Saturday, September 25, 2010
12:00 pm (EST), ESPN
|Bobby Dodd Stadium|
NC State (3-0) at Georgia Tech (2-1) Sept. 25, 12:00 ET, ESPN
Here's The Deal … NC State and Georgia Tech are both coming off pivotal wins, with a chance to double down in Atlanta this Saturday. The Wolfpack has been the early surprise of the ACC, sweeping the first three games, including a nationally televised rout of Cincinnati last Thursday night. The cautious optimism currently surrounding the start of the season will shift to unbridled enthusiasm with a road win against the defending champs this weekend. The Yellow Jackets rebounded swiftly from their awful loss to Kansas a week earlier to hold off Coastal Division rival North Carolina, 30-24. The win sent a poignant message that, while Tech may not be as consistent as a year ago, it'll still have to be dealt with in the conference race.
Why NC State Might Win: In one of the best quarterback battles of Week 4, the Pack might have an edge with Russell Wilson, who's coming off a 333-yard, three-touchdown effort. He does so many things well, including spreading the ball around to Jarvis Williams, Owen Spencer, and TE George Bryan. He'll be facing a Georgia Tech defense that's been very soft the last two weeks and particularly beatable through the air. The NC State defense, on the other hand, is exceeding expectations, stuffing the run and getting backfield pressure from linebackers Audie Cole and Terrell Manning.
Why Georgia Tech Might Win: As stingy as NC State has been, the Yellow Jackets' triple-option always presents unique challenges for a defense. QB Joshua Nesbitt and his backfield partners have begun to click, hammering the Carolina D for 372 yards and six yards a pop in Chapel Hill. Tech has begun to unleash B-back Anthony Allen, who's coming off his first 100-yard game of the month, and shifty A-back Roddy Jones. When this attack starts playing downhill, especially at Bobby Dodd Stadium, it's like trying to slow down a locomotive.
What To Watch Out For: While Tech will be content to run the ball 60 times, it's always plotting when it can catch a defense off guard with a play-action pass. It's one of the little-used, yet lethal, weapons in head coach Paul Johnson's arsenal. Nesbitt is coming off his most consistent game of September as a passer, and will be looking for the right time to get the ball in the hands of Jones and WR Stephen Hill.
What Will Happen: While NC State is capable of hanging with Georgia Tech from wire-to-wire, actually beating the Yellow Jackets on the Flats is an entirely different situation. Tech will buckle on defense, but consistently get bailed out by Nesbitt and the relentless running game. The Wolfpack defense has clearly made strides in the right direction, but it still lacks the depth and girth on the inside to withstand the 60 minutes of pounding it's going to endure.
CFN Prediction: Georgia Tech 31 … NC State 27 … 5Dimes.com Line: Georgia Tech -8.5
Must See Rating: The Social Network – 5 … $#*! My Dad Says - 1 … 4
NC State Game Notes
Saturday's game in Atlanta will mark the first meeting between NC State and Georgia Tech since 2006 and the first under Tom O'Brien. The two teams have only met 26 times on the gridiron, with the Yellow Jackets posting a 17-9 lead in the series, including a 10-3 mark in Atlanta. Since 1994, NC State has defeated Georgia Tech just twice, a 30-23 over- time win in Raleigh in 2000 and a 17-13 win in Atlanta in 2005.
O'Brien has faced Georgia Tech twice, in the first two years of his tenure at Boston College. The Eagles lost to the Yellow Jackets in Chestnut Hill in 1997, but went to Atlanta the next season and won.
O'Brien has coached against Paul Johnson twice when they both were head coaches. His BC team met Johnson's Navy squad in 2002 and 2006, with BC winning both of those contests.
PACK OFF TO 3-0 START
For the first time since 2002, NC State has opened the season with a 3-0 mark. It marks the 18th time since the inception of the ACC that the Wolfpack has begun the season with three straight wins. It is the best opening mark for NC State under Tom O'Brien.
During his 10 years as head coach at Boston College, O'Brien led his team to four 3-0 starts.
GREENE NOT GREEN ANY MORE
He may be a true freshman, but in his third collegiate game Mustafa "Moose" Greene looked like a seasoned vet. In the win over Cincinnati, Greene led the Wolfpack in rushing and receiving and was named the ACC's Rookie of the Week. The Pack's backup halfback rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown and caught a team-high five passes for another 54 yards, giving him 138 all-purpose yards in the victory.
For the season, Greene leads the team with 174 yards rushing on 40 attempts. He has rushed for a touchdown in each of his first three games, marking the first time an NC State running back has rushed for a score in his first three games since Joe McIntosh did it in 1981.
