Lail: Go With Your Gut

It was just one of those gut feelings. I don't tend to trust them, but on Saturday, this one proved to be all too dead-on.

I listened on the radio to the first few minutes of Saturday's NC State-Wake Forest game. When I heard that Wake had won the toss and elected to receive, I immediately thought: "That's not good."

For some reason, the doomsdayer in my mind sketched out a scenario where Wake drives down the field - at will - and scores on its first series, and the State offense tries to answer quickly, only to have a 3-and-out and give Wake the ball right back. (In my scenario, the Deacs then score again, leaving the Pack to answer quickly, again to no avail.) It seemed like a recipe for disaster - all of this coming from a simple toss of a coin.

You know the way some older folks can feel an ache in their knees or backs and say, "Yep. Looks right rain today." Well, I now trust my gut. (My gut once told me to buy Krispy Kreme stock. Unfortunately, my wallet prevailed in that one. Good call on that one. But I digress.)

My pessimistic scenario didn't exactly happen as I envisioned - but it wasn't too far off, either. Chuck Amato also had a feeling that Wake was going to come out with guns blazing. He even instructed his players as such. "'They're going to test your manhood,'" Amato told his defense after the coin flip.

"And they did."

And how. But for whatever reason, State couldn't hold back the Deacon attack, and it looked like the defense never fully got Amato's memo.

Three things were at work in that first half on Saturday that led to the Pack's downfall. The first and the most important thing was that Wake Forest put together a nearly flawless offensive game plan, with a couple of plays seemingly straight out of the State playbook, including a (perfect) pass back across the field from receiver Nick Morton to a streaking QB Cory Randolph, who had run a (perfect) route down the left sideline. Randolph was almost perfect passing the ball, going 8-of-10 for just 131 yards. Not huge numbers, but his throws were on-target and were like daggers in the heart of the State secondary.

Also, the young Wolfpack defense played like, well, a young defense in the first half. And finally, the State offense shot itself in the foot time after time after time. Wake's performance in the first half was eerily similar to last season's Thursday night State game at Clemson, where everything that could go right went right for the Red & White. That wasn't the case on Saturday.

Instead it was probably one of the best days ever to be Wake Forest football fans, even though they were outnumbered by (according to most estimates) 2-1 in their own stadium. If nothing else, it was further proof to bowl scouts that Wolfpack fans travel well, even if it was just down the road to watch their team play a team it should've thumped. But this game was over early. Heck, this game was actually over before the first kickoff. My gut told me so.

Rivers still in the hunt
The State fans that were in attendance in Groves Stadium (and stuck around) at least were able to watch two air shows. Across the street from the game was an air show that featured paratroopers, bombers, Stealth fighters and more.

But in the stadium, NCSU QB Philip Rivers put on a show of his own. Rivers did everything he could to lead his team back against the Deacs, but the Pack was in too much of a hole. His numbers - even in a losing effort - were staggering: 38-of-49 passing for 433 yards and three TDs. He had two interceptions - one was a poor decision; the other was a tipped ball.

And despite what the Wake Forest students may have chanted near the end of the game, Rivers' Heisman chances are still very real and very legitimate. Granted, he needs a terrific showing at Ohio State this weekend, but his name could still be the one called in New York in January. Especially if he keeps passing for over 400 yards a game.

Uh-oh
To fully appreciate how porous the NCSU defense has been so far, consider this. In its opening win against Western Carolina, the Pack 'D' gave up 20 points and 192 passing yards to the Catamounts. The very next week, the Duke Blue Devils (yes, those Duke Blue Devils) held WCU to just 3 points, fewer passing yards and only 4 rushing yards. The Catamounts had over 40 yards rushing against State.

'Now' ACC Standings
1. Florida State: 'Noles still the only team in the ACC that truly does reload, not just replace.
2. Wake Forest: And in all honesty - the Deacs may be the only team that has a shot at knocking off FSU.
3. NC State: The pieces are there; they just haven't come together yet.
4. Maryland: Terps won't look past a small-time program this week.
5. Virginia: The Cavs didn't do much for ACC pride in losing at South Carolina.
6. Georgia Tech: That sound you hear coming up from the south is Chan Gailey's sigh of relief.
7 (tie). Clemson, Duke, North Carolina: No surprise here.

'Later' ACC Standings
1. Miami
2. Florida State
3. Virginia Tech
4. Wake Forest
5. NC State
6. Maryland
7. Virginia
8. Georgia Tech
9 (tie). Clemson
Duke
North Carolina

This Week's Predictions:

NC State at Ohio State: Oh, boy. The "Game of the Century" sure doesn't have the appeal it did a week ago. NCSU doesn't have to win this game, but the Pack needs to prove to itself that it is still a legit team. A good - make that, a GREAT - showing in Columbus could do that. However . Ohio State 36, NC State 21

Purdue at Wake Forest: No one just waltzes into Groves Stadium and beats up on the Deacs anymore. And this includes you, Boilers. Wake Forest 32, Purdue 28

Virginia at Western Michigan: The Wahoos get back on track on the road after a disappointing outing in Columbia. UVa 27, WMU 10

Middle Tennessee State at Clemson: Tommy Bowden gets another much-need 'W.' His Tigers, however, have to go to Atlanta next week - and ask Auburn how easy that was. Clemson 30, MTSU 7

The Citadel at Maryland: Just what the doctor ordered for the Terps: Pat Conroy's school. Lords of Discipline, indeed. Maryland 45, The Citadel 10

Rice at Duke: Break up the Devils! They're on a roll! Duke 21, Rice 14

Georgia Tech at Florida State: Tech has some confidence after its shellacking of Auburn, but the Seminoles are on fire. And it's never good to be the away team at Doak Campbell - especially for a night game. FSU 42, Georgia Tech 17

And finally ... Miami 56, ECU 10


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