NOTEBOOK: Pack Hits the Road for Huge Test

NC State (5-1) returns to the field Saturday looking to knock off East Carolina (3-2) in Dowdy Ficklen Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 pm, and the game will be televised on CBS College Sports.

The Wolfpack will face the second of three teams with "Carolina" in their names, when it travels 83 miles to Greenville to take on the Pirates of Conference USA. NC State opened the season with Western Carolina and will play North Carolina in November.

Although NC State and East Carolina have met 26 times on the gridiron, this will mark just the third game played on the Pirates' home field. The Wolfpack lost the first meeting in Greenville, 6-23, in 1999.

The two teams first played in 1970 with the Pack winning 11 of the first 15 meetings between the two schools (all of which were played at Carter-Finley Stadium).

The two teams met every season from 1970-1987, but since then have played just eight times, with three of those contests being played at neutral sites. In 1992, the Pack played the Pirates in the Peach Bowl, losing 37-34. In 1996 and 2004, the two teams played regular-season contests in Charlotte, with ECU winning 50-29 in ‘96 and the Pack gaining a 52-14 victory in 2004. The Pack has taken each of the last two matchups, winning in Greenville, 34- 20, in 2007 and defeating the 15th-ranked Pirates, 30-24, in Raleigh in 2008.

NC State is currently leading the ACC with 37.5 points per game. East Carolina ranks second in Conference USA with 37.6. Those numbers rank 13th and 12th in the nation respectively.

Looking at those numbers it would seem that Saturday's contest could be an offensive exposition. However, the Wolfpack holds a definite edge in the total defense category. NC State ranks eighth in the ACC and is allowing 22 points per game. East Carolina, ranks dead last in Conference USA and 117th nationally in scoring defense and is allowing 42 points per game.

The victory over East Carolina in 2008 marked the first victory as a starting quarterback for then-redshirt-freshman quarterback Russell Wilson. It was also the highest-ranked opponent that NC State has defeated under Tom O'Brien.

Saturday's 44-17 win over Boston College marked the Wolfpack's first game against a league opponent in the Atlantic Division. NC State is 1-1 so far this season against the Coastal half of the league, winning at Georgia Tech and falling to Virginia Tech. The only other contest against a Coastal Division opponent this season will be the Nov. 20 game at North Carolina.

This marks the first season since ACC expansion that the Wolfpack has opened conference play with a non-divisional opponent. In the past four seasons, NC State has dropped it's conference opener - all of which were against Atlantic Division rivals.

The Wolfpack will take an out-of-conference trip to East Carolina, then will have an open week before playing host to Atlantic Division rival Florida State in a Thursday night game on Oct. 28.

NC State enters the seventh game of the 2010 season with some of the best offensive marks in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Wolfpack currently leads the league in scoring offense (37.5 ppg), pass offense (311 ypg) and total offense (448.8 ypg).

Those marks would rank among the top two in school history in each of those categories if the season ended today.

Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson enters the East Carolina game leading the ACC in passing yards with 300.3 per game and total offense with 327.5 per contest. Those marks rank seventh and fifth in the BCS this week. His 1,802 total passing yards is the second-highest mark in the nation.

In terms of touchdown passes, Wilson has a whopping seven more than any other ACC signal caller and is tied for third nationally.

All three units of the Wolfpack squad got into the endzone on Saturday. The offense scored three touchdowns and three field goals. The defense scored on an interception return and the special teams unit scored on a blocked punt.

The last time NC State had scored all three ways was on Sept. 20, 2003 against Texas Tech.

NC State's receiving corps was highly touted entering the 2010 season, with senior wideouts Owen Spencer and Jarvis Wililams and tight end George Bryan getting the lion's share of the attention.

And although those three players lead the team in receptions this season with 28, 22 and 17 respectively, they are just three of many who are contributing to the Wolfpack's high-powered aerial attack.

Sixteen different players have caught passes this season and six have tallied double-digit reception totals. In four of the six games in 2010, passes have been caught by 10 or more different players.

Ten different players have at least one touchdown catch this season. Williams leads the way with three TD.

