N.C. State 2011 Spring Preview

A detailed look on what to expect this spring for the N.C. State Wolfpack.

NC State Wolfpack

2011 CFN Prediction: 0-0
2011 Record:

Sept. 3 Liberty
Sept. 10 at Wake Forest
Sept. 17 South Alabama
Sept. 22 at Cincinnati
Oct. 1 Georgia Tech
Oct. 8 Central Michigan
Oct. 22 at Virginia
Oct. 29 at Florida State
Nov. 5 North Carolina
Nov. 12 at Boston College
Nov. 19 Clemson
Nov. 26 Maryland

2010 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2010 Record: 9-4

Sept. 4 W. Carolina W 48-7
Sept. 11 at UCF W 28-21
Sept. 16 Cincinnati W 30-19
Sept. 25 at Georgia Tech  W 45-28
Oct. 2 Virginia Tech L 41-30
Oct. 9 Boston College W 44-17
Oct. 16 at E Carolina L 33-27 OT
Oct. 28 Florida State W 28-24
Nov. 6 at Clemson L 14-13
Nov. 13 Wake Forest W 38-3
Nov. 20 at North Carolina W 29-25
Nov. 27 at Maryland L 38-31
Dec. 28 West Virginia W 23-7
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Spring Practice Begins: March 17
Game: April 16

The early spring buzz ... Although nothing has been made official quite yet, the Wolfpack is preparing as if last season was the final one for star QB Russell Wilson. While most schools lose prized players to the NFL, State is taking a backseat to Major League Baseball and specifically the Colorado Rockies, who drafted Wilson last June. Head coach Tom O'Brien will always leave the door often, but the program will begin spring drills assuming that the time has finally arrived for fourth-year junior Mike Glennon to get his opportunity to lead the offense.

The big spring question is ... What can Pack fans and the rest of the ACC expect from Glennon? After signing in 2008 as one of the nation's most decorated recruits, he's had to sit patiently and watch Wilson pile up the numbers and the accolades. However, a lack of experience, just 52 career passing attempts, does not mean he'll need a year to adapt to a promotion. He's been around the system long enough and has the requisite physical skills to have a breakout debut as the starter, assuming Wilson doesn't return. A 6-6, 225-pounder, he can make all the throws and has the intangible qualities to be a team leader.

The most important position to watch is ... the receivers. If Glennon is going to fulfill his potential in 2011, he'll need a lot of help from his supporting cast. Unfortunately, last year's top four receivers, including all-star WR Owen Spencer and TE George Bryan, have run out of eligibility. The tattered corps will be built around senior T.J. Graham, who caught 25 passes for 316 yards and four touchdowns last fall. Steven Howard and Jay Smith are also veteran options, but some of the kids, like Quintin Payton, will get a chance to assume a much bigger role.

Spring attitude... After finally breaking through under O'Brien, the Wolfpack hopes to maintain that momentum in 2011. Even if the program doesn't have the services of Wilson, it feels as if the offense will continue to move the ball effectively and put points on the board. The concern, as is often the case in Raleigh, rests with the defense. While there were clear signs of improvement last year, the secondary remained spotty and the graduation of LB Nate Irving leaves a gaping void that'll be tough to fill.

2010 Offensive Player of the Year … QB Russell Wilson
2010 Defensive Player of the Year … LB Nate Irving

The Best Moment Was … Defeating Florida State on national TV, 28-24. Considering the track record, beating the Seminoles is always special, particularly at home on a Thursday night. This was an ideal venue for showing the country how well the program was playing in 2010.

The Worst Moment Was … Falling to Maryland, 38-31, on the final weekend of the regular season. Not only did it end the Pack's quest for a 10-win season, but it kept it from winning the Atlantic Division and facing Virginia Tech in the ACC title game.

The Biggest Surprise … The play of the defense. Sure, they gave up yards and were vulnerable through the air, but State made up for it with a ton of big plays, ranking fourth nationally in sacks and No. 18 in takeaways.

The Biggest Disappointment … The offensive line. Yeah, it was a question mark entering the season, but did nothing to quell those concerns. The unit yielded more sacks than any other ACC team and opened holes for the league's No. 11 ground game.

