Given NC State's offensive struggles through the first two weeks of 2012, it's hard to fathom that the Wolfpack could take any opponent lightly. On top of that, State is facing a team that gave them fits at times last year. All of this means that the Pack has to come ready to play on Saturday night.
A year ago the Pack held a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 14-3 advantage at half time against South Alabama. State struggled to move the ball- particularly on the ground- and really didn't put any serious breathing room between themselves and the Jaguars until a Mike Glennon 18-yard touchdown pass late in the third put the Pack up 28-10.
When it was over, South Alabama managed to hold the Pack under 100 yards rushing, forced three turnovers and limited State to just 27 minutes of possession time. State did manage to put up close to 300 yards through the air and that really proved to be the difference in the game.
TIME TO REGAIN SOME CONFIDENCE
Since Mike Glennon's initial interception and the ensuing 16 points scored by Tennessee, the Wolfpack offense has sputtered, hiccuped and looked downright anemic at times. The Pack has struggled to run block, pass block or develop anything consistent on the offensive side of the ball.
State can take a big step forward Saturday night by coming out and executing the fundamentals. Typically that starts behind an offensive line that opens up holes to jump start the running game. That's an important first step and should help pave the way for the Pack to open up its passing attack.
For the second time in three weeks the Pack will face a 3-4 defense. While they struggled against Tennessee, clearly the Jaguars aren't going to bring the talent the Pack faced in week one. Still, NC State has to do a better job in pass protection by identifying who they're supposed to block, where pressure is coming from and then getting a hat on a hat. This is something that has been a glaring weakness through weeks one and two. The Pack is at its best when it can spread the field and utilize both its tight ends and running backs in the passing game.
Offensively, State is playing with one hand behind its back when those players are forced to stay home to help out with the pass rush.
STAY AWAY FROM SILLY MISTAKES
The great equalizer when you face an opponent you should beat are mistakes. As mentioned above, State had three turnovers against South Alabama a year ago and that enabled the Jaguars to hang around a lot longer than most probably expected.
Based on where the NC State offense is right now, they can't afford these kinds of mistakes on Saturday night. The Pack desperately needs to enjoy some consistent, long drives and nothing will kill that quicker than a fumble or interception.
The Pack has not typically been a heavily penalized team and that's another key to State being successful this weekend. The Wolfpack has to avoid silly penalties that keep it behind the chains and which make the play calling much more predictable.