GAMEDAY: NC State vs. Eastern Kentucky

NC State returns to action today at 6:00 pm in a home game against Eastern Kentucky. The game can be viewed on ESPN3.

NC State vs. Eastern Kentucky
Saturday, September 12, 2015
6:00 pm (EST), ESPN3
Raleigh, NC
Carter-Finley Stadium

NC State Links
Official Site

Eastern Kentucky Links

CFN's Take: NC State vs. Eastern Kentucky

Why You Need To Care
Facing a soft September schedule, NC State fully expects to be 4-0 by the time Louisville comes to Raleigh on Oct. 3. The Wolfpack outclassed Troy in the opener, 49-21, and can get halfway to a perfect September by being as inhospitable to Eastern Kentucky. The Colonels kicked off their season with a 52-10 blowout of Valparaiso.

Why Eastern Kentucky Will Win
The Colonels are confident after pitching a complete game in the opener. They beefed up their roster with FBS transfers, like former Ohio State pass rusher Noah Spence, and should have some opportunities against an NC State D that showed some cracks in the Troy game.

Why NC State Will Win
Valpo did nothing to prepare the EKU D for what it’ll face this weekend. Even without suspended RB Shadrach Thornton, the Pack will move the chains with balance. QB Jacoby Brissett is versatile, as is backup RB Matt Dayes, who led the team in rushing and receiving in the opener.

Player Who Matters
Facing Spence, who’ll play on Sundays, will be a terrific test for Wolfpack tackles Will Richardson and Joe Thuney, who wouldn’t normally get a workout from an FCS lineman. Spence is going to help a mediocre Pack line become battle-tested before ACC play starts.

What’s Going To Happen?
Eastern Kentucky cannot be taken lightly. And NC State head coach Dave Doeren knows it. He’ll have his Wolfpack ready and focused, particularly the multi-dimensional offensive duo of Brissett and Dayes. Once Brissett and Dayes start putting points on the board, the Colonels won’t have the offensive execution to close the gap.

Prediction: NC State 45, Eastern Kentucky 17

QUOTABLES: Dave Doeren

Opening Statement:
Happy to be 1-0, and there's a lot of good things that happened in the first game.

Starting on our offense, we were very efficient in the pass game. Jacoby only threw two incompletions, and one of them was on a throwaway. I thought we threw it and caught it really well. Guys were clean, had one penalty, I think, the entire game, and you know, we talk about not turning the ball over and not having penalties, not beating yourself, those are things you look for and how clean you can play.

We were able to get a lot of people in the game. I think we played more freshmen than any team in the country, so a lot of first-time players, as well.

On defense played well for most of the game. There were some guys that played really well, and then gave up four plays that leave a sour taste in your mouth from a yardage standpoint and kind of hurt the overall production of what the guys did that day, but were able to force some turnovers on defense, and played great 3rd down defense. We were 8 of 9 on defense on 3rd down, and really had a couple nice returns.

Nyheim had a good return, Nyheim Hines, and Bra'Lon Cherry had one on a punt return. A lot of good things.

And now week 2, another home game here with a good Eastern Kentucky team coming to town. Look forward to the challenge.

Running back Matt Dayes, just not only his performance in game 1 but what he's kind of shown you as he's come up over the last couple of years at NC State, your thoughts on his performance now and how he's grown before your eyes?
Well, he's gotten to be a mature guy. He understands the process and how to prepare himself and how to take care of his body and his mind.

He's a lot of fun to be around. He's just a really good young man, good person, and he's got a great skill set, not only as a runner, but he'll fight you in pass protection.

He's a good receiver. He's tremendous in space, and his best skills are -- if he was a 6'2", 6'3" guy, he would be an unbelievable receiver. Just has a lot of different things he can do. Jacoby and him have a good relationship and have good chemistry.

I'm proud of what he's done, and I know he's got a lot more in him, so looking forward to pushing him there.

And the rest of the Pack in general, you put up five touchdowns in the first game of the season. What have you seen from not only Matt Dayes but your rushing attack now? Is it getting to kind of where you want it to be as opposed to maybe where it's been in the past?
It's a lot better. Year one we were under three yards per rush and year 2 we were five and a half yards per rush. I think if we have over five yards per rushing attempt, we're going to be in the top 5 in the nation. If we can do that, we're going to be able to throw the ball well because we have good quarterbacks, and it forces people to put numbers in the box.

Our receivers have a lot of one-on-one opportunities in man coverage, and we have a lot of zone defenses that will keep the box and open up some underneath things for us.

