Ken Martin/The Wolfpacker
NC State’s mental psyche to playing Louisville is a complete 180-degree turn from a year ago.
The Wolfpack is 4-1 overall, ranked No. 24 and riding high going into Thursday’s home game against 4-1 Louisville, who is ranked No. 17. The meeting last year was a completely different vibe.
NC State was fresh off of losing 24-17 in overtime at eventual national champion Clemson. The heartbreak led to a vicious loss at then No. 7-ranked Louisville, 54-13. NCSU head coach Dave Doeren reflected back to the swing in emotions from last year against the Cardinals and knows the Wolfpack is in a better mental state, though it does have a quick turnaround.
“Not to take anything away from Louisville, who beat us, but we didn’t play well at all in that game,” Doeren said. “We were still not over what happened the week before as everybody knows.
“Whether that changes the outcome or not, we’ll never know. I know our players, it left a bad taste in their mouth with how they took the field and played.”
Doeren didn’t fault the effort against Louisville, who led 44-0 at halftime, but he knows it wasn’t the best coaching or playing performance. The Wolfpack won’t need last year’s film to motivate the players.
“We look forward to playing a team that has gotten the best of us the last three times we’ve played them,” Doeren said.
Doeren lavished praise on Syracuse redshirt junior quarterback Eric Dungey, who accounted for 429 yards of total offense and three touchdowns for the Orange in a 33-25 loss to NC State on Saturday.
As good as Dungey is, Doeren knows that reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson brings a different level of athleticism to the position. Jackson passed for 355 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for 76 yards and a score against the Wolfpack last year.
“Eric Dungey as a competitor and passer is tremendous,” Doeren said. “There isn’t anybody like Lamar Jackson and there probably hasn’t been since Michael Vick [at Virginia Tech].”
The 6-foot-3, 211-pound Jackson has improved his drop back skills and is 112-of-175 passing for a career-high 64 .0percent. He has thrown for 1,636 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for another 437 and five scores.
“Even when things don’t look like they are going well, he makes things happen,” Doeren said. “He is a great quarterback.”
The Jackson vs. NC State senior defensive end Bradley Chubb matchup will be fun to watch for both college fans and the tremendous amount of NFL scouts that are planning to attend.
Chubb can work his magic, but slowing Jackson will take a disciplined team defense. Doeren wants to keep Jackson within the pocket.
“All of them have to feed off of each other,” Doeren said. “They have to take advantage of one-on-ones. If you are getting single, you owe it to the other guys to win.”
Dakwa Nichols In Good Spirits
Doeren relayed that fifth-year senior running back Dakwa Nichols had surgery on both knees after tearing both patella tendons.
“I’ve never seen that in my life, it’s crazy,” Doeren said.
NCSU running backs coach Des Kitchings met with Nichols prior to the surgery. Nichols’ family also came to provide support. Nichols, who is close to earning his degree, was upbeat despite the unfortunate incident. He had his facemask grabbed and both his knees buckled on the play.
“I talked to him about an hour ago on the phone, and he’s in great spirits,” Doeren said. “He will focus on getting healthy and he has a few things to turn in with an internship and he’ll be a college graduate.”
NC State senior cornerback Mike Stevens was able to log 33 snaps and record three tackles in his first action of the season against Syracuse.
Doeren said there weren’t any issues Sunday and that Stevens will be needed even more against the Cardinals’ high-powered offense, which has scored at least 35 points in four out of five games.
“He made a tackle on his first snap in there, which was good to see,” Doeren said. “He made a couple of tackles in there and gave up a deep ball. All those are things he’ll get better from.”
The prognosis for redshirt junior free safety Dexter Wright continues to be wait and see. He has a big hurdle Monday night to show he’s completely healthy. He got injured during the first game of the season against South Carolina.
Wright will likely get worked back slowly, Doeren said.
“Tonight he’ll practice and he practiced last week,” Doeren said. “Our intention is to have him play on special teams and have him in the game on defense if he looks good. I’m hopeful.”
NC State To Feature 'Black Howl'
NC State has gone with the trend of using different uniform looks the last several years, going from red to white, but also gray or black.
The Wolfpack unveiled the “Black Howl” uniforms for the Louisville game back on June 7. Sponsor adidas plays a role in things, but Doeren said the Wolfpack are cognizant of creating a brand look with their business partner.
“There are two things with it, one is your current locker room,” Doeren said. “The guys like that and like occasional changes, and not the same thing.
“From a recruiting standpoint, it’s always a hit. Every time we’ve had a alternative jersey either announced or worn, we’ve had a commitment that day or the next day. It does have an impact.”
The older fans usually like a traditional look, but these moves aren’t for that demographic in mind. Doeren, who is superstitious, does really like the Tuffy logo and that it is something no other college has.
“It is a reality in today’s recruiting and a reality with today’s youth to keep things that way,” Doeren said.
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