The Wolfpack's ability to make Yates move in the pocket changed Carolina's approach in the second half and allowed State to force field goals on two drives in the third quarter when touchdowns could have put the Tar Heels up by as much as 17.
Defensive coordinator Mike Archer said NC State's ability to pressure Yates made all the difference for the Wolfpack defense Saturday.
"Well, it was obvious that Carolina was not going to really try and run the football much and we didn't feel like they would be able to so obviously when you are going back to throw the ball you have to bring pressure," he said following Tuesday's practice. "We didn't want to let him sit in there and be comfortable, so the pressure we were able to bring was big. It was very important in that game."
While Archer said he's unsure if Yates every really got rattled -- he finished with 411 yards despite the pressure -- he did admit that the pressure NC State was able to generate changed the way the Tar Heels played.
"I don't know if we got him rattled, he's been there," he said. "He's been through a lot and the kid took a pounding and he kept getting back up. I have tremendous respect for what he did because we sacked him seven times and hit another 17." Bringing pressure will be just as important in this Saturday's matchup with Maryland, where a win would send NC State to its first ACC Championship game and set up a rematch against Virginia Tech Dec. 4 in Charlotte.
Maryland's offense, which may be best described as multiple, will present a different challenge for NC State. The Terps use two tight-end, one-back sets, I-formation, shotgun spread, and have even run some wildcat and triple option during the year with backup quarterback Jamar Robinson.
While pressuring the Terps will be crucial, another key is forcing starter Danny O'Brien to turn the ball over, something the redshirt freshman from Kernersville, NC has done little of in 2010. Since becoming the full-time starter in the fourth week of the season against FIU, O'Brien has amassed a 5-3 record and completed nearly 55 percent of his passes.
In Maryland's five wins, he has zero turnovers and 12 touchdown passes. In the three losses -- to Clemson, Miami and Florida State -- O'Brien has just two touchdowns and six interceptions, two of which were returned for scores. NC State will need to duplicate the success Clemson and Florida State had against Maryland and look to force mistakes from O'Brien.
With Maryland giving up just 19 sacks on the season it may be tough to duplicate the seven-sack output from Saturday's win over the Heels, but NC State will at the very least have to make O'Brien speed up his decision-making to have a chance of stopping the Terps Saturday.
"For a redshirt freshman he is very talented and has a lot of poise and a great arm. He's impressive to watch on film," Archer said. "If you can get him moving his feet and doing something he's not used to, maybe get him to throw it before he wants to then you have an opportunity to make plays."
Archer said understanding packages and personnel is the key to dissecting how the Terps plan to attack on any given play. O'Brien, a more traditional pocket passer, presents quite a different problem than the more mobile Robinson, who began the year as the starter.
"Robinson is obviously the key," Archer said. "They do so many different things. This is going to be an important week as far as looking at their packages, what they do, and understanding when they are in this group, this is what they are going to do."