Dayes, Wolfpack chase bowl eligibility against Hurricanes

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Matt Dayes has been determined all season to be North Carolina State’s first 1,000-yard rusher in more than a decade and get the Wolfpack back to a bowl.

Both goals are within reach Saturday against Miami in the team’s home finale.

The senior is 61 yards away from becoming the program’s first runner to gain 1,000 yards in a season since T.A. McLendon did it in 2002. And considering the Wolfpack’s offense has run its best when Dayes is moving the chains, he’s likely to get a heavy load as N.C. State (5-5, 2-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) tries to become bowl eligible for the third straight year.

“Obviously we’re always trying to establish the line of scrimmage,” offensive coordinator Eli Drinkwitz said. “We’re just trying to find ways to win football games and move the ball up and down the field. And Matt’s a very effective way to do that.”

Dayes, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is the league’s No. 3 rusher at 93.9 yards per game to go with seven scores and a 4.8 yards-per-carry average. More than half of his yards have come after contact, a sign that Dayes isn’t afraid to run through tackles.

He has seven 100-yard performances in 10 games this year, including last week’s 108-yard day with three touchdowns.

Miami (6-4, 3-3) enters this game near the middle of the ACC in rushing defense (140.2) and holding opponents to 3.5 yards per carry, but the Hurricanes rank 13th nationally in scoring defense (19.3 points).

“That hasn’t happened for them in a while,” Miami coach Mark Richt said of Dayes’ run for 1,000, “and I know they’re probably trying to knock that out this game. That’ll be a challenge for our guys.”

Miami has already secured bowl eligibility in its first season under Richt, and has bounced back with from a four-game losing streak with two straight wins.

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Some other things to know about Saturday’s Miami-N.C. State game:

STYLE CLASH? Miami likes to be a quick-hitting offense and N.C. State is fine with a more methodical tempo-controlling approach. The Wolfpack had two touchdown drives of at least 6 minutes against Syracuse last week alone — while Miami has had only one such drive in the entire season. “They will definitely take what you give them, I can definitely say that,” Miami defensive back Rayshawn Jenkins said.

MOVING AGAIN: Miami has racked up 85 points and 984 yards in the past two games after failing to reach 30 points during its four-game skid. “We blocked better, we executed most everything better, and we started a little faster,” Richt said. “We didn’t get behind.”

KAAYA WATCH: Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya comes into the game with 9,004 career yards, 482 shy of tying Ken Dorsey for No. 1 on the Hurricanes’ all-time list. And he might need to be very sharp on Saturday, since N.C. State has allowed opponents only 3.0 yards per carry this season. The Hurricanes will test that with perhaps the ACC’s best 1-2 rushing punch in Mark Walton and Joe Yearby; they’ve combined for 5.7 yards per rush.

INTANGIBLES: Richt said having a team that’s pursuing bowl eligibility can make it “easier to motivate your team.” Throw in the fact that it’s the Wolfpack’s Senior Day, and the coach knows his Hurricanes will face a tough test. “There’s a lot of motivation that’s kind of naturally built into this thing for them, and we have our reasons to be excited too now,” Richt said. “But two of those reasons right there, I think, play to their advantage.”

RIVALS, SORT OF: Most ACC teams in opposite divisions don’t meet very often, and this is Miami’s first visit to Raleigh since the final game of the 2008 regular season. The Hurricanes have played road games in 26 other cities since that trip eight years ago. No current N.C. State player has ever faced Miami.

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