Looking Ahead … Wilson has one more year of eligibility left, but will he use it or focus exclusively on his baseball career? Backup Mike Glennon has a bright future, but No. 16 is a proven difference-maker that the program would love to have for one more season.

Why To Get Excited … With its most wins since 2002, NC State has rare momentum and confidence, which should bleed into recruiting and the 2011 season. If Wilson does come back, which doesn't appear to be happening, he'll have plenty of weapons, including young back Mustafa Greene, who showed flashes of greatness as a possible key to the offense.

Why To Be Grouchy … The graduation of LB Nate Irving leaves a gaping hole on defense. A star in his return from a life-threatening car accident, he racked up 92 tackles and 21.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. Making matters more difficult is that QB Russell Wilson almost certainly won't be back. He's the type of player who can carry the Pack to a special year

The Number One Thing To Work On … The offensive line. A perennial problem in Raleigh, Tom O'Brien and his staff have to do a better job with this group considering a new quarterback will likely need time to figure out what he's doing. Jake Vermiglio needs to be replaced at left tackle, but a handful of other regulars return with experience.

Biggest Offensive Loss … WR Owen Spencer
Biggest Defensive Loss … Irving
Best Returning Offensive Player … WR T.J. Graham
Best Returning Defensive Player … DT J.R. Sweezy

The 2011 Recruiting Class Is Heavy On … Linebackers. There aren't a ton of great ones in a generally mediocre class, but the hope is for strength in numbers with Mike Rose and Brandon Pittman two safety-sized defenders with the potential to be excellent with a little bit of time. The defensive line got help with Ty McGill for the inside and Dave Mann on the end, and quarterback Brian Taylor and WR Hakeem Flowers will be asked to be the star pitch-catch combo by 2013, but overall the star power isn't there.

Five NC State Recruits You Should Care About
Player writeups by Scout.com

1. QB Brian Taylor
A two-year starter for Harnett Central, Taylor is one of North Carolina's top quarterbacks in the 2011 class. He missed half his sophomore season with a leg injury but still managed to account for nearly 1,500 yards of total offense and 20 touchdowns (13 passing, seven rushing). He was also an all-conference selection in basketball and baseball during his sophomore year.

2. DT Chris Jones
6-5, 260, Scout.com's 47th ranked defensive tackle

3. K Niklas Sade
6-1, 190, Scout.com's 3rd ranked placekicker

4. P Wil Baumann
6-3, 185, Scout.com's 3rd ranked punter

5. WR Hakeem Flowers
Flowers does a lot of the little things well at wide receiver. He catches the ball well, he uses his length to his advantage, he runs good routes, and he is very consistent. He needs to improve his down field speed, his quickness off the ball, and getting better separation. He is a possession type of receiver, but a good one.

2011 Entire Recruiting Class

Alex Barr 6-7 302 Offensive Line Fayetteville, Ga. Starr's Mill HS
Wil Baumann 6-4 190 Punter Wilmington, N.C. J.T. Hoggard HS
Benson Browne 6-5 240 Tight End Cincinnati, Ohio Walnut Hills HS
Juston Burris 6-1 185 Athlete Raleigh, N.C. Needham Broughton HS
Tyrrell Burriss 5-11 185 Defensive Back Daytona Beach, Fla. Mainland HS
Hakeem Flowers 6-3 182 Wide Receiver Simpsonville, S.C. Wade Hampton HS
McKay Frandsen 6-3 255 Defensive End American Fork, Utah Snow College
Carlos Gray 6-4 321 Defensive Tackle Pinson, Ala. Oak Ridge Military Academy
Hakim Jones 6-2 190 Athlete Henderson, N.C. Southern Vance HS
Dave Mann 6-3 230 Defensive End Fairburn, Ga. Lithonia HS
Ty McGill 6-1 290 Defensive Tackle Jesup, Ga. Wayne County HS
Maurice Morgan 6-2 215 Athlete La Grange, N.C. North Lenoir HS
Rodman Noel 6-3 206 Defensive Back Everett, Mass. Milford Academy
Michael Peek 6-2 215 Linebacker Grayson, Ga. Grayson HS
Brandon Pittman 6-3 212 Linebacker Raleigh, N.C. Leesville Road HS
Mike Rose 6-4 215 Defensive End Simpsonville, S.C. Hillcrest HS
Niklas Sade 6-3 190 Placekicker Wake Forest, N.C. Wakefield HS
Brian Taylor 6-3 205 Quarterback Lillington, N.C. Harnett Central HS
Scott Thompson 6-0 220 Longsnapper Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. Trabuco Hills HS
Joe Thuney 6-5 250 Offensive Line Centerville, Ohio Archbishop Alter 2010 Season

