The play looked normal enough.
N.C. State running back Nyheim Hines tried to run through the right side of the Wolfpack offensive line. Notre Dame defensive end Daelin Hayes tackled him and linebacker Nyles Morgan helped.
At 9:36 in the first quarter, Hines got his right ankle caught under Hayes and Morgan. The junior running back limped off the field and into the locker room for an X-ray. He never came back in the game. N.C. State’s offense wasn’t the same in a 35-17 loss to the Fighting Irish.
Hines, N.C. State’s leading rusher on the season, came back out to the N.C. State sideline in the second quarter and got taped up and tried to loosen up. Hines’ day was done, though. He finished with 6 yards on two carries. He ran for 538 yards in the past five games and 648 on the season.
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After the game, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren did at least have good news about Hines’ injury.
“Losing Nyheim was a blow and fortunately it’s not a big injury,” Doeren said. “It’s just a sprain. They did X-ray him, and it was negative, but he couldn’t get back to the way he wanted to play.”
Reggie Gallaspy and Jaylen Samuels took over at running back for Hines, but N.C. State couldn’t get its ground game going. Gallaspy had 11 carries for 47 yards and Samuels finished with eight carries for 18 yards.
It was a quiet game for Samuels, N.C. State’s leader in catches and touchdowns. He caught two passes for 21 yards and was held in check by Notre Dame’s aggressive secondary.
N.C. State finished with a season-low 50 rushing yards. He didn’t have any doubt about the impact of Hines’ injury on the game.
“It hurts a lot,” Doeren said. “He’s one of the best players in the country. If you take Josh Adams out of the game, would they be different? Yeah.”
Adams ran for 202 yards and a touchdown to lead the Irish to the win.
Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio