Talking Points: Mitchell's injury gives State bitter taste of victory
Posted August 31, 2013
1. Quarterback Brandon Mitchell, who was informed Wednesday that he would start over Pete Thomas, flexed his command of the offense and generated plenty early buzz inside Carter-Finley Stadium as he drove the Wolfpack to an early 14-0 lead over Louisiana Tech.
The Arkansas transfer hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for 26 yards and rushed 10 yards to set up a Tony Creecy rushing touchdown from 3 yards out on the opening drive. During the second possession, Mitchell tossed a perfect slant to Rashard Smith, who took it 56 yards to the Louisiana Tech 2-yard line before running-back Matt Dayes punched it in.
The Wolfpack was ready to set cruise control for the rest of the afternoon, but nothing is ever that easy with NC State "stuff" lurking in the shadows.
The extend of Mitchell's foot injury wasn't immediately known, with a press box announcement proclaiming his return "doubtful." However, Mitchell's brother revealed on Twitter the foot was fractured and the recovery would take at least four weeks. Head coach Dave Doeren announced after the game Mitchell suffered a fracture of the fifth metatarsal and will require surgery.
2. Pete Thomas, Bryant Shirreffs and Josh Taylor each took their snaps as quarterback following Mitchell's exit. None of them looked as dynamic and the Wolfpack offense clearly looked like it was missing a gear without him.
Thomas, a transfer from Colorado State who hasn't seen game action since 2011, eventually settled down and finished with 220 yards on 16-of-28 passing. He threw an interception, which ended up negated when he recovered the fumble that followed. Considering Thomas shared top billing with Mitchell on the initial depth chart, he'll get the bulk of the work running NC State's offense from here.
Shirreffs acted as a change of pace quarterback, but he never attempted a pass. He ran the ball nine times for 33 yards, trucking a Louisiana Tech defender for good measure.
Somewhere in a dank NC State engineering lab, they're exploring ways to fuse Thomas and Shirreffs into a quarterbacking version of CatDog.
3. Doeren came away mostly pleased with the defensive performance against Louisiana Tech.
The Bulldogs started with back-to-back three-and-out punts and fumbled away a couple scoring opportunities. Even when they picked off Thomas, Louisiana Tech gave the ball right back to NC State with another fumble. They finally stayed mistake free to light up the scoreboard before the end of the half.
"That's the only thing that hurt us all day was missed tackles," said Doeren. "We didn't give up big passes in the pass game. The runs they had weren't because we were out-gapped or out-manned, it's because we had a guy there that didn't finish the play."
Running-back Kenneth Dixon, the 2012 WAC Freshman of the Year, did most of the damage by racking up 118 yards on 22 carries.
4. NC State played 11 true freshman in the opener. Matt Dayes and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are the names you'll hear most between now and the next kickoff.
Dayes, a 5-foot-9 and 213 pound running-back, had three touchdowns and led the team with 84 rushing yards. Valdes-Scantling led all receivers with 88 yards on four catches, including an impressive haul where he anticipated contact and held on to the ball.
5. Meet the new boss, NC State. Definitely not the same as the old boss.
Doeren's debut as head coach was distinctive in the way it began with uptempo offense and how he juggled quarterbacks following Mitchell's injury. The Wolfpack ran 88 plays and gained 6.3 yards on average.
Even the post game press conference was handled in a different manner, with Doeren flanked by players of note at the table rather than addressing the media separately. Doeren engaged with his players while answering questions and occasionally flashed a dry sense of humor, but he's mostly "all business" in public settings.
The varying styles of coaching personas are ultimately overrated. Fans will accept any approach as long as there's winning involved.