Football

Wolfpack gets ready for tough Eastern Kentucky

Dean Hood has been a part of some tough football Saturdays for N.C. State and had a big hand in making the Wolfpack miserable.

It’s also safe to say Hood would like to do more of the same Saturday.

Hood has been Eastern Kentucky’s coach since 2008 and will bring the Colonels – one of the nation’s top Football Championship Subdivision teams – to Carter-Finley Stadium to face the Pack. Before taking over the EKU program, he was defensive coordinator at Wake Forest under then-coach Jim Grobe from 2001 to 2007.

Hood was at Wake when the Deacons shocked Philip Rivers and the Wolfpack in 2003 in Winston-Salem, a week before N.C. State’s much anticipated game at Ohio State. The Deacons also won at Carter-Finley Stadium during Hood’s days at Wake.

The Wolfpack blew past Troy 49-21 on Saturday in its season opener. Coach Dave Doeren liked the energy and commitment of the large crowd and was even more pleased with his team’s efficient play, but there could be some uneasiness this week, wondering if the expected first-game mistakes that were avoided might crop up in Game 2.

Eastern Kentucky, 9-4 last season, slugged Valparaiso 52-10 in its opener and had a few more blemishes than the Wolfpack – nine penalties for 90 yards and two interceptions. But the Colonels, 19th this week in the FCS rankings, held Valpo to 38 yards rushing and 220 yards in total offense, had four sacks and forced three turnovers.

“It’s a team that has a lot of tradition historically and the second winningest program as far as trips to the (NCAA) playoffs, 21 times,” Doeren said Monday. “It’s a team that’s got a lot of players in the NFL and players on their team now with a chance to do that, as well.”

Running back Dy’Shawn Mobley, a 6-foot, 225-pound senior, was a preseason All-America selection, Doeren said. Mobley, who transferred to EKU from Kentucky after the 2013 season, rushed for 1,491 yards and 20 touchdowns last season for the Colonels.

“He’s the guy who really makes their offense go,” Doeren said.

Mobley, named the Ohio Valley Conference’s preseason offensive player of the year, didn’t do a lot in the opener. Slowed by a hamstring injury suffered in fall camp, he had seven yards on six carries as sophomore Kentayvus Hopkins was the leading rusher with 60 yards on seven carries.

Quarterbacks Bennie Coney and Kyle Romano combined to pass for 283 yards and two scores as the Colonels had 410 yards in total offense. Coney had an allergic reaction before the game and did not start, but the junior – a transfer from Cincinnati – should be the starter against N.C. State.

Troy hurt the Wolfpack with a few big plays, including a 57-yard scoring run by Brandon Burks. That should give N.C. State’s defense plenty to work on this week in practice.

“We’ve just got to be better at communication,” defensive back Dravious Wright said Monday. “Nothing on those big gains was something they did but just miscommunication and not being on the same page on the calls. That’s what we can get better at this week: making sure everybody’s got the right call and got their right keys.”

Wright wasn’t confused on one call – a blitz in the third quarter. He blasted in off the right side to level Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers, sending Silvers’ helmet flying and forcing a fumble.

Wright’s big hit landed the junior a spot in ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays. Asked Monday about the reaction of his coaches and teammates, he said, “It was just we need it every week, to have someone be a playmaker for us. I’m trying to be that playmaker.”

It’s easy getting up for the opener after all the offseason work and the buildup from weeks of preseason practice. The excitement level is there.

And Game 2? Doeren said the Wolfpack will wear its black uniforms and helmets – the “Pack in Black” look. The players, he said, like them and he hopes Wolfpack fans will help with the theme and dress the same for the game.

Could there be a problem reaching the same excitement level coming off an easy win?

“Oh, no,” running back Matt Dayes said. “It’s early in the season and everyone’s excited to play. We’ll be all right.”

Chip Alexander: 919-829-8945, @ice_chip

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