There’s lots to like for No. 12 North Carolina State after its most impressive result of the season.
Now it’s a matter of maintaining the proper focus for Saturday night’s home game against UConn in Raleigh, N.C.
After that, it could become much more interesting for the Wolfpack (3-0).
“The good thing for us is that there’s been enough of these examples out there this year in college football to point to where you don’t have to just talk about it,” coach Dave Doeren said of avoiding a trap game. “It seems like every week somebody is losing a game like that.”
The trap is set because this is NC State’s final outing before an Oct. 1 date at No. 5 Clemson.
UConn (1-3) has had a tough couple of weeks with a 48-14 home loss to Syracuse and a 59-0 whipping at No. 4 Michigan. It doesn’t get any easier with a matchup against another nationally ranked team.
“We have to find those hidden victories,” Huskies coach Jim Mora said of searching for positives. “The situation that we’re in, it’s important we concentrate on ourselves as we build this thing.”
The Wolfpack, fresh off a 27-14 victory against Texas Tech, are an overwhelming favorite against UConn.
“For us, I think this is a great opportunity to get better,” Doeren said. “We’ve really emphasized weekly improvement with our roster individually and collectively. We’ve identified areas with each player for them to focus on.”
NC State quarterback Devin Leary has spread the ball on scoring plays. The Wolfpack’s seven touchdown passes this season have gone to seven different players.
At other times, the Wolfpack haven’t been all that opportunistic on offense and seem to still be adjusting in the early weeks of the season.
“Sometimes the receivers are getting good separation, and we’re overthrowing them,” Doeren said. “Sometimes they’re not, and they’re in contact-catch situations. … You’re still seeing some young players and inexperienced players who just need to make the routine plays and execute at a little bit higher level.”
Defensively, Aydan White gained quite a bit of attention with two interceptions in the Texas Tech game. He returned one for a touchdown and became the first NC State cornerback with two picks in a game since 2014. He was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week.
UConn likely will be without running back Nate Carter, who suffered a shoulder sprain at Michigan. If running back Devontae Houston isn’t ready to return after missing the Michigan game, the Huskies are going to be hurting in the offensive backfield.
Mora said freshman Cam Edwards has switched from defensive back to running back to help shore up that area.
UConn managed just 24 passing yards in the Michigan game, marking the fewest the Huskies had in a game in October 2018.
“We’re trying to identify better ways to put players in position to have success, guys who are doing it the right way,” Mora said. “We’re trying to identify guys who aren’t doing it the right way and figure out why.”
The Huskies have received good defensive production from linebacker Jackson Mitchell. He has posted double-figure tackle totals in three games this season despite not playing in the fourth quarter against Michigan.
This is the third UConn-NC State meeting, with the Wolfpack winning in 2003 and 2012.