Dec. 28
2010 Champs Sports Bowl
NC State 23 … West Virginia 7
What Happened: West Virginia moved the ball reasonably well, but it couldn't stop turning the ball over giving it up five times with four fumbles turning a tight game into a rout. Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes hitting Mustafa Greene for a 16-yard touchdown pass for a late first quarter 7-0 Wolfpack lead, but West Virginia was able to tie it up with a 32-yard Stedman Bailey catch with just over two minutes to play in the half. State answered with the first of Josh Czajkowski's three field goals to kick off a run of 16 unanswered points. Taking advantage of great field position thanks to the Mountaineer errors, State took control of the game but couldn't put it out of reach until late on a seven-yard Jarvis Williams catch with just under four minutes to play.
Player of the Game: NC State QB Russell Wilson completed 28-of-45 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran 14 times for 41 yards.
Stat Leaders: West Virginia – Passing: Geno Smith, 22-39, 196 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Geno Smith, 12-59 Receiving: Jock Sanders, 5-58
NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 28-45, 275 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: James Washington, 18-62 Receiving: Jarvis Williams, 6-77, 1 TD
Bowl Notes: The punting was terrific. NC State's Jeff Ruiz put four of his six kicks inside the 20, averaging 39 yards per kick, while West Virginia's Gregg Pugnetti averaged 43 yards per punt putting three of his four kicks inside the 20. … Turnovers: WVU 5 – NC State 0 … Time of possession: NC State 36:46 – West Virginia 23:14 … Sacks: WVU 5 – NC State 0 … Average yards per carry: West Virginia 5.2 – NC State 2.9 … West Virginia's J.T. Thomas led all tacklers with ten stops.

Nov. 27
at Maryland 38 … NC State 31
What Happened: Maryland got an all-timer of a day out of WR Torrey Smith, who caught 14 passes for 224 yards with touchdowns from 11, ten, 12, and 71 yards on the way to a 38-17 lead, and then held on for dear life. NC State roared back in the final few minutes with a one-yard Russell Wilson touchdown run, and after recovering the onside kick, getting a three-yard James Washington touchdown catch. Maryland recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock. Wilson started out the scoring with a one-yard run and a 15-yard touchdown pass to Owen Spencer for a 14-0 lead, but the Terps went on a 38-3 run starting out with a two-yard D.J. Adams run. The two teams combined to throw 109 passes and Maryland was held to -9 yards rushing.
Player of the Game: Maryland WR Torrey Smith caught 14 passes for 224 yards and four scores
Stat Leaders: NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 31-60, 311 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: James Washington, 15-55 Receiving: Jarvis Williams, 8-78
Maryland – Passing: Danny O'Brien, 33-47, 417 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Davin Meggett, 4-11 Receiving: Torrey Smith, 14-224 
What It All Means: NC State had to win to play for the ACC title, and it couldn't come up with the defensive performance needed to pull it off. Maryland's pedestrian attack went ballistic on the Wolfpack secondary, and the team will be kicking itself over this game all offseason. The offense sputtered too much after the first quarter, and while Russell Wilson did a tremendous job to come up with a late rally, the hole was too deep. The run defense was great, the passing game wasn't bad, considering the 62 passes, and the chances were there, but it's Florida State going off to play Virginia Tech for the ACC title, and not State.