NC State enters the Georgia Tech game tied for sixth nationally in turn- over margin, with seven takeaways to just two giveaways for a +5 mark. The Wolfpack didn't turn the ball over in its first two games, but fumbled twice in the win over Cincinnati.
Quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown 101 passes this season without an interception and even though the Pack is playing two freshmen at halfback, there have only been two fumbles. The Pack's success in holding onto the ball is even more impressive considering that in 2009, NC State finished the season ranked 114th nationally in turnover margin, with 25 turnovers to just 14 takeaways.
WILSON STREAKING AGAIN
Although his streaking is a little more modest than when he did it last season, quarterback Russell Wilson is still on a pretty impressive roll. Wilson has thrown 131 passes without an INT, dating back to the Virginia Tech game last season.
In 2008-09, Wilson put together a much longer streak, the longest in NCAA history in fact, when he threw 379 passes without being picked off.
NC State has a pair of special teams defenders this season with a few things in common. One, they have both handed out several chinstrap-stretching tackles on special teams. Two, they both started off their careers as walk-ons to the Wolfpack program. Three, they both have the same last name. And four, well, they both have the same parents.
The Gentry brothers, fullback Taylor and halfback Zach, rank first and fourth on the team in special teams tackles this season. In 2009, Taylor led the team with 21 special teams' stops and 219 plays on the various special teams units. This season, Taylor and Zach have played 70 and 58 special teams snaps respectively.
Taylor, a junior, is in his third season as the Wolfpack's starting fullback and has earned a scholarship. He has never rushed the ball, but has pulled down 21 catch- es in his career and is one of just two NC State players with a pair of touchdown receptions in 2010. The coaching staff says that he is a leader in the Wolfpack huddle and has been a huge help with the young halfbacks who have seen the bulk of the season this season. Zach, a sophomore, is a halfback, but has seen action only on special teams this season.
COLE ON A ROLL
Junior linebacker Audie Cole was the team's leading tackler in 2009, but never had he dominated a game like he did against Central Florida on September 11. Cole was credited with a dozen stops in the contest, including nine solo stops, a 10-yard sack and two other tackles for loss. He also pulled down his first career interception and forced another fumble on a play that ended up being overturned.
Cole, who had twice as many tackles as any other defender in the game (for either team) was front and center in the Wolfpack's aggressive defensive scheme, making plays all over the field. He continued in that vein in the win over Cincinnati, tallying seven tackles in 60 snaps, including a six-yard loss. He also forced a key fumble in that victory.
Cole made his tackles count. Three times, twice in the first quarter, Cole made stops on third down to force the Knights to punt. His interception was on a pass from wide receiver Nico Flores on a reverse play in the third quarter to stop another UCF drive at midfield as the Knights were attempting to rally.
Cole, who was named the ACC Defensive Back of the Week and the Rivals.com ACC Player of the Week for his performance, is the Pack's leading tackler for the season with 20 and ranks fourth in the ACC with 4.5 tackles for loss.
WILSON QUIETS CRITICS
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 Many people have said that Wilson couldn't possibly be back to his previous form after missing so much time. In the season opener, the Pack broke the huddle with 12 men at one point, the type of thing that has been almost unheard of under Wilson's leadership. And although he threw for 306 yards in the opener, he barely crossed the 100-yard mark at Central Florida and posted the lowest completion percentage of his career, completing 10-of-30 throws (except for a 1-5 mark in his first college game versus South Carolina in 2008, when he left the game with a concussion in the first half). However, a look at Wilson's overall stats in 2010 and his performance in the win over Cincinnati might show that the 50+ days he's been back focused on football may outweigh the 250 he's missed.
He's thrown for over 300 yards and three touchdowns in two of the three games this season. He's thrown 101 passes without an interception this season (131 in a row dating back to last season). He ranks third in the ACC this week in pass- ing average (248 yds/game) and third in total offense (270.7 yds/game). And most importantly, the Wolfpack posts a 3-0 record.
CZAJKOWSKI STREAK ENDS
Senior placekicker Josh Czajkowski set an NC State record for consecutive point-after-touchdown makes in the Sept. 4 win over Western Carolina. He added to that streak in the next two contests before missing his third of four attempts in the win over Cincinnati Czajkowski connected on 83 straight, dating back to the 2008 campaign. He now ranks second in NC State history in PAT percentage, as he has hit 88 of 90 tries for his career, a .978 mark. Czajkowski ranks fourth in school history in field goal percentage (.853), ninth in field goals made (29) and fifth in total PATs (88).
