RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina State was confident it could go into Starkville on Saturday night and beat a tough Mississippi State squad from a league the Wolfpack has had little success against. Instead, not only did the Pack lose to the Bulldogs, extending the program’s misery versus the SEC, but it also lost star linebacker Payton Wilson to a season-ending injury.
“It’s the ugly part of football,” said N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren, who also announced graduate safety Cyrus Fagan will miss the rest of the season. “I know there was genuine, heartfelt emotion in there about those two guys.
“We love those two guys. We feel for them and know what the game means to them. And so, yeah, I think that pain we all suffer for them can help us play hard for them.”
Doeren said sophomore Jaylen Scott would step into Wilson’s spot and that former Heritage High School star Drake Thomas will now be a defensive captain, along with Isaiah Moore.
Sophomore Rakeim Ashford, who started against Wake Forest last year and had a season-ending injury in that game, will take over for Fagan.
Wilson, though, is a huge loss for the Wolfpack. A preseason All-American, the former Orange High School star led the ACC a year ago in tackles per game with 10.8. In 2019, he led the Wolfpack in tackles despite not starting to begin the year.
“It’s just challenging for anyone,” Doeren said. “We’re going to all take the same mentality of it’s the next man’s opportunity, and I know Jaylen Scott will do everything he can.
“It’s part of, not just football, it’s part of life. We all lose things we expect to have on a day-to-day basis and how you step up around them, you do it as a family, and that’s what we have to do as a team.”
The Wolfpack is back in action Saturday, hosting Furman at 7:30 p.m.