Well folks, the easy-breezy start against a trying-to-rebuild Navy squad and a not-good FCS team is officially over, and it’s now officially time for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team to begin playing Power-5 competition, beginning this Saturday in Raleigh with the first road trip of the season. The opponent, obviously, will be the NC State Wolfpack — who are fresh off a 24-14 victory over the Jim Mora Jr.-coached UConn Huskies in their season opener.
So what should we know about these guys heading into this first real challenge of the season for the Irish? How much can we glean from a sluggish start against UConn, and what else is there to learn from insiders who follow head coach Dave Doeren’s program much closer?
For a lot of these ACC opponents whom the Irish have played previously in my time covering the Irish for One Foot Down, I have contacts from certain opponent sites I reach out to for these Q&As. For this week, I was a bit delayed in reaching out to folks due to the long weekend, and that long weekend also delayed response time. So, panicking that I wouldn’t have a Q&A at all for this week, I reached out to a few other NC State sites to see if anyone else could help shed some light on this opponent.
Boy, did I hit the jackpot — I got responses from multiple folks, meaning we’ve got ourselves a 2-part Q&A this week with two separate writers taking on the challenge of answering questions about wolves, off-campus facilities, mascot marriages, and The Andy Griffith Show (you know, the typical lineup of OFD Twitter follower FAN QUESTIONS).
This article will serve as Part Two, featuring the insights and responses of James Henderson, Owner of Inside Pack Sports. James has over 15 years experience covering NC State athletics and handles day-to-day operations at the site, focusing largely on football, basketball, and recruiting. They’ve got some fantastic stuff going on over there and you won’t find a better place to get all the insight and analysis you could need about Wolfpack sports.
So, I won’t make you wait any longer to dive in — James was asked the same bundle of questions as Essad Malik was asked in Part One, so let’s jump into it to see what additional insight we should know about Dave Doeren’s dudes and if he has any different takes on some of your...more off-the-wall questions.
1. Dave Doeren has been at the helm of the program for over a decade now — how do NC State fans feel about him as head coach? Is he the guy for the foreseeable future, or are the Wolfpack faithful looking for a change sooner rather than later?
James Henderson (Inside Pack Sports): I think it’s been an interesting dynamic because early on there were reservations with Doeren, but his ability to mold and re-build his program has put him on as solid footing as ever. There really is very little displeasure with Doeren at this point.
Yes, it is his program right now moving forward.
2. NC State opened the year with a 24-14 win over UConn — did that go as expected, or was that a sluggish/disappointing opener? After seeing that game, what’s the season outlook for the Wolfpack?
James Henderson (Inside Pack Sports): I don’t ever make judgements on a season one way or another after one week and especially week one. UConn was a tricky spot for State, on the road with Notre Dame looming, and State took care of business.
It was a clinical performance, but the lack of explosives offensively left question marks. Personally, a lot of that was due to the coverages being used by UConn, but State fans certainly want to see more big plays this week versus the Irish.
3. How’s Brennan Armstrong looking so far for the Wolfpack, and who are the key weapons he has to work with this season? Do you think the NC State offense will be able to consistently move the ball against a pretty deep but untested ND defense?
James Henderson (Inside Pack Sports): Brennan was really good in the opener. He managed the game, excelled with his legs, and led an offense that had just one penalty and zero turnovers. He’s a competitor.
I think that is the million dollar question for me... how will NC State’s offense fare versus the Irish because I’m not sure if they showed a lot against UConn. For instance, projected playmaker Trent Pennix only played six snaps in the game... I expect him to play more this weekend.
4. What are the strengths and weaknesses on the defensive side of the ball for NC State, and if you had to pick 2-3 guys whose performances will determine how successful the Wolfpack are at stopping Sam Hartman and co., whom would you choose?
James Henderson (Inside Pack Sports): NC State has playmakers on all three levels, future NFL players in my opinion. Davin Vann is a force at defensive end, Payton Wilson is one of the top linebackers in the country, and the same could be said for corner Aydan White.
The Pack’s very familiar with Sam Hartman having faced him the last three seasons at Wake Forest. They know his tendencies and his strengths and weaknesses as a passer. With that being said, priority No. 1 will be stopping the running game. That’s always the focus for State, and it certainly will be on Saturday.
5. FAN QUESTION:
Is there any desire among the students/fans to move football and/or basketball to on-campus facilities? As a student, taking a bus to sporting events seems like it would get old quick.— Harry Joe (@Joseph_Socks) September 3, 2023
James Henderson (Inside Pack Sports): Yes, students would want that I’m sure and previously Reynolds Coliseum was on campus, but in today’s world, money talks and State has terrific facilities right now with Carter-Finley Stadium and PNC Arena.
6. FAN QUESTION:
When Andy and Barney used to run up to Raleigh, what was their favorite diner? pic.twitter.com/lpY2i0G0hd— ND1n93 (@nd1n93) September 3, 2023
James Henderson (Inside Pack Sports): I don’t know the answer to that one :)
7. FAN QUESTION:
What does it say about the NC State program that it accepts a fake poser (Tamaskan dog) masquerading as a ferocious wolf for its mascot?— poz (@push_to_poz) September 4, 2023
Is the Wolfpack perhaps not as ferocious as some would have us believe? Does the Wolfpack actually just want to roll over for belly rubs?
James Henderson (Inside Pack Sports): You prefer a live wolf on Notre Dame’s sideline this weekend?
8. FAN QUESTION:
Do you consider yourself a one-man wolfpack?— Mike Marchand (@irishmikecomedy) September 3, 2023
James Henderson (Inside Pack Sports): Not at all!
9. What’s the story on Mr. Wuf and Mrs. Wuf — do they ever go on double dates with Mr. Met and Mrs. Met? Should Notre Dame look into getting a Mrs. Leprechaun to go with their seemingly lifelong bachelor Mr. Leprechaun?
James Henderson (Inside Pack Sports): Every man needs a good woman. Hook Mr. Leprechaun up!
10. Alright, let’s get down to it — who wins the game, what is the final score, and why do you think that?
James Henderson (Inside Pack Sports): I’ve had NC State winning this game prior to the start of the season and I’m not changing my pick now. It’s not a popular pick, but I think this game is a 50/50 ballgame and I’m going with the home team.
NC State’s defensive front will play a role along with the crowd, and I’m really interested to see which skill position players stand out because both teams have strong secondaries.
Final score... 27-24 State.
Alright everybody, I want to give James a massive shout-out and thank you for answering all our questions on a very tight timeline and giving us some great insight into this game and program.
I encourage you all to head over to Inside Pack Sports to check out their coverage heading into, during, and after this game, and also recommend you give James and the site a follow on their Twitter to stay on top of their analysis and commentary as the game unfolds.
That’s it for this week — per usual, GO IRISH, BEAT WOLFPACK!!!