There’s no such thing as a perfect game in football.
N.C. State’s offense did its best on Saturday night against Troy to avoid mistakes and not beat itself.
With no turnovers and no penalties, the Wolfpack’s offense came close to a perfectly clean game in a 49-21 win over the Trojans.
“That’s one of the things that we talked about in the first four weeks of the season,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said.
“We have to be a really good football team at not beating ourselves and out-executing people.”
The Wolfpack only had a 15-yard defensive penalty on the ledger against them and an efficient offensive performance with 251 rushing yards as a team and 196 passing yards from senior quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Mistakes are supposed to happen in early-season games and N.C. State made a few on defense. But the Wolfpack didn’t have any sloppy false start or procedural penalties or the general lack of confusion on offense that has plagued other ACC games this week.
Troy coach Neal Brown noticed, and appreciated the Wolfpack’s lack of self-inflicted mistakes.
“They were very disciplined,” Brown said. “They are well-coached. I said this coming into the game: I think they’re one of the hottest teams in the country, outside of Ohio State.
“They played extremely well down the stretch last year and they came in here with a lot of confidence.”
Confidence and maybe a little fear of Doeren and offensive coordinator Matt Canada. In the doldrums of August practice, the opener can seem really far away and the details can be lost in the boredom and humidity.
But there’s a reason for all of those reps and drills.
“We work on that a lot,” said sophomore running back Jaylen Samuels, who ran for three touchdowns.
There are ball-security drills and rep after rep of the same play, in different formations, until it’s run correctly without thinking twice.
There’s a reason N.C. State looked more polished in Doeren’s third season opener on Saturday. Doeren’s first two teams won their openers but committed four penalties in each and a turnover in each win.
Junior Matt Dayes, who ran for a career-best 126 yards, said the experience in Doeren’s system and all of the reps are adding up.
“The coaches forever stress that,” Dayes said of playing a clean game. “I think we really dug down and tried to make that happen.”
And while N.C. State’s offense took care of business, the defense had a few hiccups but mostly in the first half.
A 57-yard touchdown run by Brandon Burks cut N.C. State’s lead to 35-21 at 9:18 in the third quarter but junior safety Dravious Wright made a big play when the Wolfpack’s defense needed it.
Wright sacked Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers, knocking off his helmet and causing a fumble, which Wright recovered to set up Samuels’ third touchdown and sent the Wolfpack onto a relatively easy win.
Doeren was happy with his offense and happy with the start. Avoiding the mistakes is something he’d like to see his team continue to do.
“If we are in the top 3 in the ACC in least penalized and least turnovers, most takeaways, we are going to be hard to beat,” Doeren said.
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio