TSX: Wolfpack Still Figuring Itself Out

The Wolfpack is pushing itself to improve and so the reviews after its latest victory might not be as positive as a 35-13 victory over South Alabama might otherwise indicate.

"We challenged ourselves to come out and make plays," running back Curtis Underwood said.

Building momentum is something the Wolfpack is trying to do. Then it counts on defense to sustain some of that. On that front, there was progress.

But, in large part, the Wolfpack is making an adjustment in figuring out how it's going to win this year. The games might not be as fluid as in the past for N.C. State, not quite as flashy.

"We certainly aren't a pretty team, but we found a way to get it done," coach Tom O'Brien said.

O'Brien said the Wolfpack has been panicked at times on the field and he's not opposed to that if it translates into a sense of urgency. There have been concerns that N.C. State has appeared complacent coming off last season.

So there wasn't reason for an all-out celebration after defeating South Alabama. There's plenty to learn from the game and the Wolfpack will have a chance to put the latest round of new knowledge right to work.

N.C. State has a quick turnaround with Thursday night's game at Cincinnati.

NOTES, QUOTES
-- After giving up more than 400 passing yards in each of its first two games, the Wolfpack tightened up in the pass defense by allowing 182 through the air to South Alabama. The Wolfpack recorded four sacks, helping keep the pressure on.

-- N.C. State's victory against South Alabama might have seemed rather ordinary against a Football Championship Subdivision team. But it was an historical situation given that South Alabama had been 19-0 all-time in games since starting its program, so the Wolfpack owns the first victory in history against the Jaguars.

KEEP AN EYE ON: DT Markus Kuhn -- He's capable of being disruptive in the middle of the defense in his final season. He recorded a sack against South Alabama and his role could be heightened along a defensive line that's generally banged up.

LOOKING GOOD: LB Dwayne Maddox has shown versatility on the defense, particularly with injuries piling up. He has played both in the middle linebacker role and on the weakside depending on the formations. He has been singled out by coach Tom O'Brien for his flexibility.

STILL NEEDS WORK: The Wolfpack hasn't done much to combat sluggish first halves of games even though it scored first against South Alabama by driving for a touchdown with the opening kickoff. It led only 14-3 at halftime, so the offense perked up after that. While dealing with certain adversity is bound to help the Wolfpack, it should be beyond the point of having to find ways to get a jump-start on a weekly basis.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "T.J. is a much different player this year. He has to be the guy for us. He's giving us more than maybe what we expected." -- coach Tom O'Brien on receiver T.J. Graham, who has worked to eliminate his tendency to drop passes.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYER NOTES:
-- Senior RB Taylor Gentry, a fullback, remains without a carry in his career. But he scored two receiving touchdowns against South Alabama, giving him three for his career. N.C. State hadn't had a player with two touchdown catches in a game since the 2010 opener.

-- WR T.J. Graham's 128 receiving yards against South Alabama pushed him above the 100-yard receiving mark for the second game in a row. He has become the go-to receiver at a time when the Wolfpack has needed receivers to emerge. His consecutive 100-yard receiving games marks the first time that has happened for an N.C. State player since 2003.

-- S Brandon Bishop took a turn as the Wolfpack's leading tackler, making nine stops against South Alabama. There's a developing habit of secondary members as the top tacklers for the Wolfpack and that might be a concern. Bishop also intercepted a pass for the second game in a row.

ROSTER REPORT
-- QB Mike Glennon, a redshirt junior, threw a career-high four touchdown passes against South Alabama. That included a 67-yarder to WR T.J. Graham, marking the longest touchdown pass of his career.

-- CB David Amerson boosted his total of interceptions to three by making a pick-off against South Alabama. He had two interceptions in the opener against Liberty, meaning all three of his interceptions have come against Football Championship Subdivision opponents.

-- LB Terrell Manning departed in the first half against South Alabama with a knee injury, and he will miss three weeks with the injury.


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