North Carolina State (4-0) and Louisville (1-3) will face-off at Carter-Finley Stadium Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The game will be the conference opener for the Wolfpack, but much of the news this week has been about the potential impact of Hurricane Joaquin. The forecast is calling for a 100 percent chance of rain, which should fare well for the balanced Wolfpack offense.
NC State recently built a new indoor practice facility, but coach Dave Doeren didn’t spend all of his team’s practice time inside the cozy confines of Close-King Indoor Practice Facility. Doeren opted to take his team out Tuesday so they could get used to running on slippery grass and playing with a wet ball.
The Wolfpack running game, which is averaging 259 yards per game, should be able to take advantage of the Cardinals’ defense on the wet track. Running back Matt Dayes enters the game having posted four consecutive 100+ yards rushing games, and an FBS leading nine touchdowns. The junior running back will have to carry the load for the Wolfpack the rest of the way, as his backfield mate Shadrach Thornton was dismissed from the team earlier this week for another run-in with the law.
Expect to see a steady diet of Dayes and sophomore fullback/tight end Jaylen Samuels, who contributes in the running and short passing games. Samuels has scored eight touchdowns in just 32 touches this season.
NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been nothing short of sensational this year, the redshirt senior enters this week leading the nation in completion percentage at .779 percent. Brissett has mastered the short passing game, a skill that will be in high demand Saturday in the rain.
Brissett is very safe with the football, throwing no interceptions in his last 189 pass attempts. Louisville has nine interceptions entering the matchup Saturday, and the ball hawking Cardinals’ secondary will test the quarterback whenever he has to throw the ball downfield. Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has been conservative with his play calling thus far, taking his shots downfield when needed- that should definitely be the offensive game plan this week.
Louisville won their first game last week versus Samford, but their nonconference schedule also includes two losses to Auburn (24-31) and Clemson (17-20), so the Cardinals come into the game battle tested.
NC State’s defense has been stout this season only giving up 49.5 yards rushing per game, but they have yet to play a quarterback with the versatility of Cardinals quarterback Lamar Jackson- who leads the Cardinals with 314 yards rushing and 495 yards passing in four games. Jackson was named ACC Rookie of the Week following a breakout performance last week against Samford. Corralling the young quarterback will go a long way toward stymieing the Louisville offensive attack.
Keeping Louisville’s running game in check, establishing their ground game early and winning the turnover battle will be the keys to victory for the Wolfpack. If NC State fans are expecting a blowout, they are going to the wrong game. With inclement weather and tougher competition, the Wolfpack will have to grind out a victory to keep their win streak going.
The Wolfpack win a close battle, 21-17, in what will be a sloppy contest with multiple turnovers for both teams.