NCSU vs Duke Preview: Wolfpack Rushing Attack


Nov 2, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack running back Shadrach Thornton (10) hurdles teammate Joe Thuney (54) as he is tackled by North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Malik Simmons (11) at Carter Finley Stadium. North Carolina beat North Carolina State 27-19. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

 We are now just three days away from the Duke Blue Devils (6-2, 2-2) returning from a bye week to face the North Carolina State Wolfpack (3-5, 0-5) at home. All week, we’ll be looking at the various matchups we’ll see in the game. Today, we’ll cover how the NCSU rushing attack matches up with the Duke defense. 

Rushing Attack, By the Numbers

Yards Per Game: 184.1 (50th)

Yards/Rush: 4.18

Rushing Touchdowns: 13

Top Performers:

  • Shadrach Thornton – 90 carries, 447 yards, 4 TD
  • Matt Dayes – 48 carries, 196 yards, 4 TD

What to Expect

If North Carolina State wins this game, it will be because of their rushing attack. Shadrach Thornton has flourished since returning from a two-game suspension to start the season, posting an average of five yards per carry.

The 6’1″, 203 lb running back has been one of the few bright spots for an offense that has struggled to put up points in ACC play, including a two-touchdown, 205 total-yard performance against Florida State back on October 26th.

Thornton is a dynamic, all-around back, capable of beating defenses in numerous ways. Just watch:

The North Carolina State rushing attack doesn’t stop with Thornton, either. Freshman Matt Dayes flashed potential during his time spent filling in for the suspended-Thornton. He has failed to do much of anything since ACC play began, but that is due more to the lack of touches and diminished role, rather than it being any type of struggle.

Not one to restrict carries to just the running backs, the Wolfpack seem to make a strong, cohesive effort to hurt teams on the ground, utilizing scrambling quarterbacks and wide receivers to mix it up. Primary quarterback Pete Thomas has ran for 190 yards and two touchdowns while backup quarterback Brandon Mitchell currently sits at 123 yards and a touchdown.

Bryant Shirreffs, who is essentially NCSU’s version of Brandon Connette, has ran for 150 yards and a touchdown on the season and wide receiver Bryan Underwood has managed 135 yards on 12 carries.

While they don’t boast the scariest group of rushers in the country, it certainly is one that will require Duke to turn in an abundantly strong performance on the defensive end to shut down.

As it currently stands, Duke has been slightly less than okay against the run, giving up an average of 167.6 yards a game and 3.9 yards a carry. This could be the area where North Carolina State possesses the strongest advantage heading into this game, and I fully expect them to do everything in their power to exploit it.

Tuesday – Previewing the Wolfpack Passing Attack
Thursday – Previewing the Wolfpack Pass Defense
Friday – Previewing the Wolfpack Rush Defense