Saturday, September 11, 2010
7:30 pm (EST), CBSC
|BrightHouse Networks Stadium|
NC State (1-0) at UCF (1-0) Sept. 11, 7:30 ET
Here's The Deal … NC State and UCF both won by big margins last week, but what did we really learn? Not much considering their victims were Western Carolina and South Dakota, respectively. We should get a much better handle on both schools this week in Orlando. In the case of the Wolfpack, the level of competition wasn't particularly relevant.
After starting the last three seasons with a loss, it was just happy to get out of the blocks quickly and have star QB Russell Wilson and LB Nate Irving back in the fold. The Knights are cautiously optimistic that it's found stability in a backfield that's been unsettled at quarterback and lost RB Brynn Harvey to a knee injury. In very early returns, Rob Calabrese was sharp behind center and RB Jonathan Davis ran with authority. Stay tuned.
Why NC State Might Win: UCF can unpredictable in pass defense, which is especially bad news when the Wolfpack is visiting BrightHouse Networks Stadium. Wilson is one of the country's most underrated playmakers at quarterback, a terrific athlete and improving passer. He opened the new year with four touchdown passes and 306 yards on 21-of-31 passing, picking up where he left off at the end of 2009. Almost as troubling is his wave of receivers, spearheaded by Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams, and TE George Bryan. Go ahead and include backup WR T.J. Graham, who was on the same page with Wilson, catching a game-high six balls for 96 yards and two touchdowns.
Why UCF Might Win: The Wolfpack offense will hum, provided the line does its job. That's far from a sure thing, especially against this Knight front seven. UCF has a bunch of live defenders, headed sack-happy DE Bruce Miller and linebackers Lawrence Young and Derrick Hallman. If they can pressure the pocket and silence an average running game, Wilson's chances for success diminish. NC State's pass defense is very raw and skittish, which will open up opportunities for UCF receivers A.J. Guyton, Kamar Aiken, and Quincy McDuffie to make plays downfield.
What To Watch Out For: Keep an eye on No. 56 in the white jersey, Wolfpack LB Nate Irving. A non-factor in the opener, he'll be looking to make up for it. He missed all of last season following a car injury, but when healthy, he's a predator, who'll go to any lengths to hit the man with the ball. Pack fans want to know when the old Irving will start asserting himself. It could happen this weekend in Orlando.
What Will Happen: This is going to be a close and interesting game that could create a crossroad for both schools. When it's difficult separating teams, lean toward the one with the most dynamic player, the one you'd want with the ball in his hands late in the game. That guy is Wilson. He's a transformational figure, with enough quality receivers to pull this one out with a defining drive for six in the final quarter.
CFN Prediction: NC State 30 … UCF 27 … Line: UCF -3
Must See Rating: Boardwalk Empire – 5 … Going the Distance - 1 … 2
NC State Game Notes
The Wolfpack will travel to Orlando to return the visit the Golden Knights paid to Raleigh for the season opener of 2007. That game was Tom O'Brien's first as head coach at NC State and was a disappointing 25-22 loss for his Wolfpack.
The Golden Knights began the game with a bang, scoring on an 80-yard touchdown run on their first play from scrimmage. The halftime score stood at 25-3 in their favor and the second half opened with Wolfpack starting tailback Toney Baker going down with a knee injury that would end up keeping him sidelined for the next two seasons.
The Wolfpack came back strong after halftime, scoring 19 points and keeping UCF out of the endzone, but a last minute effort to score fell short.
MEETING OF THE O's
Tom O'Brien and George O'Leary have faced each other three times in their combined 26 previous years of head coaching experience. In O'Brien's first two years as head coach at Boston College, his Eagles met O'Leary's Georgia Tech squad twice. Georgia Tech won in Chestnut Hill, 42-14, on Oct. 4, 1997, while BC returned the favor the next year in Atlanta, winning 41-31 on Sept. 5, 1998.
The other meeting was in the season opener in 2007, Tom O'Brien's first game at NC State. Central Florida won that contest, 25-22.