AND THEN THERE'S VERMIGLIO
Thank goodness for Jake Vermiglio! Heading into last week's game versus Cincinnati, the senior offensive tackle had started 21 games for his career. That tally was more than double the total of the other four starting offensive linemen com- bined! The other four players who started that contest and who are listed as starters for the Georgia Tech game, had combined to start eight games prior to the win over the Bearcats.
Gary Gregory, who subbed for the injured Mikel Overgaard at right tackle last week, started his first career game against UC. Andrew Wallace had started four, and guard Zach Allen and center Cam Wentz had started two before getting the nod last Thursday night.
The return of R.J. Mattes should help the experience factor on the offensive line greatly. Mattes, who started eight games at guard before suffering an ACL injury at Florida State last season, played for the first time since the injury last week. He came in for 39 snaps and graded out surprisingly well considering how much time he had missed.
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 Georgia Tech, 43% (19) of the 44 players listed on the offensive and defensive two-deep charts are 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 season 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.
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.
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 over Western Carolina, 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 ju- nior. His 1,751 yards is the 17th-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 2,537 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.
Georgia Tech Game Notes
TECH-NC STATE SERIES HISTORY
Overall series record: GT leads 17-9
Current streak: GT 1
At Georgia Tech: GT leads 10-3
At NC State: GT leads 7-6
Under Paul Johnson: 0-0
Georgia Tech leads the all-time series with NC
Saturday's game is the first meeting between the two teams since Nov. 4, 2006 -- a 31-23 Yellow Jacket victory in Raleigh. ??The last time the two teams met in Atlanta -- an Oct. 6, 2005 Thursday night game -- the Wolfpack emerged with a 17-14 win.
Georgia Tech has won five of the last six and 10 of the last 12 meetings.
The Yellow Jackets are 10-3 all-time against State in Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The Jackets and Wolfpack first met on the gridiron in 1918, but the two teams did not meet between 1922 and 1983.
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson is 0-1 all- time vs. NC State. In 2002, in Johnson's first season and second game at Navy, the Wolfpack beat his undermanned Navy team, 65-19.
NC State's Tom O'Brien is 1-1 all-time against Georgia Tech, with both previous meetings coming while coaching at Boston College.
Tech is 59-29-3 all-time against teams from the Old North State.
THE LAST MEETING
TECH 31, STATE 23 IN ‘06
The last meeting between Georgia Tech and NC State -- on Nov. 4, 2006 at State's Carter-Finley Sta- dium in Raleigh -- resulted in a 31-23 Yellow Jacket victory.
Tech quarterback Reggie Ball threw four touch- down passes, including two to Calvin Johnson, leading the 20th-ranked Jackets in front of 56,837 fans.
Tashard Choice rushed for 164 yards on 34 carries. Ball was 13-of-35 passing for 215 yards with two interceptions and Johnson had nine catches for 168 yards to help keep Tech in the running for the ACC's Coastal Division title. James Johnson had two TD receptions for Tech. The Jacket defense limited NC State to just 58 yards rushing and did not allow a Wolfpack offensive touchdown.
State led briefly, 23-21, on John Deraney's third field goal of the game on the final play of the third quarter.
YELLOW JACKET-WOLFPACK CONNECTIONS
Georgia Tech has no players on its roster from North Carolina.
NC State has 12 players on its roster from the state of Georgia: Art Norman (Stone Mountain), Rashard Smith (Dublin), Camden Wentz (Marietta), Torian Box (College Park), Dean Haynes (Tunnel Hill), Theo Rich (Portal), Zach Allen (Tifton), Colby Jackson (Dublin), Deion Roberson (Tucker), Michael Lemon (Macon), Logan Winkles (Thomaston) and D.J. Green (Macon).
Georgia Tech defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Andy McCollum served as linebackers coach at NC State from 2007-09.
Both head coaches previously spent a considerable amount of time at the Naval Academy. Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson was head coach at Navy from 2002-07 and earlier served as an assistant coach with the Midshipmen from 1995-96. NC State's Tom O'Brien was an assistant coach at Navy from 1975-81 and he graduated from the Academy in 1971.
Jon Tenuta, who was on the Georgia Tech coaching staff from 2002-07, is in his first season as linebackers coach for the Wolfpack. Tenuta served as interim head coach in the final game of 2007 -- a loss to Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl -- before Paul Johnson took over as head coach.
Tenuta and Tech co-offensive line coach Mike Sewak were on the same staff at Virginia in 1981.
State's Michael Lemon is a transfer from the University of Georgia.
Georgia Tech's Omoregie Uzzi and Roddy Jones, and NC State's Art Norman all attended Chamblee High School.