Nov. 20
NC State 29 … at North Carolina 25
What Happened: In a strange game with a fight, a shocking catch, and several strange scores, NC State got a tipped ball into the hands of Owen Spencer for a key touchdown late in the third quarter, and an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown from T.J. Graham less than two minutes later to give the Wolfpack the lead for good. UNC was held to -7 rushing yards but got 411 passing yards from T.J. Yates. However, the Tar Heel offense had to settle for four Connor Barth field goals to go along with two short Yates touchdown passes. The second scoring throw, a one-yarder to Christian Wilson with just over a minute to play brought UNC within two, but Yates missed on the two-point conversion attempt.
Player of the Game: NC State S Earl Wolff made 13 tackles with a sack
Stat Leaders: North Carolina – Passing: T.J. Yates, 33-44, 411 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Anthony Elzy, 12-32 Receiving: Anthony Elzy, 9-178, 1 TD
NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 15-29, 163 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: James Washington, 12-45 Receiving: Owen Spencer, 5-92, 1 TD
What It All Means: NC State's offense struggled, got lucky, and wasn't consistent, but it showed up late in the second half and T.J. Graham provided a spark with his punt return for a score. Now the Wolfpack has a shot at winning the Atlantic title needing to beat Maryland to face Virginia Tech for the championship. The run defense has to do what it did this week, while the offense has to be more consistent. The running game is spotty at best, so it's up to Russell Wilson to be the reason State gets its shot. The defense, even with a rough day from the secondary, has been special and it starts with the pass rush. The aggressiveness made up for mistakes and problems against the pass this week.

Nov. 13
at NC State 38 … Wake Forest 3
What Happened: Russell Wilson found Jarvis Williams for a four-yard score and Owen Spencer for a 38-yard touchdown, and he ran for two short scores in an easy rout. Wake Forest tied it at three in the second quarter on a 19-yard Jimmy Newman field goal, and then it was all State scoring 35 unanswered points. James Washington added a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth. The Demon Deacons amassed a mere 188 yards of total offense.
Player of the Game: NC State QB Russell Wilson completed 24-of-35 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns, and he led the team with 17 rushing yards on seven carries with two scores.
Stat Leaders: Wake Forest – Passing: Tanner Price, 9-11, 69 yds
Rushing: Michael Campanaro, 19-67 Receiving: Chris Givens, 3-17
NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 24-35, 300 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Russell Wilson, 7-17, 2 TD Receiving: Owen Spencer, 7-138, 1 TD
What It All Means: Was this Russell Wilson's last home game? He might turn pro to play baseball, and if this was it, he came up with a great game to solidify State's bowl position going into road games to North Carolina and Maryland. The ACC title is still there for the taking, winning the Atlantic by winning out, and if the offense can be as effective as it was this week, the chance will be there to pull it off. But it'll all come down to Wilson. As long as he's special and as long as he's hot, the Pack can beat anyone in the league. There defense wasn't bad against the Demon Deacons, either, allowing just 188 yards. 

Nov. 6
at Clemson 14 ... NC State 13
What Happened: Clemson overcame a slew of mistakes to come away with the tough win. Jamie Harper ran for a four-yard touchdown with just over six minutes to play, and DeAndre Hopkins caught a 12-yard touchdown pass in the second half. NC State scored early on a three-yard Mustafa Greene touchdown catch, but only managed two Josh Czajkowski field goals the rest of the way. The two teams combined for just 535 yards of total offense and five turnovers.
Player of the Game: Clemson QB Kyle Parker completed 20-of-29 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown with an interception
Stat Leaders: NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 22-36, 212 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Russell Wilson, 9-29 Receiving: George Bryan, 4-51
Clemson – Passing: Kyle Parker, 20-29, 214 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Jamie Harper, 25-60, 1 TD Receiving: Marquan Jones, 6-47 
What It All Means: Clemson tried to hand NC State the game, and the Pack didn't take it. The offense sputtered throughout after the early score, and the lack of a rushing game prevented any consistency. The two turnovers didn't help, but this loss was more about missed opportunities than anything Clemson did. Coming off the high of the Florida State win, this was extremely disappointing with a fight for the ACC title on, but there's still time to make plenty of noise with a home game against Wake Forest up next. The defense did its job this week, and now the offense has to come back around. It will.