Between the last practice before last year's season finale against North Carolina (Nov. 26, 2009) and the first practice of this year's fall camp (Aug. 3, 2010), 250 days elapsed. That's the amount of time that Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson DID NOT practice football. He missed spring practice. He missed seven-on-seven drills in the summer. He missed football workouts in the Murphy Center weight room. Instead, he was playing baseball for the Wolfpack squad in the spring and for the Colorado Rockies' Tri-Cities Dust Devils in the summer.
Although Tom O'Brien and Wilson himself said after Saturday's 48-7 win over Western Carolina that Wilson had to shake a little rust off in the season opener, it certainly wasn't evident from looking at the stat sheet.
Wilson threw for four touchdowns in the game (the sixth time in his career that he had thrown for four or more scores). He threw for 306 yards, marking the fifth time he's topped the 300-yard mark and he completed 68% of his throws (21 of 31). His 306 yards of total offense for the night gives him 5,936 for his career, which moves him past Terry Harvey into third place in school history.
WOLFPACK PLAYERS HEAD HOME
Several members of the 2010 Wolfpack squad hail from the Orlando area, including senior wide receiver Jarvis Williams. Although he played 19 snaps AND caught two passes against Central Florida in 2007, this week's game will be a homecoming for the Orlando native. Williams played his prep football at Jones High School, just 16 miles from Brighthouse Networks Stadium. Halfback James Washington, who missed the season opener with a hamstring injury, attended Boone High School, which is just 17 miles from the stadium.
Senior offensive lineman Gary Gregory is from Apopka, which is just outside Orlando, while E.J. Carter, a transfer from Syracuse, attended Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando.
CZAJKOWSKI PUTS THEM THROUGH
Senior placekicker Josh Czajkowski set an NC State record for consecutive point-after-touchdown makes on Saturday in the win over Western Carolina. With four PATs in the contest, he has now connected on 77 straight, dating back to the 2008 campaign. He also holds the Wolfpack career record for PAT percentage, as he has hit 81 of 82 tries for his career, a .988 mark. Czajkowski ranks fourth in school history in field goal percentage (.848), ninth in field goals made (28) and is tied for sixth in total PATs (81).
DOING IT EFFICIENTLY
With a four-touchdown, 306-yard, .678 passing performance against Western Carolina, quarterback Russell Wilson now posts a 144.27 passing efficiency mark for his career. If his career ended today, that mark would be a school record, edging out Philip Rivers' tally of 144.16. Wilson's current rating is also the third-best in ACC history. The redshirt junior has been extremely efficient in his last two outings. In the season-ending win over North Carolina last year and the season opener against Western Carolina this year, his combined stats include a .706 passing performance for 565 yards and eight TDs with no interceptions.
The 2010 version of the Wolfpack football team has a central theme: YOUTH. Of the 105 players listed on the roster, 60 (57%) are either true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores (redshirt or true).
Although the youth of this year's team might be a concern early in the season, it certainly bodes well for NC State's future. On the depth chart for the first two games, 39% (17) of the 44 players listed on the offensive and defensive two-deep charts have been either true or redshirt freshmen or sophomores.
30 PLAYERS SEE FIRST ACTION IN RED AND WHITE
There were 30 players on the Wolfpack squad who played for the first time in an NC State uniform in the win over Western Carolina.
Six true freshmen saw action in the seaon opener for NC State, while one, offensive tackle Robert Crisp, started the Wolfpack victory. In addition to Crisp, defensive backs David Amerson (CB), D.J. Greene (FS) and Dontae Johnson (BS) saw action. Freshman A.J. Ferguson, who actually graduated from high school in 2009 but joined the team in January of this year, saw action on the defensive line, while true freshman Mustafa Greene played halfback.
In addition to those six true freshmen, a whopping 24 other players played for the Wolfpack for the first time. Transfers David Akinniyi (Northeastern) and Mikel Overgaard (Snow College) both started, while Ellis Flint (Hofstra) kicked off twice.
Ten redshirt freshmen got into the game as well: Darryl Cato-Bishop, Ryan Cheek, Duran Christophe, Donald Coleman, Rickey Dowdy, Dean Haynes, Sam Jones, Everett Proctor, Hans Rice, and Anthony Talbert. Tight end Mario Carter, who redshirted as a freshman and then missed last season with an injury also played, as did linebacker William Beasley.
