• 66°

NC State, South Carolina meet in Charlotte

By Aaron Beard

AP Sports Writer

RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren spent the offseason touting the Wolfpack’s depth and experience. Now his team gets a Saturday opener against a power-conference opponent — South Carolina in Charlotte — in the first test of whether the program is ready to take a leap in his fifth season.

“This is what we’ve been building,” senior Jaylen Samuels said. “This is what everybody has been waiting for.”

N.C. State (7-6) returns 18 starters from last year, including 11 seniors for the program’s highest number in at least a quarter-century. The list of returnees is headlined by quarterback Ryan Finley and a veteran defensive front led by defensive end Bradley Chubb, a preseason Associated Press all-America first-team pick.

Doeren figures it’s the right time for his program, considered a dark horse in a top-heavy Atlantic Coast Conference division, to open against a power-conference opponent for the first time in his tenure.

“I definitely feel as confident as I’ve felt about our depth,” Doeren said.

The Gamecocks (6-7) are in a different spot, coming off a three-year stretch in which they’ve gone 16-22. Coach Will Muschamp closed his first season frustrated by his team’s inability to consistently run the ball against the best competition or stop the run at key moments.

South Carolina boasts a returning quarterback in Jake Bentley, who started the last seven games of his freshman season, and has won 16 of 17 season openers.

“I think we’ve had a good camp, but talk is cheap,” Muschamp said. “We’ve got to go play on Saturday afternoon and play well, and that’s what we plan on doing.”

•••

Some other things to know about Saturday’s matchup between the Wolfpack and Gamecocks:

BENTLEY BALL: South Carolina’s Jake Bentley began last year as a likely redshirt but starts this year as the center of the Gamecocks’ rising hopes. Bentley rallied the team to a 4-2 finish in the regular season to make a bowl game, a huge accomplishment for a team that went 3-9 a season earlier when coach Steve Spurrier resigned in the middle of the year.

WISE MOVE: N.C. State hopes graduate transfer Carson Wise solves its kicking woes. Wise, who played previously at Division II Carson-Newman, will start over Kyle Bambard — who made just 12 of 24 field goals in two seasons and missed a 33-yarder to beat Clemson last year. Bambard will handle kickoffs. “He’s just really level-headed,” coach Dave Doeren said of Wise. “That’s been impressive. So I’m excited to see him in the stadium, and obviously gameday is where it counts the most.”

MOORE RETURNS: South Carolina senior linebacker Skai Moore returns after missing last season because of neck fusion surgery to fix a herniated disc. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound Moore was the team’s leading tackler in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He can become the first in program history to do it all four years with a similar season this year. Moore is also returning to Bank of America Stadium, where he had two interceptions in the end zone to help beat North Carolina in 2015.

RUNNING GAMES: Both teams are likely to split carries. South Carolina coach Will Muschamp listed three running backs as starters in leading rusher Rico Dowdle, speedster A.J. Turner and North Carolina transfer Ty’Son Williams. As for N.C. State, the Wolfpack will use speedster Nyheim Hines, Reggie Gallaspy II and Dakwa Nichols at running back — and probably versatile threat Jaylen Samuels, too — to replace 1,100-yard rusher Matt Dayes.

SECONDARY QUESTION: N.C. State has a veteran line backed by returning linebackers in Airius Moore and Jerod Fernandez, but the secondary is a question. That’s especially true with starting cornerback Mike Stevens out due to what coach Dave Doeren described as a lower-leg injury.

___

AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli contributed to this report from Columbia, South Carolina.

___

More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

___

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Comments

Crime

Blotter: Concord man faces drug charges after hotel disturbance call

Crime

Rockwell teen charged with rape of a 14-year-old girl

Crime

Police: Charlotte man caught stealing funeral home employee’s truck

Local

Rowan Social Services director takes new job in New Hanover County; Heidrick to retire

Ask Us

Ask us: Will masks be required in Rowan County polling locations?

Elections

Political Notebook: Tillis, Cunningham differ on when to fill SCOTUS vacancy

Local

Local state trooper, firefighter returns home after Army deployment

Local

Blast from the past: Concordia Lutheran Church opens time capsule from previous century

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man charged with damaging video camera, tresspassing

Crime

North Carolina man faces over 300 sex-related charges

News

Coastal flooding along Outer Banks closes roads

Nation/World

GOP hopeful Supreme Court battle will help shift election

Education

‘Better chance of succeeding’: Moody, colleagues reflect on tenure, retirement

News

Collecting garbage: Locals work to beautify High Rock Lake during Clean Sweep

Coronavirus

Salisbury man grateful parents’ story has impacted many

News

Celtics take big lead and hold on to top Heat 117-106

Business

Downtown Salisbury ‘moving swiftly’ with developers interested in Empire Hotel

Business

From fantasy to fact, Cherry builds a Hobbit House at his Treesort

Business

Biz Roundup: CSP seeking to hire 100 new employees for plant expansion

Coronavirus

Police, sheriff focus on education in addressing mask-wearing complaints

Education

Candidates for East Area school board seat have widely different views on renewal

Kannapolis

Cannon Mills’ whistle sounds again, brings nostalgia with it

Coronavirus

UPDATED: Outbreak at jail annex over; new cases emerge at Kannapolis facility

Elections

In Senate race, Tillis calibrates ties to Trump