Testing The Front

RALEIGH, N.C. -- NC State's offense is off to a very good start and the biggest reason why is the strides made along the offensive line.

The Wolfpack currently ranks No. 41 nationally in total offense, averaging 479.5 yards per game with 207.5 coming on the ground (No. 47) and 272 through the air (No. 51).

A lot of the success can be attributed to the development of NC State's offensive line, a unit that already appears improved from last season, and that probably should be expected.

NC State returned four starters and added back senior left tackle Rob Crisp, who missed the final ten games last season due to injury.

Through two games, the offensive line has allowed just two total sacks and the team ranks fifth nationally in tackles for a loss allowed (2.5).

In two games we've given up two tackles for a loss in the run game and two sacks," said Doeren. "Two of the tackles for a loss were screens that were thrown outside.

"They've done a good job of keeping people out of our backfield and letting our playmakers make plays."

One of those playmakers, junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett, is off to a hot start.

Through two games, Brissett is completing 71% of his passes and is averaging 272 yards passing per game with five touchdowns and just one interception.

Last year, NC State's quarterbacks didn't pass for their fifth touchdown until the 10th game of the season and the offensive line yielded 39 sacks (106th nationally).

"Our offensive line did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage," Brissett said after the Old Dominion victory. "The offensive line was able to push them back even further than they were in the first half.

"In the huddle they were saying, 'let's keep going.' They were talking to each other and that's great... you can see the maturity and it's great."

However, it's easy to see why NC State fans be skeptical of talk about offensive line upgrades and improved play on that side of the ball because the Wolfpack has faced Old Dominion and Georgia Southern.

South Florida is a program that's rebuilding like NC State, but their defense could be the strength of the team and is led by a stout front seven.

In two games, the Bulls have nine takeaways and rank seventh nationally in sacks (7.0). USF has also been strong against the run, having yielded just 98 yards per game to Western Carolina and Maryland.

Leading the way is sophomore linebacker Nigel Harris, who had nine tackles, including eight solo hits, along with two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and a sack in USF’s 24-17 loss to Maryland. Augie Sanchez, a freshman linebacker, had a 21-yard fumble return for a touchdown and added an interception in the red zone against the Terps.

Doeren, who has been pleased with his line's play, knows that Saturday they will be tested.

"It's their biggest challenge so far," said Doeren. "They've got a challenge. I think South Florida's front is very good. Their outside linebackers are really active rushers. They have strong, stout guys.

"There is a lot of pressure and movement from their front. It's going to be a great challenge for our front."

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