Questions hung heavily in the sky over Carter-Finley Stadium as NC State readied for their season opener against Louisiana Tech, the worry and intrigue of a rabid fanbase filling up the hot air. What type of offensive system would Dave Doeren run? Who would be the starting quarterback? How would the new blood fare as the Wolfpack trot out thirteen new starters? Even while many of those questions were answered today, many more reared their ugly head.
NC State started off the game hot with Arkansas transfer Brian Mitchell, scoring a touchdown on their first two drives. Mitchell seemed to thrive in Dave Doeren’s pistol-based offense, reaping the benefits of a thin box and the matchups created by multiple formation shifts. Rashard Smith played well at receiver, racking up plenty of yards after the catch, especially on a 56-yard slant in the first quarter. Mitchell’s running ability stood out today, not necessarily in his rushing yards, but a number of designed runs set up running lanes for Tony Creecy and Matt Dayes to operate. Both running backs played very well, especially the freshman Dayes, who racked up over 100 yards rushing and three touchdowns with starting back Shadrach Thornton sitting out with a one-game suspension.
The offense slowed down when Mitchell left the game in the first quarter with a foot injury, leaving Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas to lead the offense. Thomas was alright, but the offense seemed stagnant with him in. Thomas repeatedly threw away balls in plays where Mitchell could have picked up yards with his feet. Thomas did lead a few scoring drives, but only one early in the game, one of which he had to throw an interception and recover the fumble first. Freshman Bryan Shireffs was brought in repeatedly as a run option to change the slow pace that Thomas brought with him, but his presence did little to jump-start the offense.
The defense was different story, however. The defensive line played well, repeatedly disrupting plays in the backfield, but the defense as a whole seemed winded and confused in the face of Louisiana Tech’s high tempo offense. State repeatedly had players out of position at the snap, with players strolling tiredly to their spots. Hopefully Coach Doeren can improve their conditioning because otherwise the trend towards fast-paced offenses will hurt the Wolfpack especially. The line also had trouble with the hard count, drawing multiple offside penalties. While the defense did only surrender fourteen points, it could have been many more if Louisiana Tech hadn’t fumbled it twice in the red zone. Even though NC State won 40-14, both the offense and the defense have room for improvement. Look for the Wolfpack to step it up against tougher competition down the road, otherwise the games won’t go as smoothly as today.