The injury news at N.C. State has gone from bad to worse.
NC State head coach Dave Doeren confirmed Monday that linebacker Payton Wilson and safety Cyrus Fagan both suffered season-ending injuries in the game against Mississippi State on Saturday that will require surgery.
Wilson, a redshirt sophomore from Hillsborough, went down in the first half versus the Bulldogs, eventually returning to the sideline with a bag of ice on his shoulder. Fagan, a senior from Daytona Beach, Fla., went down in the second half. Fagan transferred to N.C. State from Florida State.
Doeren didn’t give many specifics during his weekly press conference with the media.
“I’m not going to get into the details,” Doeren said after announcing both players were done for the year. “Both will recover fully, but both will require surgery and it’s sad, it’s heartbreaking. There are two guys who are obviously great players, but great people who worked hard. It’s the ugly part of football. The good news is, both of them will be fine post surgery and recovering and have a chance to continue their careers.”
Wilson was a first team All-ACC performer last season after registering 108 tackles. His 10.8 tackles per game in 2020 led the ACC. Against Mississippi State, Wilson had three tackles and a sack before leaving the game in the second quarter.
On the first play of the Bulldogs’ second drive of the second quarter, Wilson tackled running back Dillon Johnson in front of the MSU bench. Wilson was slow to get up and eventually walked off on his own power. He made his way to the locker room area on the Mississippi State side of the stadium, eventually returning to the N.C. State sideline with an ice pack on his shoulder.
Wilson missed the spring as he recovered from surgery on both shoulders. He also missed the TaxSlayer Gatorbowl last year with those injuries, even though he played through the pain in the season finale against Georgia Tech.
In April, Wilson talked about playing with not one, but two shoulders out of place.
“I was in a lot of pain, but at the same time we only get 12 opportunities to play football,” Wilson said at the time. “We train all year, every day to only get 12 (games), so it’s really hard to come out of the game because we don’t get that many opportunities.”
Wilson didn’t finish the season-opener versus South Florida. He was on the sideline in full uniform, but never returned.
Fagan had two tackles versus Mississippi State. The former Seminole had an interception versus the Bulls in the opener. Last week he talked about how excited he was to have found a new home in Raleigh.
““I love it here at N.C. State,” Fagan told the media. “Just how the coaches treat you, how your teammates work with you. It has been nothing but great. I ain’t got nothing but great things to say about this place. I love it here. I’m giving my all for this place. One Pack, one goal. I live by that.”
The loss of Wilson and Fagan will have impacts beyond the field.
Wilson played with a fire and energy that he brought on every play and it appeared the rest of the team fed off of that.
His leadership and impact was felt immediately after he went down. At the time of his tackle on Johnson, the Bulldogs had failed to score an offensive touchdown and only had 51 yards of total offense. After he went down, they drove 80 yards and scored their first touchdown of the night.
Fagan brought energy to the secondary as well, taking no time to blend in with his new teammates after enrolling last spring.
“He brings a lot of energy to that back end. Having him and Tanner (Ingle) back there, it’s like two Energizer bunnies,” linebacker Isaiah Moore told the media last week. “When Cyrus came in, it was an immediate gel. He fit in well right from the get go. He came in with a mindset that he wanted to work as hard as he could, and he did that.”
While the rest of the players have to have a next man up mentality, Doeren acknowledged the team was hurt by the loss of two starters.
“There was genuine, heartfelt emotion in there about those two guys,” Doeren said. “We love those guys and we feel for them. We know what the game and the team means to them.”
The longtime coach hopes his team can channel those emotions the right way.
“I think that the pain that we all suffer from them can help us play hard for them,” Doeren said. “And I know they will.”
Next man up
So who fills in for Wilson and Fagan?
At linebacker, sophomore Jalon Scott will replace Wilson in the starting lineup. Scott started the TaxSlayer Bowl in place of Wilson a year ago, and stepped in on Saturday when Wilson went down. He finished the MSU game with two tackles. He also had two tackles, including one for a loss, in the opener versus South Florida.
“I know Jalon Scott will do everything he can,” Doeren said. “And Rakeim Ashford will do everything he can.”
Ashford, a safety, was the player mentioned by Doeren to fill in for Fagan. Sophomore Jakeen Harris was listed as the starter on the depth chart released on Monday as Fagan’s replacement.
Harris started all 12 games at safety last season, finishing with 43 tackles, seven pass breakups and one interception. He finished with three stops on Saturday. In week one, Harris and Fagan played the same amount of snaps and Doeren considered them both starters.