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Release: NC State Faces Off Against ECU

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NC State Wolfpack vs. ECU Pirates
12:30pm | Raleigh, NC | ACCN

RALEIGH, N.C. – Talk about a contrast in styles. One week after facing one of the most rugged, physical running attacks in the country in Boston College, the NC State defense will get a very different test this weekend when it runs up against the fast-paced, pass-happy Pirates of East Carolina.

The 28th meeting between ECU and NC State is slated to begin Saturday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. from Carter-Finley Stadium.

During its current four-game winning streak, East Carolina’s explosive offense has taken it to another level by averaging 53 points per game. That eye-popping average only improved with a 63-point outburst in a lopsided victory over UAB last week.

Now in their fourth season under head coach Ruffin McNeill, the Pirates have assembled a winning formula: a veteran group of players who have been in the same system for three and sometimes four years.

“When you have a coach that has been somewhere five or six years and he has his guys, his players are three and four year starters that are redshirt kids,” said NC State head coach Dave Doeren. “They have seven seniors and two juniors on offense. It makes a difference. You can see it in their play.”

With 21 starts under his belt, junior quarterback Shane Carden understands ECU’s up-tempo spread offense like the back of his hand, and the results have been impressive. Not only does Carden have 29 touchdown passes compared to just seven interceptions, he’s also completed 72 percent of his throws.

To put that into perspective for those familiar with past NC State quarterbacks, Philip Rivers completed 72 percent of his passes in his senior season of 2003. And just as Rivers had Jerricho Cotchery as his main target, Carden has Justin Hardy, who has 87 receptions with an average of 104 receiving yards per game.

“ECU is a good football team,” said Wolfpack receiver Rashard Smith. “They are the front-runners in Conference USA. They have guys that can play. Hardy is a candidate for the Biletnikoff Award as the best receiver. And they have players on defense that make plays all over the field.”

While Doeren is facing East Carolina for the very time, his coaching counterpart has ventured into Carter-Finley Stadium previously as both a player and a coach. A safety at ECU from 1976-79, McNeill played on teams that split four games against the Wolfpack. His last visit to Carter-Finley came in 2003 when, as the defensive tackles coach at Texas Tech, he saw first-hand why the aforementioned Rivers was in the process of becoming the ACC’s all-time leading passer.

“I think we made Philip Rivers a first round draft choice that day,” McNeill said, referring to the Wolfpack’s 49-21 victory over the Red Raiders. “This is the first time as a head coach going there. As a player, I remember it being intense, just like it is with the other in-state schools. Our kids probably played in high school or all-star games or made official visits with some of their players. We know they’ll have their guys ready to play and we have to do the same thing here.”

As they proved earlier in the season when they went into Chapel Hill and beat North Carolina, the Pirates always relish the opportunity to take down any of their in-state neighbors from the ACC. Still, Doeren won’t be conceding an incentive edge to the visitors from Greenville on Saturday.

“It is a chip on your shoulder game for us and them,” he said. “We really have a lot to prove. We really want to play well for our seniors and we want to finish the season the right way.”

Finishing the season the right way will involve finishing the fourth quarter the right way. Getting over the hump in the final period of games has proven to be a thorn in the Pack’s side. Even though NC State has actually had the lead or been within one score in the fourth quarter in six of its seven losses, the Wolfpack hasn’t been able to make plays when it matters most.

“It’s kind of a broken record because in six of our seven losses, we’ve been in the game and had a chance to win in the fourth quarter,” Doeren said. “We haven’t been able to make the plays or sustain or overcome the fourth quarter to this point. There are a lot of reasons, obviously, but if it were one it would have been fixed.”

Two weeks ago, State led at Duke with less than six minutes to play before falling 38-20. Then last week, after closing to within 20-14 at Boston College with nine minutes showing on the clock, the Wolfpack ended up losing 38-21.

“We’re real close,” Smith said. “We haven’t made the plays in the fourth quarter to finish games. We’re working hard each week; we just have to finish games.”

One week after having its bowl hopes dashed with the loss at Boston College, NC State is now focused on finishing a frustrating season on a positive note, while also sending its seniors out with a better taste in their mouths. Being one of those seniors, Smith is determined to make the most of his last two games in a Wolfpack uniform.

“We have to match their intensity and bring our own intensity,” he said. “It also helps that we’re playing in front of our home crowd this week. Playing the last two games at home is helpful because the momentum you get from playing at home is great. Those guys are coming in here from a non-BCS conference, so they want to get a win. They’re playing good football right now and coming off a win, so we just need to come out and make plays.”

Both teams will employ fast, no-huddle attacks in an attempt to wear the opposition’s defense down. Chances are, spread formations and quick, short passes will be plentiful, a far cry from how the games were played when Ruffin McNeill was suiting up for the Pirates. Back in those days, ECU employed the run-oriented wishbone offense preferred by coach Pat Dye, while NC State ran something similar with its split-back veer attack.