I think a quarterback's dream is to have a balanced offense in my opinion because it allows them to do a lot of different things. We can move the pocket. Are we ever going to say we're where we want to be? Probably not; coaches always want to get better. But if we can continue down the path we're on, we'll be happy with that.

Going back to you playing 23 rookies last week, 10 true, 13 redshirt, can you talk about the development of your underclassmen?
Yeah. Well, we consider ourselves a developmental program. We have to recruit guys that -- not that we're not going to get five-star guys; we are, but we're going to get a lot of three-star guys, too, that we've got to develop, and they've got to spend time in the weight room.

Those kids that are coming off of their redshirt year are tremendously improved, not just stronger or faster but more mature and have gone through a year of a life skills program that teaches leadership and values and character, and they're just more prepared to play on the big stage.

It's hard for a true freshman to compete and compete well and handle the 12-week grind, and we've been able to do it. We've done it pretty well with some guys, and Nyheim handled his first game as a true freshman.

I think when you're recruiting, you've got to really identify guys that have that maturity. For us it seems like the kids that graduate high school early and show up a semester ahead of their class have a better chance than kind of a true freshman. We played only one, which was Nyheim, that was not here early.

Also with the 57,000-plus in attendance, can you just talk about the excitement coming into the program?
Yeah, you bet. Every game has been sold out for the season, as well as our parking, and so the fans are doing their part, and we've said many times and will continue to say how much we appreciate their loyalty and passion.

The thing I loved about the game is that they were there the entire game, and it rained. In the pregame there was actually a rain delay, and sometimes that hurts your crowd, and it didn't hurt ours at all. The fans were strong and they were loud, they were here the entire time, and that helps our recruiting and helps our players. They feed off of the fans.

You guys are obviously proud of playing a clean game and got a record in that area Saturday. Just curious if early in the season what you guys do that other don't, is that a bigger, faster, sort of not beating yourself earlier in the season than it can be down the road, especially if you're playing like an FCS game or something like that?
I think it can be. I mean, I think it's a matter of focus. We spend a lot of time talking about not beating ourselves. It's one of our No. 1 things we talk about week in and week out, and our keys to victory are a lot of times in a lot of phases of the game are going to be about penalties, they're going to be about mental errors, things we control, effort.

So the players have bought into the formula, and I don't know other places what they do and what they spend their time on, but I do know what we do, and we spend a lot of time on that. We talk a lot about ourselves a lot more than we do about opponents. That's just been what I've been around that works.

One of the advantages of a really good, really veteran quarterback like Jacoby, I mean, in the sense that are there certain things that you don't need to worry as much about because he's going to take care of them and execute them right?
Well, you would like to think so. I mean, I think most coaches are going to continue to assume and probably supply the players with information they already know. But the things that happen on game days is he fixes problems that other guys can't fix. There's things that happened throughout the game where a receiver might be off when he should be on, and he'll see it and tell him to get on the line. It seems like a little thing, but a lot of times rookie quarterbacks aren't thinking about that, they're thinking about themselves, and he's able to understand the 11 guys on the field.

Obviously he's one of the 11, and what they're supposed to be doing and communicate to them in a certain way.

I think that's the biggest thing, to have a quarterback that's been through what he's been through, too, I think he's really focused. He's had to grow and push himself through tough situations, and it's not easy transferring and getting a team behind you, and he's done that and done it extremely well.

You know, as a coach I think the biggest thing is knowing that he's an extension of his offensive coordinator and that he's got the experience under his belt to handle a lot of things that we may not show him during the week.

How much better is he just in what he does physically than he was last year?
Yeah. Well, underneath he was really good last year. Underneath, he threw the ball well. I think down the field is where he's improved the most, just not really the touch but the different types of throws. Sometimes you've got to hammer that ball in there and sometimes you've got to throw it more like a free throw where he's got some arc on it.

In the first game he did that. He threw a couple really nice balls and then he threw one 56-some odd yards down the field.

He's really worked hard on his footwork that goes with those throws, and I think he's spent a lot of time this summer on the little things in his position, and it showed.

NC State Game Notes

NC State played more freshmen than any school in the FBS in the first weekend of 2015, as a total of 23 rookies (10 true and 13 redshirt) saw action in the win over Troy (the Pack is tied with Florida State, which also played 23 freshmen). During Doeren's tenure with the Wolfpack, 34 true freshmen have played, and that action hasn't just been as role players or on special teams.

