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College football: Syracuse a touchdown-underdog at NC State

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SYRACUSE — A week after disappointing the largest Carrier Dome crowd in 13 years, the Syracuse University football team will look to get back to .500 today at a raucous Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.

The Orange, at 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, will play seven-point favorite North Carolina State (3-2, 0-2) at 3:30 p.m.

The game will be televised on MSG Plus. The Orange and Wolfpack, along with Maryland, are the only teams in the Atlantic Division without a conference victory.

“In football, you kind of have to have short-term memory when it comes to teams like that,” said SU linebacker Marquis Spruill, referring to SU’s 49-14 loss to No. 3 Clemson last Saturday.

The lone bright spot in that loss, from SU coach Scott Shafer’s perspective, is that the Orange was able to establish its run game.

The team ran for a season-high 323 yards and both of its touchdowns came via the run — one each from Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley.

“We were extremely disappointed because we felt like we let the fans down,” Shafer said. “But, there were positives in the run game. Everyone talks about the running backs but those offensive linemen played good.”

“Had some ugly ones too,” he added. “Any time you play a talented team you’re going to have some ugly mixed in with the good. But across the board, I thought the offensive line did some really good things and we’re going to have to be equally as strong against this (NC State) front.”

The Orange has topped 200 rushing yards in two of the last three games, and its per-game average of 192.4 is on pace to be its best since 2000, when it averaged 207. Smith, the starter, is tied for the ACC lead with eight touchdowns.

“That is the personality of their team,” first-year Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “They want to stop the run on defense. They want to run the ball on offense and they sell out to do both.”

NC State ranks second in the ACC and 17th nationally in rush defense, giving up just 107.6 rushing yards per game.

Two of NC State’s first three opponents have been held to less than 100 yards on the ground.

“For us, it’s going to be a challenge. We’re looking forward to that opportunity,” Doeren added.

Offensively, the Wolfpack could be at full strength for the first time all season.

Quarterback Brandon Mitchell is a game-time decision to return for NC State, which has averaged just 13 points in its two ACC games.

The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., reported on Friday that Mitchell impressed coaches during practice this week.

Doeren said in the report: “His mobility (Thursday) was the best we’ve seen so far. He’s close. I’ve got to see him on gameday.”

Mitchell has been sidelined since the season opener when he broke a bone in his left foot.

Leading rusher Matt Dayes is also expected to return for the Wolfpack, as are wide receivers Rashard Smith and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who, respectively, rank second and third on the team in catches.

“Every week you insert a new guy into the lineup, and it’s hard to be the same team week-in and week-out when your lineup changes every week,” Doeren said. “I think that is the biggest issue (for us).”

SU will play at Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-2) a week from today before a bye week.

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