For the first time since the 1997 season, NC State is playing its first two games away from home. After opening the season against Tennessee in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, the Wolfpack is heading to Connecticut to take on the Huskies.
The meeting marks only the second between NC State and the Big East school, with the Pack winning the 2003 contest, 31-24.
Tom O'Brien has faced Connecticut four times, winning all four contests, while Huskies coach Paul Pasqualoni is 0-2 against the Pack - losing in 1997 and 1998 as the head coach at Syracuse. O'Brien is also very familiar with the Big East, as he was the head coach at Boston College for 10 seasons, eight of which the Eagles spent in that league. His 2004 squad earned a share of the Big East title.
O'Brien holds a 27-19 career record against Big East teams. Since coming to NC State in 2007, O'Brien is 4-4 against teams from the Big East, but has won three of the last four matchups, including back-to-back bowl wins against Big East foes West Virginia and Louisville.
FREDDIE WAS READY
NC State and Connecticut may have only met one time on the gridiron, but the first meeting was definitely a memorable one.
In 2003, Wolfpack quarterback Philip Rivers' senior campaign, the Huskies came to Carter-Finley Stadium on Oct. 11. It was UConn's second season playing in Division IA and the year before they joined the Big East. Although the Pack had entered the season ranked in the top 20, the game went down to the wire. After a scoreless first quarter, the two teams went into halftime tied at 10.
Chuck Amato's Wolfpack squad scored first in the third quarter, when linebacker Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay returned a fumble 48 yards for a score. The Pack jumped up 14 points later in the third when quarterback Philip Rivers hit the tight end for a 25-yard scoring strike.
UConn came roaring back in the fourth quarter with two TD strikes to tie the game at 24-24. The Huskies got the ball back with 47 seconds left in the game and drove from their 14 to the 42, when Aughtry-Lindsay intercepted a pass and ran it back 56 yards for the winning score.
Aughtry-Lindsay is now an assistant coach at Elon, under head coach Jason Swepson, who was the Pack running backs coach in O'Brien's first four years at State.
NC State's pair of super safeties were the team's leading tacklers in the season opener and are two of the most experienced players on the 2012 Wolfpack squad. Brandan Bishop has 38 career starts, the highest mark on the team, while Earl Wolff has 31, which ties as the second-highest mark.
Wolff posted a career-high 18 tackles in the season opening loss to Tennessee, including a pair of stops behind the line of scrimmage. Bishop turned in 10 stops, including one for loss, and also caused a fumble on the goalline to prevent a Volunteer score at the end of the first half.
Wolff has made 273 career tackles, the highest mark on the squad, while Bishop has 214 career stops to his credit. Those two totals constitute 48% of the career tackles on the 2012 Wolfpack squad.
SOMETHING OLD ....
In 2012, Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien has a luxury that he hasn't been afforded in previous campaigns with the Wolfpack: senior starters. In the season opener, 11 spots on offense and defense were manned by seniors who have starting experience in the past.
That number is almost double the most senior starting experience O'Brien has had during his first five years with the Wolfpack. The number is particularly high on offense, where seven of the 11 starting spots are slated to be filled by seniors with previous starting experience.
Three Pack players ranked among the most experienced returning players in the ACC in terms of career starts heading into the 2012 season: safety Brandan Bishop (5th), OG R.J. Mattes (t9th) and safety Earl Wolff (t9th).
For the 2008 season, there were only two projected starters who were seniors with starting experience. In 2009, there were seven.
..... SOMETHING NEW
Ten players saw their first collegiate action for the Pack in the opener with Tennessee, including eight red-shirt freshmen and one true freshman.
Redshirts Juston Burris (CB), Hakeem Flowers (WR), Carlos Gray (DT), Hakim Jones (S), Dave Mann (DT), Maurice Morgan (WR) and Mike Rose (DT) all saw action from scrimmage, with Burris getting in for a rookie-high 63 snaps. Tight end Benson Browne saw action on special teams, while walk-on Josh Stanley also played in the kicking game.
True freshman Charlie Hegedus was in for 20 snaps at wide receiver, catching one pass for seven yards. Hegedus, whose hometown of Marietta was just 30 miles from the Georgia Dome, played his first collegiate contest on the same field where he played his last prep game. His alma mater, Lassiiter High School, fell in the 5A state semifinals in the Dome in 2011.
