Defensive Keys To The Game: NC State vs. Wake Forest

NC State faces Wake Forest on Saturday in Winston-Salem. Here are some defensive keys to the game for the Wolfpack.

Wake Forest quarterbacks John Wolford and Kendall Hinton have had solid seasons, but both can be erratic... it's why the Deacs continue to use both in games.  Wolford is the starter and should receive a majority of the snaps.

"I think he gets the ball out of his hand quick and distributes it to the right person," Dave Doeren said of Wolford. "They have a lot of run-pass type plays where the running backs are running a run and the receivers are running routes and he can choose off a leverage what he's going to do and I think he understands what they want from him.

"He's got good enough agility to make some plays on his feet. They do a good job schematically spreading you out and using some jets and misdirection. I think any time you have a second year player at quarterback, you're going to see growth, and that's what you're seeing."

The Deacs are averaging 245 passing yards per game, and are giving up 2.9 sacks per game, 116th nationally.  They can't protect the quarterback, and NC State MUST exploit this weakness.

Teams have been able to get to Wolford and Hinton so look for State to turn up the heat. The Wolfpack has 12 sacks this season, and that number must increase for them moving forward.  The key is going to be pressuring Wake on obvious passing situations so the wideouts don't have time to get open down the field.

Priority No. 1 has to be pressuring the quarterbacks... it can disrupt the entire offense.

NC State has to focus on sophomore tight end Cam Serigne, who is considered one of the top tight ends in the country and is the clear focal point of the Deacon offense.

"He is featured," Doeren said of Serigne.  "He's a big part of their passing game on 3rd down and in the red zone. You need to know where he is. You need to recognize splits and formations and you've got to play aggressive coverage. You've got to have a good pass rush, obviously, and those underneath rows hands up by your front."

Serigne leads the team in catches and touchdowns, and he is second in yards. Wake lines him up all over the field and when they need a big play, the ball normally is thrown to No. 85. 

NC State obviously realizes this and they've talked about Serigne all week. Now it comes down to preventing him from making a big impact in the game.  He's going to get his touches because he's targeted so much, but State has to keep him from being a major weapon in the redzone.

"If you're going to look at a guy as much as they look at him, he's going to make some plays," said Doeren.  "You've just got to limit what happens after the catch and try and do a good job playing aggressive coverage with him.

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 young team that could be reeling after getting blown out last weekend in Chapel Hill.

Wake Forest will likely open up 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 going to spread you out, but the Wolfpack must be prepared for everything from a play-calling standpoint.  They can't give up cheap touchdowns to the Demon Dacs.

Look at the recent history of this game in Winston-Salem.  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.

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