Oct. 28
at NC State 28 … Florida State 24
What Happened: In a strange game, NC State down three late in the fourth, could've tied the game with a short field goal on fourth and goal from the one, but head coach Tom O'Brien went for it and Russell Wilson connected with George Bryan for a one-yard touchdown pass with 2:40 to play. Wilson ran for three scores from one, ten, and 20 yards out to rally back after FSU took a 21-7 lead helped by Christian Ponder runs from three and two yards away in the second. Ponder marched the Seminoles down the field in the final moments, getting down to the NC State four, but Ponder fumbled the ball on a fake, when he had a wide open receiver in the end zone, and the Pack's Nate Irving recovered. The two teams combined for 19 penalties.
Player of the Game: NC State QB Russell Wilson completed 18-of-28 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown with an interception, and he ran 17 times for 69 yards and three touchdowns.
Stat Leaders: Florida State – Passing: Christian Ponder, 17-28, 196 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Ty Jones, 10-108 Receiving: Bert Reed, 6-87
NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 18-28, 178 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mustafa Greene, 17-76 Receiving: Jarvis Williams, 3-44 
What It All Means: Nate Irving had a phenomenal game, the coaching staff was gutsy and kept playing to win, and Russell Wilson showed why he's one of the best ballers in college football with yet another terrific performance. There were too many penalties, and a few too many empty drives early, but Wilson and the offense did a nice job on third downs and the offense came through when it had to. The defense caught a big break late, and Irving pounced. Now the Pack holds its ACC title hopes in its own hands, but it has to go on the road for three of the final four games and still has to deal with Clemson, North Carolina, and Maryland.

Oct. 16
at East Carolina 33 … NC State 27 OT
What Happened: In an overtime of swings, East Carolina got a one-yard touchdown run from Dominique Davis, but the extra point went wide giving NC State a chance to win with a score and the extra point, but Russell Wilson was picked off in the end zone Damon Magazu and the Pirates hung on for the upset. The Pirates got up big early taking a 21-0 lead helped by two Davis touchdown passes and a five-yard Jon Williams run, but NC State clawed its way back with Russell Wilson connecting with T.J. Graham for a 49-yard touchdown pass and running for a two-yard score, and Josh Czajkowski connecting on two fourth quarter field goals to take a three point lead. But ECU roared back in the final minutes going 43 yards in six plays finishing with a 31-yard Mike Barbour field goal with just over a minute to play. NC State's final shot in regulation was picked off by Bradley Jacobs. The two teams combined to turn the ball over eight times and committed 16 penalties.
Player of the Game: East Carolina QB Dominique Davis completed 37-of-53 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran five times for 19 yards and a score.
Stat Leaders: NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 26-52, 322 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Mustafa Greene, 16-75 Receiving: Owen Spencer, 6-98
East Carolina – Passing: Dominique Davis, 37-53, 376 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Giavani Ruffin, 15-74 Receiving: Dwayne Harris, 9-91 
What It All Means: The loss doesn't really matter considering it was a non-conference game and the battle against Florida State in 11 days is what's really important. The inconsistencies on defense continue to be a problem, and there were too many mistakes from Russell Wilson and too many missed opportunities to put the game away once the momentum had shifted. When the defense had a chance to come up with a big stop in the final minutes, it failed, and then failed again in overtime. This wasn't the type of play a Tom O'Brien team should come up with, but again, it doesn't matter if the Pack can beat the Noles.

Oct. 9
at NC State 44 … Boston College 17
What Happened: NC State did a little of everything right getting a blocked punt for a touchdown, three scoring passes from Russell Wilson, and a 28-yard interception return for a touchdown from C.J. Wilson in the easy win. Boston College got 20 tackles from Luke Kuechly in the loss, but nothing else went right with three interceptions and just ten points before the final few minutes. Ifeanyi Momah caught a 15-yard touchdown pass late in the first half, but NC State was able to answer with a 44-yard Josh Czajkowski field goal in the final seconds to spark a 20-point scoring run to put the game away.
Player of the Game: NC State QB Russell Wilson completed 38-of-51 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions, and he ran 14 times for a team-leading 45 yards.
Stat Leaders: Boston College – Passing: Dave Shinskie, 7-24, 89 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Montel Harris, 14-53 Receiving: Alex Amidon, 3-102, 1 TD
NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 38-51, 328 yds, 3 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Russell Wilson, 14-45 Receiving: Owen Spencer, 8-70, 1 TD 
What It All Means: State bounced back in a big way from the loss to Virginia Tech in an easy win over Boston College. With the defense handling the Eagle offense without much of a problem, the Pack attack could take a few chances and not worry too much about making big mistakes. It would've been nice to get more out of the ground game, but the BC run defense is stout. With East Carolina up next to tune up for Florida State, working on the backs pounding away will be a must. Russell Wilson can't carry the entire offense all the time.

