N.C. State sputtered in the first quarter. The Wolfpack was out-gained by Western Carolina and didn’t get into the end zone after 15 minutes.
Then N.C. State found its running game and it was over for the out-matched Catamounts. Freshman Bam Knight ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Wolfpack to a 41-0 win on Saturday.
N.C. State (2-0) cranked out 309 rushing yards, its most since 2015, and held WCU (0-2) to just eight rushing yards. The Wolfpack ended up with a 32-6 advantage on first downs and 540-106 advantage on total yards in its first shutout since 2015.
“That’s a pretty solid performance,” coach Dave Doeren said.
The Catamounts suspended their starting quarterback but basically played the Wolfpack to a standstill through one quarter.
N.C. State’s offense got off to a sluggish start with only 57 yards in the first quarter. The Catamounts, with quarterback Tyrie Adams suspended, were able to pick up 61 yards in the first quarter.
N.C. State shut WCU down the rest of the way (25 plays, 45 yards) and held the Catamounts to just 16 total yards in the second half.
While the Catamounts were stopped cold, for N.C. State’s first shutout since 2015, the Wolfpack offense gots its legs going. Sophomore running back Ricky Person finished off N.C. State’s first touchdown drive with four straight runs for 29 yards. His 6-yard at 8:24 in the second quarter finally got the Wolfpack into the end zone.
The next possession, Knight took the last five carries for 45 yards and a 17-0 lead at 3:56 in the second quarter.
Quarterback Matt McKay ran a near perfect 2-minute drive to push the Wolfpack’s advantage to 24-0 at the half. McKay led the offense on an eight-play, 68-yard drive in 1 minute and 52 seconds.
McKay’s 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cary Angeline gave the Wolfpack plenty of cushion at the half. McKay finished the game 18 of 28 for 200 yards with the touchdown.
N.C. State got a second rushing touchdown from Knight (2 yards) in the second half and a 3-yard touchdown run from freshman Jordan Houston, who finished with 73 yards.
Freshman receiver Keyon Lesane showed some speed with a run for 22 yards, on a jet sweep, and two catches for 19 yards. With C.J. Riley out for the year with a knee injury, N.C. State needs one of the younger receivers to step up.
N.C. State’s defense didn’t give up a touchdown for the second straight game. It hasn’t done that to open a season since opening the 1991 season with consecutive shutouts (against Virginia Tech and Kent State).
McKay got a little sloppy in the third quarter. He had two chances to throw a touchdown, one to receiver Thayer Thomas and one to tight end Cary Angeline, and missed both throws long on the same drive.
Senior cornerback Nick McCloud sat out the game with an undisclosed injury as a precaution. Senior defensive end James Smith-Williams was sidelined after the first half, likely as a precaution, with the first road game of the season (West Virginia) coming up next Saturday.
3 Number of shutouts by N.C. State during Dave Doeren’s seven seasons. The most recent one, before Saturday, was a 35-0 win over Eastern Kentucky in 2015.
9 Carries for walk-on junior running back Will Dabbs, who ran for 43 yards for the Wolfpack.