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NC State turns to Morris at QB over Armstrong ahead of Marshall game

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State is changing quarterbacks after a bumpy month with a new offense.

Coach Dave Doeren said Monday the team is elevating sophomore MJ Morris to the starting job instead of Virginia graduate transfer Brennan Armstrong for this weekend's game against Marshall.

“What this team needs right now is a spark,” Doeren said during his virtual news conference. "I do believe MJ can be that for our offense. But let me make this clear: changing the quarterback, everyone has to be better. This isn’t throwing Brennan under the bus and pinning it on him. it’s the opposite. It starts with me, and I own that. Everyone has to be what changes.”

The announcement comes three days after the Wolfpack struggled again to consistently move the ball in Friday night's 13-10 home loss to Louisville. The offense ranks in the bottom third of the Bowl Subdivision statistics in the first year under coordinator Robert Anae, while Armstrong hasn't found the anything approaching the form that made him the nation's No. 2 passer (404.5 yards per game) in the scheme just two years ago despite reuniting with Anae.

Armstrong, who struggled last year under a new coaching staff at Virginia, has completed just 59% of his passes with five touchdowns and six interceptions through five games for N.C. State (3-2).

Doeren's plan had been to redshirt Morris, who started two games last year as a true freshman and led a comeback win against Virginia Tech in a relief role.

“Plans sometimes need to change, and the time is now because it's what's best for our team," Doeren said.

N.C. State has averaged just 20.5 points and 307 yards while converting 40.3% of third downs in its four games against FBS opponents, with the overall season statistics inflated by a 45-7 win against VMI of the Championship Subdivision ranks. The Louisville game was particularly troubling, with Armstrong repeatedly missing throws that gave an already-untested receiver group little chance to make a play while the offensive line was shaky in protecting Armstrong from hits.

N.C. State managed 201 total yards and went 3 for 14 on third down against the Cardinals.

Morris made a splash last year when he came off the bench to throw for three second-half touchdowns, helping N.C. State rally from 18 down to beat Virginia Tech 22-21. He followed that by throwing for three more scores to lead a win against Wake Forest, becoming the first true freshman to start at QB for the Wolfpack since eventual longtime NFL passer Philip Rivers in 2000.

But Morris was knocked from the game against Boston College the following week by injury and missed the final three games.

Doeren said Morris had spent the spring working to pick up Anae's offense, with the Wolfpack seemingly positioned to let Armstrong be a one-year bridge with his experience in the scheme.

But Doeren said Morris is ready — and the Wolfpack can't wait.


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