RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State executed its plan against Wake Forest: get a fast start, play from in front, force the Demon Deacons out of what they do best.
The only hiccup? Penalties — a lot of them.
Still, N.C. State won an Atlantic Coast Conference opener under fourth-year coach Dave Doeren for the first time, beating Wake Forest 33-16 on Saturday.
Ryan Finley threw for 300 yards and three touchdowns for the Wolfpack (3-1), while Matt Dayes ran for 125 yards and a score. Dayes’ 6-yard TD started a run of four straight scoring drives by the Wolfpack, who led 17-0 after the first quarter and 23-3 early in the second.
“It was good just for us to hop on them early,” said Jaylen Samuels, who had a TD catch for the Wolfpack. “The offense, we did our job, we started fast.”
The Wolfpack finished with 527 yards against a defense ranked 12th nationally against the run and 20th in scoring defense (16.5).
“We talked about it all week: Wake’s a team that wants to play a four-quarter game,” Doeren said. “We didn’t feel like they were built offensively to catch up. We felt like they were built to control the ball, keep their defense off the field and grind you out.”
The biggest flaw? Thirteen penalties for 144 yards, both season highs.
John Wolford threw for 263 yards and a touchdown for the Demon Deacons (4-1, 1-1), who got as close as 26-16 entering the final quarter but never seriously threatened to wrestle control away from the Wolfpack.
Wake Forest was going for its first 5-0 start since 2006, which was also the last time it won in Raleigh as part of a surprise run to the ACC title.
But the Demon Deacons did themselves no favors in the red zone. Twice they settled for field goals, while another drive that reached the Wolfpack 23 also stalled and ended with a field goal.
Wolford’s 9-yard throw to Tabari Hines late in the third was the only time the Demon Deacons reached the end zone.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson called it a “just awful” red-zone performance.
“For us to beat N.C. State,” Clawson said, “we have to score more touchdowns. … They stopped us when they had to. They are a good football team.”
WAKE FOREST: The Demon Deacons’ defense can keep them in games, but there are days when the offense has to work awfully hard for its production and struggles to dig out of holes. This game only reinforced little margin for error Wake Forest has when it falls behind early and Wolford — or injured fellow starter Kendall Hinton — face steady pressure.
N.C. STATE: Does N.C. State have a penalty problem or was this one bad outing? The flags mounted for things unnecessary roughness and chop blocks — the kind of things that can’t happen as the Wolfpack go deeper into ACC play in pursuit of a bowl bid.
The Wolfpack finished with four sacks and has nine in the past two games dating to a win against Old Dominion before last week’s bye.
ONE-SIDED OF LATE
This marked the third straight season that the Wolfpack beat the Demon Deacons by double-digit margins. Two years ago, N.C. State won 42-13 here. Last year, the Wolfpack scored four 50-yard touchdowns in a put-the-game-away opening quarter of a 35-17 road win.
HINES’ BIG DAY
Hines, a sophomore from Florence, South Carolina, entered with eight catches for 101 yards this year. He finished career highs of nine catches for 125 yards in this one.
Two members of N.C. State’s band took a knee on the field and didn’t play during the national anthem.
WAKE FOREST: The Demon Deacons stay in Atlantic Division play by hosting Syracuse, who has won four straight meetings dating to the 2011 season.
N.C. STATE: N.C. State hosts Notre Dame in the second meeting between the schools, the other one coming in the Gator Bowl to end the 2002 season when Philip Rivers was the Wolfpack quarterback.