Fresh off big win, No. 23 N.C. State hopes to maintain momentum
The No. 23 N.C. State Wolfpack look to avoid a letdown when they host the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Saturday in Raleigh.
N.C. State (3-1) ended an eight-game losing streak against Clemson when they upset the then-No. 9 Tigers 27-21 in overtime last Saturday. Now they’re heavy favorites against Louisiana Tech (2-2).
“People are going to talk about trap games and letdowns and all those kinds of things. I’ve already addressed that with our team,” coach Dave Doeren said. “This game is about being better than we were last week. That’s our goal, to be a great football team. Great football teams don’t step backwards.”
The Wolfpack earned the right to celebrate after their first win over a top-10 opponent since beating No. 3 Florida State 17-16 in 2012.
Quarterback Devin Leary completed 32 of 44 passes for 238 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Devin Carter had two touchdown catches and Emeka Emezie had a career-high 14 catches for 116 yards and a touchdown.
The Wolfpack converted 11 of 21 third downs, but there are issues to correct. N.C. State was penalized 11 times for 105 yards and kicker Christopher Dunn missed three field goals, including one at the end of regulation.
The N.C. State defense held Clemson to 10 first downs on the day and just 14 points in regulation.
“They have some great players on the defensive side of the ball. They have a very solid scheme in what they do,” Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz said. “They’re a 3-4 defense in what they do, and they run it very, very well. They’re very gap-sound in what they do and they’re not giving up a lot of yards.”
The Bulldogs enter off a 24-17 Conference USA win over North Texas.
Quarterback Austin Kendall, who started the first three games, was scratched before the game and Aaron Allen started in his place, leading a pair of first-quarter scoring drives. JD Head also saw action and threw his first touchdown pass but left with hip soreness.
Holtz said early in the week he hopes to have Kendall back on Saturday, while it looks like Head is out.
Marcus Williams Jr. ran for two touchdowns in the first quarter, including a 42-yard dash to make it 14-0. He finished with 73 yards on 17 carries.
“You look at Marcus Williams, he’s running hard, he’s running tough, and I think if we gave him the ball 25 times a game, he would eclipse the 100-yard mark every week,” Holtz said, “and I think he would be one of the better backs in this league statistically.”
Meanwhile, wide receiver/punt returner Smoke Harris had seven receptions and returned a punt a career-long 67 yards.
“They really should be 4-0,” Doeren said of the Bulldogs. “They lost on the last play of the game to SMU on a pretty freak-show ricochet play on a Hail Mary. They had a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter against Mississippi State and lost.”
Saturday was the best defensive showing of the young season by the Bulldogs, who are giving up 33.3 points per game and 6.0 yards per play.
“The defense played a really solid football game for us in only giving up 17 points,” Holtz said. “Even with that, they were stuck with a couple short fields with a blocked punt and a fumble at our end of the field.”
The teams are meeting for the second time. The Wolfpack posted a 40-13 win to open the 2013 season.
Louisiana Tech is 4-47 against ranked competition, with the last win coming over No. 25 Navy in the 2016 Armed Forces Bowl.
–Field Level Media