And finally nine walk-ons who had never played before got into the contest: Donovan Counts, Jackson Diaz-Cobo, Zach Gentry, Tyler Kloc, Travis Leggett, Curtis Martin, Seth Pavarnik, Cameron Ray and Keegan Ray.
NEW FACES IN THE TRENCHES
Of the nine starters on the offensive and defensive lines, seven got their first career starts at NC State in the season opener. Four of the five starting offensive linemen started for the first time: tackles Rob Crisp and Mikel Overgaard, guard Zach Allen and center Cam Wentz. On the defensive line, end David Akinniyi joined tackles Natanu Mageo and Brian Slay as first-time starters for the Wolfpack.
The only first-time starter that wasn't on one of the two front lines was Dean Haynes, who started at halfback.
PACK PREPARES FOR FIVE-DAY TURNAROUND
There isn't going to be much chance for Tom O'Brien's squad to ease into the 2010 football season. This week, the Wolfpack will play a 7:30 contest in Orlando on Saturday, and then five days later will play host to Cincinnati in an ESPN Thursday night game back in Carter-Finley Stadium.
Only twice since 1980 has NC State had a five-day turnaround which included at least one game on the road. In 1997, Mike O'Cain's Wolfpack topped Northern Illinois at home (9/20) before falling at Wake Forest (9/25), while Chuck Amato's 2002 squad beat Duke at Carter-Finley Stadium (10/19) prior to stunning Clemson on the road in an ESPN Thursday contest (10/24).
CUTTING IT CLOSE
Although a 5-7 record in 2009 wasn't what the NC State coaching staff was hoping for, a closer look at the scores shows that the Wolfpack wasn't too far away from being 8-4. Three of the team's losses last season were by six points or less: a three-point loss at Florida State, a six-point loss at Wake Forest and a four-point loss to South Carolina to open the season.
In 2008, the Wolfpack posted a 6-7 mark, winning four straight games to close the regular season and earn a bowl bid. Four of the seven losses that season were by nine points or less: a seven-point loss to BC, a nine-point loss to Florida State, a three-point loss to Maryland and a six-point loss to Rutgers in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
In all, of NC State's 14 losses in the past two seasons, seven have been by nine points or less, five by six points or less and three by four points or less.
NO BACKS ARE BACK
For the first time since he took over as head coach in 2007, Tom O'Brien does not have the luxury of having a returning starter at halfback this season. He inherited a trio of talented and experienced backs -- Toney Baker, Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene -- when he took the job prior to the 2007 campaign.
This season marks the first under O'Brien that at least two of those players aren't vying for time in the backfield.
Entering the 2007 campaign, those three backs had combined for 24 starts and 1,330 snaps. In 2008, those three boasted 36 starts and 2,183 snaps between them (Baker ended up sitting out the entire season with an injury). Last season, after Brown went on to the NFL, Baker and Eugene combined for 20 career starts and 1,684 career snaps heading into the season opener.
Heading into 2010, the players who were battling for time at the halfback spot had combined for zero career starts and 157 career snaps.
FRESHMEN FILL HALFBACK SPOT IN OPENER
The biggest surprise of the opening depth chart for 2010 came at halfback, where redshirt freshman Dean Haynes earned the job as the starter, backed up by true freshman Mustafa Greene.
Haynes redshirted last season at safety and started off 2010 preseason camp playing in the secondary. He moved over to tailback just two weeks prior to the opener and rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries in the opener. The Tunnel Hill, Ga., native played quarterback and running back in high school, leading his area in rushing with 878 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior.
Greene was ranked the 26th-best running back in the nation by Rivals.com last season at Irmo High School in South Carolina. He rushed for 1,387 yards and 18 touchdowns in eight games, averaging nine yards per carry. In the opener, he gained 35 yards and rushed for a score on 10 carries.
