PP DIGITAL: East Carolina Preview
NC State Game Notes
NC STATE VERSUS EAST CAROLINA
In week 2, the Wolfpack will travel 83 miles to Greenville to take on the Pirates of the American Athletic Conference. Although NC State and East Carolina have played 28 times dating back to 1970, this marks only the fourth time the game has been played on the Pirates' home field. NC State is 1-2 at Dowdy Ficklen Stadium.
NC State won 11 of the first 15 meetings between the two schools (all of which were played at Carter-Finley Stadium). The two teams met every season from 1970-1987, but since then have played just 10 times, with three of those contests being played at neutral sites. In 1992, the Pack met the Pirates in the Peach Bowl, losing 37-34. In 1996 and 2004, the two teams played regular-season contests in Charlotte, with ECU winning 50-29 in '96 and the Pack gaining a 52-14 victory in 2004.
A PIRATE AMONG US
Wolfpack first-year offensive line coach/run game coordinator Dwayne Ledford should be right at home when the Wolfpack heads to Dowdy Ficklen Stadium on Saturday. Ledford played college ball for the Pirates from 1995-98, seeing action on the defensive line for his first three years, then moving to the offensive line as a senior - where he started at left tackle in nine games.
Ledford, who went on to play in the NFL from 1999-2006, also worked as a graduate assistant on the ECU staff in 2008.
This will not be the first time Ledford has stood on the opponent's sideline in Greenville either. In 2012, his first game as an assistant coach at Appalachian State was a trip to ECU.
Defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable also spent some time as a Pirate. He served as the linebackers and special teams coach from 1990-91 and then came back to coach LBs in 1998 and the d-line in 1999.
Junior defensive end Kentavius Street will be playing in his own backyard when the Pack invades Dowdy Ficklen Stadium. Street spent his junior and senior year at Greenville's Rose High School - just seven miles from the stadium, while the house he lived in with his mother and two sisters is even closer.
Street was a five-star recruit coming out of Rose, rated the No. 2 player in North Carolina.
With the win over William & Mary, NC State head coach Dave Doeren improved to 13-1 against non-Power 5 opponents while head coach of the Wolfpack (the only loss was to ECU in 2013).
Doeren, whose 2015 squad boasted the second-highest road win total in school history with four, is 3-0 in non-conference road games at NC State, and his Wolfpack squad have outscored those opponents 150-44.
FINLEY IS FINE IN DEBUT
Ryan Finley won the tight battle for the Wolfpack's starting quarterback spot and was practically flawless in his first game as the Wolfpack's starter. (Finley started three games at Boise State in 2015).
The redshirt sophomore completed 17 of 21 pass attempts for an .809 mark - the best completion percentage for a Wolfpack quarterback in his debut as NC State's starter dating all the way back to 1971 (with the exception of Brandon Mitchell in 2013, who broke his foot after opening 3-3). His two touchdown throws tied with Erik Kramer as the second-highest tally in the past 45 years (Jacoby Brissett and Philip Rivers each threw for three scores in their first game as State's starter).
Although the offense gained most of the headlines with its 521 yard performance in the opener, the defense was just as solid. After William & Mary drove 75 yards on a touchdown drive on its first possession of the game, the Wolfpack defense shut them down. In the remaining 54:38 of the game, the Tribe gained just 93 total yards.
NC State picked off two W&M passes (Jerod Fernandez and Josh Jones) and tallied six tackles for loss.
SUNNY DAYES AHEAD
If there was any question as to how senior running back Matthew Dayes would handle playing his first game in 306 days, it was quickly answered in the season opener. Dayes ran for 138 yards and hit paydirt twice - his sixth 100-yard rushing game in his last 8-1/2 outings (he was injured in the first half of game 8 last season).
It was the most rushing yards in a season opener in 16 years for a Wolfpack player (Ray Robinson, 139 vs. Arkansas St. in 2000).
With 1,828 career yards, Dayes now ranks 14th in Wolfpack history. His 5.66 yards per carrry is the top mark in school history (he averaged 6 yards per run in the opener) and his 26 rushing touchdowns is the fifth-best mark ever for a Pack runner. In terms of overall scoring, he is tied for fifth in school history as well with 32 TDs.
