Thomas emerges as N.C. State's starting QB in 40-14 win
N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren had been secretive about who would start at quarterback in Saturday’s season opener against Louisiana Tech, not publicly announcing his decision until gametime.
Arkansas graduate transfer Brandon Mitchell got the nod and immediately impressed, completing each of his three passes for 93 yards while leading the Wolfpack to scoring drives on its first two possessions.
But Mitchell went down with a foot injury on his third series and didn’t return, putting a damper on a 40-14 win for N.C. State in Doeren’s debut. Mitchell broke a bone in his foot and is expected to miss at least four weeks.
Colorado State junior transfer Pete Thomas, who Mitchell beat out in preseason camp, was next in line, one of four Wolfpack quarterbacks who took their first snaps Saturday.
“Coach always preaches, ‘Next man up,’” said Thomas, who finished 15-of-27 for 212 yards with one interception. “You have to be ready to do your job. Brandon is a great competitor, a great friend. But when Coach called my number, I just had to be ready and just help the team any way I can.”
A pair of freshmen also lined up under center for N.C. State. New Bern’s Josh Taylor was 0-for-1 passing and Jefferson, Ga. native Bryant Shirreffs didn’t attempt a pass, but ran for 35 yards.
None of the N.C. State quarterbacks connected for touchdowns although receivers Rashard Smith, a senior, and freshman Marquez Valdes-Scantling had 82 and 87 yards receiving, respectively.
Doeren said he opted for Mitchell because of the things he can do with his feet. Mitchell ran for 19 yards including a scamper of 10 yards before exiting.
“Obviously, that’s not something I planned on, but it worked good for us I guess,” Doeren said of playing four quarterbacks. “I’m real proud of Pete. He came in and did what he needed to do.”
Johnson expected to see time under center Saturday despite losing the starting job earlier this week. He said his preparation in practice won’t change any now that Mitchell is out.
Valdes-Scantling, one of 11 true freshman to see action for N.C. State, had four catches with a long reception of 26 yards.
“It doesn’t even matter,” Valdes-Scantling said about the uncertainty at quarterback. “Any quarterback that we have is good. The redshirts, the walk-ons — anybody. They all can throw and we all accept them as our quarterback. We just go out there and play.”
Weston, Fla. freshman Matt Dayes led the Wolfpack with 86 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Tony Creecy added another score on the ground with last year’s leading rusher Shadrach Thornton out on a one-game suspension.
Former East Carolina head coach Skip Holtz also made his debut for Louisiana Tech. Holtz went 16-21 at South Florida before replacing Sonny Dykes in Ruston, La.
The Bulldogs had four turnovers Saturday, three of which came in the first half as N.C. State took a 24-7 lead into halftime.
The Wolfpack hosts FCS opponent Richmond next week.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.