PP DIGITAL: Notre Dame Preview
NC State Game Notes
On October 8, 1966, Carter-Finley Stadium opened its gates for the first time. Originally named Carter Stadium, the facility replaced the crumbling Riddick Stadium on campus, which had been the home of Wolfpack football since 1907.
A research fish hatchery used by the university was drained and shaped following a groundbreaking on Dec. 14, 1964 and the structure was built on the lake bed and the 75 adjacent acres.
The opening of the stadium fulfilled the vision of Coach Earle Edwards, who had led the Wolfpack to three consecutive outright or shared ACC Championships from 1963-65. To finance the construction, his teams played 41 of its 60 regular season games between 1960-65 on the road or at neutral sites. He took his team to UCLA, Arizona State, Wyoming, Nebraska, Alabama and Iowa as well as playing nine straight games on rival UNC's home field.
Since it's opening, more than 14 million people have come throught the gates of Carter-Finley Stadium and the Notre Dame game will mark the 312th game NC State has played there.
WOLFPACK VS. THE FIGHTING IRISH
Saturday's game will mark only the second time that NC State and Notre Dame have met on the gridiron and will be the first regular season meeting between the two teams. The only time the two teams have faced off was in the 2003 Toyota Gator Bowl. The Wolfpack capped off the winningest season in school history (11-3) with a 28-6 victory over the 11th-ranked Irish - the only time NC State has won a game involving two teams that had 10 wins entering the game.
There were many plays worth mentioning in the contest, but the play of the day may have come early in the first quarter, when Wolfpack senior LB and captain Dantonio Burnette nailed Irish signal caller Carlyle Holiday on a second-and-goal play on Notre Dame's second possession. Two downs later, the Irish settled for a 23-yard field goal attempt, as Holiday was taken to the locker room and did not return for the afternoon. Burnette is now the Wolfpack's head strength and conditioning coach for football.
Starting the next possession on its own four yardline, the Pack went 12 plays and T.A. McLendon romped two yards into the endzone to begin a 21-point quarter for NC State and put the Pack up for good, holding Notre Dame to just a single field goal the rest of the way.
NC State QB Philip Rivers finished with 228 yards on a 23-37 passing performance, including 13 straight completions in the first half and two touchdown throws. He was named the bowl MVP. WR Jerricho Cotchery had 10 catches for 127 yards and one TD, and Wolfpack safety Rod Johnson finished with three interceptions.
NC STATE, NOTRE DAME TIES
There are several individuals who have played big roles in the history of the NC State and Notre Dame football programs. The most obvious is Lou Holtz, who led both programs to great heights.
Holtz coached the Pack to a 33-12-3 record between 1972-75, with NC State finshing in the top 20 in three of those four seasons,, including a program-best final No. 11 ranking in 1974. That marked the only time an NC State senior class has posted three top 20 seasons, and Holtz is still ranked in the top 10 in ACC history in winning percentage (min. of four years).
A little over a decade after he left NC State for the New York Jets, Holtz landed at Notre Dame where he coached the Irish to an even 100 wins in 11 years, including the 1988 National Championship. He took the Irish to nine consecutive New Year's Day Bowl games and they finished sixth or better in the final AP poll five times. Only Knute Rockne has more wins at Notre Dame than Holtz with 105.
One of the ways the Wolfpack will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Carter-Finley Stadium is the throwback uniform that the team will wear on Saturday.
The main feature of the uniform is a white helmet featuring the red diamond logo. Former head coach Dick Sheridan introduced the diamond logo in 1986, his first year as head coach. The Wolfpack wore that helmet for the next 14 seasons, until going back to the traditional Block S in 2000.
Sheridan was the winningest coach in school history on a percentage basis, winning .637 (52-29-3) of his games.
NC State enters game 5 ranked third in the ACC - 21st in the FBS - in total offense with 506.0 yards per game. NC State has posted over 500 yards in total offense in three of four games in 2016, marking the first time in school history that a Wolfpack team has done so in its first four games. In 2015, the Wolfpack gained 500+ yards just three times the entire season, did so just twice in 2014 and just once in 2013.
Prior to this season under new offensive coordinator Eliah Drinkwitz, the Pack had never posted 500+ yard outputs in three of its first four games. The most was two of the first four in 1998.
FAST STARTS AT HOME
In each of the three home games of 2016, the Wolfpack offense has scored a touchdown to grab an early 7-0 lead on its first offensive drive. Entering the Notre Dame contest, NC State has outscored the opponent in the first quarter in home games, 31-7.
In the only road game, the result was the opposite. In the three-point loss at East Carolina, the Wolfpack was outscored 9-0 in the opening frame, before coming back and outscoring the Pirates 20-10 in the second quarter.
