Why You Need To Care
NC State and Wake Forest are meeting for the 109th time, the most common opponent for both programs. And both will be angling for postseason eligibility now that the second half of the season is about to begin. The Pack stumbled into its only bye week of 2015, losing consecutive games to Louisville and Virginia Tech to erase a 4-0 start. The up-and-down Deacons remain in rebuilding mode for second-year head coach, losing badly to North Carolina last Saturday, 50-14.
Why NC State Will Win
The Deacons are having all kinds of problems reaching the end zone, scoring more than 17 points in just one of the last six games. And while, yes, the Wolfpack has had its own problems since league play began, it still has a better backfield than Wake. State has the edge at quarterback and running back with Jacoby Brissett and Matt Dayes, respectively, and the Deacons are reeling after allowing 538 yards to Carolina a week ago.
Why Wake Forest Will Win
NC State hasn’t won in Winston-Salem since 2001, so it’ll battling recent history as well as the Deacons this weekend. And despite the poor showing in Chapel Hill a week ago, Wake Forest still ranks in the top 15 nationally in pass defense and top 30 overall. Linebackers Marquel Lee, Brandon Chubb and Hunter Williams will give fits to a shaky Wolfpack offensive line.
Player Who Matters
Lost in the two-game losing skid is the fact that the Wolfpack defense isn’t playing too poorly. The line, in particular, is standing out and will enjoy an edge against the Wake Forest front. Mike Rose, B.J. Hill and Justin Jones were solid against Louisville and Va Tech, a trend that ought to continue this week at BB&T Field.
What’s Going To Happen?
While Wake Forest has held serve at home this century, NC State did enough tweaking and resting over the past two weeks to turn things around. Both teams have issues, no doubt, but the Pack’s superior offensive backfield and defensive line will result in a close—and much-needed—road victory.
Prediction: NC State 27, Wake Forest 19
KEYS TO THE GAME
NC STATE OFFENSE VS WAKE FOREST DEFENSE
It's no secret that NC State has struggled mightily in Winston-Salem when facing Wake Forest. Going back to 1997, the Pack is just 1-8 on the road when facing the Deacs. For whatever reason State always seems to make 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 nine road games against Wake Forest, the Wolfpack has averaged a measly 18.6 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 52-21 in the first quarter of games this season. 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.
BB&T Field isn't one of the more intimidating venues in the ACC, and there will probably 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.
NC State has had to grind out drives the last couple of games, and it has caused the offense to sputter. Look for the Pack to come out of the bye week hunting big plays offensively.
Dave Doeren has talked about it since the last to Virginia Tech... the Wolfpack can't just continue to try and pound away at defenses... they must be more balanced and more explosive. It all starts with senior quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
He has yet to attempt 30 passes in a game this year and has rarely tested teams vertically. North Carolina throttled Wake Forest last week with a plethora of explosive plays that put the game away early. Don't be surprised if NC State looks to use a similar gameplan. Wideouts Jumichael Ramos, Maurice Trowell, and Nyheim Hines have the speed to get behind defenses, and tight end Jaylen Samuels is a matchup problem.
Being more aggressive is something NC State wants to do, and this week look for the to try and hit some home runs 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.
The Pack has turned the ball over just four times this season, fifth-best in the country. Winning the turnover battle will be critical in what could be a close game.
NC STATE DEFENSE VS WAKE FOREST OFFENSE
PRESSURE THE QUARTERBACKS
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.
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 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.
QUOTABLES: Dave Doeren
Had a good week with the guys last week in our bye week. Had a really great chance to go back and look at our first six games, good and bad, and talk a lot as a staff, talk a lot with our players, get some guys healthy that we needed to get healthy.
We've had a great weather week here so been able to be outside and get a lot of good work done in our preparation for our rivalry game with Wake, a game that I know has been mentioned has been lopsided as far as home and away teams, and obviously I know both teams are out to get a win this week. It'll be a hard-fought game, and look forward to going down there and playing in it.
With that, any questions?
Even after the blowout win by the Heels over the Deacons last week, the Deacs still rank in the top 30 in total defense. What is your primary concern going into this game in regard to the Deacs' defense?
Well, you know, they're very sound. I think their kids understand the system and they play hard. They don't beat themselves.
You've got to earn what you get against them, and obviously UNC was able to have some explosive plays that against any defense is going to hurt you, and so in our game last year we were able to get a few explosive plays and we were able to run the football.
Obviously for us it's turnover margin is a big deal when you're playing against any defense that you respect. But I think Coach Cohan, their defensive coordinator, does a really nice job, and they're in the second year in the system, so you can see the growth of their players. But they are a very sound defense that plays hard.
