Sophomore running back Shadrach Thornton made his season debut last week against Clemson and touched the ball just twice. Both were big plays and he earned himself a bigger role Saturday against Central Michigan.
Thornton logged 13 carries for a game-best 71 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown run. Once again, he made every touch count.
"I'm just blessed to have a chance to go out there with my teammates and play football with them; I play for the guy next to me. It's an opportunity given to me by these great coaches and I just want to see them all."
The back was suspended for the season opener due to an offseason arrest, and he played on special teams only in the second game. That has made him appreciate his opportunities the last two weeks to the fullest.
"It's something that Coach D said to me on Friday and I took heed to that," he said. "Just grinding, giving my all, doing whatever I can do to show the team that I want to be here and that I'm committed to them. When you get your spot back, it means a lot more to you and you don't take anything for granted. You run every down like it is your last because you never know."
Saturday also was fans' first glimpse of what the NCSU backfield can look like with both Thornton and true freshman Matt Dayes at full strength. Although Dayes logged just three carries, and left the game with what coach Dave Doeren called a sprained ankle, he gained 47 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown.
Thornton and Dayes (ShadMatt Thayes?) combined to rush 16 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns, while Dayes added a 10-yard reception.
Jet sweep fuels offense
Several players, as well as Doeren, mentioned after the game that the success of the Pack's jet sweeps early were a huge factor in the running game's success. Several early outside runs moved the chains and forced the CMU defense to starting moving defenders to the edge.
"We had good play calling by the coach," Thornton noted. "They were pulling people out of the box because of the screen and how we were beating them on the outside."
"The coaches put a great gameplan together that really used our playmakers well — getting the ball to them in space a variety of ways," quarterback Pete Thomas noted. "When you can do that, you can run the jet sweeps and everything else that's going to help out the OL and the offense.
"[The success of the jet sweeps] were very important. I think the first play of the game, we picked up 25 or something like that. It's a good play for us. Coach Canada has used that play for a long time and it's definitely a good play for us."
The team rushed for a total of 239 yards, but no one player logged more than 71 yards. Five Wolfpack players ran for at least 29 yards while Thomas was effective on the ground once again and also tallied a rushing score in his 18 ground yards.
"It helps a lot, it opens up the run game," fifth-year receiver Rashard Smith said. "We ran the jet sweep to the left, we ran it twice to the right, then we came back and faked the jet sweep and busted it for 45 yards. It opens up the offense having the receivers be able to carry the football and gain positive yardage."
Pete Thomas' first passing TD at State
A lot had been made of the fact that Thomas had not thrown for a touchdown yet this season. He got that monkey off his back with a strike to receiver Bryan Underwood on an 80-yard bomb that made it 45-14 in the fourth quarter.
As has been his mantra all year, Thomas was not in a celebrating mood after the game. He was happy to get the win, but would rather focus on the improvements he needs to make.
"It's about time," he said of the scoring throw. "It felt good. There should've been a lot more there in the game — there were throws I missed that I can't miss in these games coming up, but to answer your question, it felt very good.
"I want to be perfect, I know you can't be perfect, but there were a lot more plays to be made out there. If I do my job a little better, a lot more guys have touchdowns or whatever it is. I just need to do my job better, but I'm thrilled with the win and with the way we played. We could've played a little better in the second half, but we kind of picked it up there in the last 10 minutes of the game, which was good to see."
NC State entered the game with zero interceptions on the year, but linebacker D.J. Green wasted no time in taking that doughnut off the stat sheet. His interception less than three minutes into the game broke open the scoring and paved the way for a three interception showing from the defense.
"We knew it was a matter of time," Doeren said. "We've had a couple interceptions called back and we dropped a couple. They usually happen in bunches. It was great that D.J. started us off with the pick-six. It was a great play by him and really a key play in the game to get us momentum.
"[Jarvis] Byrd pulled his hamstring and Stanley comes in and gets a pick after a bad snap by our snapper to our punter, which gave them good field position, but we answered with an interception by Stanley and then Hakim [Jones] gets a pick. I love interceptions on defense … that's a big deal when you get turnovers."