Here's a look at the Wolfpack opening drives in the first three home games:
|W&M||8||70||3:24||Dayes 5-yd TD run|
|ODU||13||95||5:56||McClendon 1-yd TD run|
|WFU||8||75||3:34||Dayes 6-yd TD run|
One aspect of each of those three opening home-drives is the Wolfpack gets the ball into its playmakers hands.
Of the available 27 touches on those drives (there were two incomplete passes), RB Matthew Dayes accounts for 17 (14 rushes for 63 yards and three catches for 56 yards), TE/FB Jaylen Samuels has four (three catches for 46 yards and one rush for nine yards), and WR Stephen Louis has three catches for 50 yards. Those three combined for 24 of the 27 overall touches on NC State's first drives at home this season.
In those three opening TD drives, QB Ryan Finley completed 10-of-12 passes for 155 yards.
In the history of NC State football, which first kicked off in 1892, the Wolfpack has posted 90 40-point scoring games, with 69 of those coming since the advent of the Atlantic Coast Conference in 1953.
In the 3-1/3 seasons that Dave Doeren has been head coach of the Wolfpack, NC State has scored 40 or more points 13 times. In other words, 19% of the 40-yard scoring outputs since 1953 have been under Doeren, although he's coached only 6% of the games during that span.
Sophomore punter A.J. Cole III has been a practically perfect punter in 2016. The sophomore leads the ACC with a 49.7 yard average and would rank third in the FBS if he had enough attempts to qualify (3.6 per game required).
The talented sophomore posted a 54.5 yard average on four punts in last week's win over Wake Forest, including a career-best-tying 72-yarder. For his brief career, he has 18 boots of 50 or more yards.
Only one of his punts has been returned in 2016 (6 yards). The Wolfpack leads the ACC and ranks 3rd in the FBS in net punting (47.10).
Cole has posted a 42.7 average for his career, the best for a Wolfpack player since 1977 and a mark that ranks second in school history. He has been named to the Watch List for the 2016 Ray Guy Award.
NC State has been solid against the run in 2016, allowing just 99 ground yards per game. That mark ranks 3rd in the ACC and 13th in the FBS. Two Wolfpack opponents (William & Mary and Wake Forest) posted rushing totals less than 70 yards, while the highest total this season has just been 148 yards by ECU.
With a .724 completion percentage, first-year Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley is one of the most accurate throwers in the FBS so far in 2016. He is one of just two ACC QBs who has not thrown an interception this season and ranks second in the league in completion percentage (4th in the FBS).
The Phoenix, Az., native has 116 pass attempts this season and has thrown for nine touchdowns with no interceptions. In the last 37 seasons (dating back to Tol Avery in 1980), no other Wolfpack QB has attempted more passes before throwing his first interception as a starter at NC State.
FIRST ON THIRD
The Wolfpack has posted the best third-down conversion mark in the ACC in the first quarter of its schedule and the second-best mark in the FBS.
NC State has converted 28 of 51 third down attempts for a .549 mark.
IN THE ZONE
Since the beginning of the 2014 season, NC State has been efficient in turning trips to the red zone into trips to the end zone.
In 2013, Dave Doeren's first year as head coach, the Pack struggled in the red zone, ranking 123rd in the FBS with a TD in only 17 of its 39 (43.6%) red zone trips. Each of the last two seasons that figure went up dramatically, as NC State ranked fourth nationally in 2014 (73.1%) and 10th last season (72.2%).
So far in 2016, that percentage is even higher. NC State has found the red zone 23 times in the first four games, and has come away with 19 touchdowns (82.6%). Overall, the Pack has come away with points in 21 of its 23 red zone trips in 2016. In the Pack's 49-22 win over Old Dominion, NC State was a perfect 7-for-7 in scoring a TD when reaching the red zone.
|Year||Red Zone Trips||TDs||TD%||NCAA Rank|
AT A LOSS
The Wolfpack ranks 20th in the FBS in tackles for loss with an average of 8.0 per game in 2016. That's the fifth-best mark in the ACC.
With 32 total stops behind the line of scrimmage, the Wolfpack has gotten off to a much faster start in terms of getting in the opponent's backfield - surpassing the total from the first four games of 2015. NC State tallied just 21 TFLs in the first four games in each of the last two seasons.
QUOTABLES: Dave Doeren
I was proud of our players in our opening conference win against Wake. Very good football team coming in 4-0 with some momentum. We were very pleased with play, I thought, on the line of scrimmages, rushing for 200 yards and holding them to around 60-some yards, and played really well red zone offense and defense, played really well 3rd down offense and defense.
Ryan as you had mentioned continues to be efficient with the football, make good choices, and players are making plays for him. You see Kelvin Harmon making plays in the red zone, Steph Louis making plays, Bra'Lon Cherry. Matt Dayes had over 100 yards, and defensively I thought we were able to do some things up front which helped our coverage and allowed our defensive backs to keep the ball in front of them for most of the day, and they tested them deep several times, and thought they were able to do a good job of breaking up some passes down the field.
