Quick hits and notes from NC State's convincing 48-7 win over Western Carolina Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium in the season opener for both teams.
A lot of firsts
NC State won its first season opener in four tries under head coach Tom O'Brien. The Pack's 48 points was also the second highest scoring total in the O'Brien era, surpassed only by the 65 points in last year's 58-point win over Murray State.
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Here are some other notables firsts from the win:
- True freshman offensive tackle Robert Crisp started at left tackle in place of senior Jake Vermiglio, who along with redshirt junior defensive tackles J.R. Sweezy and Markus Kuhn did not dress for the game. Crisp became the first true freshman to start the season opener on the offensive line since 2003.
O'Brien did not say after the game if the three suspended players would suit up against Central Florida next Saturday.
- Five other true freshmen made their debut: safeties D.J. Green and Dontae Johnson, running back Mustafa Greene, cornerback David Amerson and defensive tackle A.J. Ferguson.
Greene rushed 10 times for 35 yards and a touchdown and also caught two passes for 22 yards. He became the first true freshman to rush for a touchdown since Reggie Davis against Duke in 2003.
Green made two solo tackles while Ferguson had a solo hit and an assist for two tackles. Amerson assisted on a tackle and Johnson had a solo hit and returned a squib kickoff three yards.
- Walk-on senior quarterback Daniel Imhoff completed his first two career passes, giving fellow walk-ons Paul Horst and Donovan Counts their first career catches. Redshirt sophomore tight end Mario Carter also caught his first career pass, a 14-yarder.
It was reported that Glennon suffered a knee bruise, but O'Brien did not comment on his status after the game.
- Recently converted running back Dean Haynes, a redshirt freshman, ran 13 times for 69 yards and his first career score.
- Recent walk-on transfer J. Ellis Flint from Hofstra converted his first two career extra point attempts.
Passing offense clicking
Redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson completed 21 of 31 passes for 306 yards and four touchdowns. That was Wilson's fifth career 300-yard game, tying former Wolfpack quarterback Jamie Barnette for the second most in school history. Philip Rivers has the record with 19. Wilson also passed Terry Harvey and moved into third place all-time with 5,936 career passing yards.
One of Wilson's favorite targets Saturday night was junior wide out T.J. Graham, who enjoyed a big night. Graham caught six passes for 96 yards and two touchdowns. All those totals represented career-highs for Graham, who had caught just one touchdown in his first two years in Raleigh. The prolific kick returner got only one chance to return a kickoff, but he made it count with a 50-yard runback. He had 146 all-purpose yards on the night.
New tradition at NC State?
Fans may have seen what looked like a wolf on the sideline. That was "Tuffy," a Tamaskan Wolf Dog. The dog was being tested to see how he would respond to the Carter-Finley Stadium environment. NC State athletics director Debbie Yow is hoping that if the dog handled the settings well he could be a regular at Wolfpack home games.
Irving returned overshadowed by Manning
A lot of eyes were on fifth-year senior linebacker Nate Irving, but he had a quiet first game back. In fact, probably too quiet for the Wolfpack defensive coaches' taste. Irving did not record a defensive stat in the game. The man who has taken his former spot at weakside linebacker though had a big effort.
Redshirt sophomore linebacker Terrell Manning had a career-high 10 tackles. His backup, junior Dwayne Maddox, also impressed with seven tackles, including a sack.
Irving was not the only NC State player to make his return from injury on defense. Redshirt junior defensive end Jeff Rieskamp got the start and had three tackles, including two solo hits.
As a whole the defense held up well after a very shaky start. Western Carolina drove the field for 87 yards on 10 plays for the game's opening touchdown. After that State's defense held WCU to 102 yards on 39 plays. NC State finished with 480 yards of total offense.
Scouting the kicking game
Fifth-year senior Josh Czajkowski reached the goal line on his opening kickoff and averaged a respectable 63.6 yards per kickoff, which reaches closes to the six-yard line. The coverage was good as well. WCU averaged just 12.8 yards per kick return.
Fifth-year senior punter Jeff Ruiz only punted twice, once for 41 yards and the other going for 43.
Recruits at the game
NC State commitments Wil Baumann, a punter from Hoggard High in Wilmington, N.C., Juston Burris, a defensive back from Broughton High in Raleigh, N.C., Maurice Morgan, an athlete from North Lenoir High in LaGrange, N.C., and Brandon Pittman, a linebacker from Leesville Road High in Raleigh, N.C., were all spotted before the game.