After narrowly escaping with a win in its opener, No. 18 North Carolina State will look to establish more control of the game Saturday when the Wolfpack host Charleston Southern in Raleigh.
The Wolfpack (1-0) topped in-state rival East Carolina 21-20 on Saturday, wriggling away with the victory when East Carolina's kicker missed late two kicks -- a point-after-try and a field goal.
Despite winning, NC State fell five spots in this week's Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
For Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren, the ECU result was sort of a blessing in disguise. He wasn't thrilled with the way the Pack finished the game in Greenville, N.C., and identified several things they need to fix or work on, but the team will have the chance to build on a victory instead of trying to bounce back from a loss.
"I'm definitely excited we came out of the game with the win. Fifty percent of the country is now sitting there with a loss, and I'm happy that we're not one of those teams," Doeren said Monday. "In a lot of ways, it didn't feel like a win, obviously because of our second-half performance... It's definitely a lesson in humility for our players and to not have to suffer a loss."
After trailing ECU by seven to open the game, NC State scored 21 straight points to lead at halftime. But the Pack didn't score at all in the second half as the Pirates closed the gap. Twice in the fourth quarter, the State was stopped in the redzone, fumbling once and turning the ball over on downs another time.
Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary -- the Preseason ACC Player of the Year -- finished the game completing just 17-of-33 passes for 211 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
Leary will aim to throw the ball better against Football Championship Subdivision team Charleston Southern (0-1), which is coming off a season-opening 52-38 home loss to Western Carolina. In that one, CSU allowed 433 yards and six scores through the air.
The Buccaneers went down by 24 points early but closed late to cut the deficit to 10. Still, it wasn't enough to top Western Carolina, and to be at least competitive with NC State, Charleston Southern will at the least need to play error-free football and avoid giving up quick-strike scores.
"A lot of good stuff happened, but obviously not the outcome that we wanted," CSU coach Autry Denson told the Charleston Post and Courier. "We fought our tails off. We played an unbelievable game but you can't spot a team that many points and expect to come back."
Should the Pack build a sizable lead early and want to relieve Leary, CSU could see a familiar face under-center for NC State. Former Buccaneers starter Jack Chambers is now Leary's backup.
NC State will be missing starting tight end Trent Pennix in this game and several that will follow. Pennix suffered an injury to his left arm and will miss four to six weeks, although Doeren said he won't need surgery.
Doeren added that starting linebacker and captain Payton Wilson is day-to-day after exiting the ECU game with an upper body injury.
--Field Level Media