Another interesting note about Russell Wilson: The Wolfpack's redshirt junior quarterback boasts a career touchdown to interception ratio of 3.6:1. The other 15 quarterbacks in ACC history with 50+ TD passes have a collective ratio of 1.6:1. In other words, Wilson's ratio is better than double the average amassed by the 15 most accomplished QBs in league history.

Senior placekicker Josh Czajkowski is now the NC State record-holder for point-after-touchdown kicks with 102 for his career. The redshirt senior also ranks second in PAT percentage with a .981 mark for his career (he's hit 102 of his 104 attempts).

Earlier this season, Czajkowski set a school record for consecutive PATs, connecting on 83 straight, dating back to the 2008 campaign. Czajkowski ranks fourth in school history in field goal percentage (.837) and is tied for fifth in field goals made (36). He currently leads the ACC in scoring with 9.2 points per game.

NC State leads the ACC and ranks sixth nationally in third-down conversion defense this week. The Wolfpack's feisty defensive unit is allowing the opposition to convert on just 27.2% of it's third-down attempts (22 of 81).

The Wolfpack has forced the opposition into 26 three-and-outs this season, an average of 4.3 per game. That mark is tied for 11th nationally this week.

Head coach Tom O'Brien has preached the importance of controlling time of possession since coming to NC State, but prior to this season, the Wolfpack was on the short end of that statistical category all three years that he has been the head coach.

The 2010 campaign is a different story, as the Wolfpack holds the edge in that category over its opponents by almost six minutes. NC State currently ranks first in the ACC and 13th nationally in TOP, averaging 32:55 minutes of offense per game.

O'Brien's squad has controlled the time of possession in all six games this sea- son. Last season, the Wolfpack won the TOP battle in six games all season.

NC State and East Carolina have battled in various athletic competitions for years, but last year, the two schools were united as each had one of their own battling horrible illness. While he was undergoing his debilitating therapy, he frequently ran into friend and colleague, Thomas "Rock" Roggeman, an East Carolina assistant coach. Bible and Roggeman's father, Tom, had coached together at Cincinnati in 1994 and against him in the Pac-10 a decade later. Roggeman had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in the summer of 2009.

Roggeman took medical leave last season to battle his disease, but the 47-year-old passed away on June 14, 2010.

His death hit Bible, who was declared cancer-free in July, hard.

Except for a stint in the hospital right after the diagnosis, Bible was never gone for long. During spring drills, he was on the field following chemo treatments.

In June his two primary oncologists told him that the treatments had resulted in a "complete molecular response," meaning that his body is free of cancer. With a heightened sense of excitement and anticipation about the upcoming season, Bible is looking forward to working non-stop with the Wolfpack offense and calling plays on game day – free of cancer, chemo and antibiotics.

NC State turned the ball over three times in the loss to Virginia Tech, a season- high in that category. It marked just the second time this season that the Wolfpack had more turnovers than its opponent.

However, Tom O'Brien's squad still boasts a +4 mark in the turnover margin col- umn, the second-best in the ACC and a mark that ties for 21st nationally. NC State has seven interceptions in six games this season, after having eight in 12 games a year ago.

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.

Quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown for 300+ yards five times in six games this season, already tied with Philip Rivers as the second-best single-season total in school history. For his career, he's crossed the 300-yard mark nine times, which also ranks second ever for a Wolfpack player and a mark that ties for eighth-place in the ACC record book. Wilson has thrown for three or more touchdowns in five games this season as well, a dozen times in his career and in 11 of his last 17 contests.

Senior wide receiver Owen Spencer entered the Boston College game ranked 10th in school history in receiving yards. Following the contest, he had vaulted up to fifth place. Spencer had eight catches for 70 yards in the contest and now ranks 16th in school history in receptions with 94. Spencer ranks sixth in the ACC in receiving yards per game this week with 71 per game and seventh in receptions per game with 4.67.

For his career, Spencer has averaged 20.7 yards per reception (1,955 yards on 94 grabs), and is on pace to challenge the ACC career mark of 22.0 as well (currently held by Herman Moore of Virginia).

He set an ACC single-season record for yards per catch in 2008, averaging a whopping 22.3 yards on 31 grabs. In 2009, he bettered that mark by over three yards, leading the nation with 25.5 yards per catch and in the process, breaking his own school and conference mark.

