Notebook: Senior Day Is Here

NC State (3-8) hosts East Carolina (6-5) tomorrow on Senior Day.

  • Sixteen Wolfpack seniors will be honored on Senior Day against East Carolina.
  • Nineteen of the 23 meetings in the NCSU-ECU rivalry have been played in Raleigh with the Wolfpack holding a 13-6 advantage.
  • Darrell Blackman ranks second nationally and in the ACC in kick return average at 29.8 yards-per-return. He is the Wolfpack's career-leader in kick return average as well.

    NC State holds a 14-9 edge against East Carolina, including a 13-6 mark in Carter-Finley Stadium. The series began in 1970 and was played every season through 1987. Since then, the teams have met just five times with the Wolfpack winning the 2004 meeting, 52- 14, in Charlotte, N.C.

    The two teams last played in Raleigh in 1997, a 37-24 Wolfpack win, and have met in Greenville just once in the series, with the Pack losing 23-6 in 1999.

    Three of the last five meetings were at neutral sites, as the 2004 and 1996 meetings were held in Charlotte, while the teams also met in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta in 1992.

    NC State held a 10-3 advantage to start the series, but the Pirates have won six of the last 10 meetings starting with its last win in Raleigh in the series in 1987, 32-14.

    With Senior Day against East Carolina, the Wolfpack will bid farewell 16 seniors, including 13 who are listed on the depth chart. Those players include the top-three tacklers (DeMarcus "Tank" Tyler, Pat Lowery and Garland Heath), the top offensive lineman (Leroy Harris) and a record holding kicker in John Deraney.

    Five starters on defense will play their final game, as defensive tackle Tank Tyler, linebackers Pat Lowery and Reggie Davis, rover Garland Heath and cornerback AJ Davis close their careers. Two starters will be lost from the offense, with offensive tackle James Newby and guard/center Leroy Harris (who is injured for this game and will not play) listed on the two-deep.

    The Wolfpack will also see its place kicker and punter, John Deraney, and longsnapper, William Lee, finish their eligibilty on Saturday.

    Junior return specialist and wide receiver Darrell 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 and is the only player nationally to accomlish that feat.

    Blackman is second in the conference in kickoff returns and ranks seventh nationally, averaging 29.8 yards per return. His punt return mark (9.9) is fourth in the ACC.

    He is even better against conference foes with a league-leading 30.9 yards per kickoff returns and is second in punt returns (10.6).

    Blackman is the Wolfpack's career leader in kickoff return average at 29.0 and is fourth in yards with 1,132.

    Darrell Blackman currently is second in the ACC in conference games only with an average of 116.3 all-purpose yards-per-game and ranks third overall at 108.0 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 2,662 career allpurpose yards and is the first Wolfpack player with back-to-back 1,000 allpurpose yard seasons since Jerricho Cotchery (2002 and 2003).

    All-American quarterback Roman Gabriel returns to his alma mater at the East Carolina game for a reunion to mark the 45th anniversary of the 1961 season.

    Gabriel was a two-time ACC Player of the Year, one of only five players in the history of the conference to win the award twice.

    The 1961 team went 4-6 overall and 3-4 in the ACC.

    This football season has been relatively injury free for the Wolfpack squad until the last few weeks. The Wolfpack lost both starting guards, Leroy Harris and Curtis Crouch, during the Clemson contest and neither played in the North Carolina game. Defensive linemen DeMario Pressley and Ray Brooks were injured against North Carolina and missed a large chunk of that game. Harris, a senior, has ligament damage in his ankle and missed a game for the first time after 42 straight starts to begin his career, the longest active streak on the team.

    Crouch suffered a head injury against Clemson after playing 23 snaps and didn't play against the Tar Heels. Pressley, a starting defensive tackle, injured his wrist against the Heels and had surgery immediately after the game and won't play against East Carolina. Defensive end Ray Brooks injured his elbow after playing one snap against the Tar Heels and didn't return to that contest. Starting weakside linebacker James Martin broke his wrist in the fourth game of the season against Boston College and is out for the year.

    NC State has used a different starting lineup along its offensive line in two of the last three games after playing the first eight contests with the same starting five.

    Due to injuries to both starting guards (Leroy Harris and Curtis Crouch) in the Clemson game, the North Carolina game saw the third different starting five in the last four games.

    For the North Carolina game, Kalani Heppe, who started the first eight games at guard, replaced Harris 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. Against Georgia Tech and Clemson, Luke Lathan started at center and Meares Green started at tackle, with Leroy Harris moving over to guard after starting the first eight games at center.

    Junior Anthony Hill has had a productive season from his tight end position. Hill leads the team in receptions (34) and is second in yards (347). He has led the team in receiving in three straight contests and a team-leading five games this season.

    Hill set career-highs in receptions (7) and yards (82) against Akron this season and if he finishes the season with the team lead in receptions, it will mark the third straight year that a Wolfpack tight end has been the team's leading receiver. T.J. Williams led the team in 2004 and 2005 before being selected in the NFL Draft by Tampa Bay.

    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 or 15 KDs, knocking the same guy down 2-3 times on the same play.

    NC State has faced the 25th toughest schedule nationally according to the Sagarin ratings and the third toughest in the ACC this season. Wolfpack opponents hold a combined 73-40 record (.646) so far in 2006.

    Sophomore tailback Toney Baker is 10th in the ACC in rushing, averaging a team-leading 57.8 yards-per-game. He is even better against ACC foes, ranking seventh in the conference and averaging 64.5 yards-pergame. He had 68 yards on 15 carries against the Tar Heels and has been the Pack's leading rusher in four games this season. Baker has 636 yards rushing this season and has scored 5 touchdowns, tops on the team.

    He had a career-game two weeks ago against Clemson, rushing for 174 yards and 34 carries, both career bests. The 34 carries ranked fourth all-time while his yardage total was good for 18th in school history.

    Baker has 1,182 and is the 22nd player in Wolfpack history - and 12th fastest - to record 1,000 career rushing yards.

    Greenville native Andre Brown will be breaking tackles against his hometown team this weekend. Brown played at Greenville Rose and had a standout high school career before running with the Pack. Brown has broken 24 tackles for an additional 205 yards this season and has rushed for 616 yards while averaging 5.5 yards-per-carry. He is tied for second on the team with four touchdowns. Against ACC teams, Brown ranks 10th in the conference averaging 54.1 yards-per-game.

    The sophomore has 1,283 career-rushing yards and became the eighth fastest in school history to reach 1,000 career rushing yards. He has four career 100 yard games, 11th all-time in school history, after 113 yards against Florida St. and 125 against Appalachian St.

    NC State is third in the ACC in passing defense, allowing just 161.8 yards-pergame, the 15th best mark in the NCAA. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 51.7% of their passes, the second 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 three 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 didn't record an interception or allow a touchdown through the air in 15 passing attempts against the Tar Heels.

    NC State's offensive line has done a solid job protecting the quarterback this season. Through 11 games this season the line is allowing an average of just 1.7 sacks a game and is ranked fifth in the ACC in fewest sacks allowed with 19.

    The Wolfpack was without its two starting guards and it showed, as the Tar Heels notched four sacks in the contest after NC State had allowed just four combined sacks over the previous three games.

    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.

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