Open date history under Doeren bodes well for Wolfpack
NC State's history under coach Dave Doeren in games following an open date suggests that the Wolfpack is in for a strong performance when it returns to the field at home against Syracuse on Thursday.
Although State's record in those games is only 4-4 overall, it is 4-1 when the opponent isn't either ACC Atlantic heavyweights Clemson or Florida State. One of the victories, in 2014, came against Syracuse.
Here's a look back at how the Wolfpack has fared since 2013 when it has had a week off to rest up and prepare:
Clemson 26, State 14: This will always be remembered as the "Bryan Underwood Game," because the entire complexion of the game changed on a blown call involving the speedy wide receiver.
With the Wolfpack trailing 13-7 with 7:43 remaining in the third quarter, Underwood took a handoff from quarterback Pete Thomas on a jet sweep toward the near side of the field. Underwood got a great block from his tight end, turned the corner raced 83 yards for what appeared to be the go-ahead touchdown.
The play was called back, however, because an official trailing the play ruled that Underwood had stepped out of bounds near midfield. Despite replays that clearly showed Underwood staying in bounds the entire way, the play couldn't be reviewed because the official blew his whistle, automatically stopping play.
State didn't score on the possession. Clemson did on it next series and the Wolfpack never recovered.
Florida State 49, State 17: Unlike that earlier game, this one was over almost as soon as it started. The Seminoles jumped on the visiting Wolfpack for five touchdowns on their first 19 plays from scrimmage to build a 35-0 lead after just one quarter.
State outscored FSU 17-7 in the second half, but by that time the issue had long been decided.
State 24, Syracuse 17: Pharoah McKever was a high school quarterback who was converted to a wide receiver upon arriving at State. On this day, however, he was playing defensive end. And the 6-foot-7 athlete found himself in the right place at the right time to save the Wolfpack.
With Syracuse leading 14-9 and driving for its third touchdown in as many possessions midway through the third quarter, McKever dropped back into coverage, used his height to leap into the air and pick off a pass. He then used his offensive skills to outrace the Orange 82 yards in the opposite direction for a touchdown that gave State its first lead of the day -- one it would hold onto the rest of the way.
State 37, UNC 7: The Wolfpack finished off the regular season in impressive style by unleashing a potent ground game and a suffocating defense that recorded four sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
State rushed for 388 yards in the win, the fourth-highest total in school history while its defense shut out a Tar Heel attack that ranked second in the ACC in scoring (36.7 ppg) and total offense (445.2 ypg) until a late window dressing touchdown. Of the 207 yards UNC managed in the game, 86 came on its final drive.
State 35, Wake Forest 17: Four big plays in the first quarter blew this one open early. The barrage started with a 59-yard pass from Jacoby Brissett to Maurice Trowell, Matt Dayes then burst off left tackle for an 85-yard touchdown followed by a 58-yard pass from Brissett to Nyheim Hines. Dayes then finished things off with a 57-yard scoring run on the way to a 28-0 lead.
Dayes finished the game with 205 rushing yards and those two touchdowns on 16 carries to lead the easy victory.
State 33, Wake Forest 16: The Wolfpack took care of business early against the Deacons for the second straight year, jumping out to a 17-0 lead after one period. Once again, it was Dayes that did a lot of the heavy lifting. He rushed for 125 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries to help State outgain its in-state rival 527-352.
Quarterback Ryan Finley also had a big game, completing 23 of 56 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to his favorite target Kelvin Harmon.
Notre Dame 35, State 14: The Wolfpack got off to a fast start when James Smith-Williams blocked an Irish punt and teammate Germaine Pratt fell on it in the end zone for a touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead. Ryan Finley then answered a score by the Irish by hitting Harmon with a 15-yard touchdown pass early in the second to put State up 14-7.
But it was all Notre Dame from there on a damp, dreary day in South Bend. The Irish finished the game by scoring 28 unanswered points, rolling up 318 rushing yards along the way to end the Wolfpack's six-game winning streak.
Clemson 41, State 7: The Wolfpack strutted into Death Valley unbeaten and ranked No. 16 in the nation, but quickly got a lesson in humility from the eventual national champion. The Tigers totally dominated State, running up a 24-0 lead at haltime and 31-0 advantage before Finley finally led his team into the end zone early in the fourth quarter.
Finley was intercepted twice while Clemson's Trevor Lawrence riddled the State secondary for 380 passing yards in the convincing victory.