Head coach Dave Doeren was pleased with some of the things he saw Saturday in the season-opener against Louisiana Tech, which the Pack rolled to a 40-14 win.
By his account, all the keys to the game were accomplished.
"Our keys to victory in that game were taking care of the football, which we did; getting them back, which we did; running the ball effectively, which we did; and not beating ourselves with penalties and YACs and missed alignments, which we did," Doeren listed.
However, that's not to say Doeren did not find some areas that needed improvements. He was disappointed with the offense's execution on third and shorts and in the red zone, the latter of which State only scored four touchdowns out of eight trips inside the 20.
He also wants to see more improvement from the offensive line, and he believes that could come when redshirt junior right tackle Tyson Chandler, who is nursing a knee sprain, potentially returns to the lineup Saturday against Richmond.
"That will help us to move Joe Thuney back to guard," Doeren said, referring to the redshirt sophomore who started at tackle against Louisiana Tech. "It really changes what we can do in the run game. He's an athletic puller.
"We had some plays that would have been touchdowns had our guards been able to get there. They're trying, but sometimes you got to be a little faster. Hopefully we'll have that. I think our depth will improve the moment we get [Chandler] back. I've said this before, as the year goes on I think Ali [Kassem] will end up the rotation as he gets more and more game ready."
Defensively he felt that poor leverage resulted in missed tackles.
"This is great film to learn from defensively from that standpoint," Doeren said.
The quarterback situation took an obvious twist Saturday when fifth-year senior Brandon Mitchell broke a bone in his left foot sometime early in the first quarter. He underwent successful surgery Sunday, and now Doeren said it's a matter of how fast he heals.
In the meantime, redshirt junior Pete Thomas, who went 15 of 27 for 212 yards in Mitchell's place, will be the clear starter backed up by a pair of true freshmen in Bryant Shirreffs and Josh Taylor.
Doeren insists that the offense will remain relatively the same, and he noted that the return of a couple of players who missed the opener, sophomore tailback Shadrach Thornton (suspended) and sophomore receiver Travares Copeland (hamstring injury), could help.
"Most of the stuff you see Pete do is the same stuff you see Brandon do," Doeren said. "I just think there is a little more designed run game when you have a guy like Brandon and also when you have depth. When you have Brandon and Pete, you can run [Brandon] knowing that the next guy is pretty good, too.
"There may be some evolution now that Shad's back. Like last year at Wisconsin, they had James White playing quarterback in some of those sets. Whether we can get into some wildcat-type formations using [Travares] Copeland who was a high school quarterback, Rashard Smith who was a high school quarterback, or one of our tailbacks like Tony Creecy, we'll see.
"We're not going to lose the ability to run the quarterback, it just may not be a quarterback doing it all the time."
- Saturday is Military Appreciation Day for NC State. The team will wear a helmet with the trademark block 'S' colored in the American flag.
"I wouldn't be standing here as a coach if we didn't have those guys fighting for us," Doeren said, noting that NC State's strong ROTC program and ties to the military-heavy eastern part of the state makes the day even more special in Raleigh.
- One question mark from Saturday was the noted relative absence of redshirt junior receiver Bryan Underwood from the game. Underwood caught 44 passes for 620 yards and a team-high 10 touchdowns last year, but he played just 17 snaps and did not catch a pass Saturday.
Doeren said that a dropped pass from Underwood Saturday limited his playing time.
"It's like anything else, I tell the guys if you want the ball don't drop it and don't fumble it," Doeren said. "The guys who make plays will get more opportunities and the guys who don't have to work their way back. I love Bryan just like I did the day before, I was just disappointed that he dropped a pass.
"We'll keep working him, and keep doing what we can do to make big plays again, and I know that he will because he takes great pride in playing hard."
- Doeren issued a respectful challenge to the fans at Carter-Finley Stadium, many of whom left after halftime and never returned.
"I want to thank our fans for the first half," Doeren stated. "Attendance was outstanding. I would like to issue a challenge to them to help us out in the third and fourth quarter. This program has a goal of being a national program, and to have home games at a place as awesome as ours with the attendance, the number of tickets that we sell, the passion that our fans have, we need them in the seats in the third and fourth quarters to be a great team. You win big games in the third and fourth quarters. It's great to start fast with a big crowd, it's better to finish. I think that's an advantage we need to gain.
"I'm asking them to change their routine a little bit and come back into the stadium a little earlier and stay a little longer and support our guys. It's something that we're going to need if the program is going to grow the way that everybody wants it to."