Last season Dayes, who was named to the 2016 watch lists for the Maxwell and Doak Walker Awards, was the first State runner since 2002 to rush for 100+ yard in five straight games. He is responsible for two of the 10 longest rushing plays in school history (85 yards vs. Wake Forest, 77 yards vs. South Alabama).
The strongest unit on the field for the Wolfpack, in terms of depth and talent, could be the defensive line. All four starters on the line have started multiple games while all four backups are also experienced (even redshirt freshman James Smith-Williams played in four games last season before an injury).
That unit, which lost just one player (DE Mike Rose) might not have gotten the credit it deserved last season. Against FBS teams in 2015, NC State ranked third in the ACC in pressuring the opposing QB without blitzing, trailing only Boston College and Clemson - the No. 1 and No. 10 ranked teams in the FBS last season in total defense. The line made contact with the opposing quarterback on 22 percent of its non-blitz rushes, eighth-best in the Power 5. Of FBS teams, only BC and Clemson had a higher percentage of rushing attempts stopped for a loss or no gain (stats courtesy of ESPN).
This year, the line used the offseason to get stronger and faster. Here's a look at the changes in bodyweight, bench press and squat totals between 2015 and 2016:
|Eurndraus Bryant||323||-30 lbs||405||+45 lbs||605||+125 lbs|
|Bradley Chubb||280||+25 lbs||390||+25 lbs||535||+80 lbs|
|B.J. Hill||313||+13 lbs||455||+40 lbs||510||+55 lbs|
|Quentez Johnson||305||-35 lbs||315||+55 lbs||520||+190 lbs|
|Justin Jones||313||+20 lbs||455||+70 lbs||600||+85 lbs|
|Monty Nelson||315||+13 lbs||460||+35 lbs||485||+110 lbs|
|Darian Roseboro||274||-9 lbs||375||+10 lbs||450||+55 lbs|
|James Smith-Williams||242||+20 lbs||360||+45 lbs||536||+100 lbs|
|Kentavius Street||273||-13 lbs||455||+20 lbs||635||+35 lbs|
FIRST TIME ACTION
A baker's dozen (13) players saw action for the first time in a Wolfpack uniform in the season opener, including 10 who played in a collegiate game for the first time and four true freshmen.
Three graduate transfers - QB Ryan Finley, PK Connor Haskins, C Joe Scelfo - played for the first time at NC State. Six redshirt freshmen saw their first collegiate action: WR Jakobi Meyers, RB Johnny Frasier, OT Emanuel McGirt, Jr., SS Jarius Morehead, WR Vernon Grier, DE Tyrone Riley.
Four true freshmen played in the opener, including three who saw action from scrimmage. WR Kelvin Harmon was in for 38 snaps, CB Nick McCloud played six snaps and TE/FB Thaddeus Moss played 32 snaps. Trae Meadows played on special teams.
For the first time during Dave Doeren's tenure as head coach, the Wolfpack elected permanent captains for the 2016 captain. Each member of the team's Leadership Council (which is also elected by the team) was eligible for the honor.
The team selected two seniors - RB Matthew Dayes and CB Jack Tocho - and two juniors - TE Cole Cook and DE Bradley Chubb. Each week, the LC will help select a fifth captain based on performance in practice or in games.
QUOTABLES: Dave Doeren
First, going back to last week's game, there's a lot of positives. I thought our offensive line played well for the first time together, and quarterback Ryan Finley had a really good rhythm going, threw a very catchable ball, made quick decisions and got our guys lined up. Thought the receivers not just caught the ball well but blocked on the perimeter for each other. It was good to have Matt Dayes back out there. We were able to play a lot of guys defensively.
Outside of the first drive of the game, I thought guys played really well. They had 75 yards, I think, in the first drive, and after that 93 for the rest of the game. So two takeaways and stop the run, held them to 2.2 yards per carry. And I had a couple days there for recovery, playing on a Thursday and jump into the routine now of Saturday kickoffs and look forward to the match-up we have in Greenville this week against ECU.
Good afternoon, Coach. I know you spoke on Ryan Finley in your intro there, but just to go a little deeper in now being a few days out and just going back to the film and what you took away from him in a positive light and maybe some of those areas that you're focusing on this week?
Well, like I said, he manages things really well. He has a great grasp. Coach Drinkwitz, not just his system but how he thinks. He's a mature guy. He graduated from Boise in three years and had a above a 3.5 GPA doing, so he's very intelligent. You see that in his play. He distributed the ball to his playmakers. Also, when things broke down, he made a few things happen on his feet.
