Saturday's game between the Wolfpack and the Yellow Jackets will mark the first meeting between NC State and Georgia Tech in Carter-Finley Stadium since 2006. The two teams have only met 27 times, with the Yellow Jackets posting a 17-10 lead in the series, including a slight 7-6 edge in Raleigh.
Last season marked just the Wolfpack's third win over Georgia Tech since 1994. O'Brien has faced Georgia Tech three times: in the first two years of his tenure at Boston College and last season. The Eagles lost to the Yellow Jackets in Chestnut Hill in 1997, but went to Atlanta the next season and won.
O'Brien coached against Paul Johnson twice when they both were head coaches. His BC team met Johnson's Navy squad in 2002 and 2006, with BC winning both of those contests.
DEFENSIVE LINE IS DECIMATED
The 2009 season will go down in history as one that was marred by injuries, particularly on the defense. During the course of that campaign, games were missed by linebackers, safeties, cornerbacks and defensive ends due to physical ailments ranging from torn ACLs (cornerback Rashard Smith) to automobile accidents (linebacker Nate Irving) to hernias (defensive end Jeff Rieskamp).
This season looks to top 2009 in the injury department, mainly due to the injuries suffered by one particular unit: the defensive line.
In preseason camp, tackle J.R. Sweezy, a team captain and returning starter, broke his foot and has missed the first four games. That loss was a big one for the defense, but Brian Slay moved over and redshirt freshman Thomas Teal moved up to a backup role. In the season opener, Teal went down with a broken foot, which moved A.J. Ferguson up on the depth chart.
Prior to the second game at Wake Forest, returning starter at end, redshirt senior Jeff Rieskamp, went down with a shoulder injury, which left his spot open for redshirt Art Norman to move into a starter's role.
Last week against Cincinnati, Slay suffered an ankle injury Ferguson went down with a knee injury, meaning that three of four projected or actual starters at the four defensive linemen positions could miss this week's contest versus Georgia Tech.
Just four games into the season, each position on the defensive line has changed due to injury - three positions have changed starters and one has changed the backup.
There was one bright spot in the Wolfpack's loss to Cincinnati - and it was a very bright one. Senior wide receiver/return man set a new school record with 336 all-purpose yards, breaking a mark that had stood for 36 years (Ted Brown had 297 in 1975).
Graham, whose average of 230 all-purpose yards per game is leading the FBS ranks, had seven receptions for 176 yards at Cincinnati, the 10th-best receiving yards game in school history. He also had 160 yards in kickoff returns in that contest, a mark that is tied for sixth in school history. A late addition to the Biletnikoff Watch List, Graham now boasts 4,212 all-purpose yards for his career, the fourth-best mark in school history. He ranks fourth in the ACC in receiving yards this week.
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 at the time. He followed that with a 5-128 performance against South Alabama, and set a new career long with a 67-yard TD grab-and-run. Against Cincinnati, in addition to hitting the century mark for the third straight game, he pulled down an 87-yard reception for a touchdown - the fifth-longest in school history - to break his career-long reception mark again.
This marks the first time a Pack wideout had tallied three consecutive 100-yard receiving games since Jerricho Cotchery did so in five games to close out the 2003 campaign.
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 2,562). That career mark ranks fourth in ACC history.
Graham has also picked up his pace as a punt returner and has posted two of the top six single-game 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 11th-longest in school history. Graham now boasts 530 career punt return yards, the sixth-best mark in school history.
GLENNON THROWS TDs
In his first four games as a starting signal caller, redshirt junior Mike Glennon has made one thing perfectly clear: he can throw the football. Glennon has thrown 10 touchdown passes so far this season, the second-best mark in the ACC and a tally that ties for eighth in the FBS standings. His 1,079 passing yards is also the secondbest mark in the league.
Glennon is only the second quarterback in Wolfpack history to throw for 10 touchdowns in his first four games as a starter - the other is ACC record-holder Philip Rivers.
Against Cincinnati, Glennon threw the fifth-longest pass in school history: an 87- yard touchdown strike to T.J. Graham. He has also completed passes of 63, 65 and 65 yards this season.
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 of the 2011 campaign. 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.
WHERE'S THE RUSH?
