However, with Thornton suspended for the first two games of the season, Dayes knew he would receive an expanded role in the opener and get the chance to be a feature back.
"I felt bad for him, but I knew it was a great opportunity for me to take advantage of," said Dayes. "I wasn't really happy with what I did tonight, but I was happy that we got the win. I feel like I could have done better on some of the runs."
It's obvious that Dayes has high expectations for himself because he was outstanding.
He had a career-high 24 carries, totaling 126 yards and two touchdowns. He also added a team-high five receptions for 65 yards, accounting for 191 total yards and two touchdowns on the night.
The talented junior showed his versatility. He pounded away at the Troy defense between the tackles, made defenders miss in the hole, and was dynamic in space.
"I can't even put in the words some of the stuff he did today," Jacoby Brissett said of Dayes. "I got caught watching sometimes. The offensive line did a great job of opening holes for him, and he did a great job of making something happen when nothing was there. I can't put into words what I was watching."
Head coach Dave Doeren thought going in that Dayes would have a strong outing.
"126 yards, five-yard average, made guys miss, and took care of the ball," said Doeren. "He ran like we thought he'd run to be honest with you. He was like that all through camp. He was really excited about his role tonight and it showed.
"His practice on Tuesday was unbelievable... how hard he went. I texted him Tuesday night and said, 'if you practice like that no one will touch you in the game," and he said, 'that's what I'm trying to do.'"
Next up for Dayes and NC State is Eastern Kentucky. Expect another heavy workload for the productive tailback.