Oct. 2
Virginia Tech 41 … at NC State 30
What Happened: Down 17-0, Virginia Tech clawed its way back in with David Wilson returning the opening kickoff of the second half 92 yards for a score and Darren Evans tearing off a 54-yard scoring run. Andre Smith scored twice on passes from Tyrod Taylor, but it was a 39-yard Taylor pass to Jarrett Boykin with 1:27 to play that gave the Hokies the lead for good. NC State got 362 yards and three touchdown passes from Russell Wilson, but the senior panicked, hung the ball up in the air, and threw his third pick of the game leading to a three-yard Evans touchdown run to seal the Hokie win. The two teams combined for 947 yards of total offense.
Player of the Game: Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor completed 12-of-24 passes for 123 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and he ran 16 times for 121 yards.
Stat Leaders: NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 21-49, 362 yds, 3 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Mustafa Greene, 10-91 Receiving: Owen Spencer, 6-145
Virginia Tech – Passing: Tyrod Taylor, 12-24, 123 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Darren Evans, 15-160, 2 TD Receiving: Jarrett Boykin, 2-47, 1 TD
What It All Means: Russell Wilson is bombing away, but he's also forcing the issue a little bit. With a big early lead, a veteran quarterback, and a solid defense, State should've been able to put away Virginia Tech at home, but instead, the defense couldn't stop the Hokie rushing attack, Wilson threw three picks, and the Pack suffered its first loss of the year. With the next two ACC games (Boston College and Florida State) at home, State has to come up with victories or there could be problems late with road games against Clemson, North Carolina, and Maryland to deal with. More of a rushing game to help out Wilson will be a plus over the next few weeks.

Sept. 25
NC State 45 … at Georgia Tech 28
What Happened: Russell Wilson threw three touchdown passes and Jarvis Williams fell on a blocked punt for a score and caught a five-yarder as NC State got up early and never trailed. Georgia Tech's ground game came up with 247 yards, and the defense came up with a 33-yard Jerrard Tarrant pick for a score to cut it to three in the fourth quarter, but Wilson bounced back with a 23-yard scoring strike to T.J. Graham. Josh Nesbitt completed just 5-of-18 passes for the Yellow Jackets, but he connected with Tyler Melton for a 32-yard touchdown pass in the fourth.
Player of the Game: NC State QB Russell Wilson completed 28-of-41 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns with an interception, and he ran for a score.
Stat Leaders: NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 28-41, 368 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Dean Hayes, 18-75 Receiving: Owen Spencer, 6-69
Georgia Tech – Passing: Josh Nesbitt, 5-18, 116 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Josh Nesbitt, 19-95 Receiving: Tyler Melton, 2-39, 1 TD
What It All Means: NC State is rolling. Russell Wilson is playing at an ACC Player of the Year level having an answer every time Georgia Tech mounted a threat. The defense didn't shut down the Tech offense cold, but it did keep it under wraps as the linebackers played a fast, swarming game allowing just two big dashes. As the ACC's only unbeaten team, and after beating the defending conference champions like this, now the spotlight will be on going into the Virginia Tech game. At the moment, the Pack is looking like the league's best team, and now it has to prove it under the defensive pressure the Hokies will bring. Wilson is a good enough veteran to be able to handle it. 

