KEYS TO THE GAME
NC STATE OFFENSE VS. SYRACUSE DEFENSE
MANUFACTURING A RUNNING GAME
Defensively, every team wants to take something away from the opposing offense to make them one dimensional. It's no secret that Syracuse is going to try to take the run away from NC State in hopes of making the Wolfpack one-dimensional.
The Wolfpack ground game has dipped off since Matt Dayes went out, and it's been sort of a collective effort on the ground ever since. Jaylen Samuels has filled in as the starter with reserves Dakwa Nichols and Reggie Gallaspy getting carries. Jacoby Brissett has been asked to do more on the ground, and wideout Nyheim Hines has even lined at tailback as well.
Look for that type of approach to continue as the Wolfpack will need to keep Syracuse honest by establishing a ground game. It won't be one guy, but it's going to take a committee approach to produce yards on the ground against the Orange.
TAKING YOUR SHOTS
The run game is definitely a key for NC State on Saturday but Syracuse has shown that their biggest weakness is defending the pass.
The Orange ranks No. 115 nationally against the pass, yielding nearly 285 yards per game through the air. Syracuse will likely stack the box which means play action could work and their may be opportunities to go deep for the Wolfpack. This could be a game that plays out similarly to Wake Forest and BC for NC State when they used chunk plays to generate the majority of the offense.
Maurice Trowell... Nyheim Hines... Jumichael Ramos... Bra'lon Cherry... Jaylen Samuels... David Grinnage... the options for big plays are there for Brissett to work with.
State simply has to figure out a way to get the ball in their hands and allow them to make plays. If they can make that happen, the alignments they face defensively could play to their advantage.
DOING THE LITTLE THINGS
When NC State plays under control they've been extremely efficient offensively this year. What they can't do against Syracuse is take themselves off the field. Penalties and negative plays have been the main culprit... stay on schedule and State can exploit a suspect Syracuse defense.
But it also comes down to execution.
At times, the offense has been a little off. On an obvious call to go deep, a lineman misses a block. Brissett makes a great throw and the receiver drops the pass. Maybe a wideout breaks wide open and Brissett doesn't see him.
The offense has to get back to clicking and clicking for four quarters. It all starts with doing the little things... doing your job. Hold your block an extra second longer... fight for the extra yards... make the catch that's contested, not just the easy grabs... you get the idea.
If NC State can do the little things it could be a explosive day offensively for the Wolfpack.
NC STATE DEFENSE VS. SYRACUSE OFFENSE
Priority No. 1 for NC State's defense is to come out and squash any confidence or optimism that Syracuse might have.
The Wolfpack will be playing at home with a lot on the line as the Pack is looking to exceed last year's win total. Facing a run-based offense, it's vital that they start fast and prevent the Orange from gaining any confidence.
Syracuse, for the most part, has struggled this season offensively. They rank No. 120 nationally in total offense (330.6 yards per game), No. 70 in rushing offense (166.3), and No. 73 in scoring offense (27.8). However, they're coming off a game where they gave top-ranked Clemson all they could handle.
Syracuse quarterback Zack Mahoney will also be making his first career road start. NC State must come out and pressure Mahoney... rattle his confidence. They can't allow the young quarterback to get going early on and putting pressure on him early would benefit the Wolfpack defense.
WIN THE TRENCHES
The strength of State's defense is the front four. NC State is currently No. 19 nationally in rushing defense, yielding just 121.4 yards per game and it has been due to the effective play of the front seven and sure-tackling in the secondary.
Sophomore defensive tackles B.J. Hill, Kentavius Street, and Justin Jones are stout against the run, and defensive ends Mike Rose and Bradley Chubb are playmakers. The Wolfpack's depth across the front line has also allowed them to rotate in defenders and stay fresh all game.
The front seven must come up big this weekend because Syracuse brings in a potent running game that can bust big plays. Their offense is geared towards establishing the run, and they do it by being physical at the point of attack, utilizing option principles, and stressing defenses on the perimeter.
Syracuse utilizes a rotation at tailback, but against Clemson their success started with Mahoney, who totaled 76 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries against the Tigers.
To win this game, NC State has to shutdown Mahoney and Syracuse's option attack. To do so they must be physical and aggressive defensively, and it all starts by winning the battle in the trenches.
LIMIT THE BIG PLAYS
It has been the kryptonite for NC State's defense this season.
As strong as they've been overall, NC State has yielded several big plays, and that's scary with an option-based attack looming. It all comes down to playing assignment football and doing your job. If NC State can do that, they should have the personnel to handle Syracuse's offense, but if they don't it could be a long day.
Most of those big plays are expected to come on the ground as Mahoney hasn't shown a lot as a passer, completing just 8-of-21 passes for 80 yards last week. With that being said, the Orange have some explosive playmakers in wideouts Brisly Estime and Steve Ishmael and tailback Jordan Fredericks.