And also, up to the point of his ankle injury in the third quarter, quarterback John Wolford looked pretty impressive against the Heels. I do realize you're preparing for both just in case Wolford is not able to play Saturday, but what are your thoughts about his play so far this season?
Well, I mean, similar to what I just said, second year in the system, he's playing with more confidence. I think he gets the ball out of his hand quick and distributes it to the right person. 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.
How important is the bye week, not just from a physical standpoint of correcting mistakes, but as an ability to reset, as you guys get the guys thinking positive again after two straight losses?
I think any time you have a bye week, it's a key week for your guys. Any time you have a bye, whether it's a buy after a win or a loss, the accumulation of reps, the guys started up here in August and it's a long grind for them, not just the physical part of it but the mental pressure that goes into the game and the competition and the academic load for some of them. You know, they're freshmen or sophomores and it's just new, going through that much at one time, so a lot of that, being able to decompress a little bit and giving them some time to kind of catch up and get some rest. I think it's really important. Whether you're winning or losing it's a big deal.
For us physically, we had some guys on offense in particular that really needed to heal, so it was an important week for them. We're not 100 percent healthy, but we're more than we've been in a while.
I asked Coach Clawson about rivalry in the sense that Wake is one of the two in-state teams that you play every year. Just how significant or different is it in a rivalry game?
Well, I think, you know, the bragging rights that are involved in any of those games are important for your fans, for your administration, obviously for your players and your coaches in recruiting. I think not to make too big of a deal of it.
I think sometimes that goes against your focus. We obviously are going to talk about our opponent. We're going to stress the things that we need to stress, and I do believe in talking about the history of match-ups and how much of a privilege it is to play in a game that's been around 109 years. I think that's important to talk about.
I've been in programs where they make the rivalry game such a big deal that the guys play tight, and that's not what we're going to do. We've never done that, and every game for us when you're trying to develop your program and get to bowl games is an important game.
And I also -- you mentioned it but I have to ask again, the deal with the home-road split in this series, it just seems so bizarre --
Because these are snake pits that you've got to go into, and you're going to have a lot of your fans there Saturday. I mean, is there any reason that you guys have dominated them in Raleigh and they've dominated you in Winston?
You know, I don't know. I'm sure Dave said the same thing. I've only been involved in two of the games out of 107 that have been played.
I know when we went down there in year one we had a lot of mistakes. We had a lot of penalties. We turned the ball over. We were pretty beat up at that time of year, and they played well. Last year was kind of the opposite...I thought we were explosive, we were physical. I think any time you're playing a game, home or away, it comes down to your focus, and for whatever reason, the last 12 years the home team has had better focus.
We've got to get back to being a great focus team on the road, which we've been able to do most of the time here in the last 10 games, but last week or two weeks ago, obviously we lost focus in the second quarter. For us to turn the tide on the deal, it's going to be about execution and making more plays than they do.
Their top receiver has been their tight end. Defending a team like that, he's been the top receiving tight end in the league, how difficult is it defensively to take that away as opposed to a wide receiver?
You know, just kind of depends on what they're doing. I mean, some of the catches are -- they're doing a good job with rub routes on man-to-man. He is looked for.
He is featured, and 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.
But if you're going to look at a guy as much as they look at him, he's going to make some plays. 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 Game Notes
WOLFPACK VS. DEACONS
In the history of NC State football, the Wolfpack has played the Wake Forest Demon Deacons more than any other team. Saturday's game will mark the 109th meeting between the two squads, with NC State holding a 64-38-6 advantage. The Pack has won 14 of the last 15 meetings with Wake at Carter-Finley Stadium, with the only home loss since 1984 coming in 2006. Overall at home, State has posted a 43-21-5 mark.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
Ever since the Wolfpack reeled off nine straight wins in the series against Wake Forest from 1988-96, both teams have held serve on their home fields over the last 18 years. Dating back to the 1997 season, the home team in the series is 16-2.
The Pack has lost the last five games played on the Deacons' home field, with the last victory a 17-14 win in 2001.
During Dave Doeren's three seasons as head coach at NC State, the Pack has posted a record of 7-2 in games when his staff has had more than a week to prepare. Those games include season openers, bye weeks, a bowl game and a Thursday night contest.
In addition to winning each of the last five such contests (1-0 this season and 4-0 last year), NC State won a pair of road ACC contests last season after both of its bye weeks - at Syracuse (24-17) and at North Carolina (35-7). The only two losses under Doeren with more than seven days to prepare have been to teams ranked in the top 3 in the national polls.
