Noah Spence, the Ohio State transfer with an extensive NC State background in his family, imposed his will early in the first quarter. Spence sacked Jacoby Brissett on the Wolfpack’s first offensive play and forced a fumble. On the following NC State drive, the Eastern Kentucky defensive line continued to cause havoc in the backfield. Spence recovered a Dakwa Nichols fumble, the Pack's first turnover of the season.
It is rare that a player from a FCS school can give a team or a player ideal preparation for the upcoming conference season but Spence did just that. After its initial struggles, NC State’s offensive line clamped down. The Colonels had just one more sack for the rest of the game and the Wolfpack dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for over 40 minutes for the second straight contest.
Will Richardson is a redshirt freshman, but he seems to grow with each play. Surrounded by three seniors, it is the perfect learning environment. Richardson, who spoke of studying in a way he never had before to prepare for Spence, is embracing the challenge of starting early in his collegiate career.
While Spence is much ballyhooed, the NC State’s defensive line ultimately was the bigger factor. Bradley Chubb and B.J. Hill were both abusive towards the Colonels on Saturday--with Hill admitting after the game he “cried inside” when had a potential pass almost literally handed to him.
There are some concerns.
On the offensive line, Alex Barr left the game with an undisclosed injury and did not return while the front four on defense is still exceedingly young, save Mike Rose and Monty Nelson.
Both lines have the benefit of senior leadership behind it. On offense, Brissett is as steady and efficient after two games as anyone could hope for. With Juston Burris and Hakim Jones in the secondary, the defense has veterans in the back that the Wolfpack should be able to trust as the competition gets stronger.
Jones was particularly effective, leading the team in tackles--including a potential touchdown-saving stop in the second quarter when Eastern Kentucky running back Dy’Shaw Mobley opened a drive with an 11-yard burst into the NC State secondary.
In regards to Spence, the challenge was accepted and met by the offensive line. On defense, the deep, yet young line pushed forward into the backfield, limiting the Colonels to 35 yards rushing.
The Wolfpack is creeping towards stiffer competition. The next step for NC State comes with back-to-back road games to end the non-conference slate.
The good news for the Pack going forward is there is an eagerness from the young players on both lines to learn and improve. Despite all of the weapons available, for NC State to do well that is where it will all begin.