Saturday, October 4, 2013
3:30 pm (EST), RSN
NC State (3-1) at Wake Forest (2-3) Oct. 5, 3:30, ESPN3
Why You Should Give A Hoot: NC State and Wake Forest are poised to renew one of Tobacco Road's oldest rivalry, an annual tradition that began at the end of the 19th century. The Demon Deacons come into the game reeling, losers of three of their last four, including Saturday's 56-7 obliteration at the hands of Clemson.
If Wake has any hope of achieving mediocrity in 2013, it'll have to begin this weekend against an opponent it hasn't lost to in Winston-Salem since 2001.
For now, the Wolfpack is a notch above the Deacons, getting to 3-1 with last week's rout of Central Michigan. It also lost to Clemson, but just by 12 in a game that could have been closer had it not been for a
Why NC State Might Win: In some respects, this is an ideal opponent for the Pack, which is still trying to find itself on offense.
Against Wake Forest, which features one of the most feeble attacks in the FBS, State can run its attack without being forced to play catch-up. The Pack wants to move at a hastened pace under new head coach Dave Doeren, building on the momentum from last week's 48-point, 483-yard outburst.
Why Wake Forest Might Win: The lone silver lining this fall in Winston-Salem has been the play of the defense, which held all but Clemson to no more than 24 points, despite being on the field too much.
The Deacons are 12th nationally in takeaways and 37th in pass defense, which could neutralize the arm of Pack QB Pete Thomas. NT Nikita Whitlock is a wrecking ball on the interior, while corners Merrill Noel and Kevin Johnson are doing a solid job of limiting plays over the top.
Who To Watch Out For: The Deacon O-line is in disarray, ranking 96th in sacks allowed. Here comes State, which already has 37 stops for minus yards, led by LB Robert Caldwell and a smattering of active defensive linemen.
- Wake Forest will have to concern itself with NC State WR Bryan Underwood, who'll hurt the opposition in myriad different ways. He can be a game-changer, catching passes or taking handoffs.
- Thomas needs to get his act together ... and quickly. The one-time backup has only thrown one touchdown and five picks since replacing Brandon Mitchell in the opener. However, Mitchell is off crutches, and his once-broken left foot has healed so quickly that he could be available for next week's date with Syracuse.
What Will Happen: History favors Wake Forest. Momentum and talent are on NC State's side. It's a rivalry game at BB&T Field, so it'll be close throughout, with the defenses largely in control. The Pack D will help snap the road losing streak in this series, halting Deacon QB Tanner Price in his attempt to rally his team late in the final quarter.
Prediction: NC State 24 … Wake Forest 20
Line: NC State -8.5 o/u: 47
Must See Rating: (5 5 shut down this week due to lack of government funding – 1 Rachel vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off … 3 Rachel vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off) … 2
NC State Offense vs. Wake Forest Defense
It's mo secret that NC State has struggled mightily in Winston-Salem when facing Wake Forest. Going back to 1997, the Pack is just 1-7 on the road when facing the Deacs. For whatever reason State always seems to mistakes against Wake that they seemingly never make against other teams.
One of the areas where State has had the most problems is offensively. During the last eight road games against Wake Forest, the Wolfpack has averaged a measly 19 points. During that time the Pack has lined up against the Deacons with three quarterbacks that are currently in the NFL. One of the keys to avoiding a repeat of the past is to get off to a fast start on Saturday.
Fortunately for NC State, the Pack has been quick out of the gate so far in 2013. They've outscored their opponents 24-10 in the first quarter and 79-41 in the first half. For State to be successful this weekend they have to continue this trend. That means coming out aggressive, taking advantage of red zone opportunities and limiting mistakes.
This will be the Pack's first road game of the year so there is an unknown that State has to overcome. However, BB&T field certainly isn't one of the more intimidating venues in the ACC. There will be plenty of red in the stands so the environment shouldn't be overwhelming. State simply has to avoid the weird mistakes that have haunted them in the past, try to build an early lead and force Wake Forest to play catch up.
DOING WHAT YOU DO
At this point, everyone knows NC State's strengths and weaknesses on offense. The Pack has had trouble running the ball conventionally between the tackles with the running backs. They've also been fairly average converting on third down. While the short and intermediate passing game has been effective, they've been inconsistent at best when throwing the ball down the field.
Where State has done well is manufacturing a run game that's averaging better than 200 yards per game. When you consider the relative lack of push up front, that number is amazing. At this point, don't fix what ain't broken. State needs to continue with what has helped them to three wins.
Clearly the Pack will continue to utilize the jet sweep, wild cat, reverses and whatever else offensive coordinator Matt Canada can come up with to generate offense on the ground. There will likely be a few wrinkles added this week and if the Pack can muster the same results they've seen through third first four weeks then they will be fine offensively.
