Breaking Down the Opponent: N.C. State

Terps try to contain Wilson, prolific Wolfpack passing attack

While Saturday’s contest between may control a Atlantic Coast Conference championship and BCS berth for the North Carolina State Wolfpack, there is no sense of quit amongst the Maryland Terrapins.

On Senior Day, 16 senior Terps will take the field at Byrd Stadium one last time in hopes of earning their eighth win and a bid to play at a top-notch bowl game. In their way, however, stands Russell Wilson, the N.C. State quarterback and likely candidate for ACC Player of the Year.

The Wilson-led Wolfpack offense sports the top air assault in the conference, boasting an average upwards of 400 yards per game and scoring more than 32 points per game, good for second-best in the ACC. On the season, Wilson has accounted for 24 scores, nearly 3,000 yards and makes claim to a 130.87 passer rating.

“He’s really an outstanding quarterback. He’s not only a good thrower but very mobile, sees the field very well, makes very good decisions,” Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen said. “He’s having a heck of a year.”

Last week, Wilson and the Wolfpack escaped Chapel Hill with a 29-25 win over the Tar Heels, due in part to a fourth-down touchdown pass to Owen Spencer. The key to N.C. State’s proficiency: familiarity.

For eight straight games the Wolfpack have started the same 11 players on offense. Among these playmakers is Mustafa Greene, who Friedgen noted has revived their rushing attack behind a talented group upfront. Greene leads his team in rushing yards with nearly 600, and has reached the end-zone four times this season.

The receiving core is led by Spencer, Wilson’s favorite target, who has 799 yards on the season. At 6-3, Spencer is an inch shorter of Jarvis Williams and two inches shorter than tight end George Bryant. Together, the Wolfpack targets are among the tallest in the conference.

Their explosiveness on offense is matched evenly by their stellar defensive line. The Wolfpack’s 37 sacks are second-most in the ACC. In keeping a common theme, the production is spread out; nine different players have recorded multiple sacks, including ends Michael Lemon and David Akinniyi, who each have three on the season.

The pressure up front is complemented by an attacking linebacking core led by Nate Irving. The team’s sack-leader and second-leading tackler also have 19 tackles for loss, which ranks third-most in the nation. Eight of those TFLs came in his final home game over Wake Forest when he surpassed former No. 1 overall pick Mario Williams for the school record.

Terps quarterback Danny O’Brien said the Wolfpack attack early and often with a lot of zone pressures, something they have been successful doing all year long.

“We got to be ready for just seeing where the pressure is coming from, and getting the ball out quickly. The teams that have had success have gotten the ball out quickly on the perimeter,” O’Brien said.

The Wolfpack secondary may be the most vulnerable unit on defense. The starting four defensive backs include two redshirt sophomores, a true sophomore and a true freshman. The team has allowed opposing passers to complete nearly 60 percent of their throws against them.

The quest for the ACC Atlantic Division will go through College Park, as N.C. State will try to emulate what the Seminoles did last week, when they handed the Terps their first home loss on the season.

The winner of Saturday’s game will also hold a one-game advantage in the all-time series record between these two teams, as in 66 matchups, they are squared at 31 wins apiece.

News and Notes:

Out: Desmond Kearse

With 50 yards, Torrey Smith will surpass LaMont Jordan as the Terps all-time leader in all-purpose yardage.

Broadcast: 3:30 p.m. ESPN2

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