Irish look for more improvement on D against NC State
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Notre Dame's defense might have figured a few things out, just in time for a different kind of test - an efficient North Carolina State offense in a possible downpour.
Notre Dame (2-3) visits the Wolfpack (3-1) on Saturday in a game that could be affected by the threat of severe weather from Hurricane Matthew .
''We'll deal with the elements,'' coach Brian Kelly said, ''just like North Carolina State will.''
Maybe, but that hardly seems like the recipe for success for a defense that struggled earlier this season. Those problems culminated in a 38-35 loss to Duke that cost defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder his job.
Kelly promoted analyst Greg Hudson to replace him and took a more hands-on role on that side of the ball, and after a wacky start last week against Syracuse's ultra-fast-paced offense, they settled down and held the Orange to seven points in the second half of a 50-33 victory.
''They're doing less, and they're doing it better,'' N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said.
The Fighting Irish showed improvement that didn't necessarily translate to the stat sheet: Notre Dame still ranks 100th or worse nationally in three of the four major stat categories. They're 106th in total defense and 100th in scoring defense.
Now comes a test from an N.C. State offense that has hung at least 30 points on every opponent it's faced, behind quarterback Ryan Finley - a Boise State transfer who completes nearly 73 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception.
New N.C. State offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz says he wants his unit to be even more efficient and cited a metric - points per possession - that basketball coaches often rely upon.
''All that other stuff really doesn't matter,'' Drinkwitz said. ''How many times you get the football and how many times you get points on the scoreboard. That's where we've got to be better and continue to improve.''
Some things to know about the Notre Dame-NC State game:
MATTHEW'S MARCH: Both teams are keeping an eye on the weather maps , with Matthew churning his way up the East Coast. Kelly says his team has made contingency plans in case the game is pushed back until Sunday afternoon, and the league has been in contact with the programs in case the weather is too severe. ''Planes, trains, automobiles, all the logistics have been taken care of,'' Kelly said.
IRISH OFFENSE: There's nothing wrong with the Notre Dame offense. The Fighting Irish have not been held to fewer than 28 points and they've surpassed 500 total yards in each of their last two games, both against ACC opponents. That will pose some challenges for an N.C. State defense that has been strong against the run - holding two opponents to fewer than 100 yards rushing - but at times vulnerable through the air. ''They're going to make some plays. I mean, they're good,'' Doeren said. ''We're just going to have to get them on the ground and line up and play again and try to get some turnovers.''
PENALTY PROBLEM: N.C. State was called for 13 penalties - its most since 2012 - and assessed 144 penalty yards in a 33-16 win over Wake Forest. The Wolfpack won't have S Shawn Boone for the first half after he was ejected for targeting, and they know they have to clean things up with the Irish coming in.
CARTER-FINLEY'S 50th: This game comes on the 50th anniversary of the day Carter-Finley Stadium opened, and the Wolfpack are marking the occasion by breaking out throwback uniforms with the ''diamond'' logo on the helmets. Doeren calls it ''a pretty neat thing for our fanbase.''
AP Sports Writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Indiana, contributed to this report.