NC State-App. State: The Good and Bad

NC State improves to 1-0 on the season following a solid 23-10 victory over the No. 1 ranked D-IAA team in the country. Pack Pride talks about the positives and negatives in Saturday's win over Appalachian State.

  • Photo Gallery I
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  • Box Score
  • Chuck Amato Audio + Quotes
  • Wolfpack Players Audio
  • Recap: Dominant Defense Keys Wolfpack Win, 23-10

    GOOD

    Brown Has Big Day: A lot of folks wondered how NC State would be able to keep Andre Brown and Toney Baker happy, and the Wolfpack did a great job of getting both players touches in the season opener, as the duo combined for 26 carries in three quarters of action.

    Andre Brown
    However it was Brown who shined, as the talented sophomore exploded for 125 yards on 15 carries, including an electrifying 43-yard touchdown run that showcased his speed and vision. Brown could have had a HUGE day, as he played just one series in the second half before turning the duties over to Baker, but he appears to be poised to have a breakout season.

    He runs with speed and looks to get to the edge, but he also tries to hurt defenders when he encounters them. His most impressive run of the day was probably in the second quarter when he met up with App. State safety Corey Lynch in front of the Mountaineer bench while running down the sideline. Brown lowered his shoulder and sent Lynch flying, as the safety was knocked off his feet and into a group of Mountaineer players. (Watch Brown Run Here)

    The Pack will need a consistent effort from Brown each game, as teams will be looking to stop the run, but he is clearly one of the league's top backs and paired with Baker both should lead a strong Wolfpack rushing attack.

    Deraney Comes Through: As expected, senior kicker John Deraney was stellar in the win.

    John Deraney
    Handling all the kicking duties, Deraney didn't attempt any field goals, but his strong leg gave the Wolfpack's defense a long field to defend. He boomed three kickoffs out the back of the endzone, and the lone kick that App. State did return yielded just 11 yards.

    He was even more efficient as a punter. Sure, eight punts for a 37.9 yard average doesn't sound too impressive, but five of his eight kicks were downed inside the 20-yard line, including three inside the 10-yard line. Again he was the defense's best friend as the Mountaineers seemed to be starting deep in their own territory all game.

    Deraney must be a weapon for NC State this year, as he is regarded as one of the league's top kickers. If he continues to have games like he did on Saturday, the Wolfpack's defense will be smiling.

    Disciplined On Both Sides: Penalties have been a concern over the past couple of seasons, but the Wolfpack played disciplined football on both sides of the ball. NC State registered just three penalties for 20 yards, which is extremely impressive given it was the season opener.

    Chuck Amato
    Head coach Chuck Amato remarked that it had been a long time since he saw a defense not have a single penalty called on them during a game, as was the case on Saturday. The Wolfpack had a false start on a punt in the second half and a false start and holding penalty on the offense in the first half, but Amato would be thrilled if his team averages just three penalties a game for the season.

    It looks like NC State will have a ball-control offense this year, so they cannot have numerous penalties that could put the offense in long-yardage situations because the key will be sustaining drives. The Wolfpack showcased discipline on both sides of the ball, and Amato couldn't be any happier.

    Smooth Transition For Blackman: Darrell Blackman moved to wide receiver in the spring, and he looked good in the opener.

    Darrell Blackman
    Because the Wolfpack didn't need much of a passing game against the Mountaineers, his touches were limited as he finished with three catches for 26 yards, but Blackman did have a 14-yard scoring pass in the first half.

    He caught all three passes cleanly and looked comfortable, and you know what Blackman will give you in the return game. He returned three kicks for 85 yards, and he is one of the most dangerous return men in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

    NC State will be looking to get him even more touches against the Akron Zips because he is so dangerous with the ball, and Blackman looked good at his new position on Saturday.

    Offensive Line Does The Job: NC State's offensive line lost projected starter Luke Lathan a week ago, and it forced Leroy Harris to move back to center from left guard. It may take some time for the new unit to gel should Kalani Heppe continue to start over Lathan, but it was a good showing for the offensive line against a solid App. State defensive front.

