NC State hits the road this weekend for a trip to Old Dominion, the first of six road games in eight weeks for the Wolfpack.
"We're excited to get on the road for Old Dominion," said head coach Dave Doeren after Thursday's practice. "The first of many road games here in eight weeks. The guys had a good week of practice, good focus, and it was loud. The speakers work in [the indoor practice facility], that's for sure."
The Wolfpack spent time this week in the practice facility to receive additional work on the turf, the surface they will be playing on this weekend against the Monarchs.
"The outdoor turf is helpful too," said Doeren. "But being able to have two fields like this allows the offense and defense to work a whole field and not feel like you're going to throw into each other. When you're on a 40-yard field because the defense is sharing it with you makes it difficult to throw the ball down the field on either side. It helps you a lot."
Some may wonder why NC State would play at Old Dominion, but that area, the Tidewater region, is a place that the staff hopes they can become a presence on the recruiting trail. Doeren also added that he likes playing nonconference road games against programs not very far from Raleigh.
"Tidewater, it's pretty well-documented what kind of players come out of there," he said. "It's nice to go there. Anytime you play a nonconference game you can bus to and have your fans and the player's families and everybody be able to drive up-and-back on the same day, that's a good game to have. It's hard when you have to fly across country and no one can go watch the game with you.
"I expect to have a lot of our fans there, and I know a lot of our players' families will be able to make the trip."
NC State opened the 2014 season with an easy win at South Florida, and Doeren hopes his team will duplicate the success. The Wolfpack did well on the road last season with wins at South Florida, at Syracuse, at North Carolina, and a win against UCF in the bowl game.
"We're looking forward to seeing the guys play on the road," the third-year head coach added. "I know that it's a big game for them up there, so anytime you get to play in an environment where there is that kind of buzz it's a fun experience.
"We feel like we've proven that we can play well on the road. We've done it competitively. We played some of our best football on the road last year. Hopefully we can keep that frame of mind where it doesn't matter what's going on around us. We just have to execute and play together. The team looks like they have that kind of focus. Hopefully we can do the same thing [as at South Florida]."
Barr A Gametime Decision
Senior lineman Alex Barr went down with a lower leg injury against Eastern Kentucky and while the injury didn't need surgery it could keep him out of Saturday's matchup
"No, he hasn't," Doeren replied when asked if Barr has practiced this week. "It will be a gameday deal. Obviously he's practiced for four years so it's not as big a deal as if he was a young player. He is getting better everyday, and he was walking around pretty good today."
Barr has started 20 games during his career at NC State, lining up at left guard, right guard, and right tackle. If he can't go, it looks like redshirt junior Bryce Kennedy could get his first career start at left guard.
"Bryce had a great week of practice," said Doeren. "That's who we have ready to play if Alex can't, and Bryce is ready. He had a great day today and yesterday, so he'll do a tremendous job if that's what we have to do."
Stevens Steps Up
Sophomore cornerback Mike Stevens emerged as a contributor down the stretch in 2014 and his strong play has carried over to the 2015 season. Stevens made his first career start in the win over Eastern Kentucky, and he recorded an interception in the opening win over Troy.
"Mike is playing with confidence," said Doeren. "He has grown up a lot, and I'm proud of him. He's increased his ability to be consistent because of his approach. Not just here, but in school. He's doing really well in the classroom. He's just taking a better approach to things.
"I think being at a small high school he was able to maybe get away with more things athletically, where here he understands that if he does it right he can make plays consistently. He's done that."
Doeren is always looking for any motivation he could provide for his team and he found it in Eastern Kentucky's mid-week press conference last week. EKU linebacker D'Vonta Derricott had some words for the Wolfpack.
"Yes, it was in their press conference," said Doeren. "I listen to the press conference every week. [Derricott] said he was going to punch us in the mouth and make us tap out. I thought our players would like to know that... not very smart on their end. He was the one that got all the penalties on their defense.
"I played it to the team and then we had our scout team talk trash all week to our offense where it wouldn't be the first time they heard it on the field."