TSX: Avoiding A Letdown

With so much anticipation for the Wolfpack going into the opener against a highly respected Southeastern Conference program such as Tennessee, there's a natural letdown with the result.

The Wolfpack was ambushed early and it was unable to resurrect the kind of comeback that saved it in the 2011 regular-season finale against Maryland. So N.C. State was on the losing end of a 35-21 decision to Tennessee.

There's barely time to exhale from that result, and it could be a good thing for the Wolfpack.

"We have to find a way to get ourselves back together, get our minds right and win a football game," coach Tom O'Brien said.

The Wolfpack was adamant that the result from the opener wouldn't be a telltale sign for the season. But it was a missed opportunity and that's what will sting the most for N.C. State, which has coveted the concept of becoming a consistent Top 25 program.

With a road game against Connecticut, the goal now will be avoiding the first 0-2 start since 2007.

"This is not going to break our season," receiver Quintin Payton said. "We'll go back to the drawing board and get it together."

The Wolfpack will take its second trip in as many weeks when it visits Connecticut on Saturday, marking the first time since 1997 that the team has started a season with two games away from Raleigh. N.C. State will need to show the ability to bounce back to avoid another hole early in the season.

-- Even though RB Tony Creecy was dubbed the starter for the opener in a close three-way competition among tailbacks for the Wolfpack, it was RB Mustafa Greene who received the most carries. Greene, a redshirt sophomore who missed all of the 2011 season with a foot injury, carried 11 times for a team-best 53 yards. That was one more carry than Creecy, who also averaged 4.8 yards per attempt.

-- By giving up 22 first-quarter points to Tennessee, it was the most allowed by the Wolfpack in a span of 178 games going back to a 1997 loss to Florida State. That was more points than N.C. State surrendered in six of its 2011 games. "It came down to too many big plays we gave up on defense," coach Tom O'Brien said.

KEEP AN EYE ON: The running back situation is bound to be fluid with this team as three tailbacks have commanded attention. There's depth at the position as RB James Washington, who started 17 consecutive games entering the season, ended up basically the third-stringer for the opener. He carried the ball five times compared with a total of 21 times for RB Mustafa Greene and RB Tony Creecy. Washington is more skilled as a receiver out the backfield than the other two and so he could be used more in that role.

LOOKING GOOD: More than a dozen players made their N.C. State debuts in the opener. Racking up that type of experience in a high-profile game could result in a payoff later in the season. O'Brien said he liked the fact that so many players were able to dive right in, though he certainly would like to see better execution on several fronts.

STILL NEEDS WORK: QB Mike Glennon was picked off four times in the opener and so immediately much of the shine of his breakout season in 2011 started to fade. Glennon wasn't intercepted for the fourth time last season until the fifth game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Obviously, those are things that need to get corrected if we are going to have a good season." -- Coach Tom O'Brien on the team's tackling woes in the opener.


-- WR Quintin Payton had a breakout game with a game-high 129 receiving yards on four catches in the opener against Tennessee. His 49-yard reception was longer than any of his 11 career catches entering the game.

-- LB Sterling Lucas, who provides the veteran presence among linebackers, played for the first time since the 2010 season. He sat out 2011 as a redshirt after suffering a knee injury in preseason practice. Against Tennessee, he recorded N.C. State's only sack.

-- WR Bryan Underwood was in action for the opener despite undergoing a minor procedure on one of his knees during the preseason. He was considered questionable for the opener, when he made three catches for 9 yards.

-- CB David Amerson, who was burnt for a couple of touchdown plays against Tennessee, issued an apology to the team's fans through social media after the game. The 2011 All-American insisted that he'll atone for the miscues.

-- R.J. Mattes began his senior season as the starting left guard. That's the fourth different offensive line spot for Mattes during his N.C. State career. He started 12 games in 2011 at left tackle.

-- WR Charlie Hegedus played in the opener as a true freshman. He made one catch for 7 yards. He was dubbed most ready among the team's first-year players by coach Tom O'Brien.

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