Sept. 16
at NC State 30 … Cincinnati 19
What Happened: Russell Wilson connected with Jay Smith from 16 yards out and Curtis Underwood from 12 yards away to help NC State get out to a 30-7 lead, but Cincinnati was able to make the score look better than the game actually was with two of Zach Collaros' three touchdown passes in the final 6:26 including a 13-yarder to Marcus Barnett with 44 seconds to play. Dustin Woods caught touchdown passes from 68 and 20 yards away, but the Cincinnati defense couldn't handle the NC State passing game and the consistent push from Wilson. The score might have been worse, but State lost a fumble in the end zone after a catch from a ricocheted pass.
Player of the Game: NC State QB Russell Wilson completed 26-of-40 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati – Passing: Zach Collaros, 19-31, 310 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Zach Collaros, 22-32 Receiving: D.J. Woods, 6-146, 2 TD
NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 26-40, 333 yds, 3 TD
Rushing: Mustafa Greene, 16-84, 1 TD Receiving: Mustafa Greene, 5-54
What It All Means: NC State is 3-0 and is looking stronger than it ever has under Tom O'Brien. Russell Wilson is showing a total command of the offense, and while he got away with some dangerous passes, he had a great game as he bombed deep time and again to keep the pressure on the Cincinnati secondary. The ground game was hardly special, but Mustafa Greene had a strong performance both as a runner and a receiver. The freshman might not become the centerpiece of the offense, but he showed the potential to help balance out the offense if he can get more space to move. With Georgia Tech up next, the linebacking corps and the front seven have to continue to play smart and disciplined.

Sept. 11
NC State 28 … at UCF 21
What Happened: The NC State defense forced five turnovers and the offense took advantage of the opportunities, but it was a battle. The Pack got up 21-0 on scoring runs from Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene, and a 26-yard Russell Wilson touchdown pass to Darrell Davis, but UCF would fight back. Quincy McDuffie answered the Greene score with a 93-yard kickoff return for a score, and Jeffrey Godfrey ran for two short scores in the fourth to pull UCF within seven after a C.J. Wilson interception return for a touchdown, but Brandan Bishop forced a fumble to end the Knights' hopes.
Player of the Game: NC State LB Audie Cole made 12 tackles with a sack and three tackles for loss.
Stat Leaders: NC State – Passing: Russell Wilson, 10-30, 105 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Mustafa Greene, 14-55, 1 TD Receiving: George Bryan, 3-35
UCF – Passing: Jeffrey Godfrey, 7-10, 107 yds
Rushing: Jeffrey Godfrey, 10-53, 2 TD Receiving: Brian Watters, 6-88
What It All Means: NC State came up with five takeaways, but because it played it close to the vest against UCF and because it didn't take any real chances, the shot was there to blow it. The Pack got ultra-conservative after a big early lead, but the ground game didn't produce enough. If Russell Wilson is only going to convert 10-of-30 passes, the running attack has to come up with more than 3.4 yards per carry and 134 total yards. The Pack will have to open things up a bit more to beat Cincinnati, but the defense is playing at a high enough level, at least when it comes to being around the ball and taking it away, to provide hope for a big performance against Cincinnati before going to Georgia Tech in the ACC opener.

Sept. 4
at NC State 48 … Western Carolina 7
What Happened: Western Carolina scored first on a 23-yard Deja Alexander catch, but a muffed punt was the spark need to ignite the NC State attack as Russell Wilson found T.J. Graham for touchdown passes from 26 and 25 yards out in the first quarter. The Wolfpack would go on to score 48 unanswered points with Wilson finishing with four touchdown passes, while the Catamounts ended up with mere nine first downs and 189 yards of total offense.
Player of the Game: NC State QB Russell Wilson completed 21-of-31 passes for 306 yards and four scores
Stat Leaders: NC State - Passing: Russell Wilson, 21-31, 306 yds, 4 TD
Rushing: Dean Hayes, 13-69, 1 TD Receiving: T.J. Graham, 6-96, 2 TD
Western Carolina – Passing: Zack Jaynes, 4-10, 57 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Michael Johnson, 16-77 Receiving: Deja Alexander, 2-35, 1 TD
What It All Means: It took a little while to wake up, but then the Wolfpack offense destroyed Western Carolina with Russell Wilson in total command of the offense and T.J. Graham looking like the unstoppable target he's expected to be throughout the year. The running game was decent, but nothing special, and it would be nice if the Pack could be a bit more physical next week against UCF before having to deal with Cincinnati and Georgia Tech in the coming weeks. The line gave up three sacks, but if Wilson gets time, he's among the most effective passers in America.

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