By Will Vandervort
When Dave Doeren came to NC State, he immediately identified what has been the Wolfpack’s problem the last decade or so.
“We have to be a better road team. To me, that’s what it is,” the new coach said.
He has a point. NC State has a 10-20 record in road games the last six years as opposed to a 30-15 record at home.
“I’m not going to judge what has happened here in the past,” Doeren said. “I know they have had a lot of players go to the NFL and they have been to a bunch of bowl games, but they have had a hard time getting to the 10-win mark.
“Usually, that means you are not winning on the road as much as you want to win on the road. They have a great win-loss record at home. There are a lot of reasons as to why that can happen and I was not here to know why, but I know just being around our guys for 15 practices, that’s the biggest thing. We just need to teach them how to take their Carter-Finley game on the road.”
Senior wide receiver Rashard Smith has played in a lot of those games during the last three seasons and says the biggest issue is being inconsistent. At home, the Wolfpack have been world beaters. Two years ago, they knocked off a seventh-ranked Clemson team at Carter-Finely Stadium and last year they beat third-ranked Florida State there.
But, in those same years the Wolfpack went on the road and lost at places like Wake Forest in 2011 and Virginia last year. Neither Wake Forest nor Virginia had winning records in those two seasons. NC State has not posted a winning record on the road since the 2002 team went 4-2 that year.
“That’s the biggest key,” Smith said. “That’s what we preached on when the new staff first got here. They met with all the seniors and people that could be leaders on the team and asked each player what was the biggest concern on the team and probably ninety-five percent of us said we were inconsistent.
“That’s how we have been. But we have been working hard towards the goal of becoming a more consistent team. I think that is going to help.”
So how will Doeren and his staff exactly change that mentality?
“We will be talking about a lot of things like that in fall camp,” he said. “Mental toughness and mental preparation is a part of what you teach in those weeks to get your guys ready.”
And the ‘Pack has a lot to get ready for after losing 12 starters and 20 lettermen from a team that went 7-6 and ended the season with disappointing losses to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl.
“It is understandable why people think we will have a down year,” Smith said. “We are coming in with a new coach, we have a new quarterback, there is a new offense, there is a new defense and you got rid of the old coaches. That comes with changing coaches and losing a guy like Mike Glennon and losing a secondary like Earle Wolff and David Amerson. That’s what comes with it.
“We have to make sure we don’t live by what everyone else is saying. We have to come out and work and put in the effort and the time with the other coaches and make sure we do not live up to the stereotypes everyone seems to be giving us.”
The Wolfpack must replace Glennon and his 7,131 yards at quarterback, three offensive linemen in Camden Wentz, Zach Allen and R.J. Mattes, plus wide receiver Tobias Palmer and tight end Mario Carter. It’s not much better on defense where defensive end Brian Slay, linebackers Sterling Lucas and Rickey Dowdy, All-American cornerback David Amerson, safety Brandan Bishop and safety Earl Wolff must be replaced.
“It is definitely going to be a challenge,” safety Dontae Johnson said. “I feel like we are ready for that challenge, though. We are really looking forward to kicking off the season and going out there and competing.
“We want to show people who we are and that we are a team to reckon with. Even though we have had a coaching change, lost guys to the NFL and graduation, I feel like we are ready to go out and compete and show everybody what NC State football is all about.”