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). This season, Dave Doeren’s squad is averaging 243.3 yards on the ground per game and has nine rushing touchdowns - the second-highest mark in the ACC.
Those numbers are testament not only to the Pack’s talented trio of backs, but also to guys up front - starting offensive linemen Rob Crisp, Joe Thuney, Quinton Schooley, Alex Barr and Tyson Chander. In 88 rushes between the Pack’s top three backs, there has been just one tackle for loss. The line has allowed just three sacks as well.
NC State’s 242 rushing yards against Old Dominion was the highest since early in the 2012 campaign. Last week against South Florida, the Pack ground it out for 315 yards - the highest ground gain for the Pack since a 327 tally against Maryland 20 years ago!
State’s five rushing scores in the road win marked the most in a road contest since six at Texas Tech in 2002 and tied as the most overall since that OT win.
Striking A Balance
In its first three games, the Wolfpack has found a nice balance between the run and the pass. With 730 yards on the ground and 818 through the air, NC State has a 47/53 balance. That makes the Wolfpack’s offense the second most balanced in the ACC in this young season.
After three games, junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett ranks second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in total offense (302 yds/gm) and passing yards per game (270) only to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. He also ranks second in the league in passing efficiency (161.4) and ranks among the top 32 players nationally in all of those categories.
In the knockout win at USF, Brissett led nine offensive drives before giving way to back-up Garrett Leatham in the middle of the third quarter (later returned late in the fourth quarter). In those nine drives, the Pack scored seven TDs, punted once, and ran two plays before the end of the first half.
Here’s where Brissett ranks nationally and in the ACC this week.
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A Good Start
NC State has started the season 3-0 for the first time since the 2010 campaign, when the Wolfpack posted a 4-0 mark in the first month.
Dave Doeren’s team got off to a great start in last week’s game at South Florida as well, scoring 35 points in the first half. That first half total marked the most points for an NC State team on the road since scoring 38 at Navy in 2002.
Young Players Like Endzone
NC State is tied for second in the ACC in touchdowns scored this season with 16 through three games. Seven have been on Jacoby Brissett passes, while nine have been on running plays.
Six of those seven touchdown throws this season have been to freshmen and sophomores, while five of the nine runs have also been by players from those classes.
In other words, 11 of the Pack’s 16 TDs have been scored by freshmen and sophomores. That’s 69%!
Young Players Play Catch
Out of the Pack’s 544 receiving yards this season, 765 yards - or 94% - have come from freshmen and sophomores. Other classes have accounted for just 8 catches for 53 yards.
Defense Digs In
The NC State defense was much maligned after the first two games of 2014 - giving up an average of 471 yards in those two contests. Game three, however, was a different story.
The defense gave up just 17 yards on South Florida’s first drive of the game. On the Bulls’ next possession, they took the opening play 75 yards to the house for their only offensive touchdown of the day. For the next 39:06 (through the end of the 3rd quarter), USF gained a total of 17 yards.
The running back spot was definitely one of the deepest and most experienced on the depth chart for NC State heading into the 2014 campaign, with three running backs on its roster who each boasted experience and talent: graduate Tony Creecy, junior Shadrach Thornton and sophomore Matt Dayes.
On Saturday in the win at South Florida, each of the three posted almost identical rushing statistics, as Thornton rushed 12 times for 70 yards, Dayes rushed 10 times for 68 yards and Creecy rushed 12 times for 68 yards.
The Pack’s rushing attack has definitely been a three-headed beast in 2014, although Thornton has led the team with 76.3 yards per game. Dayes has caught more passes than any other RB with 10, while Creecy has ground it out for tough short yardage and has also been vital when the Pack runs it’s “wildcat” formation.
One of the most impressive stats about this year’s rushing game? In 88 rushing attempts between the three, there has only been one stop behind the line of scrimmage.
The versatility of sophomore running back Matt Dayes has been a vital part of the Pack’s powerful offense in this early season. Dayes has averaged 139.7 all-purpose yards per game this season - the 3rd best mark in the ACC and the No. 31 mark among FBS players.
Dayes currently ranks second on the Wolfpack squad in rushing (60.3 yards/game) and receiving (47 yards/game) and leads the team in kick returns with four for 97 yards. He also ranks second on the team in scoring with four TDs - two rushing and two receiving.
In three games this season, quarterback Jacoby Brissett has thrown passes to a dozen Wolfpack players. In each game, he’s connected with nine different receivers. In terms of rushing, 11 different players have registered carries for NC State in 2014.
Dave Doeren’s squad is tied for second in the Atlantic Coast Conference in number of players registering rushes and receptions in 2014.
A focus on discipline has paid off for NC State this season. Three games into the 2014 campaign, the Wolfpack ties as the least penalized team in the FBS, losing just 21 yards on penalties in three games. In terms of flags thrown, NC State is tied for seventh with just 3.33 yellow flags per contest.
Of the Pack’s 10 penalties, all but three have been of the presnap variety.
Know When to Hold ‘Em
Since the beginning of senior placekicker Niklas Sade’s sophomore campaign, 54% of his kickoffs (81 of 149) have gone for touchbacks. The Wolfpack currently ranks 11th nationally in touchbacks and has ranked in the top 25 each of the past two seasons behind Sade’s toes.