This week, celebrating our 50th anniversary at Carter-Finley and playing against a very explosive Notre Dame offense, a team that made some choices defensively that have helped them, and coming off of a road win at Syracuse. I think it's going to be a great environment, and hopefully the weather will hold off and we'll be able to have a great football game here.
Notre Dame has had some uncharacteristic problems this year, especially on defense, but the one thing they do very well is throw the ball. I just wonder if you can talk about their passing attack and the challenge that it presents.
Yeah. Well, their quarterback, DeShone Kizer, is fifth in the nation for yards of completion. A lot of chunk plays. He's only been sacked twice, a lot of deep balls, and he's got tremendous talent. I think they have the best offensive line that we've played and maybe we will play, a 6'5" receiver, St. Brown, that's averaging 25 yards a catch. His slot receiver is a great returner, too, Sanders, who's averaging 15 yards a catch. They've just got a lot of talent around him, and they're protecting well.
Their O-line are physical, and he's a tough kid, the quarterback. He's their second leading rusher. He stands in the pocket and takes hits and delivers accurate balls. They're committed to throwing deep plays. There's quite a few balls up in the air down the field, and you've got to make plays on them.
Defensively they made some major changes after the loss to Duke that took them a while, but they had a good second half against a pretty potent Syracuse passing game. What do you see on film in terms of defense? Have they changed it, simplified it, and what kind of challenge does that present?
Well, they're doing less, and they're doing it better. You know, obviously the package will probably grow I would guess as it goes, but they were very basic. They're playing a lot more players. They're playing a lot of young guys that are talented guys. Their defensive front is big, and I think they're playing to their strengths, allowing those guys to put their hands on people and two gap.
They played softer coverages. They were playing a lot of press coverage early in the year and giving up big plays, and they're playing a lot more soft coverage against Syracuse, and I don't know if that's all that they're going to be or if that was more because of the deep shots that Syracuse takes, but that's what they put on film in game 1.
To follow up on that Notre Dame passing game, how do you feel about your pass defense and pass rush heading into this game?
Well, it's going to be -- both of those things are very important heading in, and it's going to be a challenge for us defensively. It's a great opportunity to play against, like I said, a bunch of really, really talented guys that are playing at a high level. If we have tight coverage and we have good pass rush, that would help, and they've got to tie together.
You can't just run on a rush and have guys wide open, and you can't have them covered and have nobody rushing. You've got to have your rush and your coverage coordinated. We can't just sit in one thing; we've got to make sure to get them in different looks and use pressure when we need to. All those things are going to be important, tying them all together, and at the end of the day when the ball goes up, we're going to have to make some one-on-one plays on the football with some really good offensive players. I know our guys are excited for that opportunity.
Assessing your pass defense, have you liked what you've seen in those areas this year?
Yeah, I think you can always get better. In the last two games we've pressure the quarterback better. Like I said at the beginning, I thought our pass coverage down the field was really good against Wake. They had completed a couple balls, but we tackled them and got off the field without giving up a score. They're going to make some plays. I mean, they're good. We're just going to have to get them on the ground and line up and play again and try to get some turnovers.
Notre Dame's defense is pretty startling, giving up a lot of big plays and all that stuff. What do you see on their defense that might give you an advantage on Saturday?
Well, you know, they've made changes on their defense, so it's hard to judge the little body of work. There's really one game that reflects what they're trying to be now. You know, they adjusted I thought well in the Syracuse game. They didn't start well, gave up some big plays early, and thought they played really well in the second half. You know, I can't really go off of the other games because they're simplifying things, and it's a different play caller, other than watching their personnel.
But I think we're going to see a defense that plays hard. They're going to be sound. They're going to keep the ball in front of them, and we've got to break tackles and make people miss and do the things that we do.
Talk about the environment on Saturday; hopefully the rain stays away for you guys having a big game down there in that stadium. What's that environment going to be like?
It's going to be electric. Unless Mother Nature puts it where there's lightning and people can't be in there, it's going to be a great environment. People are excited. It's the anniversary of our stadium, 50 years ago to the day. I know it means a lot to our fan base, and they'll represent us. I know they will.
I was going to ask also about the weather, and have you explored and what forecast are you getting and what contingency plans do you have?
Well, they had the ACC conference call yesterday with our game operations staff and Notre Dame's, and I think there's several different options out there, especially if we can't play Saturday at noon, which is what everybody wants to do. That's what we're hoping. Today it looked like the storm turned a little bit the other way, and yesterday it didn't look like it was going to be pretty on Saturday, but now it's looking a lot better. If we can't play at noon, then can we play later in the day or in the evening, and if not, it gets moved to Sunday, and same thing, you start early and how seeing it's going to take to get it in. But I don't see it not being played here in Raleigh or anything like that.
NC State Depth Chart
NOTE: *- Indicates a player has redshirted a season.
|2016 NC State Depth Chart|