Fifth-year senior defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop is the most experienced starter on the NC State football team. The veteran of 26 starts broke into the opening lineup for nine games in 2011 and finished with 26 tackles, including five sacks, 11 quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and an interception.
The 6-foot-3, 266-pounder started every game last year while he totaled 39 stops, including 10 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 15 hurries and another forced fumble. After a slow start to this year — Cato-Bishop started the first three games of the year but totaled just five stops with a fumble recovery — the veteran defender was hurt against Clemson and missed the games against Central Michigan, Wake Forest and Syracuse.
The run defense desperately missed Cato-Bishop in the Syracuse game, but he returned to the game field for 28 snaps against Florida State and recorded one-half of a sack. Last weekend, in his final rivalry game against North Carolina, he was back to his old self and logged 43 plays while he finished with five tackles, including two tackles for loss and he also forced a fumble.
"It was all right, but we didn't win," he said of the performance. "We've got to do more up front, including myself, to find ways to win.
"It's always good to be back. Those games I was out, I really missed the game and saw how much I missed my teammates, so it's always good to come out and give my team some support and leadership."
Cato-Bishop, as well as the entire team, has a sense of urgency in the final four games of the season. The defensive end knows that his college career is coming to a close, while the team is fighting to give the senior class one more game. Bowl eligibility is still a possibility, but that means the team must go 3-1, at worst, down the stretch.
"I know I've only got so many games left, but now that I'm back, the only thing that I can do is make the rest count," he said. "We've lost four games in a row, so it really doesn't matter who the next opponent is, we're trying to get a win.
"We want to finish. It's all about the month of November and trying to build good habits. We're trying to come out here and win some games."
Head coach Dave Doeren noted in his Monday press conference, and reiterated on Thursday after practice to the media, that he is confident in the direction the program is heading. Although Cato-Bishop might not be on campus to see it through as a player, he echoed his coach's sentiment. It all starts Saturday at Duke.
"There's no pressure, Coach has always talked about loving the opportunity when they put the ball down," he said. "It's all about just being focused and trying to find ways to win. Everybody hates to lose and we're trying to build something new, a new foundation; we want to be a great program."