Tech's Nick McRae and State's Rashard Smith are both Dublin High School graduates.
Jacket long snapper Jeff Lentz and NCSU's Camden Wentz both attended Lassiter HS.
Tech's Emmanuel "Too Tall" Dieke and State's Torian Box both played at North Clayton HS.
Georgia Tech's Malcolm Munroe and NC State's Gary Grant are both from Miami, Florida.
Yellow Jacket Embry Peeples and NC State's James Washington, Jarvis Williams and E.J. Carter are all from Orlando, Florida.
Cincinnati, Ohio is home for Tech's Quentin Sims and NC State's Jeff Rieskamp and Anthony Talbert.
KEY STATISTICAL MATCH-UPS
Georgia Tech's rushing offense ranks third nationally (345.0 ypg) and will face an NC State defense ranked 20th nationally in rushing defense (85.3 ypg).
The Yellow Jackets average 32.0 points per game, while State is allowing just 15.7 points per contest.
NC State is tied for sixth nationally in turnover margin (+1.67). Tech has committed and forced an equal number of turnovers (4).
SINCE JOHNSON'S ARRIVAL, TECH HAS BEEN ACC'S WINNINGEST TEAM
Since Paul Johnson took over as head coach in 2008, no ACC team has won more conference games or more games overall than Georgia Tech:
Over the last three seasons combined, Tech is 13- 4 in ACC games (not including a win over Clemson in the ACC championship game). Virginia Tech ranks second at 11-5 over the last three years.
Tech is 22-8 overall over the last three seasons, again, the best mark among ACC teams. Virginia Tech ranks second at 21-9.
The Yellow Jackets have won seven consecutive ACC games and are 9-1 in their last 10 league contests.
Tech has won six consecutive ACC home games and has not lost a home league game since Oct. 25, 2008 (24-17 to Al Groh's Virginia team).
The Jackets are 9-1 in their last 10 ACC home games.
Tech has won four straight road games in ACC play.
THE QUARTER(LY) REPORT
The Yellow Jackets have scored in 11 of 12 quarters in 2010.
Georgia Tech has scored at least a field goal in the fourth quarter of each of the last 17 games. The last time the Jackets were shut out in the fourth quarter came against LSU in the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Tech is outscoring opponents 21-7 in the fourth quarter this season.
Tech has held two of three opponents this season scoreless in the fourth quarter.
DEFENDERS BEGINNING TO EMERGE
There were no Georgia Tech defensive players on the preseason All-ACC team, but a few Yellow Jackets are beginning to emerge in September:
Senior inside linebacker Brad Jefferson, leads the team in tackles (21), and he has 1.5 tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
Sophomore defensive end Izaan Cross leads the team in tackles for loss (3.5), and he has 1.5 sacks, a pass break-up and a forced fumble. ?? True freshman Isaiah Johnson, who made his first career start at Kansas, ranks tied for second on the team in tackles (18), has 3.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sacks and a forced fumble.
Junior outside linebacker Steven Sylvester has 14 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, a pass break- up and he is tied for third in the ACC in forced fumbles (2).
OFFENSE: NESBITT HAS OTHER WEAPONS
Senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt is clearly Georgia Tech's leader on offense. However, some others are beginning to step up as well:
Sophomore wide receiver Stephen Hill has a catch in all three games. He has six of Tech's 10 total receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown, plus one rushing attempt last week at North Carolina for 16 yards.
Junior A-back Roddy Jones, who scored two touchdowns in the season opener, had two receptions including a TD catch last week at North Carolina.
Senior center Sean Bedford was the ACC co-Offensive Lineman of the Week in Week One and he was nominated for that award in each of the last two weeks.
Senior B-back Anthony Allen rushed for 115 yards on 20 carries at North Carolina. He has 204 yards over the last two games combined.
LEFTOVERS FROM THE CAROLINA GAME
Statistical oddities from Saturday's 30-24 win at North Carolina:
Georgia Tech overcame a 7-point deficit (17-24) to win -- something the Yellow Jackets did five times in 2009. ??The Yellow Jackets completed 3-of-4 passes. In the Paul Johnson era, Tech has completed three or fewer passes in a game six times and the Jackets are 5-1 in those games.
Tech's four pass attempts were its fewest in a game over the last 25 years.
Orwin Smith's 73-yard run in the first quarter was Tech's longest run from scrimmage since Sept. 10, 2009 when Anthony Allen scampered 82 yards against Clemson.
NC State Depth Chart
|2010 NC State Depth Chart|
Georgia Tech Depth Chart
Thanks to NC State and Georgia Tech Athletics for much of the information in this preview.