Turnovers are the great equalizer and nothing will bring NC State down to Wake Forest's level quicker than fumbles and interceptions.
This is something that has dogged State in Winston-Salem, seemingly forever, and the Pack has to take care of the ball Saturday if they hope to win the game. This means staying out of third and long and obvious passing downs. This puts QB Pete Thomas in a difficult situation and raises the odds of the Pack turning the ball over.
The Pack is 56th nationally in turnover margin which is okay but not great. They have to force a draw on the turnover board if they want to have a shot at beating the Deacs.
NC State Defense vs. Wake Forest Offense
Wake Forest senior quarterback Tanner Price has had a solid season, but hasn't played as well as most Deac fans would like.
Price and the Deacs are averaging just 195 yards per game passing, which ranks 8th in the ACC, and are giving up 2.2 sacks per game, 13th in the league.
He is has been struggling. Price completed just 20-of-39 passes for 257 yards and two scores with one interception... in his last two games.
Teams have been able to get to Price, and State must turn up the heat on him. The Wolfpack has nine sacks this season and leads the ACC in tackles for a loss per game (9.25). The key is going to be pressuring Price on obvious passing situations so his wideouts don't have time to get open down the field.
The Deacs like to max protect and take their shots, but the Pack must beat blocks and disrupt Price's rhythm if they are going to limit Wake's passing attack.
Priority No. 1 for NC State has to be stopping elite wide receiver Michael Campanaro. It seems like he has been at Wake Forest forever, and he is the clear focal point of the Deacon offense.
He missed the season opener with a hamstring injury but returned against Boston College, totaling five catches for 86 yards and a score. The next week had a 16-catch, 177-yard performance in the loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
What makes Campanaro so tough to defend is his ability to line up all over the field. The majority of the time he's in the slot, but he can also play out wide or in the backfield at tailback. He is a threat in the return game... Wake just tries to get him the ball as much as possible.
Teams that have slowed him down have primarily played man and been physical with him, but he works well against zone coverage and State runs a zone scheme. Last year the Wolfpack shadowed Campanaro with Dontae Johnson, who held him to five catches for just 14 yards. However, there is a new staff in Raleigh so it's unclear how they plan to defend Campanaro.
Johnson and the rest of the Wolfpack secondary have to be ready for the challenge on Saturday.
OPEN STRONG... LIMIT BIG PLAYS
NC State's defense needs to come out and set the tone early. Wake has had the Pack's number in Winston-Salem, but they are a team in disarray after a 56-7 defeat at Clemson.
Wake Forest will likely come out conservative and not try to give the game away early... just grind away, but State can't allow that to happen. They must establish control of the game early, and they have to prevent big scoring plays for the Deacs because that has been the Pack's downfall when playing at Wake.
Offensively, Wake Forest is known for their misdirection and gadget plays offensively. They will run reverses, they will run halfback passes, they will run some Wildcat, they will run quarterback throwbacks... their playbook is wide open when. The Deac coaches don't care how they do it, they just want to put point on the board.
Long passing scores... special teams touchdowns... game-changing interceptions... Wake Forest has used big, timely plays to knock off a State squad that has often entered the game as favorites.
State has to be prepared for anything defensively, and they must start fast. If they allow the Deacs to gain confidence and build an early lead, it could be a long day for the Wolfpack.
Quotables: Dave Doeren
Excited to take our first road game as a team, see how we can handle the things that happen when you go on the road, the different routine, the bus, the hotel, obviously an unfamiliar locker room and field.
It's a big challenge for us this week at Wake, a place that State traditionally hasn't played well. The last seven of eight times they traveled up there they haven't come home happy. It's been a home-team advantage for the last however many contests.
We're excited about the opportunity. I know our players are looking forward to competing against them. I know that they will play hard.
Can you remember a season where
you waited this long to play your first road
game? The fact it took this long, are there any
special challenges to break that routine and go
out on the road?
To answer your first question, no, I've never had four home games in a row with a 10-day prep. At Wisconsin we did open up with a bunch of home games one year, but we played straight through that year, we didn't have a bye. That part of it's unique.
It's not like we're going a long ways. It's pretty close as far as this trip. But it's different for sure to play your fifth game on the road, to have had a bye week somewhere sandwiched in there before we played Clemson. It's definitely different.
As far as the routine is concerned,
how do you get your kids to break what they've
known for the last five weeks?
We actually changed the routine for the week. We do some things different. Normally as a team you stretch in one area. We go to a different area and stretch. We do everything on opposite fields just to kind of make our guys have to function in a different way for the week.
It's been something that we did at Northern. It was good for us. They get used to the change. Every time we go out on the field, it's different than they're used to. We talk about it a lot. It's not something we're ignoring. We're talking about the routine change and we want the kids to embrace it.
