North Carolina State cruised past Troy 49-21 in the season opener Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack (1-0) were led by the play of senior quarterback Jacoby Brissett and running back Matt Dayes. Efficient passing and a steady running attack proved too much for the visiting Trojans (0-1).
Coming into the 2015 campaign, many pundit, for lack of a better term, were curious about the strength of the Wolfpack’s foes the first four games of the season. NC State coach Dave Doeren has made no bones about the schedule, which was set in place before he was hired, and is using it as a time to fine tune and tie up loose ends for his young squad.
NC State’s offense was very balanced, which was expected coming into the 2015 season. The Wolfpack rushed for over 250 yards and passed for almost 200 yards. The Wolfpack’s offensive line paved the way for Dayes the entire night. There weren’t many big plays, but Dayes was able to consistently churn out four to five yards per carry.
Brissett found open receivers all night long. The senior started the game 12-for-12, getting his first incompletion midway through the second quarter. Brissett also didn’t face much pressure from the Trojan defensive line as his guys up front won the battle at the point of attack.
At the start of the third quarter, Troy (0-1) shanked a punt and the Wolfpack took advantage of the short field and scored on a two-play drive in 38 seconds to give them a 35-14 lead. The quick score didn’t seem like much at the time, until the Trojans flashed their quick strike ability scoring in 31 seconds on the ensuing possession, closing the gap to 35-21. NC State’s previous touchdown gave them enough breathing room to keep the Trojans at bay.
Numbers Don’t Lie
Dayes ended the night with 128 yards rushing on 24 attempts and two touchdowns. Dayes also contributed to the passing game as well, amassing 65 yards receiving on five catches.
“He had a big game. To rush for 128 yards and average five yards a carry was great,” said NC State coach Dave Doeren. “He had a big practice Tuesday and I told him if he runs that hard in games, nobody will touch him. He ran like we thought he would.”
The Wolfpack offense had 450 yards of total offense: 199 yards passing and 251 yards rushing.
6-for-6: That was the how many times NC State visited the red zone and scored. The Wolfpack also scored on 53 percent of their drives while the defense held the Trojans to only three scoring drives. Another key to NC State’s success was their ability keep drives alive, converting 3-for-4 on fourth downs.
Highlight of the Night
NC State’s Dravious Wright provided the crowd with the highlight of night. On a pass attempt, the nickel corner came flying off the right side and delivered a bone shattering hit to quarterback Brandon Silvers. Silver’s helmet went flying, and the entire press box gave a collective gasp. The hit also caused a fumble which Wright recovered.
“Dra is a guy who can spark us. He’s a great player,” said Doeren when asked about Wright’s big hit. We’re searching for some guys who can come in and get the crowd excited. He has a lot of swagger and can definitely be one of those guys for us. He did a nice job of hitting their quarterback in the chest. It was a clean hit. Then, to be alert and get the fumble recovery was big.”
Cause for Concern
Brissett’s inability to connect on downfield passes. Although he had a good night statistically, Brissett only went downfield two or three times in the game. This is the same problem that plagued him last year. There were several scouts in the press box, and I have to wonder how impressed they were with his performance.
Although the Wolfpack only gave up 21 points, they were to an inferior opponent. The rush defense also allowed Troy’s Brandon Burks to churn out 128 yards rushing on only 14 attempts. If NC State wants to become a contender, and it’s still early, they will have to solidify their play against the run.
The Wolfpack play Eastern Kentucky at home next Saturday at 6pm. The Colonels play in the Football Championship Series (FCS). Eastern Kentucky defeated Valparaiso 52-10 earlier in the week. NC State should be able to cruise to another easy win.