Notebook: Heels Up Next

NC State (3-7, 2-5) is looking to break a five-game losing streak on the road tomorrow against the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-9, 0-6).

  • Chuck Amato is 2-1 in Chapel Hill, winning in 2000 (38-20) and 2002 (34-17) and losing in the last meeting at Kenan Stadium, 24-30, in 2004.
  • All seven of the Wolfpack's conference games have been decided by eight points or less this season.
  • Darrell Blackman leads the ACC and ranks second nationally in kick return average at 31.4 yards-per-return. He is the Wolfpack's career-leader in kick return average as well.

    The series started in 1894 and is the Wolfpack's oldest rivalry among ACC teams and fourth-most played series in the ACC. The Tar Heels hold a 62-27-6 overall mark over the Wolfpack and a 33-16-2 advantage in Chapel Hill.

    Chuck Amato is 2-1 in Chapel Hill, winning in 2000 (38-20) and 2002 (34- 17) and losing in the last meeting at Kenan Stadium, 24-30, in 2004. In Amato's three wins against the Heels, the average margin of victory has been 16 points including a margin of 17.5 points in the two wins in Chapel Hill.

    In Amato's three losses, the average margin of victory for the Tar Heels has been seven points, as each of the three games have been decided by eight points or less.

    This is the first meeting in the month of November between the two teams since Nov. 11, 1999 when the Heels won, 10-6, in Charlotte, N.C.

    NC State has 57 players that hail from the state of North Carolina on the roster and a high percentage of those kids are listed on the Wolfpack's depth chart as the team readies to play in-state rival, North Carolina.

    In fact, all four captains - Leroy Harris, Tank Tyler, Pat Lowery and William Lee - are in-state products.

    Including special teams, a total of 22 kids from North Carolina are listed on the Wolfpack's depth chart. On offense, 12 in-state kids are listed on the two-deep, while nine more fill the defense's depth chart and Lee, the team's longsnapper, is also from North Carolina.

    Over the last 14 meetings between NC State and North Carolina, the team that has more rushing yards has been the victor 13 times.

    NC State put up 304 yards to UNC's 164 on the ground in the 24-30 loss in 2004, the only time during that streak that either the Pack or Heels lost when out rushing its rival.

    The 304 yards were the most for a Wolfpack team in a game since the Maryland contest in 1994 when NC State put up 327 yards on the ground.

    NC State has faced the 16th toughest schedule nationally according to the Sagarin ratings and the second toughest in the ACC this season. Wolfpack opponents hold a combined 71-31 record (.696) so far in 2006.

    All seven of the Wolfpack's conference games this season have been decided by eight points or less and three have been by four points or less.

    In Chuck Amato's 55 ACC contests, he has posted a 25-30 record. In 32 of those 55 games, the final outcome has been decided by a touchdown (seven points) or less, 37 have been decided by eight points or less and 41 have been decided by 10 points or less.

    Amato is 11-16 on the road in ACC matchups and in 17 of those 27 games the score has differed by seven points or less, with NC State posting a 6-11 record in those games after a pair of six point losses to Maryland and Clemson and a seven point loss to Virginia over the last three road ACC games this season.

    Amato's ACC record includes a 14-14 mark at home and the Wolfpack has lost just four conference games by double digits at home in the past seven years. In 14 home ACC wins, six have been by double digits, and the other eight have been by seven or less points, including the two-point win over BC and the fourpoint triumph over FSU.

    Under Amato, NC State has lost by 20-or-more points just three times and by more than 10 points just seven times in ACC games.

    Junior return specialist and wide receiver Darrell Blackman injured his knee on the opening kickoff of the Southen Miss game and missed the remainder of that contest and the Boston College game. Since his return from injury, Blackman has been a valuable piece of the Wolfpack's offensive unit, and his play on special teams has been just that - special.

    He is the only player in the top-10 in the ACC in returns to score on both a punt and kickoff this season. Blackman leads the conference in kickoff returns and ranks second nationally, averaging 31.4 yards per return. His punt return mark (9.9) is sixth in the ACC.

    If his season kick return average holds, Blackman will have the secondhighest single season average in school history.

    He is even better against conference foes with a league-leading 33.5 yards per kickoff returns and is third in punt returns (10.6).

    Blackman is the Wolfpack's career leader in kickoff return average at 29.7 and is fourth in yards with 1,099.

    Darrell Blackman currently leads the ACC in conference games only with an average of 125 all-purpose yardsper- game and ranks second overall at 112.9 yards-per-game. He collected a career-high 234 all-purpose yards in the Georgia Tech contest, the eighthbest single game total in school history. Those yards included a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, the seventh longest kick return in school history and the 11th longest overall play.

    Blackman currently ranks 14th in school history with 2,598 career allpurpose yards and is the first Wolfpack player with back-to-back 1,000 allpurpose yard seasons since Jerricho Cotchery (2002 and 2003). Blackman is also on pace to post a top-10 season in terms of all-purpose yards.

    NC State will play its final road game of the season against North Carolina this Saturday and is 0-4 in road contests in 2006. The Pack has lost three of the four games by a touchdown or less.