You talked before the season about
wanting to be a better road team this year.
How do you as a coach try to get that wish to
go into effect?
It's something obviously you spend time talking to your team about. It's a challenge we made a long time ago for our program to move from a challenging opponent to being a contender. We have to be able to take our show on the road, bottle up our energy we have at Carter Finley, take it somewhere else.
Whether it is loud there or quiet there, we can't care. We have to be able to play within ourselves and block out the distraction, or not be brought down by the lack of energy at some schools where they don't have crowds, and just play exactly the same way we would play in our own stadium.
We talk about it. We spend time talking about it. It's been a big conversation piece this week obviously. But in the off-season it was something we talked about a lot.
I wanted to ask you about the fact
you're getting your wide receivers into play in
the running game. Is that something you've
always done? Can you talk about why you do
that, how effective it is.
It's something that I really believe in. The misdirection part of our offense is very important. My goal from a defensive background is to test the edges and the soundness of people's games. We're going to pull them laterally with our jet game, our arounds, and we're going to press them vertically with our zone and power schemes. It puts a lot of stress on the defense.
I think it's something that allows us to utilize our speed. It helps our offensive line because it pulls people out of the box. If they're not going to pull out of the box, we're going to hand it off to those guys and let them run. If they are, it gives us a chance to run up inside against numbers.
The last two weeks especially,
Bryan Underwood, he's been very explosive.
He had 10 touchdown receptions last year.
Talk about the importance of getting the ball in
He's practiced better.
In the last two weeks he's had his best two weeks of practice. He's gotten the ball more because of that. A lot of these guys didn't have good practice habits, didn't go fast all the time. That's not something that we encourage now. He's bought into the fact that when he practices fast, he plays fast.
As long as he keeps doing that, he's going to be a weapon for us, and we're going to find a way to get our weapons the ball.
Recap your first four games. What
do you have to work on this week against a
really tough Wake Forest team?
Each week is a little different. Our biggest issue has been change in the lineup. This will be the third game in a row we've had the same offensive line play together. I'd like to see fewer tackles in our backfield because of that. That will be a challenge because Wake has a great nose guard. I really like how hard their defensive ends play.
That's the big thing, is we want to keep people out of our backfield and limit the number of plays that are made back there. That's a big goal for our offensive line in this game. It would be impressive for them to attain it.
Second thing, and we got better last week, hurt us at Clemson, is to continue to minimize the pre-snap things that we do from an illegal formation or a guy jumping off-sides, just have not beating ourselves.
Then defensively the takeaways I think are huge. We're on defense getting three takeaways a game, it's remarkable how much better we play on offense because of field position.
Talk about rivalries in games. This
is a local rivalry in North Carolina. Talk about
what rivalry games mean for you.
Well, this game really isn't a rivalry game. It's more of an in-state pride game for us. I think anytime you're playing a team that you recruit against within your borders, it's a big deal.
I just think we run into guys a lot in this state in recruiting. We cross paths a lot on higher academic kids in particular with Wake and Duke. To be able to say you beat them helps you. It's important we have that ability to say that. I'm sure from their standpoint it helps them when they can say it.
We definitely respect Wake. Definitely have a ton of respect for their coaching staff, the way they handle themselves professionally. It's a game that both sides are going to want to win badly.
Quotables: Jim Grobe
On facing NC State on Saturday...
"(They are) very talented. They remind me a lot of Clemson; they are very athletic defensively and they really run the ball well. Offensively they give you a lot of things to look at; a lot of different formations, different plays, some wildcats and some different things.
"A real challenge for us and (they have) some return guys that are pretty special."
More on NC State...
"I think by now they are the team that almost beat Clemson... they kind of got it all together right now. It seems like the new coaches have them playing their schemes really well.
"We're just impressed with them. They are talented and well-coached."
On the rivalry between Wake Forest and NC State...
"I think it's especially a rivalry to the North Carolina kids with kids they've played against and with in some cases, some of the kids on their team.
"I think anytime you play a team every year, especially when they beat you the year before, I think it gives you a little motivation.
"I think all the teams in your division that you play every year, you get to know pretty well and so it becomes a rivalry because you play every year."
More On The Rivalry:
"Well, we haven't won many there either, it's kind of a give-and-take thing... I think most teams play better at home. I would hope we play better this week."
On the importance of senior leadership...
"It's very important for our seniors not only to take a leadership role but to play well. I think at Clemson last week we traveled right at 25 freshmen. The mix is freshmen and seniors.
"The seniors really need to play their best football and they got to kind of hang in there with the young guys and hope they play better each week. We need a good senior presence on this team especially with a rough start and some really good teams left."
NC State Game Notes
NC State Depth Chart
Thanks to NC State and Wake Forest Athletics for much of the information in this preview.