RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) – Freshman Matt Dayes ran for 84 yards and three touchdowns to help North Carolina State beat Louisiana Tech 40-14 on Saturday in its first game under coach Dave Doeren.
Tony Creecy also scored for the Wolfpack (1-0), who scored the first 24 points with Doeren’s no-huddle offense and led comfortably all afternoon.
Still, an early left foot injury to starting quarterback Brandon Mitchell put a damper on the afternoon. Mitchell, who beat out Pete Thomas for the job during training camp, directed N.C. State to touchdowns on its first two possessions before leaving midway through the opening quarter.
Mitchell returned to the sideline late in the first half on crutches and wearing a protective boot.
Kenneth Dixon ran for 118 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs (0-1), who lost their first game under new coach Skip Holtz.
Thomas threw for 212 yards on 15-for-27 passing after Mitchell’s injury, while Dayes turned in a performance that showed flashes of why Doeren has been high on the rookie from Weston, Fla., during the preseason. Dayes – seeing a bigger role with the one-game suspension to leading rusher Shadrach Thornton – capped his day with an 18-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter that made it 37-14.
Doeren, who spent two seasons at Northern Illinois before replacing fired coach Tom O’Brien, has pushed his team to do everything at a faster tempo, with the no-huddle offense stirring the most fan excitement. That buzz grew with the fast start under Mitchell, an Arkansas graduate transfer revealed as the starter shortly before kickoff.
The Wolfpack marched 65 yards on the opening drive, ending with Creecy bulling his way through Xavier Woods for a 3-yard TD run. On the next drive, Mitchell found Rashard Smith for a 56-yard catch-and-run that set up Dayes’ 2-yard score that made it 14-0 less than 6 minutes in.
But Mitchell was stopped on a third-and-1 keeper to end the third series in his final play. He completed all three of his passes for 93 yards and ran five times for 19 yards.
Holtz’s Bulldogs – who averaged 51 points and 578 yards under current California coach Sonny Dykes last year – moved the football with plenty of no-huddle looks, too. But they committed momentum-crushing mistakes that kept the Wolfpack firmly in control.
The biggest came when Dixon – who ran for 1,194 yards and an NCAA-freshman record 27 touchdowns last year – fumbled as he tried to cross the goal line late in the first with the Wolfpack already up two scores.
Two possessions later, Tevin King lost a fumble as the Bulldogs pushed into the red zone, while defensive end IK Enemkpali fumbled away an interception near the goal line to set up Dayes’ second score.