Philip Rivers - Rivers had a very good game on Saturday, even though the team floundered against the Deacons. Philip finished the day with 433 yards, 3 TDs, and 2 INTs on 38-49 passing. He played with moxie and made some incredible plays throughout the game, but untimely penalties and some missed blocking assignments stalled drives more often then not. Being the competitor that he is, I look for Rivers to rally the troops and have his team ready for the Buckeyes.
Jerricho Cotchery - Jerricho had another fine game against Wake Forest and continues to be a constant source of reliability for Rivers. Philip knows that if he gets it near Cotchery, he'll make the catch 99% of the time, and their chemistry is unmatched. Cotchery finished with 8 catches for 169 yards and 1 Touchdown. He was able to get open all day long and when Rivers had time, he would find his Alabama counterpart. Next weekend look for Jerricho to be matched-up against OSU's Chris Gamble, the nation's best defensive back. That will definitely be a joy to watch!
Richard Washington - Richard's Wolfpack debut was very good individually, as he opened the game with an 11-yard reverse while adding 9 catches for 83 yards and 1 TD. He found holes in the Wake zone throughout the game and was able to get open deep a few times, but Rivers simply didn't see him. I was impressed with his quickness and willingness to mix it up on the edges and across the middle. "ROY," who originally committed to Ohio State, is going to be ready for the trip to Columbus.
The Fans Show Up - The trip to Winston-Salem was a beautiful one, passing State flags left and right. The stadium was probably 60-70% pro-State (estimate) which is amazing for ANY road game. The fans were loud early on and tried to urge on the Wolfpack but it was to no avail this weekend.
Is This Our Defense? - Granted, the frontline's young and we are replacing emotional leaders Terrence Holt and Dantonio Burnette, but what's up with all the missed tackles and assignments? Those are polar opposites of what we expect to see from Wolfpack defenses, and on Saturday we couldn't tackle anybody and blew key coverages in the first half. Look for the NC State coaching staff to re-group the "D" and let them know about the problems during the week. Saturday's game is a VERY important one, and I expect the defense to come out ready to play.
Offensive Line - The Offensive line struggled against Wake Forest, and seemed to have problems with their blitzing schemes and defensive package. The starters missed assignments in blocking and had key penalties that prematurely ended drives. If they thought this week was tough, wait until the OSU game when they play arguably the best defensive line in the nation. The game will be won next weekend in the trenches and our guys have to play better then they did in Winston-Salem.
Special Teams - We were thoroughly outplayed in the special teams department against Wake and it ended up costing down the stretch. They returned a punt for a touchdown late in the first half and Greg Golden completely whiffed on a blocked punt that would have given NC State all kinds of momentum in the third. The Wolfpack didn't get anything going on kickoff returns as Golden and Lamont Reid both looked lethargic returning kicks. This is an area that Head Coach Chuck Amato takes pride in and rest assured that this week the players will get an earful on how bad of a job they did on special teams against the Deacs.
Yellow's Not My Favorite Color - 10-2. That's the ratio of penalties between NC State and Wake Forest. The Wolfpack racked up 90 yards of penalties and what's worse is that they often came in critical situations. When you play a running team, you can't give them four offsides penalties, because ANY running team should be able to pick up 5 other yards in 3 carries (and that's what Wake managed to do). Next week NC State can't commit the same amount of errors or the ‘Pack's going to experience the same result.
Ground Game Stays Grounded - With TA McLendon in windbreakers, the Wolfpack rushing attack never got going against Wake Forest. Cotra Jackson looked jittery and slow… struggling to find holes to run through and when he did he seemed to lack the explosion to take advantage of it. Cotra looked... rusty to be honest. The lack of a true running game allowed the Deacs to use more DBs and negate some of the short Wolfpack passing game. NC State must generate more than 78 yards on the ground on September 13th to have any chance against the Buckeyes.
Missing Three Starters Never Helps - NC State battled the injury-bug on Saturday and lost. With All-ACC OL Chris Colmer, star RB TA McLendon, and #2 WR Sterling Hicks on the sidelines with injuries, the NC State offense lacked some expected firepower. McLendon and Colmer's absences were especially felt, leaving State without the depth (and talent) at their respective positions. All three's status for next weekend's up in the air, but a healthy team is almost a must at this point to achieve the goals set forth at the beginning of the season.
WHAT'S ON TAP?
Another high-noon showdown… this time with the defending national champions, Ohio State. Both teams are coming off disappointing performances and the key could be who establishes the running game. Look for a better outing from the NC State defense, who will be out to prove they are not as bad as they looked against Wake Forest. Will it be enough? We'll know sometime Saturday afternoon! Go Pack!