Wolfpack hoping momentum carries over vs. Texas Tech

No. 16 NC State hosts the Red Raiders in a battle of unbeaten teams

Quarterback Devin Leary and the NC State offense got back on track in their 55-3 win over Charleston Southern last Saturday. (Karl B. DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — No. 16 NC State plays host to Texas Tech on Saturday night as both teams look to stay undefeated.

It’s the sixth time meeting between the two teams and the first since 2003, with the Wolfpack holding a 4-1 all-time advantage including winning the last four matchups.

The last time these two teams met was also the last time the Wolfpack hosted a Big 12 opponent, back when Philip Rivers led NC State to a 49-21 win nearly two decades ago.

After a Week 1 scare in which the Wolfpack barely squeaked by thanks to East Carolina’s kicking struggles, NC State got back on track against an FCS opponent, steamrolling Charleston Southern 55-3 at Carter-Finley Stadium last weekend.

“I thought we used our first week as an opportunity to learn and grow,” NC State coach Dave Doeren said at his weekly press conference. “We have to do the same this week.”

Quarterback Devin Leary was shaky early on, but the junior got into a rhythm by the third drive of the game and finished the day — also his 23rd birthday — with a six-touchdown performance.

He became the first quarterback in NC State history to record four passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns in the same game while also finishing with 258 yards of total offense.

“It was good to see Devin Leary just back to himself, playing ball, running the show, making plays, buying time in the pocket, extending plays,” Doeren said.

Sophomore running back Demie Sumo-Karngbaye continued to establish himself as a go-to player in the running game, totaling 70 yards on seven carries while showcasing an ability to find holes and break tackles.

Sumo-Karngbaye’s running mate, junior Jordan Houston, added 26 yards on five carries and also had a 24-yard receiving touchdown on a wheel route for the Wolfpack.

NC State will need to have similar success against a veteran Texas Tech defense that has allowed just two yards per carry and 13 first downs through two games.

“They’ve got 10 guys who are either seniors or grad transfers,” Doeren said of the experienced Red Raiders defense.

The Wolfpack’s defense, meanwhile, held the Buccaneers to just 36 yards on the ground last week. NC State also allowed just one third down conversion in 15 attempts and forced three turnovers.

The Pack has had trouble getting to the quarterback, getting just one sack through its first two games.

The defense should get a boost with redshirt junior linebacker Payton Wilson and redshirt sophomore cornerback Shyheim Battle set to return to the lineup against Texas Tech after both left the ECU game with upper-body injuries.

One question mark is if the offense can keep in rhythm against better competition. Texas Tech is 2-0 and coming off a 33-30 double-overtime win over then-No. 25 Houston in Lubbock.

The Red Raiders pulled off the upset with their backup at quarterback. Sophomore quarterback Donovan Smith, playing in place of starter Tyler Sough, had an up and down performance against Houston, throwing for two touchdowns and 351 yards in the win but also throwing three interceptions and taking five sacks.

Smith picked up 86 yards on the ground against the Cougars — but lost 58 on the stat sheet due to sacks — and had the game-winning 9-yard touchdown run for the Red Raiders.

“He can make plays on his feet,” Doeren said of Smith, “won the game with a scramble last week.”

Junior running back Tahj Brooks, who rushed for 78 yards and a score against Houston, already has four touchdowns this season.

NC State will look to stifle Texas Tech’s running game and force Smith to throw the ball more with the hopes of forcing the young quarterback into more turnovers.