Quarterback Marcus Stone's passing performances in the first half versus the second half have been high publicized, but his play late against Akron was even more impressive. Stone completed 11-of-15 passes in the second half for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
Stone has now thrown a touchdown pass in nine of his last 11 games dating back to last season. He truly shined in the fourth quarter vs. Akron, going 9-of-10 for 135 yards and both of his touchdown tosses. His last completion came on fourth down for an 11-yard touchdown pass to Jamelle Eugene with just over a minute remaining that gave NC State a 17-14 lead.
In the eight games that Stone has started in his career, he has completed just 36% (25-of-70) of his passes in the first half and 59% (57-of-96) in the second half.
LOWERY IN THE MIDDLE
Coming in to this season, senior middle linebacker Pat Lowery had made just three starts while playing in all 36 games, averaging just 2.8 tackles-per-game.
After the first two games this season, Lowery is averaging 10.5 tackles-per-game, tops in the ACC. That mark also ranks 23rd in the NCAA. His previous season-high in tackles was 39 the last two seasons and Lowery already has 21 after two games.
NC STATE TRAVELS TO MISSISSIPPI
NC State and Southern Miss have met nine times on the gridiron, but had never played a game on NC State's home field until last season.
Six of the nine games between the two teams have been played at neutral sites, as the squads played in Mobile, Ala., in 1958, 1961 and 1962, met in Norfolk, Va., in 1959 and 1966 and in the All-American Bowl in Birmingham in 1990.
Chuck Amato has now coached and played against the Eagles, losing the 1966 game to the Eagles, 6-7, during his junior campaign and winning as a coach (21-17 last season).
THIRD QUARTER IS THE CHARM
The NC State defense is allowing 257 yards a game, fifth in the ACC and 27th overall in the NCAA. Though stingy overall, the third quarter has been thoroughly dominated by the Pack defense, holding the first two opponents to negative yards combined in the quarter.
Appalachian State managed 98 yards in the first half but ran 10 plays and lost five total yards in the third quarter of the Pack's win. In the loss to Akron, the Zips had 223 yards in the first half before running 14 second half plays for a net loss of four yards.
LAST TIME OUT VERSUS SOUTHERN MISS
Andre Brown got his career off the ground with a breakout performance against Southern Miss last season, rushing for 248 yards, a Wolfpack freshman record and the second most in school history. His 279 all-purpose yards is the highest total ever in Carter-Finley Stadium history.
Marcus Stone made his first career-start against the Eagles en route to posting a 5-1 mark in 2005 as a starter and leading NC State to the Meineke Car Care Bowl win over South Florida. Stone was 10-of-26 for 126 yards with one touchdown and two picks in the win over Southern Miss.
STAYING AT HOME
NC State will not be racking up any frequent flier miles early in the 2006 season. Besides this week's jaunt down to Hattiesburg, Miss., to take on Southern Miss, the Wolfpack will not play outside of Carter-Finley Stadium again until October 21.
The good news is that five of NC State's first six games will be played at home this season. The bad news is that that means that four of the last six will be played on the road.
The last time the Pack was fortunate enough to begin the season with so many home contests was in 1998, when NC State also played five of the first six at home in route to a 4-2 start. That same season was also the last time NC State opened its ACC schedule with three straight at home, (NC State's 2006 conference slate opens with Boston College, Florida State and Wake Forest all visiting Carter-Finley before the Pack is forced to hit the road for an ACC affair). NC State has faired well playing at Carter-Finley early in the season under Amato, posting a 14-5 (.739) mark in home contests played in August or September. This season marked the seventh straight that Amato opened the season at home.
After two games this season, NC State's defense has spread around the sack party and the team leads the ACC with eight. Seven different players have combined for the team's total, including a team-leading two sacks from defensive end Martrel Brown.
NC State's eight sacks rank sixth in the NCAA this season.
LUCKY NUMBER 200
With 200 yards rushing for the team against Appalachian St., NC State is now 5-2 under Chuck Amato when reaching that mark. The Pack ran for 206 yards against the Mountaineers, the most team rushing yards since the win over Southern Miss last year (297).
Chuck Amato preaches to his team that they must win the turnover battle each week. After two games, NC State has turned the ball over seven times, five more than it has forced.
Akron continued what ASU started by scoring its first touchdown off of an Anthony Hill fumble at the Wolfpack's 25-yard line. Though not a fumble or an interception, the Zips did score on a 96 yard drive after NC State turned it over on downs when Stone's fourth down keeper was stopped short inside the five yard line.
Akron's final touchdown as time expired was the only score against NC State's defense that wasn't off of a fumble, interception or turnover on downs this season.
SPLITTING IT UP
The big question going into the 2006 season was how the Pack was going to be able to fully utilize two of its most talented players when both played the same position.
