’23 Notre Dame Game Rankings #6: Irish Hit the Road for Wolfpack Matchup

Notre Dame takes on North Carolina State squad searching for bigger things.

In the third week of the 2023 season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will travel for their second road game, though this matchup will remain within American borders. Notre Dame’s foe in this clash will be the North Carolina State Wolfpack, a school they’ve only faced three times in their history, including one previous bowl matchup.

Back again on the sidelines for the Wolfpack is head coach Dave Doeren, who’s starting his 11th season at the school. During his tenure, North Carolina State has compiled a 72-54 record, with only two losing seasons. However, their bowl trips have largely taken place under the radar, with not much expected to change in that department in 2023.

North Carolina State Offense: Challenges Mixed with Potential

A new face behind center will be Virginia transfer Brennan Armstrong, who was reportedly among the available quarterbacks considered by the Irish at the start of this year. He missed the Cavaliers’ 2021 contest against Notre Dame because of a rib injury. During that season, he threw for over 4,400 yards and connected on 31 touchdown pass, evidence that he can be dangerous if he has offensive weapons at his disposal.

The Wolfpack running game will again be led by Jordan Houston, who finished last year with 544 yards and 25 receptions. However, beyond that is limited production or inexperience. Michael Allen returns after gaining 268 yards and catching 11 passes, while true freshman Kendrick Raphael hopes to make an immediate impact after averaging 12.4 yards per carry during his final high school season.

Armstrong may be challenged to find viable receiving options, with Keyon Lesane the top wideout returning after grabbing 31 passes last year, Doeren is hoping that the speed of other players helps them emerge, led by Porter Rooks and Julian Gray. There’s also Terrell Timmons, who only had three catches last year but averaged over 26 yards per grab. The tight end slot will be handled by Trent Pennix, who hopes to avoid last year’s injuries.

The Wolfpack offensive line does have a trio of returning starters with center Dylan McMahon joined by tackles Anthony Beltin and Timothy McKay. In an effort to bolster the team’s interior, Oregon transfer Dawson Jaramillo was added during the offseason at left guard, with Derrick Eason back for another year on the right side.

North Carolina State Defense: Strength in Numbers

The strength of the Wolfpack is on this side of the ball after the team allowed 19.2 points per game in 2022, putting them among the top 15 schools in that category. The 3-3-5 defense limited opposing teams’ running games and will be in evidence again, with nose tackle C.J. Clark a key player up front. Clark will be flanked by Davin Vann, who had 4.5 sacks last year, and Savion Jackson, who missed the latter half of the 2022 campaign with a knee injury.

The North Carolina State linebacking corps sustained a huge loss with the departure of Drake Thomas. The good news is that it retained outside backer Payton Wilson, who made 12.5 stops behind the line last year. Jaylon Scott will try to fill the shoes of Thomas on the other side, while Devon Betty is set to handle the middle.

Providing the Wolfpack with a one-two punch at cornerback are Aydan White and Shyheim Battle, with White leading the team last year with four interceptions that included a pick-six. The deep secondary has plenty of experience in strong safety Devan Boyking and free safety Jakeen Harris, while the nickel slot should be were transfer Robert Kennedy contributes.

North Carolina State Special Teams: Changes and Familiar Faces

Western Kentucky transfer Brayden Narveson brings a strong leg and will take over the placekicking duties. Meanwhile, Caden Noonkester is back as the team’s punter, though, unlike last year, Noonkester will have the job on a full-time basis. On the return units, Gray will again be the primary return man on kickoffs, with potential help from Houston, while punts will like be handled by the speedy freshman, Kevin Concepcion.

The Last Time Notre Dame Faced North Carolina State

A slow start in a 2017 clash found Notre Dame trailing the Wolfpack 14-7 early in the second quarter. From there, the Irish woke up to pick up a 35-14 victory and improve to 7-1 on the year. Running back Josh Adams was the driving force in that comeback, finishing with 202 yards on 27 carries, including a 77-yard touchdown run that capped the day’s scoring. The Irish defense also contributed to the point parade after Julian Love’s 69-yard interception return.

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