New-look Wolfpack wins debut
Head coach Dave Doeren had a successful debut at N.C. State, and he wasn’t alone. The new-look Wolfpack defeated Louisiana Tech 40-14 Saturday afternoon in the first game of the Doeren era.
Doeren was hired in December, after leading Northern Illinois to an Orange Bowl berth, replacing Tom O’Brien as the Wolfpack head coach. His first game in Raleigh saw State unveil a new high-tempo spread offense, as well as a host of new players.
Twelve players saw their first snaps on offense, including all four quarterbacks who saw action for the Wolfpack. Seven defensive players made their debuts.
Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell started at quarterback, after competing for the job with Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas during the preseason. He raced the offense down the field, leading touchdown drives of 2:33 and 1:45 in his first two possessions. It was the first time in a decade N.C. State opened the season with touchdowns on its first two drives.
After completing all three of his passes for 93 yards and rushing for 18, Mitchell left the game with a broken bone in his foot. He’s expected to have surgery Sunday and miss four to six weeks.
Thomas replaced him and went 15 for 27 passing for 212 yards.
“I was real proud of Pete, the way he came in and did what he had to do,” Doeren said.
The offense also got key contributions from a pair of true freshmen. Wide receiver Marques Valdes-Scantling, who caught five passes for 82 yards, and running back Matt Dayes had 84 yards rushing, including three touchdown runs.
“The thing I was happy with is that they weren’t rattled,” Doeren said. “They played like they’ve been out there awhile.”
“When I recruited them, they said they wanted to play right away,” Doeren said. “I said to them, ‘Here’s what you wanted. Now do something with it.’”
The win was the most lopsided debut for an N.C. State head coach since Monte Kiffin won the 1980 opener 42-0 over William and Mary and State’s 542 yards of offense were the most to start a season since 1990.
Still, the Wolfpack newcomers were far from satisfied.
Dayes’ three touchdowns were second-most by a freshman running back in school history, but he said, “I wanted to score on a longer run.”
Thomas pointed at his interception and kicker Niklas Sade’s career-high four field goals as areas for improvement.
“We’re still not where we need to be,” he said. “It felt good to get 40 points, but we’ve got to convert third downs and punch it in when we get into the red zone.”
While he was critical of his own performance, Thomas was happy with the performance of his young supporting cast.
“They’re still 18-year-old true freshmen," Thomas said, "but they’re playing like they’re fourth-year seniors."