RALEIGH — First-year coach Dave Doeren thanked N.C. State fans for sticking with them after seven straight losses and promised them a brighter future after Saturday’s 42-28 loss to East Carolina.
Even though there were a lot of ECU fans in the announced crowd of 49,106, Doeren said he appreciated the support of the Wolfpack fans during a difficult start to his career.
“It has been a tough year for them,” Doeren said. “I just want them to know to stick in with us, guys are going to keep fighting.”
Doeren has spent the past few weeks trying to encourage the players and fans after each loss. He went 23-4 at Northern Illinois in two seasons before he was hired last December.
He remains confident in the direction of the program, despite the current struggles – a seven-game losing streak and the first time ever losing to four other in-state programs in the same season.
“We’re going to have a heck of an offseason, a great recruiting class,” Doeren said. “We’re going to develop this program into something to be proud of.”
N.C. State (3-8) actually showed progress on offense. The Pack hadn’t scored 28 points in a game since a 48-14 win over Central Michigan on Sept. 28.
Quarterback Brandon Mitchell threw for a season-high 312 yards and four touchdowns and did not have an interception.
Senior receiver Rashard Smith caught seven passes for 104 yards with a touchdown and freshman receiver Jumichael Ramos, who had a 100-yard game last week, caught two touchdown passes.
Three of Mitchell’s four touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter when it would have been easy for the Wolfpack to give up.
State trailed 35-7 at the start of the fourth quarter but rallied for three touchdowns in the last 6 minutes and two in the final minute.
“The way they finished the game is something I’m proud of,” Doeren said.
Doeren said the season has been a humbling experience but it will make the returning players, like Ramos and safety Hakim Jones, who had nine tackles, better.
“Everything we’ve been through this year, will make us twice as strong next year,” Doeren said.
Mitchell, who has remained positive all season despite missing six games with two different foot injuries and all the losses, said there’s a strong chemistry with this group.
Even thought there’s only one game left, at home against Maryland next week, and the Wolfpack has been eliminated from bowl contention, there’s still a lot to play for.
“Obviously, we want to win but it’s also good for us to try and keep building this program for the future,” Mitchell said.