They're not really borrowed, because we're not giving them back, but Colorado transfer Forrest West (DE) and JUCO transfers Deylan Buntyn (DT) and Robert Caldwell (LB) also saw action against Tennessee. West, who spent the 2011 campaign sitting out but practicing with the Pack, and Buntyn, who joined the team in January, both saw action from scrimmage. Caldwell, who arrived at preseason camp late, was in on special teams. That brings the grand total of new players seeing action to 13.
There will be a face familiar to the Wolfpack faithful standing on the side of the field with the team in blue on Saturday. Former State linebacker Clayton White is the running backs coach and special teams coordinator for the Huskies. White, who is tied for 11th in school history in career tackles for loss with 33, lettered for the Pack from 1997-2000 under coach Mike O'Cain and Chuck Amato.
A team captain as a senior, White went on to play in the NFL for two seasons for the New York Giants before embarking on a coaching career that has led him to Western Kentucky, Stanford, Western Michigan and Western Carolina.
Wolfpack junior cornerback David Amerson got off to a rough start versus Tennessee, but the returning All-American will be looking to get back on track this week at Connecticut.
Amerson's sophomore interception total was the second-best mark in FBS history and he was the winner of the Jack Tatum Award and and one of three finalists for the Thorpe Award in 2011. A first-team Walter Camp All-American, he tied the ACC single-season INT record with his 11th pick against Clemson on November 19.
Amerson set the school mark against North Carolina on November 5, breaking the record that had been set just a few years before he was born: Art Rooney (of the Pittsburgh Steeler Rooneys) held the record with eight in 1937 and again in 1938!
He returned two picks for scores, also a BCS best, and led the national ranks in INT return yards with 205.
WE LIKE MIKE
Mike Glennon's entry into the job of starting collegiate quarterback was not a quiet one. A year ago, nobody mentioned his name without also mentioning his predecessor Russell Wilson, who had moved on to Wisconsin.
Despite the controversy and talk swirling around him, Glennon was unflappable in his first year starting under center. Now a fifth-year senior, he silenced all critics by throwing 31 touchdown passes, gaining over 3000 passing yards and completing .625 of his throws in 2011. In fact, only three quarterbacks in ACC history have thrown for more TDs in a season.
From the jump, Glennon seemed comfortable in his role as the starting quarterback. By year's end, he was clicking on all cylinders, completing 66% of his passes for 1,043 yards, throwing 11 TDs to only three interceptions, and posting a 141.35 efficiency rating in the last four games of 2011.
Prior to the 2012 campaign, The Sporting News ranked him as one of the top quarterbacks in the country for the upcoming season and with his ability, experience and knowledge of the State playbook, he should battle for all-conference honors in 2012. His stints at the Manning Passing Academy and at the Elite 11 Camp during the summer have put him solidly in the sights of the national media and NFL scouts.
NO BACKERS BACK
Without question, the linebacking corps took the biggest hit of any unit on the Wolfpack squad following the 2011 campaign. Two of the starters from last season, Audie Cole and Terrell Manning, are fighting for position on NFL squads. D.J. Green, who started seven contests before being sidelined by an injury, was declared ineligible in the spring for the entire 2012 season.
The result is that there will be group of not-so-familiar faces at the linebacker spots in 2012. The grand total of snaps from scrimmage played in 2011 by the six players listed listed the opening depth chart of 2012 was only 24 snaps. That's an average of four snaps per man. That snap total was a little higher in the preseason before sophomore Michael Peek, who was battling for a starter's job, suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Sterling Lucas is the only established veteran in the linebacking corps, although the Tennessee game was his first action since December of 2010. He was injured at the beginning of the 2011 campaign and ended up red-shirting. A veteran of 36 career contests, 459 career snaps and two starts prior to last season, Lucas played 74 snaps and tallied nine tackles in the season opener.
The other starters for the season opener were Brandon Pittman, who played just five snaps from scrimmage last season as a true freshman, and Ricky Dowdy, who had played one snap for his career prior to last Friday.
In the history of college bowl games, no head coach has ever posted a winning percentage better than NC State head coach Tom O'Brien. During his 15 years as a head coach at Boston College and NC State, O'Brien has won .800 of his bowl games, posting an 8-2 postseason slate.
That stat from Sports-Reference.com includes coaches at major schools from 1869 - 2011.