No. 16 NC State’s defense faces test from Texas Tech attack
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State’s defense has experienced talent. The 16th-ranked Wolfpack will need that to handle Texas Tech’s national-best passing attack on Saturday.
The Red Raiders (2-0) are averaging 411 yards passing under first-year coach Joey McGuire. They’re coming off a win against then-No. 25 Houston despite losing its top quarterback to an opening-game injury. That presents a test for the Wolfpack’s defense, which has surrendered 23 points in two games.
“The only thing that I can’t do for these players is make them more experienced, right?” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “I can do everything else: I can help them get stronger, I can do motivational things with them. ... But I can’t give them game reps. They’ve got to accumulate that through time. And we have a lot of that, so it helps.”
N.C. State (2-0) brought back 10 starters from a unit that ranked 14th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring defense (19.7) and 21st in total defense (331.6 yards), production that came despite losing multiple starters for the season to injuries.
One was top linebacker Payton Wilson, an all-ACC pick while ranking among the top FBS tacklers in 2020. He left early against East Carolina with an upper-body injury and missed last week’s Charleston Southern win but is expected to be back Saturday.
For Texas Tech, third-year passer Donovan Smith completed 14 of 16 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns in the season opener after starter Tyler Shough re-injured his left shoulder. Before his game-winning, 9-yard TD run in the second overtime against then-No. 25 Houston, Smith had completed 36 of 58 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns, though he also had three interceptions.
“He prepared the week before to play in a game, and then he had the opportunity and played well,” McGuire said. “And then he prepared to be the starter. I think he would be the first one to tell you that he’s got to prepare even more, especially this week because we’re going to see a lot of pressure.”
RED RAIDERS vs. RANKED
Texas Tech’s double-overtime win against Houston was its first against a ranked non-conference foe in the regular season since beating No. 20 Arizona in the 1989 opener. Since the AP poll debuted in 1936, Tech has never defeated multiple ranked non-conference opponents in the same season.
The Red Raiders haven’t won consecutive games against Top 25 teams since 2008, when over a four-game span the Red Raiders beat No. 19 Kansas, No. 1 Texas and No. 8 Oklahoma State before losing to fifth-ranked Oklahoma.
The Red Raiders last had multiple wins over ranked teams in the same season when going 2-3 in such games in 2013. They are 3-27 against Top 25 teams since that season.
N.C. State has won 11 straight home games since November 2020, including last season’s win against Clemson and a wild comeback against rival North Carolina.
New offensive coordinator Zach Kittley has the Red Raiders off to a fast start even with the QB change.
After standout seasons at Western Kentucky last year and Houston Baptist before that, Kittley is back in Lubbock, where his dad is the longtime track and field coach. The younger Kittley also rose from being a student assistant to graduate assistant to assistant quarterbacks coach for Kingsbury during the time when Patrick Mahomes was the Red Raiders quarterback.
STAYING UP TOP
N.C. State offensive coordinator Tim Beck worked the Charleston Southern win from the coaching box instead of calling plays from the field. Doeren said it was a trial run afterward, then said Monday he expected Beck would stick with it.
McGuire and Doeren have a relationship going back to 2003 when McGuire was a high school coach in Texas and Doeren was a Kansas assistant. Doeren recruited receiver Marcus Herford as the first coach to make a Division I scholarship offer to one of McGuire’s players at Cedar Hill High.
“I remember eating a pregame meal with his team,” Doeren said. “He had the best chicken fried steak and gravy you’ve ever had before the game. I was crushing that with him.”
McGuire said: “I can’t wait to see him. I can’t wait to play them.”
AP Sports Writer Stephen Hawkins in Dallas contributed to this report.
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