    Overall, NC State is playing four of its final six games on the road after hosting five of its first six games at home. The last time NC State played four of its final six games on the road was 1995 when the Wolfpack posted a 2-4 record to finish the season.

    NC State played five of its first six games at home this season and posted a 3-3 mark. 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 en 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 opened with Boston College, Florida State and Wake Forest all visiting Carter-Finley). This season marked the seventh straight that Amato opened the season at home.

    NC State has used a different starting lineup along its offensive line for two straight games after playing the first eight with the same starting five. Luke Lathan is starting at center and Meares Green starting at tackle, with Leroy Harris moving over to guard after starting the first nine games at center.

    With both starting guards (Harris, 19 plays, and Curtis Crouch, 23 plays) knocked out of the game early with injuries, the Wolfpack was forced to shuffle it's alignment. Kalani Heppe, who started the first eight games at guard, replaced Harris when he went down, and Green was moved inside to guard once Crouch was injured. Holt replaced Green at tackle, a spot where Holt started the first eight games this season.

    Redshirt freshman Jeraill McCuller (16 plays) and redshirt senior Merci Falaise (seven plays) also saw action at tackle in the game.

    Offensive line coach Pat Meyer used a season-high nine offensive lineman in the contest.

    NC State ranks ninth in the ACC in scoring offense, averaging 18.5 points-per-game. If that average holds, it will be the Wolfpack's lowest scoring output since 1985 when the team averaged just 16.9 points-pergame.

    The Wolfpack has failed to score more than 24 points in all 10 games this season. The last time an NC State team failed to score more that 24 points through 10 games to start a season was also in 1985 when that squad went all 11 games without scoring more than 23 points as it finished 3-8 on the season.

    Dating back to last season, NC State has not scored over 24 points since the Eastern Kentucky game, a span of 20 straight contests. That is the longest Wolfpack streak since 1969-71 when those Pack teams went 24 straight contests without scoring more than 24 points in a game.

    NC State is happy to see the start of the second quarter. The team has scored just 15 points in the first quarter all season and has converted on only 9-of-36 (25%) of third down plays in the opening quarter.

    NC State is being outscored 47-15 in the opening frame and has scored in just three of the 10 first quarters. Nine of the Wolfpack's 15 points were scored in the opener against Appalachian St. and the Pack has had only a field goal in the first quarter in the Boston College and Georgia Tech game since. NC State has scored just one touchdown all season in the opening quarter.

    NC State has trailed at the half in each of the last nine games after leading in the ASU game, 16-7, to open the season.

    The Wolfpack has trailed by an average of only 5.5 points per- game in the nine games it trailed at the half.

    Sophomore tailback Toney Baker had a career-day against Clemson, rumbling for career-highs of 174 yards and 34 carries. It was the first 100-yard rushing game of his career and the Tigers were third in the conference in rushing defense, giving up just 85.4 yards-per game.

    Baker became the 22nd Wolfpack player to rush for 1,000 career yards with his performance against Clemson and he did it in 21 games, the 12th fastest to 1,000 career rushing yards in school history.

    Baker has 11 career touchdowns (10 rushing and one receiving) and 1,114 career rushing yards to his name. He has 568 yards and is averaging 56.8 yards rushing a game this season with five touchdowns.

    Andre Brown is 10th in the conference in rushing yards-per-game, averaging 59.8 a contest. He has broken 22 tackles for an additional 195 yards this season, gaining 34% of his total yards after breaking a tackle. He is also averaging an impressive 5.6 yards-per-carry, the third-best mark in the conference among the top-10 rushers.

    On the season, Brown has 598 yards on 107 carries with four touchdowns and is on pace to pass his total of 667 rushing yards as a freshman.

    NC State is third in the ACC in passing defense, allowing just 164.3 yards-per game, the 18th best mark in the NCAA. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 51.6% of their passes, the third lowest in the ACC.

    The Wolfpack defense had allowed just five passing touchdowns (tied for the league-lead in the ACC) coming into the Georgia Tech game but has allowed five more in the last two games against Tech (four) and Clemson (one).

    The Wolfpack defense had just three interceptions in the first eight games of the season, 11th in the league, but had two picks against the Jackets and two more against the Tigers in back-to-back weeks.

    NC State's offensive line has done a solid job protecting the quarterback this season. Through 10 games this season the line is allowing an average of just 1.5 sacks a game and is ranked second in the ACC in fewest sacks allowed with 15.

    The line nearly doubled that last season, giving up an average of 2.9 sacksper- game in 2005.

    Offensive line coach Pat Meyer is in his first season with the line after serving six seasons in strength and conditioning for the Wolfpack.

    NC State has committed nine or more penalties in five of its seven losses this season but had just two penalties for 10 yards against Clemson, the lowest penalties and yards since the 2002 Virginia contest. The Wolfpack is averaging 5.3 penalties a game in the three wins and 7.6 penalties in the seven losses.

    The Wolfpack is ranked 10th in the ACC in penalties, averaging 55.5 yards a game and getting flagged 69 times, third most in the league.

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