Ken Martin/The Wolfpacker
Life is pretty good these days in the Murphy Center at NC State.
The Wolfpack is 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the ACC for its best start since the 2002 team won its first eight games and was 4-0 in the league.
Seniors H-back Jaylen Samuels and defensive end Bradley Chubb were both picked for ESPN’s Midseason All-American team, while Chubb was dubbed the national Defensive Player of the Year so far. Junior running back Nyheim Hines is on pace for 1,000 yards on the ground. Redshirt junior quarterback Ryan Finley was named the ACC Offensive Back of the Week and redshirt junior right tackle Will Richardson was picked for ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week after the Pack’s 39-25 win over No. 17 Louisville.
The victory over the Cards gives NCSU two regular-season triumphs over ranked opponents for the first time since 2005. NC State itself has moved up to No. 20 in both the coaches’ and The Associated Press polls, the highest rating since the 2003 team was No. 14 in week two.
“We’ve put ourselves in a great place, but that doesn’t mean we are satisfied at all,” NCSU head coach Dave Doeren said. “It just means that we’re in a place that we want to be and got a great focus of where we want to go.”
Doeren is not dismissive of the team’s ranking, noting that has been the goal, but the focal point for his squad is not reaching top-20 status.
“It’s great to see the progress,” Doeren said. “We’re not focused on where they have us right now. We want to continue to stay and climb. The focus here is what are we going to do in week seven, and that’s all we’re talking about.
“The way I look at college football and pro football, if you can just, ‘Alright this is what we did last week, here’s what we got to do better next week.’ If you do that, then you are staying ahead of the teams that are trying to catch up to you.
“We have to do that. We can’t ever think that we’ve made it because we haven’t. We’re at the halfway point right now, and we want to continue to this ride. The only way to do that is to improve.”
The next step in the journey is at struggling Pittsburgh, which fell to 2-4 on the season and 0-2 in the league after a 27-24 loss at Syracuse that cost the Panthers its starting quarterback, USC grad transfer Max Browne, to an injury.
This will be the first time NC State and Pitt have played each other since the Panthers joined the ACC in 2012. It could have been a bit of an awkward scene had former NCSU offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who was let go by Doeren following the Pack’s 2015 season, not left Pitt after one season to take the same job at LSU.
Doeren noted it’s obvious that the Panthers are keeping elements from Canada’s offense under new coordinator Shawn Watson, whom Doeren has known since Doeren was a defensive assistant at Kansas from 2002-05 and Watson was calling plays for Colorado as their offensive coordinator from 2000-05.
Doeren agreed with the notion that the decision to change from Canada to current offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz has worked out for all parties involved.
“I told somebody the other day I wish [Canada] nothing but the best and am excited for anything that comes his way,” Doeren said. “I never got into this business to wish ill-will on anybody. I made a decision that I thought was best for the program. Time will tell.
“I think we’re doing pretty well on offense right now.”
• NC State has lost two linebackers from its squad for the season, and in the case of junior Riley Nicholson for good. Nicholson was diagnosed with his second concussion of his collegiate career when he was hit during the opening kickoff of the South Carolina game.
Doeren said that Nicholson, who had five starts in his first two seasons and finished with 43 career tackles, has decided to hang up his cleats and join the team as a student coach while he works towards his degree in sports management.
Redshirt freshman weakside linebacker Brock Miller, who had five tackles this season with three coming on special teams, will have shoulder surgery and spend six months in rehab. He had moved to nickel following injuries at that position.
“He’s been playing with a banged-up shoulder the last couple of weeks, and it’s just not getting better,” Doeren said. “For him to be able to play the way he needs to moving forward, we’re going to get it fixed.”
• NC State junior defensive end Darian Roseboro is dealing with the emotional loss of the passing of his father, Johnny Roseboro, over the weekend. The family was holding a private funeral Monday, and Roseboro will rejoin the team after that.
Doeren said that each player’s helmet will have a sticker with the initials “JR” on it to honor Roseboro’s father on Saturday at Pittsburgh. Roseboro has said on Twitter he will play Saturday and dedicate his performance to his father.
• Wonder why NC State went for two when up 11 (30-19) in the fourth quarter against Louisville? Simple answer from Doeren: that’s what the analysts say to do.
“I guess I just have to put stock into the fact that we are paying the analytics companies that do this for a living a lot of money,” Doeren said. “I’m going to trust that they know what they are talking about.”
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