Whatever the case, the history of this series is littered with memorable games and unpredictable moments. ECU’s come-from-behind 37-34 triumph over the Pack in the 1992 Peach Bowl was one of the most fiercely waged battles ever between the two teams. In their last visit to Carter-Finley Stadium in 2008, the Pirates got a glimpse of a future star when quarterback Russell Wilson, making just his third career start at State, had a coming out party of sorts when he rallied the Wolfpack to a 30-24 victory over ECU in overtime.

“For our team, just 12 days remain for this football team,” Doeren said. “We want to enjoy those 12 days and do everything we can as a coaching staff to have our seniors finish the right way. That will be our goal. I told our team that every obstacle that’s put in front of us is put there for a reason and you’re judged by how you deal with those obstacles.”

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NC State Head Coach Dave Doeren Nominated for 2024 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team

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NC State’s Dave Doeren is 1 of 11 Head Football Coaches that were nominated for the 2024 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team yesterday.

Head Coach

Name School
Jeff Monken Army West Point
Josh Anderson Dakota State University
Paul Tortorella Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Dave Doeren NC State University
Vincent Brown North Carolina A&T State University
Gary Fasching Saint John’s University
Fran Brown Syracuse University
Willie Fritz University of Houston
Bret Bielema University of Illinois
Lance Leipold University of Kansas
Marcus Freeman University of Notre Dame

The Allstate AFCA Good Works Team was established in 1992 by the College Football Association, recognizing the extra efforts made by college football players and student support staff off the field. AFCA became the governing body of the award in 1997 and continues to honor college football players who go the extra mile for those in need. Allstate worked to present the award starting with the 2008 season. (Link)

Over the past several years, the Pack, led by Doeren, has established a relationship with Gigi’s Playhouse, a Down’s Syndrome achievement center, by hosting Victory Day and having Gigi’s participants visit weekly during the football season. Doeren and his wife Sara established the Doeren Family Fund. called OnePack Empowered, which benefits NC State students who face challenges with executive function skills critical to academic success, such as organization, planning, setting priorities, task completion, and decision-making. The Doerens’ commitment will pilot the program for five years, serving up to 50 students at a time. They hope to inspire other donors to join them in contributing to OnePack Empowered as a sustainable source of support and guidance for an expanding number of participants over the next several years. (GoPack)

The final roster of 23 award recipients announced later in September will bring together:

  • 11 players from the NCAA FBS
  • 11 players from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Divisions II, III and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
  • 1 honorary head coach (GoPack)

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NC State NT Brandon Cleveland Nominated for 2024 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team

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The Nominees for the 2024 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team were released yesterday, and NC State Junior Nose Tackle Brandon Cleveland is 1 of 111 FBS Nominees.