    Curtis Crouch
    NC State tallied 206 rushing yards on 44 carries, and the numbers might have been even better had Brown remained in the game, but the 4.7 yards per carry average is still solid. There were several huge holes on the day, particularly on Toney Baker's third quarter touchdown run where sophomore Curtis Crouch pulled to lead the way, crushing App. State's blitzing linebacker. Crouch also had probably the best Raleigh Railroad you could have earlier in the drive, as on another nine-yard run from Baker, Crouch literally drove his defender thirty yards downfield. After losing nearly 40 pounds in the offseason, Crouch looked much quicker and is developing into a force at right guard.

    NC State attempted only 13 passes, but the offensive line did a good job of giving Marcus Stone time to go through his progressions. The Mountaineers had just one sack, and they played aggressive on defense, sending defenders from different angles, but Stone and center Leroy Harris did a great job of calling out the blitz protections.

    The line is still a work in progress, and getting Lathan back could be huge because it would allow Harris to move back to guard, but Saturday's showing was good.

    Dominant Defensive Line: Questions all preseason focused on NC State's defensive line and how the Wolfpack could replace three first-round draft picks, but if Saturday's game is any indication, the Wolfpack will be strong once again up front.

    Technique-wise, NC State's defensive line is obviously well-coached. All the players do a great job of using their hands to get off blocks and also maintaining pad level. As expected, starting defensive tackles Demario Pressley and Demarcus Tyler were solid, as each tallied tackles for loss and Pressley also had his first sack of the season. Reserve defensive tackles Alan-Michael Cash and John Bedics also played well, but Ted Larsen really stood out. He is strong fundamentally and appeared to be in the offensive backfield on every play, and the redshirt freshman has a bright future.

    Raymond Brooks
    The defensive ends were stellar. The Wolfpack played five defensive ends a fair number of snaps, a different strategy from last season when Mario Williams and Manny Lawson played 60+ snaps a game to lead what was basically a three-man rotation. With five players rotating in at two spots, constant pressure was applied as the defensive ends were fresh all game. Three different ends recorded sacks, and two others, Littleton Wright and Willie Young, recorded three tackles each.

    Starters Martrel Brown and Ray Brooks were really strong. Brown was all over the place, as he finished with three tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, and a quarterback pressure. Brooks, playing his first game since 2004, added three tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss, a sack, and nearly recorded the safety that was eventually ruled a team rush for App. State. Senior John Amanchukwu chipped in with a 15-yard sack and a quarterback pressure.

    NC State has a different philosophy up front this year, and it just might work. Sure the star power might not be there, yet, but the Wolfpack can feel confident in the quantity of talented players along the defensive line. When you can rotate in 10-12 guys to play four positions, everyone can give maximum effort on each play and will be looking to prove what they can do when the opportunity is there. There might not be a Mario Williams or a John McCargo out there, but it guys like Ray Brooks, Martrel Brown, and Demario Pressley are pretty darn good themselves.

    Lowery Leads: NC State's leader on defense has to be Patrick Lowery, and the middle linebacker was outstanding in the season opener.

    Patrick Lowery
    Lowery tallied a game-high 11 tackles and two tackles for loss, while playing the majority of the game. He was solid in coverage and did a great job stuffing the run and keying on App. State's talented tailback, Kevin Richardson.

    NC State played a lot of 4-2-5 defense because of its strength in the secondary and App. State's offensive scheme, and Lowery looked very comfortable. He did well with his drops and stayed with his man in coverage, but his strength is attacking the ball carrier. Chuck Amato always says it starts up front on defense, and if the defensive line continues to generate the pressure it did on Saturday, Lowery could have a special season.

    Mountaineer Offensive Attack Grounded: App. State came into the game with one of D-1AA's top tailbacks in Kevin Richardson, but he was ineffective from the start. Richardson finished with just 34 yards on 14 carries and quarterback Trey Elder added only 13 yards on 14 carries. Reserve true freshman tailback Devon Moore had the longest run of the day for the Mountaineers, a 20-yard scamper late in the fourth quarter, but App. State's rushing game was never a factor, as they totaled 69 yards on 37 carries, a 1.8 yard average.

