Saturday, September 15, 2012
6:00 pm (EST), ESPN3
South Alabama (1-1) at NC State (1-1) Sept. 15, 6:00, ESPN3
Here's The Deal: It was not a thing of beauty, but last Saturday's win at Connecticut might have saved NC State's 2012 season. The Wolfpack have not executed well through two games, especially on offense, but slipping past the Huskies, 10-7, was a huge step for a team that opened the year with a deflating loss to Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. South Alabama is two games into its transitional season as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, evening its record with last Saturday's 9-3 win over Nicholls State in Mobile.
Why South Alabama Might Win: After allowing just a field goal in Week 2, the Jaguars are aiming to keep NC State out of sync on offense. They'll pressure a leaky Wolfpack O-line that just got schooled for six sacks in East Hartford with a combination of DE Pat Moore and LB Jake Johnson.
Why NC State Might Win: After failing to reach the end zone against an FCS team, it's hard to like South Alabama's chances of outscoring an ACC team. For all of his early troubles, Mike Glennon remains a future NFL quarterback, and a deep ensemble of backs will have room to run. The D had three sacks, three picks and kept Connecticut off the scoreboard for the first 53 minutes.
What To Watch Out For: Glennon has to get on track. And he has to do it now. The senior has thrown just two touchdowns and four picks, in part because his protection has been awful. This week needs to be a turning for the Pack, which is hoping that LT Rob Crisp can return after missing last week's game with an injury.
What Will Happen: NC State has some pent-up frustration that it plans to release in the direction of South Alabama. The Pack isn't happy with the way it's played on either side of the ball this month. A visit from the Jaguars will allow the team to address its problems and improve its mood. With more time to throw, Glennon will break out of his slump to throw for three scores.
CFN Prediction: NC State 45 … South Alabama 7
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) NC State -32 O/U: 50.5
Must Watch Rating (5 – Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in IMAX, 1 – Go On): 1.5
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.
NC State Defense vs. South Alabama Offense
NC State's defense has been strong against the run in the first two games of the season, and they are going to have to be the same versus South Alabama.
The Jaguars are led by talented tailbacks Demetre Baker and Kendall Houston. South Alabama hasn't been super productive on the ground, but Baker and Houston could be their top two offensive playmakers and will receive plenty of work.
In the opener against UT-San Antonio, the duo combined to rush for 106 yards on 23 carries, and versus Nicholls State they totaled another 29 carries for 85 yards. Certainly not a great average, but the touches are there and South Alabama will continue to feed them the football.
The Jaguars are multiple on offense, showing different looks throughout the game, but do a lot of read-option from the shotgun. In last weekend's game, quarterback Ross Metheny, a Virginia transfer, had 10 carries. Through two games South Alabama has attempted 56 passes while rushing the ball 82 times so clearly they are a running team.
However, the Pack has been stingy with its rushing defense. Yielding just 77 yards a game to opposing tailbacks and quarterbacks, State held UConn and All-BIG East tailback Lyle McCombs to 35 yards rushing on 32 carries. That's a week after limiting Tennessee's tailbacks to 126 yards on 33 carries (3.7 yards per carry).
Defensive tackles Thomas Teal and T.Y. McGill do a good job of plugging the holes, and the defensive ends, linebackers, and safeties have been filling the gaps well while making plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.
In the first two games South Alabama rushed the ball nearly 60% of the time. Obviously the coaching staff is more comfortable with its rushing attack. If NC State can come out and eliminate the ground game, making the Jaguars one-dimensional, it should be a good night for the Wolfpack defense.
WIN ON 3RD DOWN
NC State has to be able to win on 3rd down this year to be a strong defense because it is the down where coordinator Mike Archer and assistant Jon Tenuta really look to turn up the pressure on the opposing quarterback.
So far this year they've been up-and-down on 3rd down, and as expected, the end results have also varied. Tennessee was a very good 9-of-19 against the Pack on 3rd down, as quarterback Tyler Bray converted multiple 3rd-and-medium situations throughout the game, which State lost.
However, against UConn, the Pack held the Huskies to just two conversions on 12 3rd-down chances, an outstanding performance in a game that State pulled out.
South Alabama comes in having converted 12-of-32 3rd-down opportunities in the first two games, a 37.5% conversion percentage that would rank No. 81 nationally.
State's 35.5% defensive 3rd-down rate actually ranks No. 54 nationally. That is a number that should only improve over the next couple of weeks.
NC State forced four turnovers in the win over UConn and just one in the loss to Tennessee. Obviously forcing turnovers will be a key for the Pack this season, and it is always the case given their defensive scheme.
