Hurricane redux? NC State football prepares for the worst

The last time N.C. State’s football team played in a hurricane, it won.

It was 2016 and it was also the last time N.C. State had a name-brand nonconference opponent visit Carter-Finley Stadium.

Through a constant rainfall, and an accumulation of eight inches of water on the playing surface, the Wolfpack found a way to outlast Notre Dame 10-3.

The N.C. State players, and coaches, memorably celebrated by turning midfield into a Slip ’N Slide. It was, given the result, kinda fun for N.C. State. But is coach Dave Doeren interested in another sogfest?

“That was a unique challenge two years ago,” Doeren said on Monday at his weekly press conference. “It would be hard to imagine playing in that again. If we do, our guys will definitely have had an experience like that to relate to.”

Hurricane Florence is projected to hit North Carolina on Thursday. Officials from N.C. State, West Virginia and the ACC are tracking the storm’s path and making plans accordingly.

West Virginia’s ability to safely travel to Raleigh will be the first component of a complex equation, which includes player safety, fan safety and the ACC’s television obligations.

The game could be moved up, postponed until Sunday or canceled (since the two teams don’t have the same open date on their schedule, finding a makeup date will be difficult).

There’s another potential option: In 2016 (during Matthew), SEC members Florida and LSU worked out a complicated deal to “flip” home sites.

The two teams were scheduled to play at Florida that season but the game was moved to Baton Rouge, La. The next year the teams met in Gainesville, Fla.

N.C. State and West Virginia are scheduled to meet next year in Morgantown. The window to pull that off would be difficult and there’s also the possibility that Florence could hit the West Virginia campus.

Doeren said Monday he’s preparing the team to be ready for the scheduled 3:30 p.m. kickoff on Saturday in Raleigh.

“We’re expecting to play and proceeding and planning like we will until somebody says we won’t,” Doeren said.

Part of that preparation unintentionally came in April when the Wolfpack played its spring game in a driving rain storm.

Quarterback Ryan Finley actually used the rain-soaked scrimmage as a chance to get reps for any potential bad-weather games this season.

“Ryan did throw the ball well in the rain,” Doeren said. “For him, mentally, that probably is a big deal. I don’t think we caught the ball well that day but for him that’s a big deal.”

If Florence brings the rain, and the game goes on, it could dramatically alter both offenses. West Virginia, with senior quarterback Will Grier, runs its version of the “Air Raid” spread. Grier, a senior from Charlotte, threw for 429 yards and five touchdowns in the Mountaineers’ 40-14 rout of Tennessee in the season-opener in Charlotte on Sept. 1.

The Mountaineers ranked No. 13 in the country last year in passing offense, despite missing Grier for two games with a hand injury.

Finley has been N.C. State’s best option on offense with the run-game struggling. The Wolfpack quarterback threw for 309 yards in the opener against James Madison and 370 last week against Georgia State.

A big key to the win over Notre Dame in 2016 was the running of backup quarterback Jalan McClendon. It didn’t hurt that Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly decided to attempt 26 passes in a hurricane, either (compared to 14 for N.C. State).

“If we get (heavy rain), we’ll have a plan — our monsoon plan I guess as we call it — do the best we can do in the conditions and try to take care of the football,” Doeren said.

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