Matt Dayes rushed for 106 yards on 20 carries to become the first NC State player to eclipse the century mark in each of the first games of a season since the Wolfpack’s No. 2 all-time rusher Joe McIntosh accomplished the feat in 1981.
Unlike the first two games, on Saturday Dayes was almost matched by a teammate. Shadrach Thornton returned from suspension with a 92-yard effort on 18 rushes in NC State’s 38-14 win over the Monarchs.
The duo complimented each other well in 2014 but added experience and weight could make the pair more dynamic this season. Thornton is bigger and stronger while Dayes, given a primary role in the first two games, has shown that he is not a one-trick pony.
Defenses will not get a respite from the NC State running game in 2015.
While Thornton may not be the receiver out of the backfield that Dayes is, the Wolfpack can augment the duo with the multi-faceted game of Jaylen Samuels, another player with the knack for finding the end zone.
The way the Wolfpack has trampled the opposition on the ground through three games should be encouraging on several levels, not the least of which is the 13 rushing touchdowns so far along with NC State breaking the 40-minute barrier in time of possession during each contest.
Scoreboard watching is always a sketchy thing at best. Last season, Virginia Tech beat Ohio State on the road while losing a wretched contest at Wake Forest. The Hokies won against Duke in Durham after the Blue Devils had earlier triumphed in Atlanta versus Georgia Tech.
There is always something nonsensical going on in the ACC.
That said, the conference schedule this past week put the Atlantic Division’s two best teams in the limelight and neither shined. Florida State and Clemson both looked vulnerable and while that guarantees nothing for NC State going forward, the Wolfpack certainly will have confidence as the games start to mean more in October.
NC State has one more road test at South Alabama before conference play begins and the Wolfpack will probably be pragmatic enough not to look any further ahead than that.
The running game has been great in the first quarter of NC State’s season and now has added diversity within. A season is a daily process but the Wolfpack should be encouraged and are likely fearless as non-conference play ends this coming week. The weapons are in place for something magical.