South Alabama has also been somewhat generous with the ball this year. The Jaguars opened the year with four turnovers in the loss to UT-San Antonio and had another two in the win over Nicholls State. They've had five lost fumbles in two games, an extremely high number, with an interception.
Utilizing multiple blitzes to create a lot of pressure, if NC State can eliminate the run then they should be able to generate some turnovers against a South Alabama team that has been run-dominant in 2012. State wants to put the Jaguars in 3rd-and-medium, 3rd-and-long situations where they can pressure the quarterback and force mistakes.
With the turnovers, NC State can have potential scoring chances and also provide the Wolfpack offense with terrific field position, something a still-developing unit would love to have.
It's going to be a common key all year for NC State's defense... the Pack must be able to force turnovers versus South Alabama.
NC State Game Notes
After opening the season at a neutral site and then gutting out a tough road win at Connecticut in Week 2, the NC State Wolfpack will finally get to play in front of the home fans on Saturday, taking on South Alabama at 6 p.m.
This season marks the first time the Pack has opened with two games away from home since 1997, but it's the latest home opener for State since the 1983 season, when Tom Reed's team played its first game at Carter-Finley on September 17.
The Pack has posted an 11-2 record at home over the past two seasons, dropping one home game in each of the past two seasons, both to a visiting ranked team. State defeated No. 7 Clemson in Carter-Finley in 2011.
The road has been a little bit tougher, as the victory over UConn was state's first over a non-conference BCS school on the road since a win at Texas Tech in 2002.
NC STATE vs. SOUTH ALABAMA
Saturday's game will mark the second meeting between NC State and the Jaguars of South Alabama, with the Wolfpack winning the only meeting in the series.
On Sept. 17, 2011, the Jaguars came into Carter-Finley Stadium never having lost a game in the brief history of its program (they began play in 2009). USA, which will move up to the FBS ranks in 2013, had posted a 19-0 record since beginning play in 2009 prior to the 35-13 loss to the Pack last year.
The USA game was the Pack's third contest of the 2011 season and was a bit of a coming-out party for quarterback Mike Glennon in his first year as a starter. Glennon completed 17 of his 20 attempts in the contest for 274 yards and four touchdowns. That completion percentage (.850) was the highest for a Pack player since Philip Rivers went 26-30 (.866) against Western Carolina in the 2003 season opener.
PACK GUTS IT OUT
The game itself might not have been pretty, but the "W" on the record looks OK heading into week three of the 2012 campaign. The Pack won the game at Connecticut with just one touchdown and 10 points. It was the lowest point total in a victory since a 10-0 shutout of South Carolina in 1999 (Lou Holt's first game with the Gamecocks) and the lowest in a road victory since a 10-6 win at Wake Forest in 1968.
The Wolfpack defense kept the Huskies out of the endzone for 53 minutes, allowing the first score at the seven minute mark in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter, the Pack held UConn to just one first down - with that one coming on a roughing the passer call. UConn managed just 36 yards in the first quarter, 239 for the game.
BAUMANN ON TO PUNT
Sophomore punter Wil Baumann must have had rubber legs following the win at Connecticut. Baumann punted nine times in the contest, tying his career high. While battling swirling winds, intermittent rain and everything else Mother Nature could throw at him, he still managed to pin three punts inside the 20 yard-line and boot a long punt of 46 yards.
Baumann punted 64 times during his freshman campaign, tying as the 10th-highest mark in school history.
THE GOTTFRIED CONNECTION
NC State has a pretty strong tie to the athletics program at South Alabama, but it doesn't come from the football program. Joe Gottfried, father of Wolfpack men's basketball coach Mark Gottfried, was the Director of Athletics at USA for 25 years before retiring in 2009. He had been with the program since 1981, when Mark was still in high school.
During the elder Gottfried's tenure, South Alabama teams won 104 Sun Belt Conference titles and appeared in 54 NCAA championship events. He also oversaw the construction of the Mitchell Center basketball arena and the renovation of the Stanky Field baseball complex, as well as shepherding in the school's fledgling football program, which began play in Division I in 2009.
It's fitting that the Grandpa of the Wolfpack defense should be named WOLFF. Senior safety Earl Wolff has played in 40 career games, more than any player on the 2012 NC State squad. The veteran of 1,962 snaps from scrimmage and another 400+ on special teams, is also the team leader with 280 career tackles.
Wolff was instrumental in the Pack's win at UConn on Saturday, racking up seven tackles (including five first hits or solos) according to the coaches' game film, even though he played just three quarters and played just after leaving with an injury. He was in for just 47 snaps, his lowest total since midway through the 2010 season. He was named the ACC Player of the Week at defensive back. In the first half, with Connecticut driving, Wolff pulled down the fifth interception of his career and returned it 16 yards. But his biggest play of the game was on the interception that he missed.
