There could be some sense of satisfaction for N.C. State’s offense after putting up 41 points and 520 yards on No. 1 Florida State last week.
It was the first time since N.C. State’s last trip to Clemson, in 2012, that the Wolfpack had at least 40 points and 500 yards of offense against an ACC opponent.
But junior running back Shadrach Thornton said the performance against FSU wasn’t good enough.
“We’re ready to get back out there and prove that this offense is for real for real,” Thornton said.
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The numbers say the Wolfpack’s offense is the best in the ACC, and ranks 21st in the country, heading into Saturday’s game at Clemson. Through five games, N.C. State is averaging 505.6 yards per game, an increase of 102.1 yards per game from last season.
Thornton has been a big reason for the Wolfpack’s improvement. Thornton leads the team with 368 yards on only 60 carries, an average of 6.1 yards per pop.
Thornton has always played his best against the best teams on N.C. State’s schedule. He had 85 rushing yards and two touchdowns and caught seven passes for 60 yards against the Seminoles last Saturday.
And Thornton’s best play probably wasn’t either touchdown or any of his catches. He converted a fourth-and-1 from N.C. State’s 40 with 10:58 left in the fourth quarter.
Florida State blitzed P.J. Williams from the corner on the toss to Thornton, who ducked Williams and was met at the 38-yard line by defensive end DeMarcus Walker. Thornton ran through Walker’s arm tackle but got stood up at the 40, short of the first down, by linebacker Reggie Northrup. But Thornton was able to lower his shoulder and bounce off Northrup for the first down.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said the play should have gone for a loss since FSU called the perfect blitz to stop it.
“That was a good play by them, a great play by Shad,” Doeren said.
Seven of his 15 career touchdowns have come in five games against FSU and Clemson. It’s not by accident that Thornton shines against the ACC’s two best teams.
“He loves to be in that spotlight in a big game,” Doeren said.
Thornton believes in the old Ric Flair philosophy: to be The Man, you’ve got to beat The Man.
“If you want to get anywhere in life, you want to be the best at anything, you have to bring your ‘A’ game against good competition,” Thornton said.
The 6-foot-1, 206-pound Thornton had been splitting reps with senior Tony Creecy and sophomore Matt Dayes in the first four games. Against FSU, Thornton had a season-high 18 carries, compared to three for Dayes and none for Creecy.
Thornton was also on the field for season-high 44 snaps; he hadn’t played more than 29 in the first four games.
“You get a guy playing like that, you’re going to play him,” Doeren said.
The FSU game was also the first time Thornton has been involved in the passing game. Dayes, who is second on the team with 18 catches for 220 yards, has handled most of those duties out of the backfield.
It doesn’t matter to Thornton what Doeren wants him to do.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” Thornton said. “If it’s me catching the ball out of the backfield or running the ball out of the backfield, I’m all for it.”