Up-tempo offense unveiled in NC State's spring game

jgiglio@newsobserver.comApril 20, 2013 

— There was more thinking than doing on Saturday and more mistakes than big plays, but after his first Kay Yow spring game, new N.C. State coach Dave Doeren kept his wits about him.

"Well, we won," Doeren said on the field in his post-game interview.

Officially, the Red beat the White, 20-10 in a game played at Carter-Finley Stadium before a crowd of 27,500.

The sun shone and the cause was worthy, more than $20,000 was raised for the Kay Yow cancer fund, but the game was like watching someone learn how to ride a bike.

The offense wasn’t quite sharp enough to pick up Doeren’s new tempo and schemes, not with so many new parts and the natural learning curve that comes with any coaching transition.

The Wolfpack offense did play faster, and rarely huddled, but the defense was also clearly a mile or two in front of them.

"We are ahead defensively and that’s not a bad thing," Doeren said. "I would rather be ahead on the defensive side than the offense. I think we’ll catch up."

Pete Thomas, who started at quarterback for the Red, which was composed of the first-teamers on both sides of the ball, finished 15 of 26 for 168 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass or an interception.

Manny Stocker ran the second-team offense and completed 11 of 20 passes for 96 yards, with 36 coming on a fourth-quarter touchdown to freshman receiver Bra’Lon Cherry.

Senior receiver Rashard Smith led the Red offense with eight catches for 84 yards. Running back Tony Creecy added 75 rushing yards, on 20 carries. Bryan Underwood caught a 39-yard touchdown for the Red, thrown by Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett, who has to sit out next season under NCAA rules.

Both Underwood and Cherry’s touchdowns came in the second half, long after the first impression of the offense was 10 punts by Wil Baumann and a pair of field goals by Nik Sade.

"We were holding the ball a little too long, but you can tell when this offense is working and the quarterbacks are throwing in rhythm, it can be a very successful offense," Thomas said.

There were three fumbles in the first half, two by running back Shadrach Thornton, and five for the game. The Red defense also intercepted Stocker in the end zone in the third quarter.

The Red defense got eight tackles from sophomore linebacker M.J. Salahuddin and defensive tackle T.Y. McGill had three tackles for a loss.

There are holes to fill in the secondary, sophomore corner Juston Burris had the interception, but there’s also optimism the defense can improve from last season’s version. State ranked 83rd nationally against the pass, which was particularly a problem in early losses to Tennessee and Miami.

"Offense sells tickets and defense wins game," senior linebacker D.J. Green said. "I want us to be able to carry the team."

The defense definitely carried the first half on Saturday. Neither side could get into the end zone until the third quarter, despite the fumbling issues.

The Red finally got on the board with an eight-play, 70-yard drive to go up 10-3. Thomas completed a 24-yard pass to Smith and a 29-yarder to Charlie Hegedus to set up Milton Hall’s 4-yard touchdown run at 3:37 of the third quarter.

Brissett made it 17-3 with a 39-yard strike to Underwood, who led the team with 10 touchdown catches last season.

Saturday’s game was just 15th practice of the spring under Doeren, who led Northern Illinois to 12 wins last season. He has another four months to take the training wheels off and get the Wolfpack ready for the real deal.

"There are things we have to correct and we will," Doeren said. "Overall, I’m happy that we came out healthy."

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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