If the pattern holds for N.C. State, it will score on its first possession against Notre Dame next Saturday.
The Wolfpack (3-1) has been lights out on its opening drive in its three home games this season. N.C. State jumped out to a 7-0 lead on Wake Forest this past Saturday on what has become offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz’s signature — an efficient, balanced touchdown drive to open the game.
In the 33-16 win over the Demon Deacons, N.C. State needed eight plays to drive 75 yards and it took 3 minutes and 34 seconds. In the season-opening win over William & Mary, it was an eight-play, 70-yard drive that took 3:24. The Sept. 17 win over Old Dominion started with a 13-play, 95-yard drive that lasted 5:56.
Fullback Jaylen Samuels actually dropped the first pass on the first play against Wake.
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“I did come right back and make up for it on the next play,” Samuels said.
Samuels’ 12-yard catch got the Wolfpack offense going, and receiver Stephen Louis had the big play on the drive with a 39-yard run-and-catch. Samuels also had a key catch on third-and-8 to keep the drive alive.
Quarterback Ryan Finley completed 3 of his 4 pass attempts on the drive for 63 yards and ran twice for two years. Matt Dayes ran four times for 10 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown.
It’s the second time in three home games Dayes has capped the drive with a touchdown run.
The opening drives have been a good mix of run and pass. Finley has completed 10 of 12 passes on the first drive of the three home games for 155 yards. The 17 running plays have gone for 85 yards.
The only time N.C. State didn’t score on its first drive of the game was in its 33-30 loss at East Carolina on Sept. 10. The Wolfpack went three-and-out on its first possession of that game.
On the flip side, Notre Dame (2-3) has struggled on defense this season. The Irish rank No. 100 in scoring defense, giving up 33.4 points per game, but only Texas and Syracuse have scored on their opening drives against Notre Dame’s defense.
BOONE TO MISS FIRST HALF: N.C. State safety Shawn Boone was ejected for targeting at 13:03 in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s win over Wake Forest. Boone was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit of Wake Forest tight end Cam Serigne near the N.C. State sideline.
As part of the penalty, he will have to sit out the first half of the Notre Dame game. Boone finished with six tackles in the three-plus quarters. Either sophomore Dexter Wright or redshirt freshman Jarius Morehead will start in Boone’s place vs. the Irish.
PENALTIES GALORE: The Wolfpack was flagged 13 times for 144 yards, both high-water marks of coach Dave Doeren’s tenure.
N.C. State had its least penalized game the last time out, two for 24 against Old Dominion, and then spiked back up after an open date.
Doeren has said cutting down on penalties is a priority and it would be addressed again this week.
“We’ve got to get them off the film, we’ve got to get them off the field,” Doeren said of the penalties. “I’ll do everything I can with our players to make that happen.”
Two of the 13 penalties came on the same drive in the second half when guard Garrett Bradbury and tackle Tyler Jones were called for a chop block on two different plays.
Doeren said he would look over those two calls in particular because he didn’t think they blocked on those plays any differently earlier in the season.
“They’ve changed the rule on cut blocks,” Doeren said. “We’ve been blocking like that since the season started, and it hasn’t been called. For whatever reason tonight it was illegal, and I’ll find out why, and I’ll coach it better.”
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio