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Four games, four wins in the books, just like N.C. State drew it up before the season started and those four opponents were lined up.
The Wolfpack dispatched Presbyterian in an anticlimactic 42-0 win Saturday night but now the ACC season starts.
National champion Florida State is next and N.C. State (4-0) did what it had to do to enter that spotlight ACC game without a blemish and already with more wins for coach Dave Doeren in Year 2 than he had in his debut in 2013.
“It’s great to be 4-0, completing the preseason, I guess you would say,” Doeren said. “All four games were important wins.”
Junior quarterback Jacoby Brissett threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as N.C. State scored 40 or more points for the third straight game.
That had never happened in the same season, for any N.C. State team, before this one, so there’s obvious progress for the Wolfpack but how much?
The next two weeks, with Florida State and Clemson next on the schedule, might be a better indication than Saturday’s rout but just like the 49-17 win at South Florida last Saturday, N.C. State was able to rack up another stress-free, relatively easy win.
After needing comebacks against Georgia Southern and Old Dominion, the ability to coast to a win was a welcome change of pace for the Wolfpack, which finished 3-9 a year ago.
Not that Saturday’s performance was without its flaws. Two would-be touchdowns were wiped out by holding penalties in the second half. Freshman receiver Stephen Louis dropped an open touchdown pass, right after he was flagged for offensive pass interference in the first quarter.
“There were some explosive plays on offense, I thought there could have been more,” Doeren said. “There were a couple of penalties that hurt us.”
But for the most part, the offense did its part, the defense pitched its first shutout since 2011 and no one got hurt.
The Wolfpack eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark (265) for the third straight week, which hadn’t been done since the 1994 season. Running back Matt Dayes caught a touchdown and ran for one as N.C. State’s offense overcame a slow start.
Tiny Presbyterian, with an undergraduate population less than 2,000, did make N.C. State punter Wil Baumann break a sweat in the first half. The Wolfpack scored on its first possession, a 1-yard sneak by Brissett, but then couldn’t find the end zone until the final 2 minutes of the half. Baumann had to punt three times.
Brissett, who started just 2 of 6 in the first quarter for 12 yards, got the offense back in a scoring groove with an 18-yard touchdown pass to receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
“I feel like I was pressing a little bit, which happens, but we got it going and we made some plays out there,” said Brissett, who finished 14 of 21 for 195 yards.
A Presbyterian fumble set up another quick score, a 27-yard pass from Brissett to Dayes to give the Wolfpack a 21-0 lead at the half.
Brissett, a Florida transfer, got right back to work on the first play of the second half. He hit senior receiver Bryan Underwood for a 65-yard touchdown.
Through four games, Brissett has thrown for 10 touchdowns, which is one less than last year’s starters combined for in 12 games.
Dayes busted a 68-yard touchdown run at 5 minutes, 35 seconds in the third quarter to extend N.C. State’s lead to 35-0. Shadrach Thornton added a 33-yard touchdown run for the only score of the fourth quarter.
Both backup quarterbacks, Garrett Leatham and Josh Taylor, got a few snaps in the fourth quarter and an army of backups got to play on defense. Doeren knows the wins will be tougher to come by from here on out.
“We have to play each week better than we did the week before to have a chance to win,” Doeren said. “It will be a tougher challenge this week.”