State Isn't Changing

Wolfpack fans might be wondering what NC State's defensive strategy will be on Saturday against East Carolina's high-octane offense. Here's a hint, don't expect drastic change from the Wolfpack.

"You've got to do what you do," said NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer. "We've got to do what we do best. We've got to concern ourselves with us and then obviously what they do. We've got to recognize formations, recognize where the back is, etc… it's all a part of game-planning and preparation, giving yourself the best opportunity [to win]."

East Carolina features one of the best passing attacks in the country, as the Pirates are averaging 297 yards passing per game (No. 13 nationally) and 37.6 points per game (No. 12 nationally). ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, who is just 26 years old, has implemented the same offensive system he helped coach at Texas Tech when he was receivers coach. The Pirates will spread the field and isolate defensive backs and linebackers in space, hoping to bust open a big play.

"The offense is unique," said Archer. "It's different, totally than anything we've played against up until this point. It's basically the run-and-shoot and that's different than anything else we've played."

"It puts it on the back seven because they spread the field so much and make you play in space," Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien said earlier this week. "You have to be so much better as far as tackling and getting them on the ground because a lot of it is catching the ball and run after the catch with it.

"This will be a really good challenge to see if we tackle better Saturday than we did the previous Saturday, but we're going to have our hands full on Saturday, especially with Harris getting him on the ground."

As always, the game on Saturday will be won in the trenches, and NC State will have plenty of opportunities to get to East Carolina quarterback Dominique Davis.

Davis has already passed for 1,439 yards and 14 touchdowns through five games. The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder has been sacked 12 times in five games, and that number has been limited in large part due to the wide splits that the Pirate offensive linemen use on each play.

The wide splits make the pass rushers come from farther away and enlarge the pocket, and it opens up throwing lanes for Davis. Because of the splits and the fact that ECU throws the ball so quickly it is going to be vital that NC State's front four plays aggressively and looks to use their hands to knock down pass if the can't reach Davis.

"It's very important because they throw a lot of tempo passes, three-step, five-step," said Archer. "They throw to spots, they throw to layers.

"It's all a combination with pressure, getting their hands up, trying to disrupt routes, being good in your zone drops, and tackling."

"That's going to be very important," said Pack defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy. "Coach Willis has already told us that we've got to put our hands up this week and get in the quarterback's face. Hopefully we can bat some balls down. I think we will."

"When you play a team like this that catches the ball and throws it you're not going to get near him," added head coach Tom O'Brien. "You've got to get in the passing lanes and get your hands up, make him alter his throw or knock it down."

Archer believes one word will be vital to NC State's success against the Pirates.

"Patience is the biggest and most important word this week," he said. "They are going to throw so we've got to be patient. They throw it 72% of the time, and they are going to complete some passes."

For a team that blitzes nearly 50% of the time, being patient might sound difficult, but Archer wants his unit to make ECU sustain drives while preventing them from having any huge plays.

"You can't allow them to hit explosive plays," he said. "You've got to make them keep snapping it and then tackle. Hopefully you knock the ball loose a few times.

"They are going to throw it enough and quick enough that they are going to complete some passes. We've got to make tackles."

Teams get caught up worrying about the passing game when facing East Carolina, and the next thing you know Jonathan Williams and the other tailbacks are slicing through the secondary.

Williams has rushed for 331 yards and four scores this season, and he is also averaging four catches per game. In ECU's last home outing, a win over Memphis back on September 11, Williams totaled 109 yards and a score on 17 carries.

"When you look at Texas Tech they ran it when coach Leach was there," said Archer. "They still run the football. You can't become one-dimensional, you have to respect the fact that they will run the football.

"They've made some big plays in the running game because people get enamored with the passing game. You've got to do a good job with reading your keys. You've got to be disciplined. It's a lot like the wishbone, you've got to be disciplined in what you do."

"They spread the field on you, get you spread all over the field, and get one guy caught out of his gap and there's a lot of green grass out there," added O'Brien. "We have to be very smart, maintain our gap control, and beat one-on-one blocks up front if we're going to do any damage in stopping the running game."

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