FBS Nominees

Name/School
Anderson Castle Appalachian State University
Leif Fautanu Arizona State University
Justin Parks Arkansas State University
Andre Miller Army West Point
Luke Deal Auburn University
Kyler Jordan Baylor University
Alexander Teubner Boise State University
Donovan Ezeiruaku Boston College
Jordan Oladokun Bowling Green State University
Connor Pay BYU
Dominic Serapiglia Central Michigan University
Bryce Kennon Charlotte
Barrett Carter Clemson University
Elijah Morris East Carolina University
David Carter Jr. Eastern Michigan University
Jacob Merrifield Florida Atlantic University
Maurice Smith Florida State University
Dean Clark Fresno State
David Dallas Georgia Southern University
Clayton Powell-Lee Georgia Tech
James Bomba Indiana University
Beau Freyler Iowa State University
Jacob Dobbs James Madison University
Austin Moore Kansas State University
Cam Golden Kent State University
Quinton Cooley Liberty University
Zach Zimos Louisiana Tech University
Will Campbell LSU
Logan Osburn Marshall University
Nathan Carter Michigan State University
Nicholas Vattiato Middle Tennessee State University
Nick Barr-Mira Mississippi State University
Brandon Cleveland NC State University
Allen Ortiz New Mexico State University
Cade Haberman Northern Illinois University
Xander Mueller Northwestern University
Seth McLaughlin Ohio State University
Alan Bowman Oklahoma State University
Stephon Dubose-Bourne Old Dominion University
JJ Pegues Ole Miss
Josh Green Oregon State University
Nick Dawkins Penn State University
Gus Hartwig Purdue University
Dean Connors Rice University
Mekhi Shaw San Diego State University
Jalen Apalit-Williams San Jose State University
Jonathan McGill SMU
Tristan Sinclair Stanford University
Justin Barron Syracuse University
NaNa Osafo-Mensah TCU
Andrew McIlquham Temple University
Albert Regis Texas A&M University
Tahj Brooks Texas Tech University
Peyton Higgins Troy University
Patrick Jenkins Tulane University
Zaire Flournoy UAB
William Wells UCF
Chase Griffin UCLA
Valentin Senn UConn
Taji Johnson University at Buffalo
Tim Keenan III University of Alabama
Noah Fifita University of Arizona
Cam Ball University of Arkansas
Jaydn Ott University of California
Luke Kandra University of Cincinnati
Shane Cokes University of Colorado
Graham Mertz University of Florida
Malaki Starks University of Georgia
Brayden Schager University of Hawai’i
Kenenna Odeluga University of Illinois
Jay Higgins University of Iowa
Jared Casey University of Kansas
J.J. Weaver University of Kentucky
K.C. Ossai University of Louisiana
Ashton Gillotte University of Louisville
Dante Trader Jr. University of Maryland
An’Darius Coffey University of Memphis
Jaden Harris University of Miami
Davis Warren University of Michigan
Mark Crawford University of Minnesota
Kristian Williams University of Missouri
Isaac Gifford University of Nebraska
Patrick Garwo III University of Nevada
Caleb Medford University of New Mexico
Kaimon Rucker University of North Carolina
Jett Duncan University of North Texas
Jack Kiser University of Notre Dame
Gavin Sawchuk University of Oklahoma
Matthew Bedford University of Oregon
Brandon George University of Pittsburgh
Jaden Voisin University of South Alabama
Alex Huntley University of South Carolina
Immanuel Hickman University of South Florida
Zachariah Branch University of Southern California
Bru McCoy University of Tennessee
Hayden Conner University of Texas
Michael Denning University of Toledo
Tao Johnson University of Utah
Will Bettridge University of Virginia
Hunter Wohler University of Wisconsin
Will Pelissier University of Wyoming
Jackson Woodard UNLV
Jacob Garcia Utah State University
De’Corian “JT” Clark UTSA
Richie Hoskins Vanderbilt University
Jaylin Lane Virginia Tech
Justin Cody Wake Forest University
Dean Janikowski Washington State University
Garrett Greene West Virginia University
Dalvin Smith Western Kentucky University
Boone Bonnema Western Michigan University

The Allstate Wuerffel Trophy will honor a student-athlete who is inspired to serve others and make a positive impact on society. Together with the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, whose 2024 nominees are announced below, the awards will mark college football’s premier honors for community service.

“Student-athletes deserve recognition for their contributions both in and out of sports” said Troy Hawkes, Allstate executive vice president and general manager. “The Allstate Wuerffel Trophy doubles down on Allstate’s commitment to celebrating college football athletes for outstanding performance on the field, in the classroom, and in their community.” (Link)

Cleveland is active in the Raleigh community. With his coaches and teammates, he hands out Pizza downtown to the unhoused community and works with the regional hospital in his hometown on Christmas. He has also raised $10,000 for Feed the Pack Pantry, a program on the NC State campus run by students that helps support unhoused students and students facing food insecurity. Still in the process of fundraising, students can go grocery shopping on campus for free and get the essentials they need. (GoPack)

All members are selected by a voting panel of former Allstate AFCA Good Works Team members, current and former head coaches, and journalists who look for exceptional leadership on and off the football field.

The final roster of 23 award recipients announced later in September will bring together:

  • 11 players from the NCAA FBS
  • 11 players from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), Divisions II, III and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
  • 1 honorary head coach (GoPack)

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McCall, Vann & Waters Will Represent NC State at the 2024 ACC Kickoff

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The 2024 ACC Kickoff on July 22-25 in Charlotte, and Quarterback Grayson McCall, Defensive End Davin Vann and Running Back Jordan Waters are the players that will represent the Wolfpack. Coverage of the event will happen daily on ACC Network, beginning at 9am.

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McCall is a Graduate Transfer from Coastal Carolina. He was the Sun Belt Player of the Year in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

If you take a look at McCall’s career numbers at Coastal, you’re looking at video game statistics:
178.4 Passing Efficiency Rating
88 Touchdowns/14 Interceptions
69.9% Completion Percentage
1,113 Rushing Yards
18 Rushing Touchdowns
The former 2-Star prospect out of high school has proven a lot of people wrong over his collegiate career, and he gets to go out with a bang, leading the Wolfpack in 2024.
Davin Vann opted to return to Raleigh for his final year of eligibility, rather than testing the NFL Draft waters.

Prior to the 2023 season, Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren honored Vann with the #1 jersey, which is given to the player that leads the team in work ethic, training and leadership. Vann was also named a captain this past year.

This season Vann’s PFF grade of 76.5 was the third highest on the team behind Payton Wilson and Robert Kennedy III. He recorded 42 tackles, 7 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks as a Junior this season.