In 2013, 11 true freshmen combined to start 18 games. In 2014, 13 true freshmen combined to make 32 starts. In the season opener this season, two true freshmen (punter A.J. Cole and placekicker Kyle Bambard) got the nod. That 52 total starts by true freshmen in the last 26 games!

NC State held the ball for 41:34 in the season opener - the highest time of possession in 93 games (since a 43:07 ToP in an OT win at Miami in 2007).

The Troy game marked the second in Dave Doeren's Wolfpack tenure that the Pack had a 40+-minute time of possession. In his first game as head coach for the Pack, his offense held the ball 40:45 vs. La Tech (2013).

Before Doeren's arrival in Raleigh, the Pack had only held the ball more than 40 minutes twice in 235 games (2007 vs. Miami and 40:26 vs. FSU in 2002) dating back to the 2007 season. Since Doeren's arrival, it's happened twice in 26 games.

After week one, the most accurate passer in the FBS is the Wolfpack's Jacoby Brissett. The senior signal caller, who is on the preseason watch lists for the Maxwell, Unitas and Manning Awards, completed 21-of-23 in the season opener versus Troy - a .913 completion mark.

Brissett opened his senior campaign by completing 12 straight passes before an incompletion. He threw for 196 yards in the victory, along with two touchdowns and connected with 10 different receivers (1 RB, 1 FB, 6 WR, 2 TE).

The last time a Wolfpack player posted a percentage as high was Terry Jordan vs. UNC in 1992 (23-25, .920).

Heading into week one, head coach Dave Doeren stressed the importance of 'not beating ourselves' in terms of penalties and turnovers. The Wolfpack was close to perfect in that first category, drawing just one yellow flag in the opener.

That marked the fewest penalties for the Wolfpack in a season opener since the 1989 opener vs. Maryland (a 10-6 NC State win). It was the lowest in a game since the 2009 Duke contest, when State had no penalties.

The game marked the fifth time in the Dave Doeren era that the Wolfpack has posted two or less penalties. Last season, the Pack had four penalties in the opener and in 2013, had five in the first game of the season.

Another rarity in a season opener, the Wolfpack did not turn the ball over in the win over Troy. The Wolfpack defense, however, forced two Trojan turnovers. Nickel Dravious Wright had a SC Top 10 Play-of-the-Day when he knocked the QBs helmet off on a six-yard sack and caused and recovered the ensuing fumble. Later in the game, CB Mike Stevens pulled down his first career interception.

In Dave Doeren's career, his teams have posted a 23-5 mark when posting less turnovers than the opponent.

Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence, a transfer from Ohio State, is the son of former Wolfpack outside linebacker Greg Spence and the nephew of former NC State basketball player Phil Spence, who played on the 1974 National Championship Team.

Nine of the Wolfpack starters in the opening game of 2015 were sophomores. A total of 14 sophomores saw action versus Troy, Of the 64 players who saw played versus Troy, 37 were either freshmen or sophomores.

Last season, freshmen and redshirt freshmen played in a combined 235 games and made 52 starts.

Head coach Dave Doeren said when he was named head coach at NC State that he wanted to field a "balanced" offense. His second Wolfpack squad did just that, tallying 2,659 yards on the ground and 2,652 through the air - a difference of just seven yards! That made the Wolfpack the nation's most balanced offense in 2014.

Doeren says his staff's aim is to continue to be balanced in 2015. In the season opener, the Wolfpack rushed for 251 yards and passed for 199.

On the day he was introduced as NC State's head coach in December of 2012, head coach Dave Doeren said it was "upsetting" to see "all the great players from the state of North Carolina" starring for other programs.

"We will fight for every kid who we think belongs here," Doeren said then. "If we don't get one, it's not going to be for a lack of effort."

A look at his first two full signing classes (2014 & 2015) shows that Doeren has kept that promise, as the Wolfpack has signed some of the top players in North Carolina each year.

In February, The Pack signed 12 players from North Carolina, including four of the top eight rated players in the state (all four of whom were ranked in the top-300 nationally). Those 12 signees were also ranked in the top-five of their position group in the state, including eight in the top-three.

In 2014, Doeren and his staff signed 16 North Carolina players. Five of those young men were ranked as the top player at their position in the state, while seven overall were ranked among NC's top-25 players.

NC State has boasted a strong walk-on program during Dave Doeren's short tenure. Eleven (current or former) walk-ons saw game action in 2014 and 10 played during his first season at NC State.

In just 38 months, Doeren has awarded scholarships to 10 different walk-ons, including five players on the current squad: Ben Grazen, Nick Lacy, Gavin Locklear, Ernie Robinson and Charlie Twitty.

