|No. 19 N.C. State braces for Wake Forest's hot offense|
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- No. 19 North Carolina State has that vibe again, that feeling that it is on the verge of something special.
Now comes a trip Saturday night to Wake Forest, where things often can be dicey for the Wolfpack.
Having rid itself of a two-game losing streak by defeating Boston College last week, N.C. State is geared for a strong finish against a pair in-state opponents to close the regular season. The Wolfpack has an eye on a major bowl bid.
"It will mean a lot to play well down there," N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said.
The Wolfpack has won its last three games against the Demon Deacons, including a road triumph in 2015. Before that, the Wolfpack lost in its previous six road games against the Demon Deacons, so there have been some miserable two-hour trips home.
"It hasn't been a team that we have played well against on the road as a program," Doeren said.
N.C. State (7-3, 5-1) still has a chance to share the ACC's Atlantic Division title, though Clemson has already clinched a spot in the conference's championship game as the representative from the division.
Wake Forest (6-4, 3-3) is fresh off a sterling performance that allowed the program to secure bowl eligibility for the second year in a row.
The Demon Deacons produced a school-record 734 yards of total offense in a 64-43 comeback victory at Syracuse. Wake Forest had never had a game with more than 300 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards.
"You appreciate what a high level these kids are playing at," Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said.
Wake Forest has scored 106 points against its last two ACC opponents.
"You have to be consistent to be a good offense, so we have to do it all over again this week," tight end Cam Serigne said.
That won't be easy against an N.C. State defense that regularly receives accolades. That's particularly the case with senior defensive end Bradley Chubb, who became the school's all-time sack leader (passing former overall No. 1 NFL Draft pick Mario Williams) in the Boston College game. Chubb is the younger brother of former Wake Forest linebacker Brandon Chubb.
"We're going to go at them," Wake Forest quarterback John Wolford said. "We're not going to back down."
The Demon Deacons have shown efficiency in many areas of offense. They're the top-rated ACC team in red-zone offense, converting for points on 40 of 43 occasions when moving inside the 20-yard line. They have 27 touchdowns and 13 field goals in those situations.
"We're really attacking people," Wolford said. "We're not turning the ball over. We're not going three-and-out as much."
Doeren said Wolford, a four-year senior starter, has displayed commendable toughness in past games against N.C. State. Now, he's putting up big numbers in an explosive attack.
"Their quarterback is really, really changing their offense," Doeren said. "He has always been feisty and tough and competitive and he has never been healthy. But he looks really good right now. He's playing well and playing at a high level ...
"They do a lot of things that put you in one-on-one situations. We've got to win the line of scrimmage. Defensively, we definitely have a challenge this week."
Clawson said N.C. State's defense could create problems for the Demon Deacons along the front. He said it's difficult to contain Chubb because of the players around him.
"He's a dominating player," Clawson said. "With their defensive line, there's nobody you can't give attention to."
While Wolford has excelled, throwing for 20 touchdowns with only three interceptions this season, N.C. State quarterback Ryan Finley has struggled in two of the past three games after a sterling first half of the season.
"He was off last week for sure," Doeren said. "We have to get him back in a rhythm."
Yet there are enough other weapons in place for N.C. State's offense. Running back Nyheim Hines returned to form last week after dealing with an ankle injury. He scored the game-winning touchdown against Boston College with a 50-yard run in the fourth quarter. He might make an impact as a return specialist as well.
"He's a big play waiting to happen," Clawson said. "Anytime you kick the ball deep to Hines, you're going to hold your breath."
The Wolfpack has five players with four or more touchdowns, plus Finley throwing for 15 touchdowns.
"They don't care where the ball goes," Clawson said of the Wolfpack's offense. "It's really hard to defend a team that has so many ways to beat you."
N.C. State is aiming for six conference victories for the first time since 1994. Wake Forest is trying to reach the four-win mark in the ACC for the first time since 2011.