MAKE THEM ONE-DIMENSIONAL
Old Dominion's offensive gameplan is simple. The Monarchs want to control the clock by grinding out drives with tailback Ray Lawry.
The Conference USA Freshman of the Year in 2014, Lawry rushed for 16 touchdowns as a freshman and has emerged as one of the top tailbacks in the country this year. Through two games he leads the nation in rushing, and the 5-foot-10, 201-pounder has averaged 219 yards and three touchdowns.
Lawry is the focal point for NC State, and he did have three touchdowns in last year's game in Carter-Finley Stadium.
In fact, he has more carries (59) than Old Dominion has pass attempts (54). The Monarchs want to run the football and they want to do it with Lawry. NC State faced a similar gameplan last week against Eastern Kentucky, and the defense responded by stifling EKU's rushing game.
They need to do the same this week and have the personnel to do so. Look for NC State to press cover outside and load the box. Expect the Wolfpack to try and shut down Lawry and the running game, forcing Old Dominion to beat them through the air with freshman quarterback Bentley Shuler, who is completing just 55.6% of his passes. Putting Shuler in obvious passing situations allows NC State to turn loose pass-rushers like Bradley Chubb and Mike Rose, which could be a big problem for the freshman quarterback.
If NC State can make Shuler, and now Lawry, defeat them than chances are they secure their first road win of the season.
TURN THEM OVER
NC State has done a fairly good job of taking care of the football in the last two games, but they must force more turnovers.
The Wolfpack has been sound defensively and limited yardage, but they've only forced two turnovers, and both came in the season opener. It has to be a focal point for the defense because they'll need to be better in that area as the season moves on.
NC State must win the turnover battle, and it all starts with the defense forcing Shuler and the Monarchs to turn the ball over.
NC State's defense played well against Eastern Kentucky, but they can't overlook Old Dominion. That would be a mistake.
First and foremost, the Wolfpack must avoid coming out flat and allowing Old Dominion's offense to get going early on. It is a solid unit that will be playing with a lot of emotion in arguably the biggest home game in the program's history. They trust their system and truly believe they can beat NC State.
NC State must stay focused on defense. You can say all the politically correct things- State must take the Monarchs seriously, this could be a tough game, blah, blah, blah, but the fact of the matter is, the Pack should win this game... they are the more talented team.
However, that talent can be negated if State comes out sloppy, misses assignments, and doesn't play with a sense of urgency. This contest should be an opportunity for the Wolfpack to improve and fine tune their defensive approach. The most important aspect of this game is to remain focused on the task at hand and play solid, fundamental defense.
Just take care of business from the opening play.