NC State: Wolfpack learning how to finish

NC State has made two comebacks in the first two games of the 2014 season.

NCAA Football: Old Dominion at North Carolina StateNorth Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Jacoby Brissett (12) carries the ball on a run during the third quarter at Carter Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack defeated the Old Dominion Monarchs 46-34. (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

(C+P) — Two games and two comeback victories over teams NC State was initially picked to beat by multiple touchdowns.

It would be easy to harp on the erratic defense and slow starts on offense against inferior competition, but instead the focus should be on the Wolfpack’s new found ability to finish.

“Our theme all offseason was to finish,” said head coach Dave Doeren.

Why was this an area of emphasis for the Wolfpack? To be frank, NC State was not very good in 2013 and a major reason why was their inability to finish games. They lost nine games a season ago and in six of those they were within a touchdown in the second half but were unable to come away with the victory.

In two games so far in 2014, inferior competition or not, things have been different.

“Last year they kept fighting but didn’t find a way to win,” explained Doeren. “This year we are doing both – we are finding a way to win.”

Never did they need this new found finishing ability more than on Saturday against the NCAA active leader in career passing yards, Taylor Heinicke, of Old Dominion. Down 21-18 heading into the half the Wolfpack found themselves in comeback mode for the second straight week and came away with a 46-34 victory.

North Carolina State Wolfpack running back Shadrach Thornton (10) gets in for the touchdown run during the third quarter at Carter Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack defeated the Old Dominion Monarchs 46-23. (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)
North Carolina State Wolfpack running back Shadrach Thornton (10) gets in for the touchdown run during the third quarter at Carter Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack defeated the Old Dominion Monarchs 46-34. (James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports)

“It was another great comeback win,” went on Doeren. “The way that we physically finished rushing the football, they responded every time we needed them to.”

As Doeren noted, the team’s rushing success was as a major factor in the Wolfpack’s win on Saturday. It was dominant to say the least, as the Wolfpack scored four touchdowns on the ground, including three by junior Shadrach Thornton.

“When you have 500 yards of offense it all starts with the offensive line,” said Thornton giving credit to his teammates for his success. “The lanes just got bigger and bigger. Those guys are the silent heroes. I feel bad when I hit the hole at the wrong angle or make a bad cut, because they work so hard and never get any credit.”

His humble attitude is a further sign of the progress this team has made since last year, and needless to say, it is something that coach Doeren is excited about.

“We wanted to build a team that wasn’t selfish,” Doeren said. “Even if they wish they were out there playing, they are on the sidelines cheering and not pouting. That’s what it takes to be a winning program.”

It also takes a winning attitude, something that was so obviously lacking from last year’s team. After two early wins in 2014, it seems the players have not only learned how to seize a late-game victory, but are savoring the chance to do so.

“Putting the nail in the coffin is big for us,” said Thornton with the confidence any coach would love to see from a player.

This week the Wolfpack face what was suppose to be their first true test on paper as they hit the road for a matchup with South Florida. But fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how one looks at it, the Wolfpack have faced two tough tests already and should be ready for anything the Bulls happen to throw at them.

“Number one thing is you’ve got to win,” finished Doeren. “And we have found a way two weeks in a row.”

It may not have been as pretty, smooth, or easy to watch at times as some fans may have hoped, but they have yet to lose a game. For that reason Wolfpack nation has a reason to be hopeful about where this team is headed. Whether this success translates to the rest of the season is yet to be seen but one thing is clear two games in, unlike last season, this team knows how to win.

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