THE MOOSE IS LOOSE
Freshman halfback Mustafa Greene, known as "The Moose" to his teammates, scored the Wolfpack's first rushing touchdown of the season, a two-yard run in the third quarter to put NC State up 41-7 after the PAT. Greene rushed for 35 yards on 10 carries for the night and had two receptions for another 22 yards.
Greene became the first true freshman to rush for a touchdown in his first game since tailback Reggie Davis scored at Duke on October 25, 2003. Although that game was later in the season, coaches had planned to redshirt Davis before calling him into action for that 28-21 Wolfpack win.
GRAHAM THE MAN
Heading into the season, wide receiver T.J. Graham had just one touchdown reception for his career (although he had two scores on returns). After one quarter in 2010, he had three TD grabs. Graham scored on 26- and 25-yard passes from Russell Wilson in the victory, gaining a career-high 96 yards on a career-high six receptions. He also had a 50-yard kickoff return. Despite missing five games due to an injury last season, return man extraordinaire T.J. Graham ranks fourth in school history in career kickoff return yardage and he is only a junior. His 1,652 yards is the 19th-best mark in ACC history as well.
Graham already holds the school records for single-game kickoff return yards (202 versus Duke in 2009) and single-season kickoff return yards (1,028 in 2008). Two of his returns have been for touchdowns.
For his career, Graham posts 2,410 all-purpose yards. He started three of the seven games he played in last season as a receiver, before his season ended due to a stress fracture in his leg.
Central Florida Game Notes
UCF has 18 seniors on its active roster. This ties for the most at UCF under George O'Leary with the 2007 team which went on to win the Conference USA Championship. Four Knights boast at least 30-career starts in WR Kamar Aiken (33), P Blake Clingan (37), LB Derrick Hallman (33) and DE Bruce Miller (35).
One trend that UCF hopes continues in 2010 is that in 2009 UCF was third in the nation, trailing only Navy and UConn, with 4.00 penal- ties per game. UCF also ranked fifth nationally for giving its foes just 37.62 penalty yards per game, trailing just Navy, UConn, Penn State and Iowa. UCF was flagged just three times on opening night for 26 yards, including a six-yard false start that was mismarked by the officials.
STARTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
The Knights recorded 472 yards of total offense in their 38-7 win over South Dakota on opening night. It was the best that UCF has come out of the gates in 12 years, dating back to a 64-30 win at Louisiana Tech on Sept. 5, 1998, in which the Knights posted 560 yards of total offense. It is also UCF's highest scoring opening contest since that game against LTU. All eight of UCF's drives on Saturday ended in Coyote territory with six of them reaching the red zone and then producing points.
CALABRESE GOES NORTH VS. SOUTH DAKOTA
Junior Rob Calabrese had the best game of his career against South Dakota on opening night, completing 12-of-15 passes for 176 yards and a touchdown. His 200.56 efficiency rating was the best by a Knight since Kyle Israel's 210.36 against UAB on Nov. 25, 2006. The 80-percent completion percentage tied for the 10th best in school history. It was a great night for UCF passing the ball as a whole. True freshman Jeff Godfrey went 6-of-7 for 65 yards and a score in his collegiate debut, making UCF as a team 18-for-22 passing for 241 yards and a pair of scores (203.84 efficiency rating).
DAVIS MAKES MOST OF FIRST HOME START
While preseason All-Conference USA selection Brynn Harvey recovers from off-season knee surgery, Jonathan Davis quickly took advantage of his starting opportunity, rushing for a career-high 107 yards and a touchdown.
ALL WE NEED IS 20
With the strength of UCF's defense over the past few years, its offense has not needed much to win games. In fact, 20 points has been a sort of magical dividing line. Over the past 35 games, UCF is 19-2 when scoring 20 points or more and 1-14 when scoring less than 20 points. In 2009 the Knights were 8-1 when scoring at least 20 and 0-4 when held under that number with the lone exception being a 45-24 loss to Rutgers in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
BACK IN BLACK
After wearing gold uniforms at home for 21-consecutive home games, the Knights have now worn their more traditional black jerseys for each of the past three home games and won all three, closing out 2009 with wins over No. 13 Houston and Tulane and opening 2010 with a victory over South Dakota.