Things that he can work on. He broke the pocket a couple times and one time took a sack when he could have thrown it away. I know that's a teachable moment for him. He didn't have to throw the ball down the field a ton, and I know it's something we've worked hard on through camp and through this week in practice, so we'll see where that goes. Because obviously one of the things we want to have is an explosive passing game, and one of those is this past week.
As far as Matt Dayes, you mentioned him as well, looks like he hasn't missed a beat. Just what you took away from that as well.
He was excited to play football. I'll tell you that. He had a really good bounce to him. Probably showed a little bit, not of a rust, but conditioning. Just missing all the reps that he missed. I think that was one thing he came out of the game. He's had to run a lot this week to get his stamina because he doesn't want to come off the field. That's one of his goals.
I thought he did a nice job in protection as well. He caught the ball out of the back field. He's in as good of weight room shape as I've ever seen him. He's really strong right now, and now it's just getting those lungs right.
Obviously this game with ECU is big to the fans, a rivalry and all that type of stuff. But if you look at the rosters for both teams, there's a lot of players that were courted by both schools, had offers and interest and stuff like that. How big is this game for recruiting?
I'm not sure, and we're really not going head-to-head with them with anybody in this class. So I'm not sure what the outcome would be one way or the other. We've already pretty much filled the class for this season. I think just being at a program like ECU, when I was at Northern Illinois. I know the game means a lot when you're playing up a level. I think it means a ton.
I know their players are preparing like this is the biggest game on the schedule and I've been a part of that and we've shared those things with our players.
To us it's another opportunity, it's another chance to go out on the field and prove ourselves. All the work we put in in the summer and fall camp, regardless who we play, we've got to be playing better than we did the week before. That's what our focus is, not just them, but us.
What concerns stands out to you by that East Carolina offense when you look at them on film?
Everything always starts with the quarterback and he had a tremendous game last week. He had a good rhythm, threw the ball underneath and deep well. He can run. He's a senior that was trying to make his last year count. He didn't have much of a body of work for this season, so this one matters a lot and you can see that in his play.
I think ECU has always had really good skill, and that's no different. Isaiah Jones is a good receiver and maybe one of the best in the country. Goes up and gets the football, strong kid. And their tailback, No. 3 had a heck of a game last week. I know they've had some injuries on the O-line, and sounds like they're going to get healthier going into our game.
So everything from our standpoint, we've got to play really well up front and not allow him to have time to get in a rhythm.
How big is it with Scottie Montgomery being a first year coach or how do you expect to see things change? You've got one game film from him, is it similar to what they did before? Can you tell?
Yeah, it's the way they played last week you're not going to see everything in one game when you blow somebody out. So I think they're probably saying the same thing about our offense too. They know we've got a lot left that we didn't show and we know that they do.
So it just seems like every year Game 1 or two you're going to play somebody who has some new people on their staff that you've got to prepare for a lot of unknowns. We've been watching a lot of film on Duke and on Louisiana Tech and also on ECU because of their personnel.
And same thing defensively. Studying Vanderbilt's tape because that's where their D-coordinator came from, but also he retained their D-coordinator, so studying ECU's defense. You got to give the guys a lot of looks. You can't be too specific on what's going to happen because it may be different.
Is there anybody especially or any special concern going into this game?
No, you always talk about top players. You do that every game. You've got some guys and I've already mentioned them, they're really good, and we've got to know where they are and we've got to do a great job defending them from a defensive side of the ball. Offensively knowing where their playmakers are on their front, I think that's how you approach every game.
These are two schools that both have great home-field atmospheres. I'm just wondering how much difference does that make having to play them in Greenville in front of a pretty raucous crowd?
Sure. I think anyone that has a great home-field advantage, they're going to try to play to it. It's our job to control the noise. I've always felt like when you go on the road it's going to be as loud as you allow it to be. If you can play really well, it don't get as noisy. If you don't, then it does.
Telling us to control the controllables. We can't determine what their crowd does. We have to determine what we do, and we know the impact that can have if we do a good job.
NC State Depth Chart
NOTE: *- Indicates a player has redshirted a season.
|2016 NC State Depth Chart|
Thanks to NC State Athletics for much of the information in this preview.