A New Dimension
While the season is only one-third of the way finished, it appears that NC State has legitimate deep threats in Stephen Louis and Kelvin Harmon. The duo combined for six receptions for 145 yards and two touchdowns against Wake Forest.
Louis eclipsed the 100-yard mark in receiving yards for the second time this season while Harmon reached pay dirt twice.
If the pair can continue to do well out wide, the chances for Jaylen Samuels and Matt Dayes to exploit defense rises substantially. Dayes rushed for over 100 yards in both of the games Louis passed the century mark this season.
"We have two outside threats now with Steph Louis and Kelvin Harmon," Samuels said. "It brings a lot. We didn't have that last year. We just had Jumichael Ramos really. I think it's a big threat."
Louis has always had the intangibles, now he is putting up the numbers.
"It starts with how hard he works," NC State head coach Dave Doeren said. "He's a big receiver, so dimensionally you like that. But the work ethic that he has, not just on the football field -- the way he trains, the way he's over here watching film, the way he's catching extra balls -- You can't be that talented, work hard and not play well."
Harmon's first two college touchdowns were also a welcome sight. The second one, a 7-yard reception, gives NC State another option to turn to in the red zone besides Finley/McClendon. Dayes, Hines and Samuels .
"The team needed a touchdown and I'm glad they counted on me to catch it," Harmon said "It's definitely a blessing to be able to get out there and play."
Samuels is pleased to yield scoring chances to the freshman. In fact, he saw it coming.
"He's a baller," Samuels said of Harmon. "I knew his time was coming. He just had to be patient. Coach Drink fed him today. I'm proud of him. He's going to be a great player for us."
Red Zone, Dead Zone
Teams that score in the red zone have a good chance of winning. Teams that stop their opponents from scoring when in the red zone improve those odds.
Wake Forest reached the red zone four times Saturday. The Demons Deacons scored one touchdown but were also limited to three field goals. Conversely, the Wolfpack breached Wake territory for five trips to the red zone. State finished with four touchdowns and one field goal.
"For us to beat NC State we have to score more touchdowns," Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson said. "I think if we scored more touchdowns it would've been a different game. They stopped us when they had to. They are a good football team."
Fast Starts Provide Breathing Room
Last season, Matt Dayes helped NC State ambush Wake Forest with dazzling runs that seemingly went across all of Winston-Salem. Saturday, Ryan Finley dissected the Demon Deacon defense in the first quarter with pinpoint precision.
Finley was 9-for-12 for 150 yards and a touchdown in the decisive first quarter. Two of his incompletions were balls dropped by receivers.
While Wake Forest never rallied to within one score, when the Demon Deacons had the Wolfpack's lead down to 10 with more than 10 minutes remaining Finley proceeded to methodically march his team on a touchdown scoring drive that ate up almost five minutes.
When the smoke cleared, NC State had a three-possession lead (17 points) with less than six minutes to play. Any remaining doubt over the final outcome was eliminated.
"He's just continuing to do what Coach [Drinkwitz] is asking him to do," Doeren said. "He is getting better and better and better at knowing the players around him."
Harmon echoed those sentiments.
"He's very precise," Harmon said of Finley. "He's accurate. He's a smart quarterback."
On a day where North Carolina did most of the Atlantic Division a favor by traveling to Florida State and picking up a win, despite NC State fans' wishes, the Wolfpack did itself the seemingly simple yet huge favor of opening its conference season with a win.
It was the first time since 2010 that NC State won its ACC opener.
The emergence of Louisville as a national title contender makes the '50-50' games all that more important for NC State. If the Wolfpack can hold serve at home -- something they have not done during Doeren's tenure -- it increased the likelihood the Pack can become bowl eligible.
Doeren mentioned before the season that winning ACC games at home and getting off to a positive start where both objectives for his team in 2016.
"We wanted to come out in the first ACC game of the year," Samuels said. "They came in 4-0 so we knew that was a good team. We had two weeks to prepare. I think we did pretty good. It was good, for us to hop on them early. The offense, we did our job, we started fast."