N.C. State will look for its first victory of the season in conference play as it hosts the Syracuse Orange on Saturday at Carter-Findley Stadium. This will be the Wolfpack’s last home game until Nov. 2, when archrival UNC-Chapel Hill comes to Raleigh.
State (3-2, 0-2 ACC) will try to rebound from Saturday’s tough loss against in-state-rival Wake Forest. This was a huge step back for the Pack in terms of momentum and contention for an ACC title. Still winless in conference play, a win against Syracuse would get things back on track for the Wolfpack.
ACC-newcomer Syracuse (2-3, 0-1) was not welcomed to the ACC gently, as the first conference matchup for the Orange was Saturday’s 49-14 loss at against Clemson.
Saturday’s game will mark the second road game for Syracuse. The first was a 21-point loss against then No. 19 ranked Northwestern.
State is 6-0 all-time against Syracuse, but the two teams have not played each other since 1998.
Despite the rarity of games between the teams, Orange head coach Scott Shafer and Wolfpack offensive coordinator Matt Canada share a common bond. Both were members of the Northern Illinois coaching staff from 1998-2003.
The biggest story for State heading into the Saturday’s matchup is players returning from injury. Head coach Dave Doeren told Pack Pride that he expects freshman running back Matt Dayes and freshman wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling back on Saturday.
Dayes sat out against Wake Forest with an ankle injury but made quite a splash for the Pack in the first four games, totaling 180 yards and four touchdowns—three of which came in the opener against Louisiana Tech. Valdes-Scantling has sat the past two games with hamstring issues, but will look to build on his 201 yard total for the season.
The spotlight, however, is on graduate student quarterback Brandon Mitchell. After suffering a broken foot in State’s season-opener, he has been sidelined and—until last week—in a walking boot. During Sunday’s practice, Mitchell was throwing without a boot, but any quick-paced motion, such as running or changing direction, was minimal. His return for this week’s contest with Syracuse looks hopeful, but Doeren has made it clear that he does not want to rush the process.
“To put [Mitchell] out too early is not in anyone’s best interest,” Doeren said in Monday’s press conference. “I think you got to make sure he’s back to where he needs to be.”
While redshirt junior quarterback Pete Thomas has kept the team afloat in place of Mitchell, the backup already has seven interceptions this season.
“I think he’s playing really hard, and to be honest with you, I think he is giving us everything he has,” Doeren said. “Is it as perfect as people would like it to be? Probably not, but he is doing a lot. I’m proud of his effort.”
Saturday, against Wake Forest, the Pack totaled eight penalties for 74 yards, four which resulted in first downs for the Demon Deacons. Doeren said that he has made the reduction of penalties a priority in this week’s practice.
“To be honest that comes down to the players getting that off the tape,” Doeren said. “We got to eliminate the roughing the kickers, the pre-snaps, the illegal formation type things and we will. Hopefully we’ll see that this week.”
Saturday’s game against Syracuse will be State’s annual breast cancer awareness game, so expect the Pack to break out some pink.
Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m and will be televised on the Regional Sports Network.