Jacoby Brissett’s long-awaited first start for the Wolfpack ended up being a successful one, as he engineered two four quarterback touchdown drives to give the Pack a 24-23 victory. On those two drives, the hot-handed junior completed 14 of his 16 throws for 136 yards and two TDs.
For the game, Brissett completed .700 of his throws (28-40), connecting on three touchdowns and throwing just one pick. His efficiency mark for the game was the second best for an NC State QB in his first career start since the turn of the century - dating back to Philip Rivers’ first start in 2000.
That excludes Brandon Mitchell who posted a phenomenal mark last season because he completed all three of his passes before exiting the game with an injury.
Close AND the Cigar
Last season, the Wolfpack was in striking distance in the fourth quarter in six of it’s nine losses, yet was unable to close the gap.
Hopefully, the Georgia Southern contest is a portent that the team has the confidence and ability to close out games. In the season opener, State entered the fourth quarter down 10, but put together 99- and 75-yard touchdown drives to seal the victory.
Here’s a look at the games last season where the Pack was close late in the game and the final score:
|Opponent||In 2nd Half||Final Score|
|Clemson (2013)||-6||L, 14-26|
|Wake Forest (2013)||-4||L, 13-28|
|Syracuse (2013)||Tied||L, 10-24|
|UNC (2013)||-5||L, 19-27|
|Duke (2013)||+3||L, 20-38|
|BC (2013)||-6||L, 21-38|
|Ga. Southern (2014)||-10||W, 24-23|
Pack Pups Play
NC State had the third-highest percentage of underclassmen on the first day of fall camp of any team in the nation. The Wolfpack had the second-highest number of freshmen (52) on its camp roster (Pitt has 53).
Dave Doeren’s squad has just 33 juniors and seniors - the lowest number of upperclassmen for the Wolfpack since 1995.
In the season opener, 10 true freshmen saw action for the Wolfpack, along with five redshirt freshmen.
Prior to the season opener, the Wolfpack coaching staff raved about the fall camp performance of running back Matt Dayes.
That hard work in camp translated to a successful start to his sophomore campaign, as Dayes tallied 104 all-purpose yards and scored the game-winning touchdown.
Dayes had six rushes for 34 yards (a 5.7 yds/carry mark) and six receptions for another 70 yards, including the 35-yard game-winner.
The Weston, Fla. native scored three TDs in the 2013 season opener.
All three of the Wolfpack’s touchdowns in the season opener were scored by sophomores. Running back Matt Dayes stretched the game-winner across the goalline in the fourth quarter, while wideout Bra’Lon Cherry had six and 11-yard scoring grabs - his first two collegiate TDs.
NC State has the distinction of being just one of 20 FBS programs that will face three teams that finished the 2013 campaign ranked in the top 15 nationally.
The young Wolfpack will face those three opponents - defending national champion and current top-ranked Florida State, Clemson (currently ranked No. 16) and Louisville - in a four-week span from Sept. 27 to Oct. 18, with two of the contests on the road.
Five ACC schools will play three teams that finished in the top 15 in the AP Poll last year, and all five are in the ACC’s Atlantic Division.
The linebacking corps has taken a big hit due to injuries in 2014. In the spring, promising incoming 23-year-old freshman Ty Linton suffered a knee injury. In fall camp, possible starter M.J. Sallahudin also suffered an injury that will keep him sidelined for a while.
Coult Culler, another promising incoming player, has also been out due to injury. Luckily, in the Wolfpack’s new 4-2-5 defense, there are only two LB spots to be filled. Redshirt freshman Jerod Fernandez got the start at MLB in the opener, while senior Rodman Noel started at WLB.
A Crisp Start
Senior offensive tackle Rob Crisp is one of two Pack seniors who were granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA and is back on the field for NC State this season. Crisp played in two games last year before being sidelined by a concussion and did not return to the field in 2013. He rejoined the team in January and was back in the starting lineup at the beginning of fall camp.
The starter at left tackle, Crisp has played in 37 career games, starting 14. He, along with the other 4 starting offensive linemen, played all 77 snaps in the opener.
The reinsertion of Rob Crisp in the Wolfpack lineup means that Joe Thuney (a junior in eligibility who has already graduated) is now back to his true position of guard. A versatile lineman, Thuney started contests at right tackle, right guard and left tackle in 2013 and saw action as the Pack’s back-up center as a redshirt freshman in 2012.
Schooley Stays In
Wolfpack center Quinton Schooley has no idea what the Wolfpack offense looks like from the sideline. He’s never been there to see it.
Schooley has played every offensive snap for the Wolfpack since transferring from Butler Community College prior to last season - 1,055 total.
Keeping Up With The Joneses
To keep up with the Joneses at NC State, just take a look in the defensive backfield.
Redshirt junior Hakim Jones is the returning starter at free safety, has played in every game of his career (26) and is the second-leading returning tackler on the squad. He led the team in stops in the opener with 11.
Redshirt freshman Josh Jones is the starter at strong safety and saw his first collegiate action against Georgia Southern. He spent his redshirt campaign at linebacker and safety.
Revving Up the Run
The Wolfpack rushed for 162.7 yards per game in 2013 - the highest average for an NC State squad since in 16 years (when the 1997 squad rushed for 178.8 yds/ game). In the season opener, the Pack’s rushing committee put up 173 rushing yards.
The run game should be improved, with increased size, depth and experience on the offensive line and three returning backs who have great game experience. All three saw significant action in the opener, as Shadrach Thornton led the team in rushing with 10 carries for 73 yards, Matt Dayes rushed for 34 yards but had six grabs for 70 yards and the game-winning TD and Tony Creecy rushed for 31 yards. None of the three backs was tackled for a loss in the contest.
Those three backs each have strengths that make them unique according to their position coach Des Kitchings. Thornton is a powerful back, Dayes is good at catching the ball and in the open field, while Creecy is a combination of both.
NC State has the unique benefit of having nine ‘un-freshmen’ on its 2014 squad.
These nine players graduated from high school early and enrolled in school this past January, going through the entire offseason conditioning program, spring practice and summer workouts with the veterans.
Of the eight position players in that group, two are currently out with injuries (linebacker Ty Linton and guard Tyronne Prescod). Of the remaining six, one started the opener and three others saw action, while five are listed on the current depth chart.