NOTEBOOK: Huge Game For State

NC State (5-2) returns to the field tomorrow looking to knock off Clemson (4-4) in Death Valely. Kickoff is scheduled for noon, and the game will be televised on the ACC Network.

Heading into the ninth game of the season, NC State controls its own destiny in terms of the ACC's Atlantic Division standings. Although Florida State still leads that side of the conference race with one more victory in league play, if the Wolfpack ends up tied with the Seminoles it would win the tiebreaker.

The Pack will also have to travel to Maryland, the team tied with NC State for second in the standings this week.

Going undefeated in the month of November is a feat that NC State has accomplished in the not-so-distant past. In 2008, the Wolfpack opened ACC play 0-4, then won its last four league matchups, all in November, and ended up qualifying for a bowl.

Of the four teams in the hunt for the Atlantic Division title, the Wolfpack is the only one that has to go on the road three times in the last four games.

Tom O'Brien and his Wolfpack squad will keep their bags packed in the next month. NC State will begin the month playing Clemson in the aptly named "Death Valley," always a tough venue for the opposition. The Pack will return home for a Homecoming matchup with Wake Forest on Nov. 13, then will play down the road at Chapel Hill on the 20th and will travel to College Park, Md., to take on the Terrapins on Thanksgiving weekend.

The last time NC State played three road games in the month of November was in 1973, when Lou Holtz's Wolfpack squad won at South Carolina on Nov. 3, lost at No. 6 Penn State on Nov. 10, won at Duke on Nov. 17 and then knocked off Wake Forest at home on Nov. 24. That ACC Championship squad ended up earning a bid to the Liberty bowl, where it defeated Kansas, 31-18.

NC State has dropped the past six games to Clemson, a streak which ties as the longest in the series history between the two schools and is the longest active losing streak for the Pack against any league team. Clemson leads the series handily at 50-27-1.

The Wolfpack has played better on the road than at home against Clemson during the current losing streak. The last three games at Clemson were decided by six, six and 18 points, while the three games in Carter-Finley were 21, 22 and 20-point margins.

NC State hasn't defeated Clemson in Raleigh since 2003 (17-15) and at Clemson since 2002 (38-6).

NC State quarterback Russell Wilson and Clemson signal-caller Kyle Parker will be opponents when the Wolfpack and Tigers play this weekend, and they have been opponents many times in recent years, both on the gridiron and on the baseball diamond.

The day may come soon, however, when Wilson and Parker will be teammates, only not in football. Both were chosen by the Colorado Rockies in last June's Major League Baseball draft – Parker in the first round and Wilson in the fourth – and both signed contracts with the Rockies. Wilson spent the summer with the Tri-City Dust Devils of the short-season Northwest League. Parker signed late in the summer and will not begin his professional baseball career until next April.

Wilson and Parker are not the first college quarterbacks to move on to professional baseball. The Rockies have two former QBs on their current major league roster – first baseman Todd Helton (Tennessee) and outfielder Seth Smith (Ole Miss). Should Wilson and Parker both make it to Colorado before Helton and Smith move on, the Rockies would have more quarterbacks on their roster (4) than the crosstown Denver Broncos.

And that's not the end of the story of the Rockies and college quarterbacks. Wilson's Tri-City teammate this summer, starting pitcher Josh Sullivan, played quarterback at Auburn, although mostly as a backup to current Oakland Raiders' QB Jason Campbell. That gives the Rockies organization five college quarterbacks.

The Rockies' QB quintet is just part of the latest wave of college quarterbacks to play professional baseball. They join a select group that includes the likes of Terry Harvey of NC State, Dennis Dixon of Oregon, Drew Henson of Michigan, John Elway of Stanford, Jay Schroeder of UCLA, and Rick Leach of Michigan. Then there are Dave Shinskie of Boston College and Chris Weinke of Florida State, who took the reverse route, playing professional baseball and then returning to college in their mid-20s to quarterback their college football teams.

There is one question out of all this that begs an answer: Of all the former quarterbacks ever to play professional baseball, how many, if any, have any gone from opponents in college football to teammates in professional baseball? Wilson and Parker could conceivably become the first.

Although not many of the players in uniform know about it, for the past 30 years (since 1981), the series between NC State and Clemson has been dubbed the Textile Bowl, as that industry has such a major economic impact on both states and both schools boast renowned textile colleges. The North Carolina textile manufacturers donate money to NC State's scholar-ship fund every year in honor of the Wolfpack's MVP from the game. Clemson posts a 21-9 advantage in the Textile Bowl.

