MAKE THEM GRIND IT OUT
South Alabama has lived on the big play this season. They've scored nine touchdowns and just one was in the red zone. It's a big play offense that hasn't proven it can sustain drives.
What does the Wolfpack defense need to do? Make Jaguar quarterback Cody Clements and the offense work for everything they get.
Do not give up any big play and that starts with defending talented tailback Xavier Johnson. He can take it to the house from anywhere. He had a 92-yard touchdown run and a 56-yard touchdown reception vs. Gardner Webb. Johnson followed that up with a 74-yard touchdown run against San Diego State. He is very fast and when he gets a clear running lane, look out.
NC State has to force South Alabama to march up and down the field methodically. If the Wolfpack can prevent big plays, it's going to be tough for South Alabama to pull off the upset.
WINNING THE INDIVIDUAL BATTLES
South Alabama is going to take their shots offensively and NC State has to be up to the challenge.
If there has been a problem defensively it's been the inability to win one-on-one battles on the perimeter. Wideouts have made contested catches against Wolfpack defenders.
South Alabama has plenty of skill and speed. Wideout Josh Magee torched Nebraska's secondary and tight end Gerald Everett is undersized but a matchup problem for safeties and linebackers. They go up and make plays in the air, they get open to where Clements doesn't have to force many passes into coverage, and they have the ability to pick up yards after the catch.
NC State has to win one-on-one battles this weekend, and that means making tackles in space and limiting busted coverages. They must force Clements to throw into coverage and when the ball is there compete for it.
It's vital that NC State wins the individual battles.
GET THE BALL BACK
At the end of the day, NC State is going to have to be able to pressure Cody Clements. He's arguably the best passer they will have faced thus far, and he has plenty of weapons. They can't allow him to sit in the pocket and make plays. He passed for 270+ yards at San Diego State and Nebraska, so he's going to make some plays, but NC State has to limit his effectiveness.
What the Wolfpack needs to do is start forcing some turnovers, and they are due. They didn't have any last week at Old Dominion and have forced just two turnovers in three games. Now is the time to start becoming a more opportunistic defense because the opposition will be tougher moving forward, and that starts with the Jaguars.
Look for NC State to try and pressure Clements into mistakes, force a few takeaways, and give Jacoby Brissett and the offense some short fields for scoring opportunities.