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RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina State's defense is preparing for an entirely different challenge this week.
The Wolfpack's pass defense figures to get a test Saturday night from an Old Dominion team that is capable of throwing the ball all over the field.
Last week, N.C. State (1-0) needed a late rally to beat a ground-oriented Georgia Southern team that threw only 17 passes all day.
The Monarchs (1-0) — in their first season as a member of the Bowl Subdivision — return only four starters on offense but one of them is Walter Payton Award-winning quarterback Taylor Heinicke.
Heinicke has thrown for 11,483 yards and 102 touchdowns during his career.
"The guy's a really good player," N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said. "He doesn't throw a lot of picks, throws a ton of touchdowns, understands their offense and just has a lot of savvy to make a lot of throws, and gets out of the pocket and makes things happen."
The Wolfpack's new defensive alignment, which features five defensive backs, would appear to be better suited to stop a pass-heavy team like Old Dominion than perhaps Georgia Southern — which ran 47 times for 246 yards, had runs of 61 and 52 yards and led by 10 points in the third quarter before N.C. State rallied for a 24-23 win.
"We didn't give up the yardage we gave because of our nickel" defense, Doeren said. "We gave it up because the safety misfit a gap or a (defensive lineman) that was supposed to be on a quarterback tackled a guy instead. It had nothing to do with who was in the game at nickel."
Heinicke passed for 281 yards and three touchdowns in a season-opening victory over Hampton. Sophomore Zach Pascal caught eight passes for 99 yards while senior Antonio Vaughn pulled in nine balls for 79 yards.
"The timing was off a little bit," Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder said. "It's going to take a little but for Taylor to get in sync. ... It will be more critical this week particularly with timing of the routes because they're a solid defense."
Some things to know about N.C. State's visit from Old Dominion:
CLOSING STRONG: The Wolfpack are hoping for some carryover from their second-half comeback against Georgia Southern. N.C. State gained 306 of its 464 total yards after halftime, with new quarterback Jacoby Brissett throwing for 213 yards in the second half. "I just think he got hot," Doeren said.
TOUGH STRETCH: The reality of the move to the FBS is hitting Old Dominion, which plays 11 straight games against fellow Bowl Subdivision members. The Monarchs restarted their program in 2009 and joined Conference USA this year. "I don't know if we're quite ready but it's on the schedule, but we've got to go with it," Wilder said. Next up for Old Dominion: a visit from Eastern Michigan, followed by a trip to Rice in its C-USA debut.
UNDER-WHERE?: Nine N.C. State players caught passes against Georgia Southern but top receiver Bryan Underwood wasn't one of them. That can't happen again, Doeren says. "I was disappointed he didn't get the ball. We had some plays for him in there and just when we called them it didn't happen," Doeren said. "We haven't forgotten about him. The first thing I said to (offensive coordinator Matt) Canada after the game is that we need to make sure he's touching the ball more."
80 WASN'T GREAT-Y: Wilder says Old Dominion has "flushed" its last visit across the Virginia-North Carolina border. The Monarchs ended the 2013 season with an 80-20 loss at North Carolina, a game Wilder at the time said felt like "the worst punch in the face I've had." He now says "it's a new slate, this is a different team" and the players "don't know one game from the other last year, they just know what's in front of us."
PACK IN BLACK: N.C. State is debuting its new black uniforms, which include red wolf claw stripes on the shoulders and wolf eyes in red on the backs of the black helmets. "I wanted to make sure that it wasn't just throwing something on to throw it on and that it was something that embodied all the principles of our colors and our mascot," Doeren said.