In the third quarter, with State up 3-0, he barely missed a pick and the pass was completed behind him. Immediately after the catch, fellow safety Brandan Bishop forced a fumble and Wolff was there to fall on it. That gave the Pack the ball at the UConn 41 and three plays later, State scored its only touchdown of the afternoon.
That was the second fumble recovery of Wolff's career. He is tied for fifth in school history with seven caused fumbles.
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 280 career tackles, the highest mark on the squad, while Bishop has 221 career stops to his credit. Those two totals constitute 48% (501 of 1,053) of the career tackles on the 2012 Wolfpack squad.
A STERLING COMEBACK
Senior middle linebacker Sterling Lucas has been somewhere that no other player on the squad has been: the coaches' box.
Lucas was forced to redshirt last season after suffering a knee injury in preseason camp. Although he was devastated to miss what was supposed to be his senior campaign, he decided that he wanted to be just as involved in the daily preparations as any of the players in uniform. When he wasn't in treatment, he was at practice. And on game days, instead of watching from the sidelines, he asked if he could sit in the coaches' box, so he could hear how the game progressed from that viewpoint.
Lucas, who led the team in tackles at Connecticut with eight, says that he learned a great deal during his 13 games in the coaches' box that he can translate into play on the field.
Heading into the 2012 campaign, the Wolfpack offensive line was one of the most solidly entrenched (no pun intended) units on the squad. All five starters on the OL had started games previously during their careers, while four plus a projected backup had been season-long starters. In order to get the most experienced, most talented players on the field, the coaching staff did some shifting in the preseason.
Senior R.J. Mattes moved to the fourth starting position of his career, left guard, so that talented junior Rob Crisp could man the left tackle spot. Andrew Wallace, a season- long starter at guard two years ago, moved over to right tackle. Center Cam Wentz and right guard Zach Allen stayed put. The unit entered fall camp in that alignment.
That continuity was broken just two weeks into the season, when starting left tackle Rob Crisp, was unable to compete due to an injury suffered in the season opener. Backup right tackle Tyson Chandler, a redshirt sophomore, started in Crisp's spot at Connecticut - a tough venue for his first start, as the Huskies blitzed almost the entire game.
PACK PICKS UP THE PICKS
The Wolfpack led the nation in interceptions last season, committing 27 acts of aerial thievery - the second-best mark in ACC history. In only one game last season did the defense fail to pick off a pass and that was versus Georgia Tech, a team that threw just 12 times, completing just four in the entire game. In the last three games of 2011, the Pack pulled down seven total interceptions.
So the season opener was a bit of a downer for the State defensive secondary, as they failed to get their hands on any passes. The team got back on the plus side, however, in the win at Connecticut, as the three top career interceptors on the team each added one to their career totals.
Safety Earl Wolff started the pick parade early in the second quarter, gathering in the fifth interception of his career and returning it 16 yards. Next, the Pickoff Artist, David Amerson, got into the action, pulling down the 14th of his career (he set the ACC single-season record with 13 in 2011). And finally, at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Brandan Bishop pulled a pick, the 10th of his career.
Over the last two years, NC State is 6-0 when recording at least three interceptions in a game.
TFL FOR THE DL
The Wolfpack defensive line doesn't have any big-named players in 2012 ... yet. But the members of that group definitely earned their postgame meal in the win at Connecticut, helping hold the Huskies to a 2-12 mark on third down and an 0-2 mark on fourth down.
The revolving units on the defensive line (the backup unit plays about a third of the game) tallied five tackles for loss and two sacks on Saturday, including four tackles for loss or stops for no gain coming on third down. T.Y. McGill tallied two stops behind the line of scrimmage, while Brian Slay, Thomas Teal and Forrest West each added one.
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 first two games of the season, 11 spots on offense and defense have been manned by seniors who have had starting experience prior to 2012.
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.
South Alabama Game Notes
CAREER DAY KICKING
Michel Chapuseaux accounted for all of USA's scoring in its 9-3 win over Nicholls State, converting on a career-high three field goals from 19, 21 and 34 yards out. His field goal with 5:17 remaining in the third quarter gave the Jags the lead for good, and he doubled that advantage with his longest kick of the day with nine minutes left in the contest.
It was the first time since the program's debut against Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy on Sept. 5, 2009, that the senior has converted multiple field goals in the same contest, as he has already matched his previous season high of four set that same fall.