In 2009, he threw for five touchdowns in a 42-45 loss in Tallahassee. This season, Russell Wilson managed just one scoring pass against the 16th-ranked Seminoles. He more than made up for that on the ground, however. Wilson rushed for three touchdowns in the Thursday night matchup, marking the first time a Wolfpack field general had run for three scores since Preston Poag did it against Western Carolina on Sept. 3, 1988.

Wilson has now run for 13 touchdowns in his career. His three TD runs against FSU was just one less than he had in the entire 2008 or 2009 seasons.

Wilson was named the ACC's Offensive Back of the Week (for the fourth time this season) for his performance against the ‘Noles.

Junior quarterback Russell Wilson has now run for 917 yards in his career. That's more than any quarterback in school history with the exception of Johnny Evans, who gained 1,259 yards on the ground and passed for 2,509 during his career, which spanned from 1974-77.

Wilson, whose 2010 passing mark of 2,302 is close to Evans' four-year numbers, has rushed for 13 career touchdowns. Evans also rushed for 13 touchdowns during his career, passing for a dozen (Wilson has passed for 67).

NC State is getting its scoring from many different spots this season. Fourteen different players have scored touchdowns for the Wolfpack this season, a mark that ties as the fourth-highest in the nation. Four players have crossed the goal line four times each, while nine have scored two or more TDs.

In terms of positions, wide receivers (6), halfbacks (3), fullbacks (1), tight ends (1), defensive backs (2) and a quarterback (1) have been responsible for the Wolfpack's 35 TDs this season.

In 52 of the 57 years since the ACC was formed, NC State has scored fewer touchdowns for the season than the Pack has already scored in eight games in 2010.

Knock on wood, throw some salt over your shoulder or grab your rabbit's foot before reading this note: Eight games into the 2010 season, NC State has not lost a single player for the season due to injury.

There are a couple of players still sitting out who were injured last season and haven't returned (cornerbacks Rashard Smith and Jarvis Byrd) and offensive guard/ tackle R.J. Mattes missed the first two games of the year after his 2009 knee injury. But so far in 2010, only one starter has been injured and forced to miss time. That was offensive tackle Mikel Overgaard, who started the first three games before injuring his elbow and being forced to miss three games.

This healthy trend is a complete reversal of Tom O'Brien's first three years with the Wolfpack program. His first three Wolfpack squads were decimated by injuries. In the last three seasons prior to 2010 combined, players who were starters at one point in their careers missed an overwhelming total of 180 games. That's an average of 60 games missed per season.

NC State enters the ninth game of the 2010 season with some of the best offensive marks in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Wolfpack currently leads the league in pass offense (295.8 ypg) and total offense (438.6 ypg) and ranks second in scoring offense (35.0 ppg), just two points behind league-leader Virginia Tech.

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

Redshirt sophomore boundary safety Earl Wolff was thrown into the fire early in his career. He played in a dozen games and started four as a redshirt freshman last season for the Wolfpack's beleaguered secondary that ranked 69th nationally last season in pass defense.

But last year's growing pains have become this year's experience, and Wolff has become the leader in the young secondary made up of a true freshman, a true sophomore and another redshirt sophomore.

Wolff has led the team in tackles in each of the past two games, tallying 15 in the loss at East Carolina and tying for the lead with eight in the win over Florida State. He now ranks second only to Nate Irving in tackles among WOLFF-pack players.

Head coach Tom O'Brien has preached the importance of controlling the 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 10th nationally in TOP, averaging 32:53 minutes of offense per game.

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

The Wolfpack almost broke that streak on Oct. 16 in the overtime loss at East Carolina. The Pirates were on the field almost four minutes longer than the Pack in the first quarter (9:25 to 5:35), but NC State dominated the time of possession stat in the last three quarters and ended up with a 32:31 to 27:27 advantage.

In the early part of the 2010 campaign, NC State did a great job taking care of the football. In the first four games of the year, the Wolfpack turned the ball over just four times and was leading the ACC in turnover margin, have forced nine miscues.

However, in the last four outings, two of which have been Wolfpack losses, the Pack has turned the ball over 12 times, while forcing just nine. Tom O'Brien's squad still boasts a +4 mark in the turnover margin column. NC State has hauled in seven interceptions in eight games this season, after having eight in 12 games a year ago.

NC State finished the 2009 season ranked 114th nationally in turnover margin, with 25 turnovers to just 14 takeaways. The Wolfpack is currently tied for 28th in that category for 2010.

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