NC State dominates VMI in offensive bounce back 

NC State's Kendrick Raphael leaps over Virginia Military's Evan Eller (2) and Shamus Jones (20) during the Wolfpack’s 45-7 win Saturday in Raleigh. (Karl B DeBlaker / AP Photo)

RALEIGH — NC State throttled VMI 45-7 Saturday afternoon, piling up nearly 500 yards of total offense and controlling the game in all three phases.

“We didn’t play good complementary football last week, and I thought that this week, we were able to get all three phases into the game and put points up,” said Wolfpack quarterback Brennan Armstrong. “That’s what you want as an offense and as a team in general. It was a good bounce back from us in putting all three phases together and getting points on the board. It’s a huge relief off your shoulders as an offense when the defense and special teams puts points up for you.”

The offense scored four touchdowns and had just one three-and-out, the return game racked up 162 yards and had a touchdown, and the defense got a 30-yard pick-six from graduate nickel Robert Kennedy.

“It was third-and-9 or third-and-10 and going into the game plan, we knew they weren’t really going to try to go deep on us, so I kind of anticipated the slant,” Kennedy said. “And once I got the ball in my hands, I was just trying to score.”

The Wolfpack’s running game — which averaged just 3.9 yards per carry in the first two games of the season had 45 times for 234 yards (5.2 yards per carry) and three touchdowns.

“I think we learned a tough lesson in the Notre Dame game,” Doeren said of NC State’s 45-24 home loss to the irish last week. “The thing you love about these guys, and they’ve been like that here for the last three years, they’re very coachable. When they make mistakes, they listen, take them to heart and work very hard in improving. They did that today and we played complementary football. We got better in areas we needed to get better in quickly.

Armstrong also shook off his three-interception game against Notre Dame, throwing for 264 yards and a touchdown. The sixth-year quarterback completed passes to 10 different receivers on 27-of-32 passing.

“Brennan was in a good rhythm,” Doeren said. “I thought he did a good job adjusting. VMI came out and played a lot of cover-2 and soft coverage, and on the tape, they hadn’t done that this year. So good job by him just adjusting in the game.”

Freshman Kevin Concepcion continues to be the favorite target of Armstrong, finishing with seven catches for 62 yards today, and sophomore Julian Gray doubled his previous career high with 80 yards receiving. Gray was even more impactful in the return game.

He opened the second half with a 98-yard return that was brought back due to a holding call. But Gray wouldn’t be denied scoring on an 82-yard kick return late in the third quarter.

“That’s kind of my feeling with every return,” Gray said. “I’m thinking of taking every return to the house. So with this one, I don’t think there was really too much different. After I got second level, I kind of just turned on the jets and it was over with after that.”

NC State’s defense, however, struggled with allowing big plays. VMI receiver Egypt Nelson had two 40-plus yard gains in the game.

“It all starts with practice,” Kennedy said of NC State’s defense needing to tighten up. “Even if it’s on a Thursday, people still have to be locked in. And that’s something that we really have to work on because in the past years, even before I was here, that’s something that never happened. It’s something that we really have to work on and really have to harp on because explosive plays are really killing us on defense.”

NC State will begin conference play next week as it travels to Charlottesville to take on Armstrong and offensive coordinator Robert Anae’s former team, the Virginia Cavaliers.