Rushing Offense Gets Going - With T.A. McLendon hitting the century mark early, (and finishing with 115 yards on 10 carries) the NC State ground game had it's best outing of the season. The Wolfpack rolled up 217 yards rushing on 39 carries at a nice 5.6 YPC average. With McLendon healthy, NC State's a different team offensively, but against the Red Raiders Josh Brown (2 TDs) and Cotra Jackson performed admirably. NC State will need another good effort on the ground this weekend against the Tarheels.
John Deraney - Seven touchbacks on eight kickoffs. Enough said. Deraney's done a great job all year and is helping NC State win the field position battle. Texas Tech came in averaging nearly 25 YPR on kickoffs this year but was negated in Raleigh. It's been a long time since NC State's had a kicker who can consistently put it in the back of the end zone and guys like this are ALWAYS worth scholarships.
We Found Manny Lawson! - After three relatively quiet games, the athletically-gifted Manny Lawson made his presence felt against the Red Raiders. Lawson finished with 9 tackles, 1 TFL, and a blocked punt that led to a Wolfpack Special Teams touchdown. A "playmaker," Manny is the type of guy who can change a game with one play, and he did that on Saturday. NC State hopes to see THIS Manny Lawson more often.
Freshmen Need No Orientation -In a very important game for the Wolfpack, several true and red-shirt freshmen made critical plays early in the ball game that led to a quick start for the Pack. The Defensive Quartet of Mario Williams, Steve Tulloch, Renaldo Moses, and Mo Charles were all over the field on Saturday and along with James Martin give a sneak preview of the "future" NC State defense. I think the future could be now because these guys can play. And who said freshman can't contribute early on?
Rivers: The Heisman Front-Runner -There's no question in my mind that he's out front after the first four games he's had. Rivers is completing passes at an unbelievable 77% clip, after finishing 18-22 for 257 yards this weekend. He's a leader on the field who makes all the right decisions and makes NC State's explosive offense go. He had another great game and is on pace to shatter all the ACC Passing Records.
Bent, Bent, Bent, but Didn't Break - That's the Wolfpack Defense on Saturday. They gave up 580 yards passing and over 600 total yards of Offense but played OUTSTANDING in the redzone and on fourth-down. The Defense held Texas Tech to a 25% red-zone conversion rate (1-4) and 2 of 7 on fourth-down conversions. With a very loose zone coverage, NC State gave allowed yardage all up the field, but when a big stop was needed they continually made those plays. The upside of this defense (which features one senior starter) is scary.
Yardage at a Premium - NC State's Defense did a great job when they had to, but you never want to give up over 680 yards of total offense. Texas Tech was able to move the ball at will against NC State and B.J. Symons continually ripped up the 8-man zone generally employed by the Wolfpack. Look for the bump-and-run coverage to be the primary defense this weekend against the Tarheels, who lack the offensive firepower of the Red Raiders.
Secondary Mishaps - There were a couple of costly blown coverages in the second half against Texas Tech, which led to their offensive touchdowns. I've noticed several plays this year where a couple of DBs have missed critical assignments which led to big-plays. This has to be corrected with solid passing teams such as FSU, UVA, and Clemson still on the schedule.
B.J. Symons - Well, he was bad for NC State but very good for Texas Tech. Whoever felt there would be a drop-off with the graduation of Kliff Kingsbury were wrong because Symons can do it all. He's tough, strong, and an athletic quarterback who competes. Symons gave the Wolfpack defense fits all day, and he's going to put up ridiculous numbers this year at Texas Tech.
State will Eventually Need Those Three Points - NC State Kicker Adam Kiker hooked a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter… a tough miss from such a short distance. Eventually a game may be won (or lost) on Kiker's leg, and Coach Amato will need to have full confidence in him to get the job done. Hopefully the Wadesboro (NC) Senior steps up and finishes the rest of the season strong for the Wolfpack.
WHAT'S ON TAP?
The game Wolfpack fans always want more than any other… the North Carolina Tarheels. Coach John Bunting brings his winless Tarheels into Carter-Finley this Saturday at 2:00 PM for a showdown with his main rival. This game could make UNC's season, so look for the Tarheels to come out fired up and ready to play against the Wolfpack.