Waters is a Graduate Transfer from Duke. He rushed for 753 yards  and 12 touchdowns this past season for the Blue Devils, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. In his career, he averaged 5.0 yards per carry in 50 games at Duke.

The former 3-star prospect out of Fairmont High School (Fairmont, North Carolina), who was ranked as the 43rd player in he state of North Carolina in 2019 by ESPN, earned 3rd Team All-ACC honors this season.

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Here’s a Look at NC State’s Roster on EA Sports College Football 25

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While EA Sports College Football 25 doesn’t officially release until Friday, if you pre-ordered the Deluxe Edition, it became available yesterday afternoon. Here’s a look at NC State’s roster on the game.

Quarterbacks

Grayson McCall (SR) – 88
Cedrick Bailey Jr. (FR) – 72
Lex Thomas (RS-FR)- 70
Ethan Rhodes – 53

Running Backs

Jordan Waters (SR) – 84
Kendrick Raphael (SO) – 76
Daylan “Hollywood” Smothers (RS-FR) – 75
Duke Scott (FR) – 67
Isiah Jones (FR) – 65

Wide Receivers

Kevin Concepcion (SO) – 89
Noah Rogers (RS-FR) – 79
Dacari Collins (RS-JR) – 77
Wesley Grimes (JR) – 74
Terrell Anderson (FR) – 73
Jalen Coit (RS-JR) – 71
Keenan Jackson (FR) – 67
Christian Zachary (FR) – 63

Tight Ends

Justin Joly (JR) – 81
Juice Vereen (SO) – 75
Reid Mitchell (RS-SO) – 74
Dante Daniels (RS-JR) – 70

Offensive Line

Anthony Belton (SR) – 87
Zeke Correll (SR) – 84
Timothy McKay (SR) – 79
Jacarrius Peak (RS-SO) – 79
Anthony Carter Jr. (RS-JR) – 79
Dawson Jaramillo (SR) – 75
Sean Hill (SR) – 73
Val Erickson (RS-SO) – 72
Rylan Vann (RS-SO) – 72
Patrick Matan (SR) – 72
Kamen Smith (RS-FR) – 70
Robby Martin (FR) – 69
Rico Jackson (RS-FR) – 69
Trent Mitchell (FR) – 68

Defensive Line

Davin Vann (SR) – 85
Brandon Cleveland (JR) – 80
Travali Price (RS-JR) – 79
Red Hibbler (SR) – 75
Noah Potter (SR) – 75
Chazz Wallace (SR)- 72
Isaiah Shirley (RS-FR) – 72
Justin Terrell (FR) – 69
Chase Bond (FR) – 66

Linebackers

Caden Fordham (RS-JR) – 80
Sean Brown (RS-JR) – 79
Kamal Bonner (RS-FR) – 77
Elijah Groves (FR) – 75
Devon Betty (SR) – 74
Kelvon McBride (RS-FR) – 74
Wyatt Wright (JR) – 74
Joshua Ofor (FR) – 68
Cannon Lewis (FR) – 65

Cornerbacks

Aydan White (SR) – 88
Brandon Cisse (SO) – 80
Ja’Had Carter (SR) – 79
Corey Coley (SR) – 78
Devon Marshall (JR) – 78
Tamarcus Cooley (NIC) (RS-FR) – 73
Tank Boston (FR) – 69 (is a Wide Receiver)
Asaad Brown (NIC) (FR) – 68
Jivan Baly (FR) – 67

Safeties

Devan Boykin (SR) – 86
Bishop Fitzgerald (SR) – 79
Zack Myers (RS-FR) – 74
Rente Hinton (JR) – 71
Brody Barnhardt (Fr) – 67

Specialists

Punter Caden Noonkester (RS-JR) – 80
Kicker Collin Smith (SR) – 63
Punter Owen Fehr (RS-FR) – 60

_______

Heading into the Fall, there will be updates, and there needs to be, because quite a few NC State players are missing from the roster. The most notable omissions are Safety Donovan Kaufman, who could be a starter, and 4-Star Freshman Wide Receiver Jonathan Paylor, who is expected to make an immediate impact this season.

Here’s a look at all the Wolfpack players that are missing from the game currently:

Defensive Lineman Josh Alexander-Felton
Safety Jakolbe Baldwin
Nickel Isaiah Crowell
Safety Daemon Fagan
Running Back Demarcus Jones II
Defensive Lineman D.J. Jackson
Safety Donovan Kaufman
Safety Kerry Martin
Offensive Lineman Matt McCabe
Offensive Lineman Obi Obasuyi
Running Back Jordan Poole
Wide Receiver Jonathan Paylor
Safety Ronnie Royal III
Cornerback Jackson Vick
Kicker Kanoah Vinesett
Offensive Lineman Tyler West
Linebacker Zane Williams

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