Wolfpack Nation has shown its excitement and support once again as 2015 season tickets and mini-packs are sold out. NC State fans purchased the second-highest number of season tickets in program history - 35,065 - with over 3,000 new season tickets being sold. Wolfpack fans have shown their loyalty to the tune of a 96 percent renewal rate.

NC State Depth Chart

NOTE: *- Indicates a player has redshirted a season.

2015 NC State Depth Chart
12Jacoby Brissett 6-4/235Sr.*
2Jalan McClendon6-5/212Fr.*
21 Matt Dayes 5-9/203Jr.
27 Dakwa Nichols 5-9/195So.*
25 Reggie Gallaspy II 5-11/212Fr.
28 Jaylen Samuels 5-11/236So.
36 Max Stoffer 6-1/230Fr.*
"X" - Split End
85 Jumichael Ramos 6-2/200Jr.
87 Maurice Trowell 5-11/191Fr.*
84Freddie Simmons6-3/176Fr.
"Z" - Flanker
15 Johnathan Alston OR 6-0/203Jr.
13Bra'Lon Cherry5-11/191So.
80Elliott Davis OR6-1/185Fr.*
83 Vernon Grier 5-10/180 Fr.
"S" - Slot
7Nyheim Hines5-9/190Fr.
30Gavin Locklear5-10/186So.*
34Ben Grazen5-9/190So.*
Tight End
86 David Grinnage 6-5/265Jr.*
89 Cole Cook 6-6/250So.
89 Benson Browne 6-6/255Sr.*
Left Tackle
54 Joe Thuney6-5/295Sr.*
74 Emanuel McGirt Jr.6-6/295Fr.
Left Guard
71 Alex Barr6-8/318Sr.*
65 Garrett Bradbury6-3/285Fr.*
60 Quinton Schooley 6-4/298Sr.
70 Terronne Prescod6-5/338Fr.*
Right Guard
50 Tony Adams 6-2/300So.
56 Bryce Kennedy6-3/305Jr.*
Right Tackle
66 Will Richardson 6-6/303Fr.*
53 Tyler Jones6-3/300Fr.*

Special Teams
Place Kicker
92Kyle Bambard5-8/190Fr.
97Jackson Maples5-10/195Fr.*
90A.J. Cole III6-4/238Fr.
47Will Stephenson6-3/195Jr.*
Long Snapper
57Tyler Griffiths6-2/237Fr.
52Ben Garnett6-0/238Jr.*
Kick Returner
21 Matt Dayes 5-9/203Jr.
7Nyheim Hines5-9/190Fr.
Punt Returner
13Bra'Lon Cherry5-11/191Jr.
7Nyheim Hines5-9/190Fr.
Defensive End
90 Mike Rose 6-3/270Sr.*
45 Darian Roseboro 6-4/287Fr.
92 Emmanuel Olenga 6-4/251Fr.
Defensive Tackle
35 Kentavius Street 6-2/290So.
93 Justin Jones 6-2/300So.
43 Coult Culler 6-5/280Fr.*
Defensive Tackle
98 B.J. Hill 6-4/300So.
94 Monty Nelson 6-2/310Jr.
91 Eurndraus Bryant 6-1/350Fr.
Defensive End
49 Bradley Chubb 6-4/260So.
87 Pharoah McKever 6-6/260So.*
39 James Smith-Williams 6-4/220Fr.
Weakside Linebacker
58 Airius Moore 6-0/232So.
46 Ernie Robinson III OR 6-1/229Jr.*
32 Riley Nicholson 6-0/229Fr.
Middle Linebacker
4 Jerod Fernandez 6-0/231So.*
42 M.J. Salahuddin OR 6-2/227Jr.*
44 Ford Howell 6-1/240So.*
Right Cornerback
11 Juston Burris 6-1/207Sr.*
20 Mike Stevens 5-11/190So.
Free Safety
1 Hakim Jones 6-2/205 Sr.*
31 Germaine Pratt 6-3/234 So.
Strong Safety
2 Josh Jones 6-2/215 So.*
24 Shawn Boone 5-10/194So.
8 Dravious Wright 5-10/208Jr.
10 Freddie Phillips 6-1/200Fr.
Left Cornerback
29 Jack Tocho 6-0/198Jr.
6 Niles Clark 5-11/186Jr.*

NOTE: *- Indicates a player has redshirted a season.

Thanks to NC State Athletics for much of the information in this preview.

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