Big plays, big day for NC State's offense.
Fresh off a bye and a couple of weeks removed from a second close loss, NC State's offense lit up the scoreboard early and often against Wake Forest, scoring four 50+-yard touchdowns in the first quarter.
Heading into the bye week we stressed that the Wolfpack needed to become more explosive, and aggressive, offensively, and that seemed to be the plan.
With tough defenses remaining on the schedule, NC State has to remain aggressive and hunt out explosive plays. The big win in Wake Forest was a great start.
A lot of good options this week, but let's start with junior tailback Matt Dayes.
With NC State in need of a big effort, Dayes responded with the best performance of his career as he totaled 205 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. His two scores were runs of 85 and 57 yards respectively, huge plays in the first quarter.
Dayes is now tied for first in the ACC in touchdowns (12), second in rushing (793 yards), second in yards from scrimmage (967 yards), and second in all-purpose yards per game (138.1 yards per game).
"Matt Dayes had a great game," said Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren. "Matt's been working on breaking tackles. He makes people miss all the time, that's something he's always been able to do, but running behind those pads and getting those feet up where shoestring-type plays aren't going to get him.
"He did a great job. Our jet game pulled several people out of the box, and he was able to run through that second-level defender and make plays for us."
A few throws were inaccurate, but this was Jacoby Brissett's best game of the season. The senior signal-caller was aggressive from the opening snap, looking to attack Wake's defense through the air, and he finished completing 20-of-34 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. It was a season-high in attempts and yards for Brissett, who really pushed the ball down the field, giving his receivers multiple chances to make plays.
"It is just how the game goes," said Brissett. "Over the bye week obviously it gave me a chance to get healthy but those plays happen just by chance. I am going to continue to just fire and play.
"We just came out here and knew that we had to play our game to open up and get those big plays."
Redshirt freshman wideout Maurice Trowell had played sparingly leading up to the Wake game, totaling just two catches in the first six games. However, Brissett targeted him early and often, and Trowell produced. The speedster from Southern (NC) Durham High School led the Wolfpack wideouts with four catches for 84 yards and a score.
The touchdown was a 59-yarder on the opening drive where he had the awareness to find open space after Brissett shedded a sack in the pocket.
Trowell's play led to increased snaps, as he not only started the game but also led the Wolfpack receivers in snaps (48).
"We needed a spark," he said. "Getting the ball and catching the ball, I tried to give a spark to the team and get momentum going."
"He had his best two weeks of practice so he earned those balls," Doeren said of Trowell. "He's always gone in and blocked, he's always been unselfish. He's never pouted. I'm proud of him. I told him this week he was going to have a game like this."
A- Big plays and no turnovers (along with 28 offensive points) will always get you a high grade on the road in league play.
Winston-Salem has been a rough place for the Wolfpack's offense recently... in the last nine road games against Wake Forest, the Wolfpack had averaged just 18.6 points. That's not going to get it done and this year's squad responded with a strong performance.
Could they have finished out more drives over the final three quarters? Definitely, and that's why the grade's not even higher, but they deserve major credit for building a huge lead to give the defense a cushion to work with.
There are still some things to work on, but at the end of the day it's about putting points on the board, regardless of when during the game it happens.
Overall, this type of performance will win a lot of games for NC State given how well the defense has been playing.