USA's 14 tackles for loss set a school game standard, while the six sacks of Colonel quarterback Landry Klann were the most against an NCAA Division I foe and the second-highest total ever in a game. That effort helped the Jaguars limit the Colonel's to just 118 yards of total off ense, the fewest allowed by the unit since the 2010 season opener — Pikeville (Ky.) managed only 88 yards that dat while falling 56-0 — and the lowest total ever posted against USA by an NCAA Division I opponent.
MOORE OR LESS
Making his first career start, DE/OLB Pat Moore was credited with a school-game record 3½ tackles for loss among his five total stops in helping the Jaguars to a 9-3 victory over Nicholls State; he would finish with 2½ sacks — another USA game standard — and a pass break up as well.
In the second half, all of Moore's tackles were behind the line of scrimmage, with an assist on a sack to end the Colonel's initial drive of the third quarter, and a pair of sacks after NSU moved into the red zone in the fourth quarter.
GOOD DAY FOR GARBER
Junior Scott Garber averaged 43.6 yards per kick while tying a career high with seven punts in the NSU contest, the fourth time in the last nine outings dating back to last year that he has posted a figure of 43 yards per punt or higher.
That total included his first two punts downed inside the opponents' 20-yard line this fall, with the first coming on a career-long 69-yard eff ort midway through the opening quarter.
LEADING THE WAY
Senior ILB Jake Johnson paced the Jags for the second straight week with eight total tackles; it's the first time he has led the squad in back-to-back outings since accomplishing the feat in four straight contests from Sept. 10-Oct. 8, 2011.
He was credited with 2½ stops behind the line of scrimmage — an assist away from tying a career high — while posting his first sack since last year's game at Texas-San Antonio on Oct. 8.
The only other change in the lineup on defense for the NSU contest came at free safety, where Terrell Brigham also made his first career start. The sophomore matched a career high with three total tackles, was credited with his first-ever stop for loss and picked off his first pass midway through the fourth quarter to help the Jags preserve their six-point lead.
FORCE UP FRONT
DL Montavious Williams was credited with a career-best 1½ tackles for loss among his three stops last time out — the junior has collected at least one stop behind the line of scrimmage in six of the last seven games dating back to USA's win over Tennessee-Martin on Oct. 15 last fall.
Williams also came up with a fumble recovery in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter after NSU had advanced into the red zone, his first since the Jaguars defeated Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy on Oct. 31, 2009.
BAKER GOES BACK-TO-BACK
After finishing with a game-high 75 yards on 20 carries, Demetre Baker ended up as the Jags' leading rusher for the second straight game to open the season. It's the first time since transferring to the program prior to the start of the 2011 campaign that Baker has paced the USA ground attack in consecutive contests, and the 20 attempts equalled a career high first set against HSU last October.
Sophomore T.J. Glover has proven to be a threat in three ways while racking up a team-leading 218 all-purpose yards in the fi rst two games of the year.
The wideout ranks second in the Sun Belt Conference in both kick (39 ypr) and punt (15 ypr) returns, and has caught five passes for an additional 68 yards. Glover's 29-yard reception from Ross Metheny early in the fourth quarter was the Jaguars' longest play from scrimmage against NSU, and it helped set up Chapuseaux's final field goal to clinch the victory.
With C.J. Bennett and Metheny splitting time running the Jag offense in the win over the Colonels last weekend, it was the first time two quarterbacks have seen significant action since USA defeated UC Davis 24-21 on the road on Oct. 23, 2010 (Bennett was 7-of-13 for 105 yards that day, and Brennan Sim completed 13-of-18 attempts for 116 yards). Bennett led the two with 111 yards on 11-of-20 passing against the Colonels, while Metheny threw for 58 yards and guided the team's fi nal scoring drive.
SEEING RED IN THE RED ZONE
USA has not allowed its opponents to reach the end zone on five trips to the red zone so far this year after NSU converted just one field goal on three visits inside the USA-20. Actually, three of the Jaguars' last four opponents have not scored a touchdown after advancing into the red zone, while USA has not surrendered multiple scores inside its own 20-yard line five times in the last eight outings.
WIN THE TO BATTLE, WIN THE GAME
The Jags improved to 15-0 all-time when finishing with fewer turnovers than the opposition after posting a plus-one margin in last weekend's victory.
It's the first time the Jaguars have won the turnover battle since recording a school-record seven takeaways in a 28-3 victory over Henderson (Ark.) State on Oct. 29 last season; USA had forced four turnovers total in the last three outings combined before the Colonels lost the ball on three occasions Saturday.
NC State Depth Chart
NOTE: *- Indicates a player has redshirted a season.
|2012 NC State Depth Chart|
South Alabama Depth Chart
Thanks to NC State and South Alabama Athletics for much of the information in this preview.