North Carolina State’s defense had little trouble in the opener, but the Wolfpack challenge heightens significantly Saturday night in a collision with Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss.
Mississippi State survived for a 35-34 season-opening victory against Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs recovered from a 20-point fourth-quarter hole, marking the largest comeback to win in school history. It was capped by Louisiana Tech’s missed field goal in the game’s closing seconds.
“It was pretty gritty of our team and our players to push through and win one where we had a lot of adversity, which mostly we created ourselves with the penalties and the turnovers,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said. “But there’s a lot of teams that wouldn’t have found a way to win that game.”
With NC State, a future La. Tech foe, sticking South Florida 45-0 for its first shutout of a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent in 10 years, the Wolfpack’s defense showed it can be a force.
NC State coach Dave Doeren, who was on the Kansas staff, coached against Leach-led offenses four times when Leach was directing Texas Tech. He knows the task will be heightened in dealing with the Bulldogs’ offense.
“They’re good at what they do,” Doeren said. “They don’t do a lot. There’s not a ton of formations. … He’s got a great system.”
Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers has at least one touchdown pass in seven consecutive games.
NC State cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell and Ruffin McNeill, a special assistant to Doeren, were on Leach’s staff at Texas Tech.
“It’ll be good to see them for like 30 seconds, that’s about what you get,” Leach said. “It isn’t some wistful walk down memory lane like it would be if you didn’t have the pressure of a football game.”
Mississippi State’s approach on offense is bound to put pressure on the Wolfpack’s secondary.
“It will definitely test not just our depth, but also our conditioning,” Doeren said. “It’s going to be a lot of running in the back end this week. To be able to rotate – it’ll be hot there, maybe at night not as hot, but it’ll still be a warm night in Mississippi – we’ll have to take advantage of our depth. I’m glad we were able to play so many of those guys last week.”
NC State has lost eight of its last nine matchups against Southeastern Conference opponents.
The teams have split six all-time meetings, though the past three have been at neutral sites in bowls. The most-recent clash came in the 2015 Belk Bowl in Charlotte, N.C., with the Bulldogs rolling in quarterback Dak Prescott’s final collegiate game.
NC State’s lone previous trip to Starkville resulted in a 6-0 victory in 1931.
The Wolfpack is making its first road trip to a SEC opponent since 2008, while it hasn’t won at an SEC venue since topping 1991 at South Carolina.
“It’s an opportunity for us to continue to earn respect,” Doeren said. “Obviously playing on the road against a team like that from their league, to find a way to win that game it’s good for your team.”
–Field Level Media