NC State pledging not to take Old Dominion lightly this time
The good news for Old Dominion is that it found an ACC school willing to come play in a 20,000-seat stadium.
The bad news is the team that's coming feels like the Monarchs embarrassed them a year ago.
North Carolina State (2-0) beat Old Dominion 46-34 last season in Raleigh, but trailed 21-18 at halftime.
''We took them lightly, the defense, and they hung 34 points on us,'' Wolfpack cornerback Juston Burris said, speaking of an ODU team that was in its final transition year to the FBS. ''We're not taking ODU lightly at all. This is the first road trip. We've got to go down with the mentality that we've got to put them away early.''
These Monarchs are young, with 31 of the 48 players who saw action last week freshman or sophomores. There's also no Taylor Heinicke, the quarterback who signed a free agent contract with the NFL's Minnesota Vikings.
Using a more ground-oriented offense, the Monarchs have received dominating play from Ray Lawry, whose 438 rushing yards through two games lead all running backs at the FBS level. Lawry has also run for six touchdowns.
The game will be the 43rd consecutive sellout of Foreman Field, and Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder thinks being in a talent-rich part of the country has helped convince some programs the trip will be worth their while.
''Teams want to come play here because they want to recruit in this area,'' he said. ''And, from the start, we have made it pretty clear that we want to play ACC teams. ... Playing teams from the ACC is critical for building our program to the level of success we want to have, so we are going to continue to pursue them.''
Some things to watch when the Wolfpack visits Old Dominion:
THORNTON'S RETURN: Shadrach Thornton was N.C. State's leading rusher last year and part of an attack that averaged 204.5 yards per game on the ground, the program's best total since 1992. But he was suspended for the first two games for an offseason violation of athletic department rules. Matt Dayes thrived in the lead role with his absence, and while Dayes is an elusive runner, Thornton is a bruiser, giving the Wolfpack both styles.
AIR SHOWS: Wolfpack QB Jacoby Brissett has been sharp. The senior Florida transfer has completed 38 of 45 passes in two games, good for an 84.4 percent completion mark. He's also thrown for 412 yards and three touchdowns. The Monarchs' Shuler Bentley hasn't been as prolific, completing 30 of 54 for 306 yards, but hasn't been asked to be yet. Bentley threw 71 TD passes as a high school senior and may be asked to do more as the season progresses.
POSSESSIVE: North Carolina State sure doesn't want to share the ball. It ranks first nationally in time of possession by averaging better than 40 minutes per game. That's been a product of running back Matt Dayes running for two straight 100-yard games to keep the chains moving, which has led to 11 drives of at least eight plays so far this year. The Monarchs have averaged 283 rushing yards through two games, but still hold onto the ball for just 31 minutes.
LAWRY: Ray Lawry has been unstoppable through two games and the Monarchs have rode his running to victories against Eastern Michigan and Norfolk State. But North Carolina State allows just 78 rushing yards per game.
BUILDUP: Old Dominion fans love a big stage, and will be out in force. The team sees this as a huge statement game as well, and will have to manage that excitement against an ACC team that seems fast on the rise.