Of course, the big news of the day was (1) that the Wolfpack looked absolutely fantastic in the first quarter with quarterback, Brandon Mitchell leading the offense, and (2) Brandon Mitchell’s broken foot and injury report that indicates he will miss at least 4 to 6 weeks after having surgery on his foot. (Link to WRAL story)
The other big news of the day was the strong play of the true freshmen wearing red and white. All told, Coach Doeren used ELEVEN TRUE FRESHMEN on Saturday. (Anyone want to discuss the stable of ‘talent’ that the last coaching staff left behind?) The impact of the freshmen were felt from the game’s first pass when a new #1, Marques Valdes-Scantling caught a 26 yard pass from Brandon Mitchell and took it up the sidelines into Louisiana Tech territory. MVS ultimately led the Wolfpack with 87 yards receiving.
True freshman, Matt Dayes became just the third NC State player in history to three or more touchdowns in a game while generating 84 yards on the ground on 17 carries. Dayes and Tony Creecy‘s running helped State to 542 yards of total offense, which was the most in a season opener since racking up 592 yards vs. Western Carolina in 1990 – in the heart of Dick Sheridan’s program. Louisiana Tech finished with 321 total yards but was crushed in time of possession 19 minutes to 41 minutes for State – a key component to any game played at a high pace in such heat.
The News & Observer highlighted the play of the freshmen in this good piece.
“Theyâ€™re 18-year-old true freshmen and theyâ€™re playing like theyâ€™re fourth-year seniors,â€ quarterback Pete Thomas said.
They were two of 11 true freshmen who played Saturday in their first college game. Doeren made no secret in training camp he would go young and see what he had on the roster.
That was evident when Valdes-Scantling split wide on the first play, instead of senior Quintin Payton or junior Bryan Underwood.”
Although some negative-nellies may choose to criticize Wolfpackers for not returning to the stadium in the second half, I choose to focus on the fact that more than 54,000 fans showed up for a 12:30pm game on the last holiday weekend of the summer. Coach Doeren choose to express appreciation for the support as well in this article from the N&O that focused more on his role on Saturday.
Doeren might as well get used to this sort of thing. Wolfpack fans, meanwhile, will not find it difficult to get used to what they saw on the field in N.C. Stateâ€™s 40-14 win over Louisiana Tech â€“ 542 yards of offense, a defense that forced four turnovers and an early killer instinct on both sides of the ball that stunned the Bulldogs.
It was a two-way street, with Doeren equally impressed by the Wolfpack fans and Carter-Finley atmosphere.
â€œI walked into the coachesâ€™ locker room today and said, â€˜If these guys donâ€™t play sky-high today, weâ€™ve got issues,â€™ because it was a great environment coming up to the stadium,â€ Doeren said. â€œI knew theyâ€™d play their butts off. This is why they came here.â€
Despite massive turnover in both coaches and players, Louisiana Tech was no pushover, and Skip Holtz has more material to work with there than he did his first year at East Carolina while sorting through the wreckage John Thompson left behind. Given that, the professionalism of N.C. Stateâ€™s performance, particularly given all the change Doeren has wrought, should not be underestimated.
Joe Ovies gave the Pack a solid B+ grade for the day. I think that is spot on.
This is where the Summer of Indecision will pay nice dividends for State. Both Thomas and Mitchell had been seeing essentially equal reps in camp, so the surrounding personnel is just as familiar with the guy who started number two on this morning’s depth chart.
Another surprise? The debut of Matt Dayes. The tailback had been highly touted for his performances in preseason camp. Some finish their freshman season with three touchdowns, Dayes finished the afternoon with three. One might expect a frosh, who just found the endzone thrice in his first time in a college uniform, might be a little exciteable after the fact. Not Dayes, who straight-faced his postgame interviews, to the point where some media even joked with him that he could lighten up and smile a little. That’s a great sign of maturity from a 13th grader, who expects himself to succeed.
The lesser-discussed half during the offseason, the defense, came up clutch. Louisiana Tech converted only 2-of-10 third down attempts and the Pack thwarted two red zone drives with a couple of fumble recoveries, including one by Darryl Cato-Bishop in the endzone. Total yardage was close at the stat sheet at one point, but the Pack ended up outgoing the Bulldogs by more than 200 yards.
Granted, this might not have been the Louisiana Tech of yesteryear, so we might not find out the true measure of State until three weeks when Clemson comes to town. However, all things considered, the Doeren-era starts strongly in Raleigh. The performance wasn’t perfect, i.e., settling for four field goals, inability to stretch the field vertically, but does any team ever play spotless? I bet Paul Johnson is finding something to pick apart right now, and he opened the season with a 70-0 W. So, if we’re giving grades, the Wolfpack earn a solid B+.
With all of the good things that happened in Raleigh on Saturday, leave it to ESPN and Heather Dinich to completely ignore the positives and de-prioritize the Doeren storyline and the strong play on both sides of the ball against a mid-major opponent for laughable storylines like Georgia Tech’s defense against Elon and a no-name receiver from Wake Forest who evidently can play real well against Presbyterian. Really?