NC State football team seeks first ACC title since 1979



NC State head coach Dave Doeren celebrates with Isaiah Moore (41) after the Wolfpack’s victory over Syracuse in 2019. Moore was a redshirt second in 2019 when NC State went 4-8.

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The 2022 NC State football team heard the high expectations outside Murphy Center, but linebacker Isaiah Moore knows talk is cheap.

“We look great on paper,” Moore told The News & Observer. “We still have to go out there and play. We have an older group, a mature group, but none of us have arrived yet. We have not achieved our objective and we recognize it.

That goal – an ACC title – eluded the Wolfpack for 42 years. Moore and the rest of NC State’s upper classes want to end that streak.

The program has the pieces: Ten incumbents return to defense. Devin Leary returns to quarterback. The 10 assistant coaches return.

“I think all of those things are indicators that it’s a great place not only to play but also to work,” Doeren said. “I’m very proud of it. It has not always been so. It took time, not just on my behalf, on behalf of the players, on behalf of the coaches, chemistry, to get it right. It’s fun to be part of this transformation and I’m very proud of it.

But is this consistency and pride enough for NC State to overcome a past marred by disappointments?

Lots to replace

The Pack will start the 2022 season with a host of players in the starting lineup who took chunks in the 4-8 season in 2019.

“We had just lost Ryan Finley, Kelvin Harmon, Jakobi Meyers, Germaine Pratt, NFL guys,” linebacker Drake Thomas, a true freshman in 2019, said. tried to step into those roles, and I would say it failed. It was my first taste of college football and it was like a punch in the mouth.

Thomas is one of those 10 starters coming back on defense, but the team has a few losses to overcome on offense. NC State needs to replace its top offensive lineman (Ickey Ekwonu), top two running backs (Zonovan Knight, Ricky Person) and top wide receiver (Emeka Emezie).

It’s not Clemson or Alabama, where you replace pros with five-star rookies or another future pro. Is there potential? Of course, but players in these positions are unproven. Doeren’s roster is mostly made up of three-star rookies who play with a chip on their shoulders, feeling overlooked. Moore, for example, said NC State was his only ACC offering out of high school.

Redshirt sophomore Anthony Belton and redshirt rookie Anthony Carter are the top two candidates to replace Ekwonu, the first offensive player drafted in the NFL Draft in April. Belton and Carter appeared in two matches combined. That the Pack will look to protect Leary’s blindside with a young left tackle cannot be overlooked.

Jordan Houston, a junior who will get his first chance at running back, has four career starts but only carried the ball 20 times a year ago.

Potential Barriers

One of the biggest challenges on NC State’s potential path to an ACC title will be winning on the road. The Pack’s three losses came on the road last year. The biggest test will be in Clemson on October 1.

NC State hasn’t won in Death Valley since 2002.

The opening at ECU on September 3 will be revealing. Although on paper this might be the best Wolfpack team to visit Greenville, NC State is 1-4 all-time at ECU. His last road loss to the Pirates was in 2016, a three-point ECU win over a Pack roster that included several future NFL players.

That same season, NC State went to Clemson and had a chance to bring down the No. 3 Tigers. The Wolfpack missed a game-winning field goal in regulation, a 33-yard attempt and fell in overtime.

Those disappointments are what NC State needs to overcome in 2022 if they really want to prove this team is different.

“It’s time to start playing football,” Doeren said. “And win where you want to be.”

This story was originally published July 25, 2022 5:35 a.m.

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Sportswriter Jonas Pope IV covered college recruiting, high school sports, NC Central, NC State and the ACC for The Herald-Sun and The News & Observer.


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