Lesar: Five keys to Notre Dame-North Carolina State

Al Lesar
South Bend Tribune

RUN THE BALL

North Carolina State’s defensive line will be one of the best fronts the Irish will face. Justin Jones, B.J. Hill, Bradley Chubb and Kentavius Street have supplied the push that has limited opponents to an average of 99 rushing yards. In the last two weeks, against less-than-dominant defenses, Notre Dame has averaged 168 yards on the ground. This is a time when running backs Josh Adams, Dexter Williams, and a healthy Tarean Folston (he missed the Syracuse game with a bum ankle) must establish themselves as a key part of the attack.

STOP THE RUN

In four games this season, Wolfpack running back Matt Dayes (5-foot-9, 203 pounds) has rushed for more than 100 yards. With that sort of production, that would allow North Carolina State to command the tempo of the game and keep the high-octane Notre Dame offense (averaging 40 points and 495 yards) off the field. The Irish are giving up 186 rushing yards a game. Daniel Cage, Jarron Jones and Jerry Tillery have to be effective to get the job done.

LOOK OUT FOR NO. 1

Somehow, somewhere, North Carolina State’s Jaylen Samuels (who wears No. 1) is going to get the ball. The 5-11, 224-pound junior is listed on the depth chart as a fullback, but his versatility is what causes so many problems. Already this season, he has lined up at six different positions and always seems to be productive. He has rushed 14 times for 86 yards and three touchdowns, and leads the team with 20 receptions for 185 yards and four TDs.

EYE ON ST. BROWN

The direction of the Notre Dame offense is determined by the way the Wolfpack defense decides to play Irish sophomore receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. If they double-team St. Brown, who has 25 catches for 541 yards and six touchdowns, then Notre Dame will let its running game go to work. If North Carolina State takes that extra man and keeps him in tight to shut down the run, that’s a green light for St. Brown and the other receivers to operate.

GROW UP

A lot of true freshmen got a lot of playing time – especially on defense – in last week’s win over Syracuse. Now that they’ve seen the field, and that they don’t have to get over the shock of losing a coordinator this week, odds are they are bound to play better. By early in the second quarter against the Orange, the young Irish had given up four plays of over 20 yards. The rest of the game, they gave up none. Keeping that momentum rolling will be imperative.

Notre Dame's Dexter Williams (2), here diving in for a second-half touchdown against Nevada last month, is a key figure in Saturday's ND-N.C. State matchup in Raleigh, N.C. (Tribune Photo/ BECKY MALEWITZ)