NC State was the aggressor right from the start in crushing Central Michigan 48-14 on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.
NC State clicked in all facets to take a 35-0 lead at halftime over visiting Central Michigan. The offense, defense and special teams, all scored for the Wolfpack, who improved to 3-1 overall and play at Wake Forest in the ACC season opener next Saturday.
Senior outside linebacker D.J. Green kick-starting the action with a 37-yard interception for a touchdown with 12:16 left in the first quarter. The Wolfpack didn't want to give Central Michigan (1-4) any hope, and Green's big play helped deflate the Chippewas.
Doeren knew that CMU had struggled against zone defenses in its previous games, and game-planned accordingly.
"Really good defensive effort in the first half and second quarter was fantastic by our offense," Doeren said "It's fun to be in a game where you score on special teams, on defense and obviously on offense.
"It's great that D.J. started us off with the pick six and that was a great play by him. I think it was a slant and he just read it."
NC State sophomore running back Shadrach Thornton earned his first start of the season, and rewarded the coaches with a 29-yard touchdown run up the middle, which was similar to his 21-yard scoring run last week against Clemson. He finished with a game-best 71 carries on 13 carries and his score.
NC State's various reverses and jet sweeps kept CMU's defense off-balanced throughout the first half. Redshirt junior wide receiver Bryan Underwood rushed for 42 yards on three caries, and freshman running back Matt Dayes went 42 yards for a touchdown on a jet sweep to give the Wolfpack a 21-0 lead.
"I thought the coaches had a good game plan, especially early with the jet sweeps going and the misdirection, and the downhill run game with Shad," Doeren said.
The special teams got into the act when fifth-year senior Rashard Smith made his way right and then cut across the field to the left for a nifty 67-yard punt return for a score and commanding 28-0 lead with 6:54 left in the second quarter.
"Those guys did a great job of blocking," Smith said. "Bra'Lon Cherry made one big block on that play, and I saw Sean Paul, just to name a few guys on the unit. Quintin Payton running down the field also.
"It's tiring, I know that much. You start off on one side and then reverse field and then you finish on the same side. It was a long play."
NC State redshirt junior quarterback Pete Thomas was orchestrating the offense, and rushed for a eight-yard touchdown run to give the Wolfpack a 35-0 lead with 3:46 left in the second quarter.
The second half had a few sloppy stretches much to Doeren's dismay, but also featured Thomas' first touchdown pass with the Wolfpack, when he connected on a 80-yard bomb to Underwood down the middle of the field to increase the lead to 45-14 with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter.
"It was about time," Thomas said. "A lot more plays could have been made, but it feels good. Coach called a great play, and the O-Line gave me enough time."
Thomas, who is filling in for injured quarterback Brandon Mitchell (foot injury), finished going 14-of-20 passing for 244 yards, one touchdown passing and one interception, plus his rushing score. Underwood had a team-high five receptions for 148 yards and a score, and finished with three carries for 42.
"That is the Bryan that the whole Wolfpack Nation knows," Smith said. "That is the Bryan Underwood who has speed, can run fast, and catch the deep ball. I'm happy for Bryan."
Six different played ended up scoring touchdowns for the Wolfpack, plus junior kicker Niklas Sade tacked on a pair of field goals.
The Wolfpack defense created their first three interceptions of the season, highlighted by Green's pick-six touchdown. Safeties Josh Stanley and Hakim Jones also snagged interceptions.
"We knew it was a matter of time," Doeren said. "We had a couple of interceptions called back and we dropped a couple. They usually happen in bunches.
NC State played without senior left tackle Rob Crisp (upper extremity) for the second straight game, plus fifth-year senior defensive ends Darryl Cato-Bishop (ankle) and Forrest West (hamstring), and freshman wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (hamstring). Dayes injured his ankle late in the fourth quarter and fifth-year senior free safety Jarvis Byrd tweaked his hamstring.
Getting a healthier team will help with the start of the ACC slate coming up next Saturday at Wake Forest.
"It's our first road game of the year," Thomas said. "It's going to be a change for us. We've handled adversity before. I think we'll handle it fine."