First the bad news: During the first four weeks of the 2011 campaign, the leading rusher from last season, Mustafa Greene, has been sidelined with a foot injury. The second-leading rusher, Russell Wilson, is playing for another team. The third-leading rusher, Dean Haynes, has actually seen action, but is playing safety for the Pack.
The men filling that hole, James Washington and Curtis Underwood actually have done well at times this season. Washington has started all four games for the Pack, and is averaging 3.3 yards per run. Underwood is the team's leading rusher and is averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He became the first State back to rush for over 100 yards since 2009 when he gained 114 yards on 14 carries in the opener.
However against Cincinnati, neither was able to move the ball. The Wolfpack rushed for minus-26 yards in the loss - the lowest single-game tally for a Wolfpack squad since 1970 (-29 versus Tulane).
The Pack's rushing game looked pretty solid over the second half of the season opening win over Liberty and the entire Wake Forest game, as the team 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 addition, the Pack lost only three rushing yards at Wake Forest and three against Liberty (not counting sack yardage).
Those numbers weren't so impressive over the last two games, as the team gained just 95 total rushing yards (that includes 24 yards lost in sacks) and averaged just 2.6 yards per carry against South Alabama and then stayed in the red for the Cincinnati contest.
The Wolfpack currently ranks 11th in the ACC in rushing with an 85 yard per game average.
AMERSON LEADS LEAGUE
Sophomore cornerback David Amerson is currently the ACC leader in interceptions with four in as many games. That mark is tied for second nationally.
The field corner pulled down a pair in the season opener versus Liberty and then has had one in each of the past two games. Just a third of the way into the season, he has already tied last year's team leader (Brandan Bishop had four in 2010). His tally already ties as the highest since 2005.
BRYAN TOP TIGHT END
Tight end George Bryan has now caught more passes than any tight end in NC State history. With 99 career grabs, the 16th-best overall mark ever for a Wolfpack player, he has passed T.J. Williams (2002-05) for the top mark for a tight end.
Bryan has 14 touchdown receptions for his career, which ranks in a tie for seventh place in school history (with Naz Worthen and Haywood Jeffires) in that category.
A preseason second-team All-America pick by Lindy's and a third-team choice by Rivals, Bryan is on the early ‘watch' list for the Mackey Award for the third straight year. For the third straight year, he's also hoping to earn first-team All-ACC honors and is the first tight end in school history to have won two such awards.
PACK GETS PICKS
NC State is currently leading the ACC with eight interceptions in its four games this season - that's tied as the third-best mark in the FBS ranks this week.
THE FACTS ABOUT SACKS
The State defense has done a good job getting to the opponent's quarterback this season - tallying a dozen sacks this season for a loss of 69 yards. That mark leads the ACC and is currently tied for 10th nationally. On the flip side, however, the Pack has allowed its quarterback to be sacked 14 times this season - the worst mark in the league.
PACK NOT SEEING RED
One glaring statistic regarding the Wolfpack defense has been its performance when the opposition gets into the red zone in 2011. In four games, NC State's opponents have moved into the red zone 14 times (including eight times in the loss to Cincinnati) and have scored on 13 of those trips. That percentage is the worst in the ACC.
The Pack has allowed seven touchdowns and six field goals from the redzone.
There's a new addition to the Wolfpack depth chart this week: defensive tackle Jacob Kahut. Kahut, a walk-on, saw action for 13 defensive snaps at tackle at Cincinnati as the Pack lost two more players on the defensive due to injury in that contest. He also played seven snaps on the offensive line in the contest.
For Georgia Tech, Kahut is listed as a backup at defensive tackle. The Wake Forest, North Carolina native transferred to State from Campbell prior to the 2010 campaign and played with the scout team last year. He played in all 11 games as a freshman at Campbell in 2009, recording 27 tackles.
Kahut was his team's MVP at Wake Forest/Rolesville High School.
WOLF PUPS SEE ACTION
Twenty Wolfpack players have seen their first career action in 2011, including eight redshirt freshmen, seven true freshmen, two transfers, two walk-ons and one other player.
Six players have earned their first career starts this season: Mike Glennon (QB), D.J. Green (LB), Darryl Cato-Bishop (DT), Niklas Sade (PK), Wil Baumann (P) and Art Norman (DE).
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.