Wednesday Practice News and Notes

<B>Raleigh, NC --</b> Will the Virginia Tech game be won in the trenches? Or will special teams be the deciding factor in Saturday's battle?

Will the Trenches Decide the VT Game?
It looks like the Wolfpack rebounded from what was labeled a 'bad' practice by Coach Amato to perform considerably better this afternoon.

"Well, they concentrated," Amato said. "They competed pretty good at the end when we go against each other. When you know you're going to play a team that's very physical, then you can [hit]. They are a physical team. That's their brand of ball."

Virginia Tech's offensive line averages 6'4 and 317 pounds along the two-deep, easily the largest front NC State will have faced this early in the season. Can their size and strength handle the speed and athleticism of the Wolfpack's defensive line? We'll find the answer to that question on Saturday afternoon, but according to Amato that may be the deciding factor in the game.

"Without a doubt their offensive line is good," he said. "They are big and strong. They work together well, and the chemistry between all of them is good. That's going to be a big factor to say the least."

NC State will practice again on Thursday before heading to Blacksburg, Virginia Friday afternoon.

Special Teams the Key?
Chuck Amato always stresses the importance of special teams, and this weekend that may not be more evident as two of the nation's top special teams units face off.

NC State nearly blocked a punt against the Buckeyes but was flagged for running into the kicker. Although there were several penalties for the Wolfpack, special teams coach Manny Diaz said to not expect the aggressive mentality to change.

"We win games when we block punts, and we're not going to stop," Diaz said. "Since we've been here we're undefeated. Since Amato's been here we've never lost when we've blocked a punt."

"When you go for blocking punts you get field position and touchdowns off them, but you'll also get penalties," he added. "This past weekend we had a penalty that took away a big return. Virginia Tech got a roughing the punter against Duke, but the difference is they won so no one cared."

It's obvious that Diaz believes special teams will be the key to Saturday's game.

"Our guys know that winning this game will come down to special teams," Diaz said. "Look at the games that have happened. Clemson had Georgia Tech beat, until they have a bad snap on a punt. Florida State has Miami beat, until they have a kick blocked. Knowing that, our guys know that we can't worry about what the offense and defense does because the game's going to be won with special teams."

One position NC State's confident at is kicker, where sophomore John Deraney has performed superbly in practices and the first two games of the season.

"We've been thrilled with John Deraney," Diaz said. "He's just a talent and his leg is so explosive. He's just the best at everything. If he wasn't then someone else would be doing something. He's just so good at what he does."

"We need to get to the point where when we get to twenty we know that we have three points in the bank," he added. "Realistically, with John it stretches further back from the twenty, but I think he gives us that."

Deraney's play could be a huge factor against Virginia Tech.

Tulloch Makes Plays
It may have surprised some people that sophomore Stephen Tulloch got the starting nod over senior Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay in last Saturday's Ohio State game, but after hearing Amato rave about Tulloch we were not one of those people.

"They've moved Pat [Thomas] to strongside and I'm working at weakside," Tulloch said. "There's been no adjustment for me. I'm just going out there to make plays."

Tulloch played very well against the Buckeyes, registering 12 tackles and three tackles for loss against the nation's No. 7 team. Tulloch was pleased, but he wants to play even more.

"I was pleased with how I played, but I'm looking to play a whole game," he said. "I made 12 or 13 tackles in like 34 snaps. If I play a whole game with 60 snaps, you do the math."

"But, to tell you the truth, stats don't matter because we lost the game," he added. "I just want to win."

Going against Virginia Tech, Tulloch could be used at times to 'spy' the Hokies' Bryan Randall, one of the league's top quarterbacks. Regardless of the scheme, look for the Wolfpack to try and neutralize Randall.

"Their offense is pretty good and they have a mobile quarterback," Tulloch said. "He's like Vick back there. We've just got to bring our 'A' game."

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