Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren spent the weeks leading up to the season repeatedly saying his Wolfpack team was ready for a big step forward after years of building depth and experience.

Halfway through the schedule, his team is proving him right.

Nyheim Hines ran for two touchdowns while the defense slowed reigning Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson to help No. 24 North Carolina State beat No. 17 Louisville, 39-25, on Thursday night.

“Told our team it was coming, told y’all it was coming, some of you believed me, some of you didn’t,” Doeren said. “But I’m really excited and you can just feel it right now in our locker room. They believe they’re the best team. And they’re playing hard and they’re playing together and they’re tough — and it’s fun, a lot of fun.”

The Wolfpack (5-1, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) got contributions throughout the lineup. Hines ran for 102 yards and had a 48-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter to set up a touchdown drive. Ryan Finley directed a passing attack that posted two 100-yard receivers and a third player who finished with 99 yards.

Then there was the defensive front — led by preseason Associated Press All-American Bradley Chubb — that kept the pressure on Jackson. Jackson ran for two scores and threw a touchdown pass, but the Wolfpack sacked him four times and got a clinching interception return for a touchdown late to close out the Cardinals (4-2, 1-2).

“We come into every game knowing nobody can beat us if we go out there and play Wolfpack football,” said Jaylen Samuels, who had 104 yards receiving. “The confidence is very high. We know what we’ve got and what we can accomplish.”

Finley threw for 367 yards and a 48-yard score to Kelvin Harmon, part of N.C. State’s 520 total yards on a night it never trailed.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Cardinals coach Bobby Petrino said. “I’m not getting it done. I’ve got to do a better job with our coaches, do a better job with our players and get back on the right track.”

Nebraska champs yearn for title days

The vibe around Nebraska football is eerily similar to what it was like the last time the Cornhuskers’ 1997 national championship team gathered in Lincoln for a reunion.

That was in 2007. On a gloomy afternoon, and with the men who were part of Tom Osborne’s mid-1990s dominance in attendance, Bill Callahan’s Huskers lost 45-14 to Oklahoma State in what then was the most lopsided home loss since 1958. The athletic director who hired Callahan, Steve Pederson, was fired the following Monday. Osborne was named interim AD the next day, and Callahan was fired at the end of a 5-7 season.

This weekend, players, coaches and staff members from the ’97 team are expected to be on hand for their 20-year reunion, and they’ll attend Saturday night’s game against ninth-ranked Wisconsin (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten). Athletic director Shawn Eichorst, who hired third-year coach Mike Riley, was fired two weeks ago. Former Huskers great Dave Rimington has taken over as interim AD, and Riley’s status is very much in question as the Huskers (3-2, 2-2) enter a crucial stretch of games.

Frank Solich was fired in 2003 by Pederson with the approval of now-retired chancellor Harvey Perlman after he went 58-19 in six years. Since then, the Huskers have lost no fewer than four games in a season under three different coaches and three athletic directors.

“Nebraska started to lose its way when Frank Solich was let go,” said Matt Davison, whose “Miracle at Missouri” catch helped keep the ’97 Huskers unbeaten during a 13-0 campaign. “Nebraska football has always been trying to find itself since then.”

Gators to honor Petty

No. 21 Florida will pay tribute to Gainesville native Tom Petty during its game against LSU on Saturday.

The Gators will play Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” at the end of the third quarter at Florida Field.

Petty died Monday. He was 66.