    Reggie Davis
    The passing attack was just as bad, as Elder was in trouble from the beginning with NC State's aggressive defense. He completed just 4-of-14 passes for 58 yards, but he never looked comfortable reading the Wolfpack's scheme or in the pocket. He was sacked four times, and threw a crucial pick in the first half as safety Miguel Scott made a terrific play by faking a safety blitz and then jumping the out route for an interception deep in NC State territory.

    NC State will face stronger offenses and bigger offensive lines this season, but a lot of folks expected App. State to move the ball on a Wolfpack defense looking to replace six starters. The Mountaineers had virtually no success, and that is a good sign for NC State.

    BAD

    Turnover Issues: For NC State to be successful, this cannot be a trend in 2006. The Wolfpack had four turnovers on the day, including two that led to all 10 points for Appalachian State. It was the season opener and miscues can be a problem early in the season, but the Wolfpack must start securing the football.

    Darrell Blackman nearly fumbles the ball.
    The first turnover of the day came on a botched punt, as blocker J.C. Neal never saw the ball and Darrell Blackman never saw Neal. Blackman bumped into Neal trying to field the punt, and App. State recovered the fumble. The Mountaineers scored its only touchdown of the game a few plays later thanks to the great field position.

    NC State fumbled again on its first possession of the second quarter, as tailback Toney Baker coughed up the ball after being hit on a screen pass. Mountaineer safety Jeremy Wiggins scooped up the ball and returned it 31 yards before Marcus Stone made a huge play, as the Wolfpack quarterback made a touchdown-saving tackle at the 14-yard line. The tackle was big, as later in the drive Elder was intercepted by Scott and luckily for NC State Baker's turnover didn't yield any points.

    NC State started the second half with back-to-back turnovers, as Stone couldn't handle a shotgun snap from Leroy Harris and on the next possession he threw his first interception of the season. However, the Wolfpack's defense again came up big, giving up just three points.

    The Wolfpack will need to get better at securing the football. Turnovers happen in football, but teams won't beat good teams with a -2 turnover margin.

    YAC Attack: Stone completed just seven passes, but for only 36 yards? All of the blame can't be placed on him, as he also needs his receivers and tailbacks to make more plays once they do get the ball in their hands.

    Stone Struggles: Marcus Stone reportedly has improved this offseason, and he did look more comfortable in the pocket against App. State. However, the Wolfpack has to get more than 36 yards of passing offense. Granted, the team only attempted 13 passes, but a couple of times John Dunlap was wide open deep and Stone didn't attempt to make the big play.

    Marcus Stone
    NC State has plenty of talent at wide receiver, and they need to start taking advantage of it. Defenses will continue to load up the box and they are going to try and take away Brown and Baker, so Stone's development will be crucial to the Wolfpack's success.

    It was also surprising to read the box score and not see Anthony Hill's name listed anywhere, as he had zero catches and zero targets in the season opener. He has the talent to be a factor in the passing game, but he has to get opportunities to make plays.

    NC State's offense was vanilla against Appalachian State. Expect the Wolfpack to try and get the passing game rolling on Saturday when Akron comes to Raleigh.

    Third-Down Troubles: 3-of-12. Ouch. It wasn't pretty, and Chuck Amato seemed disgusted by it, but NC State converted on just 3-of-12 third-down plays. Third-down conversions was a big problem for the Wolfpack in 2005, and Amato mentioned it being an area he wanted to see improvement on, but that wasn't the case in the opener. Several factors come into play when trying to convert on third down, such as playcalling, penalties, and execution, but the Wolfpack just struggled when it needed to make a play on third down. Sustaining drives will be big this season, and NC State has to improve here.

    Injuries, Injuries, and More Injuries: This could develop into a real concern for NC State.

    A.J. Davis
    Projected starters Luke Lathan and Lamart Barrett didn't dress for the opener, and reserves Ernest Jones and Geron James also were on the sidelines in street clothes. Early in the game, starting cornerback A.J. Davis pulled a hamstring and he sat the rest of the contest, and starting center Leroy Harris missed a couple of series as well.

    None of these injuries appear to be serious, but when you have four starters nursing injuries and two other reserves also trying to get back in action, it can mess up the timing of an offense or create depth concerns at a position. This early in the season, NC State cannot afford to lose anymore players to injury, or they could be in trouble.


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