Looking to even their mark on the year, Notre Dame travels to Raleigh to take on the 3-1 North Carolina State Wolfpack. Despite a prolific offensive afternoon by the Irish against Syracuse, the team’s defensive issues remain. Listed below are seven numbers that fans need to be aware when it comes to Saturday’s contest.
This number represents the average number of yards the Wolfpack offense has collected in each of their four games. With the Notre Dame defense still in disarray, that likely sets the stage for another shootout. While their passing game is more prominent, North Carolina State’s offense is much more balanced than Syracuse’s unit.
Numbers like average yardage usually means that a team knows how to put the ball in the end zone. That’s certainly the case with the Wolfpack, which has averaged 40 points in their four games, never tallying below 30 in a contest. Keeping them in control during the first half has been the main problem, with N.C. State holding a 92-38 scoring advantage during those quarters.
Precision is one of the keys to Wolfpack signal caller Ryan Finley, who’s connected on 72.4 percent of his tosses to receivers. As a graduate transfer from Boise State, Finley has plenty of experience and doesn’t make bad throws, with the evidence enhanced further with his nine touchdown passes and zero interceptions. While he can go long, he’s more likely to attempt to bludgeon the Notre Dame defense underneath.
This number represents the number of plays that the Wolfpack ran in their only loss, a 33-30 defeat by East Carolina. While the number itself isn’t necessarily important, what it represents does matter. That’s because every time that N.C. State has been able to run more plays than their opponent, they’ve been able to win. Whether the focus is on the ground or air, the main goal should be keeping the Irish defense off the field.
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The Wolfpack passing attack isn’t afraid of tempting fate when it comes to being pinned at or behind their own 20-yard line. Finley has just one incompletion in 14 attempts when he tries to pass in this area, which means tighter coverages might be in order. That’s despite the danger of getting burned for a long gain in the process.
Finley’s favorite receiver so far has been Jaylen Samuels, who’s grabbed 20 of his passes. However, the deep threat here is Stephen Louis, whose 13 catches have accounted for 328 offensive yards. That averages out to 25.23 per reception and even if his one 80-yard touchdown reception is tossed out, he’s still averaging just under 21 yards on every catch.
Any offense gets stalled when the defender can trap them behind the line, something that the Wolfpack have generally avoided in 2016. Their offensive line has allowed just five sacks and 11 runners to be tackled for a loss. Those 16 stops averaged out to four per game, which is tied for fifth-fewest for all 128 FBS teams.
The Bottom Line
With the Notre Dame defense still working to improve, expecting them to rise to the occasion against North Carolina State might be a stretch. Therefore, a heavy reliance on the offense likely represents the best chance for victory. Brian Kelly is willing to trade another scoring battle for a win, with hopes that the defense registers a pulse at this midway point.