Here is a list of all the games during Doeren's tenure where the Pack had more than a week to prepare:
|08/31/13||Louisiana Tech||W, 40-14|
|09/19/13||No. 3 Clemson||L, 14-26|
|09/28/13||Central Michigan||W, 48-14|
|10/26/13||@ No. 2 Florida State||L, 17-49|
|08/30/14||Georgia Southern||W, 24-23|
|11/01/14||@ Syracuse||W, 24-17|
|11/29/14||@ North Carolina||W, 35-7|
|12/26/14||vs. UCF||W, 34-27|
In the past 45 years (dating back to the 1970 season) only four NC State running backs have compiled more than 500 yards rushing through the first six games of a season. One of those is Matt Dayes, who checks in with 588 yards midway through his junior campaign.
Dayes is attempting to became the Pack's first 1,000 yard rusher since T.A. McLendon accomplished the feat in 2002. If he were to break that mark, it would mark only the fourth time NC State has had a 1,000 yard rusher since 1984.
Here's a list of the top NC State rushers after six games in a season:
STRIKING A BALANCE, SEASON 2
NC State fielded the most balance offense in the FBS last season, rushing for 204.5 yards per game and gaining 204.0 passing yards per contest. With 5,311 yards of total offense, the difference between the rush and the pass was just seven yards (2,659 rushing, 2,652 passing).
This season, the Wolfpack is once again one of the most balanced squads in the FBS, averaging 206.3 rushing yards and 195.7 passing yards per game.
The third name down on the Wolfpack's defensive stat sheet is "B.Chubb." The first name listed on Wake Forest's defensive stats is also "B. Chubb." The Wolfpack's version of "B. Chubb" is sophomore Bradley, who spent last season at linebacker, playing mostly special teams, before earning a starter's job at defensive end. The Demon Deacons' version is Brandon - a redshirt senior linebacker who has served as team captain each of the past two seasons.
Their father, Aaron, played defensive end and outside linebacker at Georgia in the 80s, finishing his career ranked in the top 20 in school history in career tackles. He went on to play for the New England Patriots.
SPREADING THE WEALTH
It is no secret that NC State likes to spread the ball around in the aerial game, as a total of 14 players have caught a pass this season. But the majority of the Wolfpack's throws are not connecting with wide receivers. Instead, 61-of-110 passes (55.6 percent) have been caught by the tight ends, fullbacks and running backs.
FB/TE Jaylen Samuels currently leads the Pack in receptions with 27, followed by running back Matthew Dayes' total of 21. The top ranking wideout is Jumichael Ramos with 17 catches.
The last time a non-WR led the Pack in receptions was Anthony Hill (TE) in 2006, and the last time the Pack's top two receiving targets for a season were not wide receivers was in 1995 when tight ends Mike Guffie and Jimmy Grisett were tops in receptions.
In six games this season, the Wolfpack defense has allowed just one fourth-quarter score: a touchdown at Virginia Tech. The defense has been particularly tough in the final frame this season, allowing an average of just 3.2 first downs in the 4th.
Here's a look at the Pack's fourth quarter defense in 2015:
|Opponent||1st Downs||Rush Yds||Pass Yds||Points|
FIRST & GOAL = TD, WOLFPACK!
If the Wolfpack gets into a 1st & goal situation, chances are the squad is coming away with a touchdown.
Thus far in 2015, the Pack has had 18 1st & goal possessions, and has come away with a TD 16 of those times (88.9 percent).
By contrast, the Pack defense has only faced six 1st & goal possessions, allowing just three resulting touchdowns.
Consistancy in the trenches has been a strong point for the Wolfpack this season, as the all but one position on each line has been held by the same starter each game.
On the offensive line, Joe Thuney (LT), Quinton Schooley (C), Tony Adams (RG) and Will Richardson (RT) have each started all six games and have played a combined 1,578 of a possible 1,728 snaps.
The only turnover on the OL has been at left guard, where Alex Barr started the first two games, then missed three with a leg injury, before retuning at Virginia Tech and playing all 70 snaps. Bryce Kennedy started game 3, while Tyler Jones started games 4 & 5.
Much like their counterparts, the Pack's defensive line has been consistant with its starting four. DEs Mike Rose and Bradley Chubb along with DT B.J. Hill have started all six games. The other DT postion has been manned by sophomores Kentavious Street (four starts) and Justin Jones (two).
NC State Depth Chart
NOTE: *- Indicates a player has redshirted a season.
|2015 NC State Depth Chart|