ONE FOR THE MONEY, TWO FOR THE SHOW...
The Knights won on opening day for the 20th time in their 32 years of football and for the fifth year in a row. However, UCF has not started a season 2-0 since 1998, Daunte Culpepper's senior year, beating La. Tech and Eastern Illinois.
20 carries in the season opener against South Dakota - his second-career start. The Knights have now produced a 100-yard rusher in three of their last four season openers. UCF is now 8-0 since the start of the 2008 season when a Knight rushes for at least 100 yards in a game.
HE'S THE GUY-TON
Wide receiver A.J. Guyton caught eight passes for a career-high 127 yards and a touchdown on opening night. It was his third-career 100-yard receiving effort.
The Knights were nearly even in their offensive attack on opening night, rushing for 231 yards and passing for 241 more. It is the third- consecutive regular season game in which UCF has eclipsed the 200-yard plateau both passing and rushing.
BIG RIGHT SIDE
The Knights shuffled their offensive line around midway through preseason camp and now have an enormous right side with former left tackle Nick Pieschel standing 6-foot-7 and weighing 301 at right guard and All-Conference USA pick Jah Reid and his 6-foot-7, 324-pound frame holding down the fort at right tackle. This unit gets even more imposing when tight end Adam Nissley lines up on the right, bringing his 6-foot-6, 266-pound body into the mix. The group can also pass protect well. UCF did not allow a sack on opening night.
KNIGHTS LOOK TO STAY ON TOP
UCF returns seven starters and many other key contributors to what has been C-USA's most dominating defense of late. In addition to having C-USA's premier rushing defense at 82.77 yards per game in 2009, UCF led the league in total defense (350.54 ypg), sacks (2.92 spg) and tackles for loss (7.23 pg) while ranking second in scoring defense (21.93 ppg).
In addition to leading the league, UCF ranked fourth nationally in rushing defense behind BCS bowl participants Texas,Alabama, and TCU.UCF also led C-USA in rushing defense in 2008.
In league history, only TCU (2002-03) had previously led C-USA in rushing defense in consecutive seasons.
NEW DEFENSIVE TACKLES
UCF started a pair of locally-produced fresh- men at defensive tackle against South Dakota in E.J. Dunston and Victor Gray. The Knights had not started a freshman at defensive tackle on opening day since 1997 when Fred Harley started at Ole Miss. UCF last started two freshmen at defensive tackle for the final nine games of the injury-ravaged 2004 season in Emeka Okammor and Keith Shologan.
BRUCE IS LOOSE
The nation's active leader in both sacks (27) and tackles for loss (44), Bruce Miller is C-USA's Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Miller's 27 career sacks are tied for ninth-most ever by a FBS player in the talent-heavy state of Florida.
SECONDARY DEEP AS WELL
The Knights have six different players in the two-deep who have started in the secondary during their UCF careers. High amongst them are 2009 Freshman All-American Josh Robinson at cornerback and fellow sophomore Kemal Ishmael at safety, the team's leading tackler in last year's secondary. Justin Boddie has 11 career starts at corner while Reggie Weams has made five at safety to round out UCF's starters heading into South Dakota.
The team also benefits from the return of Emery Allen, a redshirt senior who missed 2009 with an injury but has started three games previously.
On the team:
I think practice takes care of [getting better]. We still have a lot of improvement to get done from the game on Saturday night in all phases offense, defense and the kicking game. We have a lot to cover with them. You congratulate them on the win, but you also remind them that we have to improve in certain areas if we are going to beat teams throughout the season. I thought it was a good first game as far as execution was concerned. We were consistent in a lot of areas, but there are a bunch of areas we need to improve on.
On N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson:
He is obviously a great quarterback and good athlete. He is a baseball player too. He was impressive in the first game against Western Carolina. He threw for over 300 yards and has a good feel and good poise back there. He has some good pretty good receivers to throw to - a lot of deep balls and a lot of rangy receivers that are long. We will have our work cut out for us in the secondary and obviously containing him with his foot speed and the running game.
