolina to open the 1990 season). The 40 points were the most in a Wolfpack coach's debut game since Monte Kiffin led the 1980 squad to a 42-0 win over William & Mary.
NOTING THE PACK
v Four quarterbacks saw action for NC State in the season opener. None of the four had ever taken a snap for the Wolfpack before Saturday and two had never taken a collegiate snap.
v Nineteen players saw action for the first time at NC State on Saturday - including 11 true freshmen.
v The Wolfpack's defensive front should have fresh legs in 2013 if the opener is any indication. Eleven players saw action on the line in the win over Louisiana Tech.
v 10 players earned their first career start in the opener.
v Matt Dayes' three touchdown runs vs. La Tech was second-highest tally for a true freshman in school history.
v Niklas Sade's four field goals in the opener were a career-high.
v 10 wide receivers dressed in the opener and nine saw action from scrimmage. Four of the nine were true freshmen.
v Pete Thomas will be starting his 22nd career game at quarterback but his first with the Wolfpack against Richmond.
QUARTERBACK QUANDRY, PART TWO
The big question for the Wolfpack heading into last weekend's season opener with Louisiana Tech was: "Who will be the starting quarterback?" Perhaps the question should have been "Who will be the Pack's No 3 at QB?"
That number 3 is now going to play a more significant role as the backup after Brandon Mitchell, who won the starter's job, is out for at least several games with a foot injury.
Mitchell, a graduate student who transferred from Arkansas, won the tight preseason battle and stood under center in the opener for three offensive series - two of which were 65 and 75 yard touchdown drives. He completed all three of this throws for a quick gain of 93 yards before a foot injury sent him to the sideline.
Pete Thomas, a junior who started 21 games under center at Colorado State, came in and completed 15 of 27 throws for 212 yards and directed the offense to 23 more points in a solid effort.
WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE
One of the Wolfpack's team goals for 2013 is to win the turnover battle. That goal was definitely achieved in the season opener. The Wolfpack forced four fumbles in the victory, recovering all four.
State's only turnover in the game was a scratch. In the second quarter, with third and goal from the Bulldog four, Pete Thomas was picked off at the two and the ball was returned 15 yards. That's when center Quinton Schooley went for the stop and forced a LA Tech fumble and Thomas jumped on it to give the ball back to the Pack.
Five plays later, Matt Dayes ran in for a two-yard TD.
GOOD DAYES AHEAD
The collegiate debut of freshman running back Matt Dayes was a promising one. The rookie rushed for three touchdowns in his first collegiate game, while playing 40 snaps.
That was the second-highest rushing touchdown total ever for a Wolfpack freshman (T.A. McLendon had five vs. Texas Tech in 2012)and marked the most rushing TDs in a game for a Pack players since Jamelle Eugene had three in 2007.
Dayes led the team in rushing with 84 yards on 17 carries in the 40-14 Wolfpack win.
At 5-9, 213, Dayes is a compact player who runs low and has great vision, according to his head coach. He rushed for over 1,800 yards last season at Cypress Bay High School, scoring 31 TDs. He played at the 8A level and rushed for 174 yards and five touchdowns in the 8A championship game.
Eleven true freshmen saw action for the Wolfpack in the season opener, including one who started. Another true freshman was the team's leading rusher in the 40-14 victory over LA Tech.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling got the starting nod at wide receiver and led the team in receiving yardage with 87 on four catches. Matt Dayes, who like Valdes-Scantling hails from South Florida, was the team's leading rusher with 84 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries.
Here's a look at the true freshmen who saw action:
Johnathan Alston, WR
Bra'Lon Cherry, WR
Matt Dayes, RB
Monty Nelson, DT
Sean Paul, CB
Jumichael Ramos, WR
Bryant Shirreffs, QB
Josh Taylor, QB
Jack Tocho, CB
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR
Dravious Wright, S
FRESHMAN RECEIVER HAS THE MoVeS
Freshman wideout Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hereafter known as MVS) was the only true freshman to get the starting nod in Saturday's opener and showed why he was lined up with the veterans on the first play of the game.
The St. Petersburg, Fla. native was the recipient of the first pass of the Dave Doeren era at NC State, gaining 26 yards on a throw from Brandon Mitchell on the second offensive play of the game. He ended the day with four catches for a game-high 87 yards.
SADE 16, LOUISIANA TECH 14
With a career-high four field goals made and another four points on PATs, junior placekicker Niklas Sade outscored Louisiana Tech's team by a score 16-14.
Sade now ranks ninth in NC State history in field goals made after nailing a career-high four kicks in the season opener. Only one player in NC State history has ever kicked more field goals in a game game (Nathan Ritter with five FGs against ECU in 1978).
Sade also hit all four of his PAT attempts in the contest. He is tied for fourth in Wolfpack history with 94 extra points for his career.
The junior also had seven touchbacks in his nine kickoffs for the afternoon.
BEVY OF BACKS
One area that the Pack seems to have quality depth for 2013 is at running back. Last season's second-leading rusher Tony Creecy, a solid, dependable player for head coach Dave Doeren on and off the field, got the start at running back in the opener. The junior gained 47 yards on 13 carries and scored a touchdown for the Wolfpack.
Last season's leading rusher, Shadrach Thornton, missed the opener due to a suspension, but will be back in action this week against Richmond.
Those two should get plenty of chances to watch their young backfield partner, Matt Dayes, run the ball this season, as Dayes showed he is ready to roll as a true freshman with 84 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Louisiana Tech.
The success of the Pack's new up-tempo, fast-paced offense will rely heavily on having a large group of wide receivers. Dave Doeren dressed 10 wideouts for the opening game of the season - four of whom were true freshmen.
Only five wideouts caught passes for NC State last season and only four of those - Charlie Hegedus, Quintin Payton, Rashard Smith and Bryan Underwood - returned for 2013. That leaves a wide open opportunity for some true freshmen to see the field at that position.
Lanky Marques Valdes-Scantling started the opener and played more snaps (46) than any other wideout. He caught the first pass of the season for the Wolfpack, leading the team in receiving yardage in the opener with 87 yards on four grabs.
Rookie Bra'Lon Cherry played 26 snaps in the opener, while Jumichael Ramos was in for nine snaps and Johnathon Alston had seven.
NC State Depth Chart
NOTE: *- Indicates a player has redshirted a season.
|2013 NC State Depth Chart|
Thanks to NC State and Richmond Athletics for much of the information in this preview.