Sep 6, 2013
Thursday Football Notebook
Game 2: NC State Wolfpack vs. Richmond Spiders
September 7, 2013 • 6 p.m. • ESPN3/Available TV Markets
Raleigh, N.C. • Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583)
TV: ESPN3/Available TV Markets | Radio: Wolfpack Sports Network | Gametracker
Game Notes | #GoPack Twitter Talk | NC State Twitter | Ask the Analyst
RALEIGH, N.C. - In what amounts to a rare opening-game appraisal, NC State football coach Dave Doeren admitted the Wolfpack had played a fairly ‘clean game’ in last week’s 40-14 trouncing of Louisiana Tech. Now the trick is do a little ‘fine tuning’ in certain areas, while also addressing a few of the trouble spots that cropped up in the win over the Bulldogs.
The next test comes Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium against FCS opponent Richmond (6 p.m.), which is coming off a one-sided victory of its own, a convincing 34-0 win over VMI.
Among other things in the opener, State was penalized just four times, finished plus-three in turnover margin, converted 50 percent of its third down plays and tallied 27 more offensive snaps than the opposition that led to a dominant 40:45 to 19:15 possession time advantage.
But beyond an injury to Brandon Mitchell, a fractured fifth metatarsal bone in the left foot that will keep the Pack’s starting quarterback out of action for 6-8 weeks, there were other issues that Doeren and his staff will want to address in game two.
“There are a lot of things I think we can do better,” Doeren said. “I don’t think we handled third and short very well on offense. I don’t think we played the way we’re capable of playing in the ‘red zone.’ We’re down there eight times and only got four touchdowns out of that.”
On three separate occasions last week, the Wolfpack was stuffed on third down plays of two yards or less when Pack offensive linemen weren’t able to get in the way of blitzing linebackers in short yardage. Doeren is hoping Tyson Chandler can return to right tackle this week, a move that would allow Joe Thuney to slide back to his more natural position of right guard. With Chandler sidelined by a knee injury suffered in preseason, Thuney was forced to start at tackle against Louisiana Tech.
“I think when we can move Joe Thuney back to guard it really changes what we can do in the run game because he’s such an athletic puller,” said Doeren. “Some of the trap schemes we like to use weren’t as effective on Saturday because our guards weren’t able to get to their edges. We had some plays that would have been touchdowns had our guards been able to get there. They’re trying, but sometimes you’ve got to be a little faster.”
Even with the short-yardage snafus, NC State managed to rush for 255 yards, with freshman Matt Dayes doing much of the heavy lifting on a three touchdown day that included 84 yards on 17 carries. This week, Dayes and redshirt junior Tony Creecy will be joined in the backfield by sophomore Shadrach Thornton, who returns after serving a one-game suspension. Thornton was the Wolfpack’s leading rusher last season with 694 yards.
“I’m expecting them to run the ball right down our throat to be quite frank with you,” said Richmond head coach Danny Rocco, now in his second year with the Spiders. “There’s a history with Wisconsin’s offense and the Northern Illinois offense to certainly have balance, but to also demonstrate physical dominance that’s very much a part of their make-up.”
That physical dominance directed by State offensive coordinator Matt Canada, formerly the coordinator at Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, can, however, manifest itself in many ways. As Canada showed last week, his offense employs running plays from a variety of angles using a variety of players. After Mitchell went down, third string quarterback Bryant Shirreffs carried the ball nine times for 34 yards. Shifty receiver Rashard Smith touched the football three times on ‘jet sweeps’ designed to get him to the perimeter of the defense.
With Mitchell sidelined, Pete Thomas will be the Wolfpack’s primary option at quarterback, but certainly not the only option. Shirreffs and freshman Josh Taylor will likely see more action when Canada chooses to insert more of a running quarterback. And then there are others who could actually line-up behind center as ‘Wildcat’ options.
“We could get into some Wildcat formations using [Travares] Copeland who was a high school quarterback or Rashard Smith who was a high school quarterback or even Tony Creecy. We’re not going to lose the ability to run the quarterback; it just may not be a quarterback doing it all the time.”
The quarterback on the other side of the field Saturday is coming off a strong opening day performance. Richmond’s Michael Strauss, a redshirt sophomore who’s now 5-0 as a starter, was 23-of-36 for 265 yards and three touchdowns in last week’s thumping of VMI. The majority of Strauss’s throws were of the short and quick variety to elusive receivers like savvy senior Ben Edwards.
This week, Rocco believes his passing game will have to be me more effective throwing the ball further down the field to stretch the defense.
“We’re going to have to get some throws down the field against North Carolina State in order for us to score enough points to win the game, and in order to do that we’re going to have to protect our quarterback. Obviously, these throws and catches out of the shotgun, you don’t have to be in protection as long. Some of these deeper shots down the field you have to protect longer, and that’s a challenge against this talented NC State front.”
In Rocco’s first season on the job after a successful stint at Liberty, the Spiders tied for the CAA crown with a 6-2 league mark. Following last week’s lopsided win, Richmond is ranked 12th in the new FCS Coaches Poll.
“This is a good team,” said Wolfpack fullback Tyler Purvis, echoing the sentiments of his head coach. “I know we have the big Clemson game coming up (after an open date on September 19), but [coach Doeren] said don’t overlook this team. He said don’t worry about the Clemson game and focus on this game.”
The Wolfpack Sports Network begins its coverage two hours before game-time on Saturday with the Mathews Motors Countdown to Kickoff at 4 p.m. Former NC State All-American and color analyst Johnny Evans will also field questions in the pregame on Farm Bureau ‘Ask the Analyst.’ Submit a question to Johnny on Twitter @packradio or go here.