Doeren Debut Comes Against Familiar Face
Aug 30, 2013
Game 1: NC State Wolfpack vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
RALEIGH, N.C. - On the day he was introduced as NC State’s 34th head football coach last December 2nd, Dave Doeren took a moment to gaze through the large windows on the third floor of the Murphy Football Center. What he saw was an empty and eerily quiet Carter-Finley Stadium, a far cry from what he’ll actually encounter when he finally gets the chance to run through the south tunnel in front of a packed house on Saturday afternoon.
His wait is almost over. NC State opens the 2013 season and the Dave Doeren era Saturday afternoon against Louisiana Tech at 12:30 p.m.
Ironically, Doeren’s coaching counterpart on Saturday has actually seen many more games at Carter-Finley than he has. From 1972-75, Skip Holtz regularly roamed around what was then known as Carter Stadium when his father, Lou, put together a successful four-year run as NC State’s head coach.
“I can remember a lot of days between eight and 12 years old growing up at that stadium,” said Holtz, in his first year at Louisiana Tech. “I used to run up and down that hill, but now they’ve filled everything in with seats. I can remember back in the early 70’s with Willie Burden, the Buckey Boys, Ted Brown and so many of the players that I idolized and looked up to and had a chance to see in practice every day. I have a lot of fond memories of NC State and I’m looking forward to going back.”
But by game time, nostalgia will take a backseat to reality for both first-year coaches when they send their respective teams onto the lush green playing surface at Carter-Finley. The Louisiana Tech team that led the nation in both scoring and total offense under Sonny Dykes last season is a mere shell of itself. Holtz takes over a team that lost a whopping total of 32 seniors and returns only six starters total.
“I wish could give them a mature pill,” he said.
Doeren can relate. In his first game, he’ll have a new starting quarterback, three new starters on the offensive line, three at linebacker and three in the secondary. The Wolfpack has 10 freshmen listed on its opening week depth chart.
“They told me about a week after I took the job that we were going to be the youngest team in the ACC,” Doeren said. “That’s good and bad. You get a lot of guys out there who don’t know any better and are just going to go hard. But you’re also going to have some game day things happen that have to happen for a guy to grow as a player. Unfortunately, you have to grow through those things as a team. We hope to minimize those situations as much as we can. There are certain things that happen on game day that can only happen on game day. We’ll get through it as best we can.”
For nine of its last 12 football seasons, the NC State football program has enjoyed elite quarterbacking from Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson and most recently Mike Glennon. But this preseason, a pair of transfers who have never worn a Wolfpack uniform on game day, competed for the starting job. Pete Thomas who sat out last season after transferring from Colorado State, had the advantage of learning the staff’s new uptempo, no huddle offense last spring. But Thomas has been pushed by Brandon Mitchell, a mid-summer addition to the roster who actually played wide receiver at Arkansas last season. Mitchell, a fifth-year graduate student, has the benefit of athleticism and running ability, qualities Doeren likes in his quarterbacks.
Both had an equal number of reps in preseason camp and in a pair of preseason scrimmages. The winner of the competition, however, won’t be revealed to the public and to the opponent until just before game time.
“They both get a lot of reps in practice,” Doeren said. “That’s the thing about the no huddle, we get a lot of reps. There’s very rarely a practice where you feel like you didn’t get enough work for those guys.”
Regardless of who gets the call at quarterback for NC State, Doeren has made it perfectly clear all preseason that he and coordinator Matt Canada will be putting a tremendous amount of emphasis on improving a running attack that was relatively ineffective last season when the Wolfpack ranked 10th in the 12-team ACC with an average of 3.1 yards per carry.
The goal of getting more out of the ground game has already faced some headwinds during the preseason. Logan Winkles, a physical lead blocker from the fullback position, went down the first week of camp with a season-ending knee injury. A few days later, Doeren revealed that sophomore tailback Shadrach Thornton, the Pack’s leading rusher with 694 yards last season, would miss the first game due to an off the field incident. The Pack has also done some experimenting with an offensive line that must replace three starters from last year.
The silver lining? Redshirt junior tailback Tony Creecy will be backed up by highly-touted freshman runner Matt Dayes, who has opened some eyes in the preseason.
“You’ll see a lot of Matt Dayes,” said Doeren. “I’m not sure how many carries yet, but he’s going to play. Obviously, the better he plays the more he’ll play. I like what Matt’s done and I like the way he’s preparing. I look forward to watching Matt this first game.”
As a senior at Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida last year, the powerfully built Dayes rushed for 1,864 yards and 31 touchdowns.
College football history is dotted with freshman tailbacks who become instant stars as rookies. Look no further than the talented runner the Wolfpack defense will try to slow down on Saturday. In his first year at Louisiana Tech last season, Kenneth Dixon set NCAA rookie records for rushing touchdowns (27) and total touchdowns (28) to go along with 1,194 yards. In its weekly game notes, Louisiana Tech touts the fact that Dixon had 27 rushing touchdowns by himself compared to only 12 for NC State last season.
Like the Wolfpack, the Bulldogs will be starting a new quarterback who also transferred in from another school. Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young, a redshirt junior, will be making his first career start for Holtz and the Bulldogs on Saturday.
“I feel really good about the progress Scotty has made and the decisions Scotty has made and what he’s been doing,” Holtz said. “I just hope he’ll go out and play like he has in the practices and the scrimmages.”
Both coaches agree this game could be played at a breakneck pace, or as Holtz said, “there may not be any huddles in this game except for on the sidelines.”
Louisiana Tech ranked second in the nation in offensive plays per game last year with an average of 88 per game. The Bulldogs ranked only behind Marshall, which averaged 90 snaps per contest. Why is that significant? Tony Petersen, the offensive coordinator who orchestrated Marshall’s rapid-fire attack last season, is now running the show at Louisiana Tech.
Nine long months have passed since Dave Doeren glanced out that third floor window at the Murphy Center, wondering what his new coaching home would feel like on game day.
His wait is almost over.
The Wolfpack Sports Network will begin its pregame coverage beginning with the Mathews Motors Countdown to Kick-off Saturday at 10:30 a.m. The second hour will include analysis from former NC State All-American Johnny Evans who will be field questions from fans on ‘Ask the Analyst.’ To forward a question to Johnny, do so via Twitter @packradio or send a question here.