The players have talked all week about stopping the option attack of Syracuse, but most of all they know they must prevent big, explosive scoring plays for the Orange.
QUOTABLES: Dave Doeren
Excited to be home, playing Syracuse, military appreciation day here, and we'll have a lot of military in attendance, and an important day for our program to honor what we consider to be a major part of our state, with Camp Lejeune and Ford Bragg being in the state of North Carolina, it's a really great opportunity for us to play for them, and excited to have a chance to be back in Carter-Finley.
Six of our last eight have been on the road, so we get two whole games back to back, which we haven't had since September.
So excited for that opportunity to finish our season here and have a great opponent that we'll have to play this week, came off a tough loss to a really good Clemson team, obviously, but I thought Syracuse really played well last week and presented a lot of challenges to their defense with their option game, and their quarterback Mahoney had a heck of a game and a lot of explosive plays in the run game.
We'll have our challenges defending their offense, and offensively for us, you know, we need to be able to get back to being balanced like we've been but having more explosive plays, which the previous four games we've been able to have which had helped our scoring offense. So we need to get back into that mode and look forward to the challenge of playing Syracuse.
I just heard your opening statement in reference to Zack Mahoney. Can you go into exactly what concerns you about Mahoney coming into this ballgame?
Well, I mean, he's played in an LSU game and a Clemson game against two really good defenses and played well, played confident on the arena and the stage that he was put into as a third string quarterback didn't faze him.
He made a lot of big plays. He had a scramble for about a 40 yard run, he had a couple option runs for touchdowns. He doesn't look like a guy that's been sitting on the bench for most of the season, and he's athletic and understands how to run their system.
You can see that. There's a lot of reads that go into the triple, not that they're running the triple the whole game, but when they do he's got to read it in and sometimes he's got to read the next man in coverage, so you're going from a dive read to a pitch read, and you can see that he does it pretty well.
Their backs along with him complement him. They have a lot of explosive runs against Clemson, and everybody knows how good their team speed is.
I wanted to follow up on Mahoney. It seems like when he's in there they run for option, more triple option type stuff. Is that correct?
Well, he's only been in there for one full game, so going off of last week, you would say yes. I just don't know with one game's worth of four quarters of film if that's what we're going to see, but basing the Clemson game on his only full game, you'd have to answer that yes.
My thought was that -- I mean, coaches talk about how difficult it is to prepare for the option with one week. Is that the case here, or is it just a normal preparation week?
No, I mean, it's different.
You can't have as many pressures. You've got to play more base defense. They're not running Georgia Tech's offense where you're getting all the fullback dives and everybody cutting everybody and all that. But there's a lot of elements to triple option that come out of the same family, where there's a dive, there's the quarterback and there's the pitch, and sometimes they're leading up on your pitch player.
You've got to do a really good job of playing fundamental football and tackling in space.
I wanted to ask you about special teams. It seems like some of the best return guys in the ACC are going to be in this game. Can you talk about that element of the game and how important that's going to be?
Yeah, I mean, the field position that comes out of those units and the momentum, it's a wide-open exchange of field position on the special teams play.
You're getting to see the number one kick returner with Nyheim Hines against the No. 1 punt returner for them with Brisly, and then Cherry being second or third in the league in punt returns. It's going to be a big deal, who can have better coverage, better kicks, better hang time and who's block -- the return units are going to be better at springing those guys. That's going to be a big part of the game.
Could you talk a little bit about your linebacker Airius Moore, he's ranked high statistically particularly within conference games?
Yeah, he's an active linebacker that can do a lot of things. He's very explosive. He's a good dogger, a blitzer. He sees things quickly and reacts. He's not a guy that waits around to figure out the play. He makes very quick decisions, and he's really strong, so he can get off a lineman.
One of the things when you're a short linebacker, you've got to be able to take advantage of that by playing with good pad level and getting under pads, and he does that. He really brings a pop with him.
How tall is he exactly?
He's probably 5'10".
Is he the kind of guy that you look at and say, well, I'm not sure he can be a linebacker or do you just wait and see how he produces for you?
No, we recruited him to play linebacker, and that's what he's doing. He's done a great job.
NC State Game Notes
NC STATE VS. SYRACUSE
Saturday's meeting will mark the third time the Pack and the Orange have met as Atlantic Coast Conference foes and the ninth meeting overall in the series. NC State posts a 7-1 record against Syracuse, with the only loss coming in the 2013 game.
The Wolfpack posts a 4-0 mark at Syracuse, 3-1 in Raleigh.
The 1997 contest, played in the Carrier Dome, was literally one for the record book. That year, the unranked Pack took the No. 13 Orange into overtime, eking out a 32-31 victory. That contest was the first overtime game in ACC history.
Here's a look at the series history between NC State and Syracuse:
|8/30/97||Away||W, 32-31 (OT)|
NC State's annual Military Appreciation Day has become one of the most highly-anticipated games on the schedule for Wolfpack fans. This year's event will honor those who serve in a variety of ways.
