Saturday's game will mark the first meeting between NC State and the Jaguars of South Alabama, as the Jaguars come into Carter-Finley Stadium never having lost a game in the brief history of its program (they began play in 2009). USA, which will move up to the FBS ranks in 2013, has posted a 19-0 record since beginning play in 2009.
A NIGHT FOR HEROES
Saturday's game will be a special one for the Wolfpack nation, as it is designated as NC State's annual "Military Appreciation Day." This game has become a special one for State fans, as the Wolfpack welcomes those who have defended our country in the past and will in the future.
There are a variety of events surrounding Military Appreciation Day, but the most meaningful will be hosting the Wounded Warriors from Fort Bragg and Camp LeJeune. This group of heroes will have its own Walk of Champions into the stadium and a collection will be taken up at the gates for the Back Home Box Foundation, which send supplies to troops overseas.
PACK READIES FOR QUICK TURNAROUND
NC State's game with South Alabama will more than likely end around 9:30 Saturday night. Less that five nights later, the Pack will more than likely be at halftime of its next game: at Cincinnati.
This marks the second year in a row that State has a game the weekend before a Thursday night contest. In 2010, the Pack played at Central Florida on Saturday night, then played host to Cincinnati on Thursday. This year, Tom O'Brien will take his team on the road.
Besides this year and last year, there have been just two other times since 1980 that NC State had a five-day turnaround which included at least one game on the road. In 1997, Mike O'Cain's Wolfpack topped Northern Illinois at home (9/20) before falling at Wake Forest (9/25), while Chuck Amato's 2002 squad beat Duke at Carter-Finley Stadium (10/19) prior to defeating Clemson on the road in an ESPN Thursday contest (10/24).
RUSHING IS RIGHT
Although the Wolfpack left Winston-Salem with a mark in the loss column on Saturday, one thing has become apparent in the last game and a half: NC State has found its rushing game.
In the second half of the season opening win over Liberty and the entire Wake Forest game, the Pack averaged 4.8 yards per carry (52 rushes for 248 yards - doesn't include a 15-yard sack on Glennon in second half versus Liberty). In the win over the Flames, Curtis Underwood became State's first 100-yard rusher for first time in 17 games (dating back to the 2009 season).
In addition, the Pack lost only three rushing yards at Wake Forest and three against Liberty (not counting sack yardage). That rushing news is certainly welcome, considering that State is playing without its leading rusher from last season, Mustafa Greene. Greene is out until early October after suffering a foot injury in spring practice.
Senior T.J. Graham has become the go-to guy for the Wolfpack early in the 2011 season in two facets of the game: offense and special teams. The senior has averaged 191 all-purpose yards in two games this season, the second-best mark in the ACC and the eighth-best mark in the nation.
Graham boasted his first career 100-yard receiving game at Wake Forest, when he had six grabs for 117 yards and a 63-yard touchdown - the longest catch of his career.
Entering the season, Graham had already made a name for himself as a kick returner. He entered the season as the school record holder in kickoff return yards for a single game (202), single season (1,028) and career (he now has 2,337). That career mark ranks fourth in ACC history.
Lately, Graham has picked up his pace as a punt returner as well. In the last five games (including last three games of 2010), he has posted two of the top six singlegame punt return totals in school history. He had two returns for 88 yards and a touchdown in the 2010 win at UNC and had three for 88 yards and another score in the opener versus Liberty. His big return in the opener was an 82-yarder, the 11thlongest in school history.
Graham now boasts 521 career punt return yards, the sixth-best mark in school history. He has tallied 3,674 all-purpose yards for this career, which ranks 10th on the Wolfpack career list.
BAUMANN PINS ‘EM DEEP
Wil Baumann is one of only six true freshmen starting at punter in the FBS ranks this season, but he certainly didn't look like a rookie on Saturday at Wake Forest.
Baumann was one of the brightest spots of the game for State, as he averaged 41.8 yards on his four punt attempts.
But more impressive than his distance, was his aim. Baumann pinned the Deacons inside their own 20 yardline three times and put then inside the 10 twice. He has landed a punt inside the 20 five times this season, the best mark in among ACC punters.
SHORT-HANDED DEFENSE GIVES UP YARDS
The Wolfpack defense had a rough go of it on Saturday at Wake Forest, giving up 337 passing yards and 438 yards of total offense. In the opener, Liberty gained 406 yards of total offense but was held to just one offensive touchdown thanks to the Pack forcing a school-record-tying seven turnovers.
State forced just one TO in Winston-Salem, as Brandan Bishop picked off the team's fifth pass of the season - a mark which leads the ACC.
The Pack was playing without two starters on the defensive line, as team captain J.R. Sweezy, a tackle, is missing time with a broken foot and end Jeff Rieskamp sat out with a shoulder injury. Both players are fifth-year seniors and second-year starters.
Redshirt freshman Thomas Teal, who was listed as second on the depth chart due to Sweezy's absence, broke his foot in the opener, so the Pack was actually down three on the d-line.
State is tied for second in the nation this week in interceptions with five for the season. In the opener, sophomore cornerback David Amerson, picked off two passes, while junior Earl Wolff and D.J. Green also had picks.
ES IST GUT
That's German for "It's good" - a phrase that Germany native Niklas Sade heard a couple of times so far this season. Sade, one of six true freshmen to start at placekicker in the FBS ranks this season, was perfect on his kicks at Wake Forest, nailing a 37 and 45-yard field goal (which tied for the longest for the Pack in two years) and connecting on all three of his point after attempts.
One of his five kickoff attempts was for a touchback.
For the season, Sade has connected on all three of his field goal attempts and hit 7-8 PAT attempts.
GLENNON IN A GROOVE
Mike Glennon did not look like a player making just his second career start on Saturday at Wake Forest, particularly in the second half. The graduate student completed 17 of his 29 attempts in the second frame for 263 of the 315 yards he gained for the game and threw three touchdowns after the break.
Glennon went deep in the second half, throwing passes of 65 and 63 yards on scoring throws to Tobais Palmer and T.J. Graham respectively. He also had more time to throw in the contest - after being sacked four times in the opener, he was not thrown for a loss versus Wake Forest.
Glennon, who is tied as the second-tallest QB in the nation at 6'6 was one of 22 FBS quarterbacks making his first career start in the opening week. Prior to the opener, Glennon had played in 10 games during his two years behind All-ACC signal caller Russell Wilson, but had been in for just 100 career snaps over two years. He saw action in 65 plays from scrimmage against Liberty.
Despite his lack of experience, he was named to the preseason ‘watch' list for the Maxwell Award. He was ranked the No. 3 quarterback in the nation by ESPN coming out of high school and was the Gatorade and AP Player of the Year in Virginia. His older brother, Sean, played quarterback at Virginia Tech from 2004-08.
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
There isn't too much that can come up during that course of a football game that the Wolfpack coaching staff hasn't seen before. The 2011 State staff ranks second in the FBS ranks in terms of combined experience at four-year colleges and in the professional ranks, trailing only Penn State.
TEAM EFFORT IN OPENING WIN
The Wolfpack's 43-21 victory over Liberty to open the season could truly be called a team effort, as the State offense, defense and special teams each put points on the board. In fact, of the team's 43 points, one could say the offense scored 24 points (3 rushing TDs and 1 pass TD), the defense scored six (on a fumble return) and special teams scored 13 (one field goal, a punt return for a score and four PATs).