Spencer led the team with 16 plays of 20+ yards last season. He also led the team in 2008 with 13 plays that went over the 20-yard mark. This season, he ranks second on the team with eight (the leader has nine).

The Wolfpack started the season with a young secondary. Six games into the season and that group has gotten younger and younger. Against Boston College, two sophomores and two true freshmen started in that unit which helped hold the Eagles to just 272 yards of total offense. True freshman Dontae Johnson started the game at field safety, tallying four tackles and breaking up a pass. That game marked the second career start for true freshman David Amerson, who is playing at boundary corner.

The sophomores who started last week, C.J. Wilson and Earl Wolff, have gained great experience during their brief careers. Wilson (field corner) played in all 12 contests last season, and has now started 12 games, while Wolfe (boundary safety) started four of the 12 games in which he played last season and all six games of 2010. Sophomore Brandan Bishop, the regular starter at field safety, has played in 17 career games, starting 13.

There is one Wilson on the 2010 Wolfpack squad who gets a lot of attention: the one on offense wearing #16 on his jersey who has thrown for 17 touchdowns this season.

But there is another Wilson, playing on the defensive side of the ball, who is also helping the Pack put up points in 2010. Redshirt sophomore cornerback C.J. Wilson has now returned two interceptions for touchdowns this season - a 43-yarder at Central Florida and a 28-yarder in the win over Boston College.

Wilson is the first NC State player to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same season since 1966. That season, Greg Williams had two INT returns for scores.

NC State halfbacks Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene had never played in a collegiate game before September 4. Now, just over a month later, the redshirt freshman and true freshman are playing like seasoned vets.

Haynes has started every game of the 2010 campaign, although he moved over from the defensive side of the ball just two weeks before he was named the starter. He has tallied 254 yards on 62 carries, scored two touchdowns and caught nine passes for 85 yards and another TD. Haynes redshirted last season at safety and started off 2010 preseason camp playing in the secondary. 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 has come off the bench to rush for a team-high 344 yards on 69 carries, crossing the goal line four times. He is the Wolfpack's fourth-leading receiver with 17 catches for 161 yards. He was named the ACC's Rookie of the Week after the win over Cincinnati. He rushed for a touchdown in each of his first four games - the first time a Wolfpack player has done that in his first four games since quarterback Tol Avery in 1980.

Greene was ranked the 26th-best running back in the nation by 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.

The young tandem has combined for 844 all-purpose yards in 2010, an average of 140.6 per game.

The Georgia Tech game proved what the Wolfpack faithful have believed all along: Nate Irving is a game-changer on defense. Evidence of that fact might be that when the senior middle linebacker is in the starting lineup, the Pack posts a 14-5 record.

In the win over Georgia Tech, Irving tallied a career-high 16 tackles, including 4.5 behind the line of scrimmage and two sacks. He was named the National Defensive Player of the Week by Walter Camp Football Foundation for his performance. He followed that game with another strong outing against Virginia Tech, tallying 13 stops, including two for loss and a sack.

Irving leads NC State and ranks eighth in the ACC in total tackles and sixth in the league in tackles for loss. His 26.5 career tackles for loss has moved him into 14th-place in school history.

It was a long time, 644 days to be exact, since No. 56 had run out of the tunnel at Carter-Finley Stadium prior to the 2010 season opener against Western Carolina. Irving was a huge key to the NC State defense heading into 2009. In 2008, he was an honorable mention All-ACC performer, but would have battled for first-team honors if he hadn't been slowed by injuries. He tied for third on the team in tackles despite missing three complete games and most of two more, and he led the team in interceptions with four -- the most ever by a Wolfpack linebacker. He was looking forward to a huge campaign in 2009 and was on several preseason All-ACC squads.

However, early in the morning of June 28, 2009, his season came to a standstill. He decided to leave his home in Wallace, N.C., in the wee hours of the morning to make the hour-and-15-minute drive back to Raleigh, where he would begin summer school classes the next day. Just 20 minutes from his destination, he fell asleep and ran off the road. The mammoth SUV he was driving flipped multiple times, hit several trees and when he came to he was in a hospital.

Irving sustained a multitude of injuries, including a collapsed lung, broken rib, separated shoulder and a compound fracture in his leg. He spent three days in the hospital and months rehabbing.

Pack Pride Top Stories