Opponent Outlook: RB Matt Dayes a threat for Wolfpack

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

Only an early upset loss to East Carolina has spoiled the start of North Carolina State's football season.

The 3-1 Wolfpack (not to be confused with Nevada's Wolf Pack) have a tough road ahead over the next few weeks. First N.C. State must entertain Notre Dame in the 50th anniversary of Carter-Finley Stadium, then travel to Clemson for an Atlantic Coast Conference showdown.

Joe Giglio, Wolfpack beat writer for the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer, takes a look at what the Irish might expect this weekend.

ND Insider: What does Notre Dame coming to Raleigh mean to the community?

Giglio: N.C. State doesn’t get many interesting non-conference games, so getting Notre Dame here is a big deal. Ohio State came to Raleigh in 2004, so this is at least the biggest game outside the ACC since then.

But as someone who grew up Catholic in northern New Jersey, I will say I don’t think Notre Dame’s visit here is as big of a deal as it would be at Rutgers or somewhere else in the northeast.

NDI: What makes running back Matt Dayes (three 100-yard rushing efforts this season) so productive?

Giglio: Dayes had another 100-yard game against Wake Forest and his strength is his quickness. He can’t run away from the defense but he can make people miss. He’s a real quiet guy, too. He’s someone who likes to let his play do the talking.

He was on pace to become N.C. State’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2002 last year before a toe injury sidelined him for the final five games. He has been healthy thus far this season.

NDI: How has the N.C. State defense developed this season?

Giglio: Slowly. With so many of the same parts back, there was a question of if N.C. State’s defense could improve after a disastrous finish to the 2015 season (giving up 96 points in losses to UNC and Mississippi State).

After a 33-30 loss at East Carolina, those questions remained, especially the way ECU picked apart the secondary. Notre Dame will be the first test since the ECU loss for N.C. State’s defense.

The defensive line, especially defensive end Bradley Chubb, has played better in the past two games but as coach Dave Doeren said Monday, Notre Dame might be the best offensive line N.C. State faces all season.

NDI: What has surprised you about the Wolfpack this season?

Giglio: Ryan Finley has come, after graduating from Boise State, and run the offense very efficiently. N.C. State has some good skill players (Dayes and multi-faceted offensive player Jaylen Samuels, in particular) but the big question going into the season was how the quarterback situation would work out.

Finley won the job, beating out Jalan McClendon, and has completed 72.4 percent of his passes and has nine touchdowns, without an interception, in four starts.

North Carolina State running back Matthew Dayes (21) runs for yardage as William & Mary's defensive end Matt Ahola (58) closes in during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016 at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C. (Ethan Hyman/The News & Observer via AP)