On games against automatic-qualifying BCS schools:
In Conference USA we schedule a lot. We have four non-conference games for each team that's in the conference. Conference play is extremely important because it dictates where you are going. Recognition in the country comes from your non-conference wins and I address that with our staff and our players that you got to win the non-conference wins. The way the schedule falls out this year, the month of September is all non-conference games. The schedule worked out well that way and then we tee it up with the conference games. It is extremely important. If Conference USA wants to get any recognition as a conference they got to win these games and not just schedule good opponents.
On a lot of running backs and receivers touching the ball against South Dakota:
I like to keep fresh legs on the field if we can. Obviously the score dictated a lot of that last weekend. This weekend North Carolina State looked very good against Western Carolina offensively, defensively and in the kicking game. We are going to have our work cut out for us and we are going to have to shore up some of the areas that we really need to improve on from last game.
On areas that need improvement as seen on the film of the South Dakota game:
Offense and defense and the kicking game. There are a bunch of things in those areas we need to improve on. The biggest thing was consistency as far as finishing some plays defensively. We were sticking our nose where it didn't belong instead of playing the call. We have always been a very good, accountable defense and I thought we had some situations where guys were where they shouldn't be. We corrected that at halftime. The second half we went out and sixty of the seventy-nine yards were in the last eight minutes with the two's and three's in the game. They turned it up a notch second-half and understood to play the call. They hit the play right [South Dakota] and the kid was a good bounce runner, twenty, and he was running to the end and no one was out there so we had to get that corrected.
On Josh Linam's first start last week:
There was competition during preseason and they [the linebackers] were great every day, they all are. He [Josh Linam] beat out [Chance] Henderson but they both play and it's a long season. One game is a game that you go out and see if they follow the game plan and get things done right. You are only as good as you are two-deep, I have always believed that, and we are getting better two-deep as far as depth is concerned. That's what is really important thing about a football team is a bunch of guys that we can put on the field. We are not losing a lot as far as with them [the backups] on the field. That is what the difference is this year as compared to some of the past years where we may have had seventeen or eighteen kids I felt comfortable putting on the field. Now for the most part we have enough depth to put in a replacement and get some good downs out of them.
Is confidence a big thing with Rob Calabrese?
It's a big thing with any athlete. I thought the key to Rob was that he went out and was very efficient and very consistent and that is what he needed. That's what the doctor ordered. I was happy for him. I get a little disturbed at some of our student body before the game when announcing the starting lineup we got students booing your starting quarterback. I turned around and they saw me looking and stopped. That's not how that kid should be treated. He went out and did a great job as far as getting things done and really managing the game. Every time he was out there he moved the chains and for the most part scored almost all the time he was on the field with the unit. I was happy for him. He knows he made a couple different mistakes that he would like to improve on. That's what I have been seeing in preseason.
Do you think N.C. State will come after him more with blitzes?
I would come after any quarterback. I think quarterbacks are too good and the receivers are too good to sit and let them sit back there unless you got four war daddies up front that can get to the quarterback. That is what is important. If you can do that then you can play coverage. Everybody mixes it up between the blitz and regular rush. The passing game, everybody has got so much better at it. They [North Carolina State] have a kid that has poise back there and he has some good receivers to throw to that have some range to them 6-foot-4, 6-foot-3 guys. They throw a lot of deep balls so we are going to have to get some heat on the quarterback and ideally you would like to not have to blitz to do it. Last year, we did not do as much because we had some guys that could get after the quarterback. This year, I think in certain situations you have the right combination on the field.
On Latavius Murray:
He came in because he was playing H-Back for us and really a posse tight end that can get vertical on third down. He is back at running back. He is a 6-foot-3, 224-pound guy that really I am looking to get more out of as far as getting more things done. I talked to him about that. Sometimes, as I told our team, even if you are with special teams there are 44 players in the four units say kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return, and 10 of them are starters. Only 10 players that start on offense or defense are a part of the 44 man unit. I am always on that other 34, if you take the kickers out it is 32, we need to get more out of them as far as contributing.
NC State Depth Chart
|2010 NC State Depth Chart|
Central Florida Depth Chart
Thanks to NC State and Central Florida Athletics for much of the information in this preview.