The solution: split 'em up! Sophomore tailbacks Andre Brown and Toney Baker both started the the first two games and should continue to do so throughout the 2006 campaign.
Brown missed most of the Akron game after tweaking his knee in the first quarter.
FILLING BIG SHOES
Much has been said about the three members of the 2005 Wolfpack defensive line being drafted in the first round by the NFL last April. Little has been said, however, about the players who are manning the defensive line this season.
NC State has ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense each of the past two seasons - leading the nation in 2004 and finishing eighth last year.
Two of the positions on this year's defensive line are filled with players who had a big impact on both of those strong national finishes. Senior tackle Tank Tyler started all 11 games in 2004, the year the Wolfpack led the nation. Last season, he was a starter in the last six games of the season (when State happened to post a 5-1 record).
Sophomore tackle Demario Pressley started every game of 2005 and one game of his freshman campaign. The Greensboro native has slimmed down and is quicker off the line of scrimmage this season.
The end spots are being held down with players without as much experience as first round draft picks Mario Williams and Manny Lawson, but their is greater depth there this season. Former tackle Martrel Brown, Ray Brooks (who didn't play last season), Littleton Wright and Willie Young are rotating in and out at end.
The defense held the defending Division I-AA champions, Appalachian St., to just 133 yards of offense, the seventh best mark among Division I teams in the opening weekend. The defense is ranked 27th nationally in yards allowed through two games.
OPENER WAS A RUSH
The talented NC State backfield certainly lived up to its billing in the opener versus Appalachian State, with sophomore Doak Walker candidates Andre Brown and Toney Baker leading the way on the ground. The Wolfpack's sometimes-split backfield rushed for 206 yards in the contest, averaging 4.7 yards-per-carry.
Brown posted the third 100-yard rushing game of his young career with 125 yards and a 43-yard touchdown scamper.
Baker chipped in 43 yards on the ground and rumbled to a nine-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Redshirt freshman Jamelle Eugene added thirty yards on the ground in his first collegiate action.
Against Akron, Brown hurt his knee in the first quarter and didn't play the remainder of the game, while Baker added 58 rushing yards and 49 receiving yards. Eugene carried the ball just once, but caught a fourth quarter, 11-yard touchdown reception, his first career touchdown.
The 2006 season opener featured a few key players in new positions. These players obviously handled the change well, as three were starters.
Junior defensive end Martrel Brown got the start after spending his first two seasons at defensive tackle and came away with a forced fumble and two tackles for loss, including a sack.
Darrell Blackman moved from tailback to wide receiver in the spring and made the start at wideout in the first two games. Versus Appalachian St. he caught a 14-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Stone in the second quarter, his second career touchdown reception. He was the Pack's leading receiver with three catches for 26 yards. Against Akron, Blackman caught a touchdown for the second straight game and currently fourth in the ACC for all-pupose yards, averaging 122 ypg.
Matt Kushner redshirted as a freshman on the defensive line last year, but moved to tight end this fall. He earned his first career start against Akron as NC State opened in a two tight end set.
AMATO RANKS AMONG ACC LEADERS
In his first six seasons as the head coach of the Wolfpack, Chuck Amato posted a 46-28 record. Those 46 wins rank fourth in ACC history for a coach in career wins after their sixth year. Amato tied for fourth among all-time ACC coaches in wins after three years (25), tied for third after four years (34), and sixth after five years (39).
He is also tied for third all-time in ACC history with four bowl game wins.
Junior tight end Anthony Hill is trying to open his own pancake house.
Hill, who had 15 receptions for 140 yards last season, was a key to the resurgence of NC State's running game last season due to his powerful blocking.
In the win at ninth-ranked Florida State, Hill was credited with eight knockdown blocks, but his position coach Curt Cignetti said that he actually had 14-15 KDs, knocking the same guy down 2-3 times on the same play.
BEST STARTS FOR STARTERS
Junior signal caller Marcus Stone is off to one of the best starts as a starter in NC State history. Stone has gained victory in six of his first eight career starts, tying as the second-best mark for a Wolfpack QB since 1970. Dave Buckey won his first eight career starts from 1973-1974.
DERANEY KICK STARTS SEASON
Lou Groza candidate John Deraney, the versatile kicker/punter who has now handled all of the kicking duties for the third straight season, started the 2006 season off in top form.
Of his eight kickoffs this season, five have been for touchbacks, giving him 90 in 189 (48%) career kickoffs.
Eight of his 15 punts this season have been downed inside the 20-yard line.
Deraney is 5-for-5 on extra points, extending his school record streak to 67 consecutive PAT attempts in his career.
He currently ranks in the top 10 in school history in field goal percentage, PATs, PAT percentage, consecutive PATs, punts, punting yards and punting average.