Notebook: Huge Game for State

Bragging rights are on the line as NC State (4-5, 2-3) faces North Carolina (3-6, 2-3) in a huge game for both teams.

This will be the 97th meeting in I-40 series between the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels that began in 1894. It is the Wolfpack's oldest rivalry among ACC teams and the fourth-most played series in the ACC. When the series began, the two teams played home-and-home for several years (1894, 1899 and 1901). The series began on an annual basis in 1919 through 1943 and then after a three-year hiatus, the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels have played every year since 1947 with one exception. In 1952, the game between the two teams was cancelled because of a polio outbreak on UNC's campus.

The Tar Heels hold a 63-27-6 overall mark over the Wolfpack, including a 27-11- 4 advantage in Raleigh. NC State has lost the last three matchups versus UNC and 11 of the last 14. Five of the Pack's last six losses to UNC have been by margins of eight points or less with the only exception being last year's 14-point loss.

Although NC State and UNC have met on the gridiron 96 times, this will mark the first matchup since the 1934 season when head coaches in their first year with the program are standing on each sideline. In 1944, both the Pack and Heels had new head coaches, Beattie Feathers at NC State and Gene McEver for the Heels, but the squads didn't play that year. You have to go back a decade earlier, when Hunk Anderson was in his first year in Raleigh and Carl Snavely was in his first year at Chapel Hill.

That game was placed at UNC. The outcome? A 7-7 tie.

The Wolfpack roster boasts 49 players who call the state of North Carolina their home. NC State natives also populate the Wolfpack depth chart and of the nine NC State players who have been drafted by the NFL in the past two years, six of them were North Carolinians.

NC State's bye-week came at an opportune time for Tom O'Brien's first Wolfpack team - midway through the 12-game slate. Barraged by injuries, the Pack posted a 1-5 mark in its first six games, but the head coach encouraged his players to wipe that record out of their minds and concentrate on being successful in the next contest ... then the next contest ... then the next.

So far, the Wolfpack is undefeated in that ‘new' campaign and has broken several negative streaks along the way. In the first game of the ‘new' season, at East Carolina, NC State gained its first road win since November 5, 2005 (Florida State). In the second game of the ‘new' season, the Wolfpack won its first ACC game in 10 games, knocking off #21 Virginia, and in the third game, NC State knocked off Miami in overtime, winning its first league road contest in eight tries.

In addition to the Wolfpack's 3-0 start to the second half of the season in the win-loss column, several other numbers have improved for the Pack as well. Here's a look at several statistical improvements for NC State:

Category 1st 6 Last 3 Diff.
Total Offense 316.3 377.3 +61.0
Yards Passing 217.3 296.3 +79.0
Pass TDs 1.0 2.0 +1.0
Had Intercepted 2.5 0.67 -1.83
Interceptions 0.3 2.0 +1.7
Third-Down Conv .372 .396 +.024
Fumbles Lost 1.2 0.33 -0.87
Total Turnovers 3.7 1.0 -2.7
Opp. Turnovers 0.8 2.3 +1.5

At the beginning of the 2007 football season, the NC State football team announced a partnership with Coca-Cola and Harris Teeter to collect new toys and donations throughout the 2007 football season to benefit the U.S. Marine Corp's Toys for Tots campaign. To date, Coca-Cola has donated over $11,000 to the program at the rate of $500 for each touchdown the Wolfpack football team has scored.

Fans attending the Wolfpack's game against UNC will have the chance to participate in the program. On Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon, Coca-Cola will be in the Fan Zone, located on the front lawn of the RBC Center, collecting new toys to contribute to the U.S. Marines' Toys for Tots campaign. Although all toy donations are appreciated, new toys for toddlers ages 2-4 and pre-teens ages 10-12 are needed most.

Cash donations will also be collected at gates around the stadium from 10 a.m. until noon. Any fan who contributes a new toy or gives a cash donation of any kind will receive a free 2-Liter, compliments of Coca-Cola and Harris Teeter.

As a Marine officer and now as a member of the national board for Toys for Tots, NC State head football coach Tom O'Brien encourages the support of all fans for this worthwhile cause.

"Since 1947, U.S. Marines have been looking after America's needy children at Christmas through their Toys for Tots program," O'Brien said. "By distributing new toys, Marines deliver a message of hope and let children know that someone cares. The toy drive prior to the football game on Saturday is a great opportunity for the Wolfpack Nation to show their giving spirit and help children throughout our community."

More details about the NC State football/Coca-Cola Toys for Tots campaign is posted on NC State Athletics' official website,

The season didn't get off to a very good start for Daniel Evans, but then again, it didn't get off to a very good start for the entire Wolfpack team. After being named the starter before the season opener, Evans lost his job for the second game of the season. He came off the bench in two later games after starter Harrison Beck went out with an injury, and then started at Florida State when Beck couldn't go. But although he won the job back due to an injury, Evans has kept his starting job due to his competence.

