NC State rolling, West Virginia reeling entering matchup
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — Matthew McKay has handled himself well since replacing Ryan Finley as North Carolina State’s quarterback. Now the sophomore will find out what it’s like to start on the road.
The Wolfpack (2-0) have outscored opponents by a combined 75-6 and travel Saturday to face West Virginia, which might have been a formidable opponent a year ago had the matchup not been canceled by Hurricane Florence in Raleigh, North Carolina. This year, the Mountaineers (1-1) are struggling especially on offense.
McKay isn’t. He’s completing 66 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception.
NC State coach Dave Doeren wants to see how McKay handles playing before a hostile crowd.
“You just smile when you start hearing that, people yelling at you,” Doeren said. “That’s what makes it fun to me. There’s nothing more rewarding in my opinion than going into someone else’s stadium and all that against you and playing really good football. That’s a tribute to your focus and your preparation if you can pull that off.”
The Wolfpack’s young backfield also includes freshmen Zonovan Knight (161 yards) and Jordan Houston (108), who have combined to adequately replace departed top rusher Reggie Gallaspy.
West Virginia went the transfer route after losing its star passer and most of its receiving production, adding Austin Kendall (Oklahoma) at quarterback and Sean Ryan (Temple) and George Campbell (Florida State) at receiver.
But the Mountaineers have serious blocking issues on the offense line. They are last in the Bowl Subdivision with an average of 1.1 yard per rush.
“I think this is our first real test, the first real adversity this football team has had and how do we handle it?” coach Neal Brown said. “How do we respond? I think this week will be a good indication of where we’re at as far as being able to respond to things that don’t necessarily go our way.”
Some other things to know about the Wolfpack’s first visit to Morgantown since 1979:
OLD FRIENDS RETURN
North Carolina State defensive co-coordinator Tony Gibson spent 13 seasons on the Mountaineers’ staff, including the past five as defensive coordinator.
Among the inductees into West Virginia’s Sports Hall of Fame before Saturday’s game is Steve Dunlap. He was defensive coordinator and worked other positions for the Mountaineers from 1984-2000 and again from 2008-14. He was NC State’s defensive coordinator in 2006-07. The former linebacker still holds WVU school records with 190 tackles as a junior in 1974, including 28 against Boston College.
TOUGH AT HOME
West Virginia is 20-1 in nonconference home games since 2010. Some of its marquee matchups over the past decade have been played at neutral sites.
N.C. State held East Carolina to 41 rushing yards and FCS Western Carolina to 106 total yards. The Wolfpack and Wisconsin are the only teams in the country that have not allowed a touchdown this season.
West Virginia held FCS James Madison out of the end zone in the second half of a 20-13 win two weeks ago but got shredded by Missouri, which compiled 232 rushing yards. West Virginia coaches counted 22 missed tackles.
“We are way more capable than what we showed,” defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said. “We have to have more courage to make plays.”
NC State’s Christopher Dunn has made 19 consecutive field goal attempts, the longest streak in the nation.
COACH vs. COACH
When Brown was the head coach at Troy, the Trojans lost 49-21 to Doeren’s Wolfpack in the 2015 opener in Raleigh, North Carolina.