Person vs LA Tech

Junior running back Ricky Person Jr. carries the ball against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 at Carter-Finley Stadium. Person had 15 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown as the Wolfpack won 34-27.

The No. 23 NC State football team took care of business against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on Saturday, Oct. 2, winning 34-27 and narrowly avoiding any sort of upset hangover after its big win against Clemson last weekend

Down seven, with just under three minutes on the clock, the Bulldogs (2-3) had a chance to tie the game late, taking the ball all the way to Wolfpack’s (4-1) 22-yard line. Fortunately for the Pack, sophomore safety Jakeen Harris snagged the last-second lob into the end zone and NC State held on for the win. 

“We rep moments like that in practice every week,” said redshirt junior linebacker Isaiah Moore. “We do two-minute drills at least once or twice a week to prepare for moments like that. Honestly, we probably shouldn’t have been in that moment. We didn’t play well on the defensive side of the ball in the second half. We’ve got to get that fixed.”

Louisiana Tech managed to keep the Pack’s run game in check during the first half, but junior Ricky Person Jr. and sophomore Zonovan “Bam” Knight couldn’t be contained forever and exploded for 130 combined rushing yards and two touchdowns in the second half. 

“We stayed on people,” said head coach Dave Doeren. “We were falling off blocks and we weren't finishing or sustaining our blocks in the first half and were not given the running backs a chance. I think schematically, we didn't do a whole lot differently. …  I told them at halftime, ‘I think we're playing not to lose instead of playing to win and that was disappointing,’ and I think the offense responded. They relaxed and just went out there and played aggressive.”

Person got the running game going early in the second half, running a defender into the ground en route to a 24-yard touchdown rush. 

The emphatic run seemed to energize the Wolfpack offense, which stalled out for large parts of the first half. The Bulldogs answered with a field goal, but another touchdown put the Pack up 14. 

The Wolfpack stayed in control throughout the second half, but was never able to put Louisiana Tech to bed as the Bulldogs never got closer than seven, but the Wolfpack never led by more than 14.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Devin Leary went 22 for 36 on the night, racking up 251 yards and two TDs. A solid, but unspectacular performance from the reigning Davey O’Brien Quarterback of the Week.

Other than its 10-play, 91-yard touchdown drive, the Pack offense struggled to move the ball throughout most of the first half, going three-and-out on four of its six other drives, including one drive where freshman cornerback Aydan White gave NC State excellent starting field position with an interception.

The Wolfpack’s seventh and final drive of the first half looked significantly better than most of the rest of the half and offered a glimpse of what was to come after the break as Leary really started gunning the ball to get the Pack one more score before the half. 

“It was a great job getting down into field goal range,” Doeren said. “To be able to go down the field in 38 seconds — really 32 seconds because we kicked it with six on the clock — was just really good execution, a good job by the receivers, getting positive yards, getting out of bounds, using our timeouts the right way, and then [junior kicker Chris Dunn] knocking a kick through.”

What set the three scoring drives apart from the others were big-yardage plays from senior wide receiver Emerka Emzie and redshirt sophomore wide receiver Devin Carter, who recorded 24-plus-yard receptions during each of the Pack’s scoring drives.

Louisiana Tech effectively stifled the Wolfpack’s run game, which managed just 44 yards in the first half, meaning if the big plays didn’t work, NC State couldn’t move the ball.

Compared to that sluggish first half, only two of the Wolfpack's drives in the second half were shorter than six plays. One was a two-play touchdown drive in the third quarter, which started from the Bulldogs’ 40-yard line, while the other was a potentially dangerous three-and-out late in the game that gave the Bulldogs a chance to tie the game.

“In the first half we struggled on offense,” Doeren said. “We didn’t finish drives. I didn’t think we strained on the offensive line. Defensively, we did enough to have a lead at halftime. … In the second half, I thought offensively we played really well and I was happy with how they responded, how physical we were. I thought the backs ran hard and the linemen finished blocks. [Devin Leary] did a nice job with the football, coaches made adjustments.”

Louisiana Tech QB Austin Kendall caused the Wolfpack defense a lot of problems throughout the evening, going 26 for 43 for 341 yards and three TDs through the air and adding 71 yards on the ground. The only real blemishes against the visiting QB were the pair of interceptions, which, to be fair to Kendall, came on a last-second lob and an incredible play by White.

Doeren began his post-game press conference by thanking the student section for being present and loud despite it being fall break, acknowledging the role that plays in the team’s success.

“For them to stay and be a part of the game atmosphere and help us the way they did, I really appreciate it,” Doeren said. “It’s awesome. It hasn’t always been like that here. There’s been many a fall break where the student section was empty, and that means a lot to our players and to me. And so I thank you.”

The Wolfpack jumps back into ACC play on Oct. 16, shipping up to Boston College to take on the 4-1 Eagles. With a bye week between then and now, the Pack will have a good opportunity to prepare for its second conference outing of the season.

“That's great and we need a bye right now,” Doeren said. “We're definitely ready for one, physically and mentally. It is a lot, getting back up from the win the previous week, that was a monumental task for the guys. More than people probably understand… guys are definitely going to take advantage of the rest I'm going to give them, but we have things to work on too and we need to get better.”

Sports Editor

I'm Nicholas Schnittker, one of the two assistant sports editors for Technician. I'm in the class of 2022 and am currently majoring in communication and minoring in journalism. I have been at Technician since August 2018 and an editor since May 2019.