The Walk of Champions will be filled with true champions, as a group of 15 Wounded Warriors will be escorted to the stadium by the U.S. Veteran Corps and will join in the walk. ROTC Cadets and Midshipmen will line the Walk of Champions.
NC Pack4Patriots will be on site collecting items for care packages to send to deployed troops. Fans are encourage to donate basic hygiene items, snacks, recreation items, military t-shirts, boot socks, batteries and first aid supplies
In addition to several military officers being recognized during the coin toss, the 82nd Airborne Chorus will be on site performing.
Representatives from the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard will carry flags representing their respective branches and will be a part of the team entrance.
During the National Anthen, 80 ROTC Cadets, Midshipmen and student veterans will unfurl a large flag.
Each ROTC Branch and Student Veterans will have a team each quarter for the Push-Up board.
At halftime, the Power Sound of the South will perform a Military themed show that will include fireworks sponsored by Coca-Cola. Following the performance, an all-veteran jump team will enter the stadium.
As part of NC State's annual Military Appreciation Day festivities on Nov. 21, the Wolfpack football squad will debut its new #IRONWOLF uniform. Developed in collaboration with Adidas, the iron gray uniform pays homage to the brave men and women who serve our country at home and abroad.
It will be the Wolfpack's sixth uniform combo of the season.
"Military Appreciation Day has become a very special event for our team," said head coach Dave Doeren, "We wanted to wear our next alternate uniform to honor those who serve and I think the color and design of the IRONWOLF uniform accomplishes that."
The #IRONWOLF helmet features a gray and black camouflage pattern, emblazoned with the classic red NC State logo. Red wolf claw marks highlight the shoulder pads and pants, the gloves and the pregame warmup shirt.
The inspiration for the name comes from one of the Wolfpack's team mottos: "Iron Sharpens Iron."
"When two iron blades are rubbed together, each blade gets sharper and more efficient," Doeren continued. "The same is true in the military and in football. We rely on each other to make each other better."
Each of the Wolfpack's last six games - in other words each of its ACC contests - have been against some of the nation's top defenses. In fact, NC State's last six opponents have all ranked in the top 25 nationally in total defense, including the national leader.
Six of the seven teams in the Atlantic Division of the ACC rank in the top 25 nationally in total defense (including NC State at 16th) and the one Coastal Division team that ranks in the top 25 happens to be on the Wolfpack's schedule: Virginia Tech.
Here's a look at the Wolfpack's ACC opponents and where they rank nationally in total defense this week:
One of senior quarterback Jacoby Brissett's strengths is not forcing passes that would result in a turnover. In fact, during Brissett's short two-year NC State career he owns two of the top-8 interception-free streaks in ACC history.
For his NC State career, Brissett has thrown just seven interceptions in his 667 attempts - a rate of just 1 INT for every 95 pass attempts. By comparison, in Dave Doeren's first season at NC State in 2013, Pack QBs threw 14 INTs in 426 attempts (1 INT per 30 attempts).
A season after having just five INTs for the entire season, Brissett has an even better rate in 2015. Ten games into his final campaign, he has thrown just two picks in his 297 pass attempts.
In 2015, 71 FBS quarterbacks have attempted at least 250 passes.
PROTECTING THE BALL
NC State leads the ACC and ranks 5th in the FBS in fewest turnovers this season with just eight - 2 interceptions and 6 fumbles lost. If the Wolfpack continues at this pace (0.8 turnovers per game), it would shatter the season record for fewest turnovers (13 in 2001).
The Pack has not been as effective at forcing turnovers as it has been at preventing them. NC State has 16 takeaways for the season, the No. 9 mark in the ACC. That stat has climbed signifcantly since last week after the Wolfpack forced five miscues at Florida State (3 interceptions and 2 fumbles lost).
The NC State Wolfpack has broken a couple of bad streaks on the road in 2015. On Oct. 24, the squad posted a road victory at Wake Forest for the first time since 2001. Last Saturday, Dave Doeren's squad became the first State team to win at Boston College since 1937!
The Wolfpack played six road games for only fifth time in the last 45 years this season. State posted a 4-2 in games played away from home. No other Wolfpack squad has had more road wins since 1957 (5-1).
The Wolfpack gained bowl eligibility with its win at Boston College on Nov. 7. This marks the second straight year NC State has earned bowl eligibility. Head coach Dave Doeren has now coached bowl eligible teams in 11 of his 14 years as a Division I coach and in four of his five seasons as a head coach.
A bowl game in 2015 would mark the 28th in school history.
The Wolfpack has outscored its opponents 110-44 in the first quarter this season, 201-119 in the first half.
NC State Depth Chart
NOTE: *- Indicates a player has redshirted a season.
|2015 NC State Depth Chart|