In the last three games, all of which have been Wolfpack victories, Evans has averaged 296.3 passing yards and has completed 57% (74-130) of his throws. He has thrown six TD passes and been picked off just twice in those three games, posting a whopping 126.52 passing effiency mark. Evans has set career highs for completions (29 vs. ECU), yards (347 vs. UVa) and tied his mark for TD passes (3 vs. ECU and Virginia).

Evans has been especially good in the fourth quarter in the last two weeks, completing 62% of his throws (18-29) for 254 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Tom O'Brien and his staff continually emphasize the importance of coming out strong in the third quarter. The Wolfpack defense has definitely heeded that advice. For the season, opponents are averaging 7.4 points in the first quarter, 9.1 in the second quarter, but just four points in the third quarter.

The defense was particularly strong after halftime in the win over No. 21 Virginia. After allowing the Cavaliers to convert on 6-10 third-down attempts in the first half, UVa was just 1-9 on third down after the break. The Wolfpack "D" allowed just 97 total yards after halftime, 272 in the opening half.

For the season, NC State has held the opposition to 65 yards or less in the third quarter five times.

After playing four of its first five games at home in Carter-Finley Stadium, NC State just finished a stint of playing three of four games on the road between Oct. 6 and November 3. The Wolfpack travelled to Florida State on October 6, to East Carolina on Oct. 20 following an open week and then to Miami on November 3.

The Wolfpack won't leave the state of North Carolina for the rest of the season - playing host to UNC on November 10, making the quick drive to Winston-Salem on Nov. 17 to play Wake Forest, then hosting Maryland on Nov. 24.

Tom O'Brien's squad was successful on it's road stint, winning two of the three contests.

Continuing on the injury theme, NC State's football team should get a bulk discount when it comes to doctors performing knee surgeries this year. Nine Wolfpack players have undergone some type of knee surgery since the spring of 2007 and a 10th player (Julian Williams) injured a knee prior to the ECU game and has missed two complete games, even though he didn't have to undergo surgery. Javon Walker suffered a knee injury at Miami.

Although the Pack has been hampered by various other injuries as well, that particular body part has definitely been the biggest problem. Six players who were listed as starters on the preseason depth chart (or have since become starters) have undergone knee surgery.

Over the spring and summer, wide receiver John Dunlap and quarterback Harrison Beck both had their knees scoped and walkon Zach Williams had reconstructive surgery. Beck and Dunlap missed training time during the offseason (Dunlap missed part of fall camp as well) but were back for the first game.

Three other Wolfpack starters, all of whom were honors candidates heading into the season, have been sidelined by knee injuries. NC State lost its leading receiver and rusher from last season, as well as one of its top defensive players.

In the last week of July, tight end Anthony Hill underwent reconstructive knee surgery for a torn ACL, an injury that will keep him out for the entire 2007 campaign. In the season opener tailback Toney Baker suffered a knee injury that also brought his season to a close. And just two days before the Boston College game, defensive tackle DeMario Pressley twisted his knee and underwent surgery on September 9. Although his injury was not season-ending, it came just after an elbow injury that kept him from starting the season opener and forced him to miss two games.

Those key players aren't the only ones who have had knee problems. True freshman offensive lineman Mike Golder, who was more than likely going to redshirt the season, also suffered a knee injury and has undergone reconstruction.

Following the Clemson game, starting fullback Patrick Bedics and second-string offensive tackle Jerrail McCuller both went down with knee injuries and had surgery that week.

Before the Virginia game, the only two positions that had boasted the same starting lineup in every game had been the wide receivers and the linebackers. Following the Virginia game, there is no position that has not had at least two changes in starting lineups.

The ankle injury to John Dunlap kept him completely out of the game, giving Donald Bowens the start, while linebacker LeRue Rumph was able to play, but did not start after missing practice time with an ankle injury of his own.

In nine games, five different lineups have started on the defensive line and in the defensive secondary. Two different players have started at quarterback, while at running back, three different players have started at tailback and two at fullback. The offensive line had started the same five players up until the East Carolina game, when an injury forced a change. Another injury forced a third lineup combo for the O-line against Virginia and a fourth started against Miami.

Much ado was made in the preseason about NC State's incredible depth at tailback. Halfway through the 2006 campaign, however, redshirt sophomore Jamelle Eugene is carrying the rushing load on his able shoulders.

Eugene was listed along with juniors Toney Baker and Andre Brown as a costarter heading into 2007, but was mainly a third-down back to begin the season.

He saw more time after Baker suffered an injury in the season opener, but when Brown fractured a foot in the sixth game at Florida State, Eugene took over (true freshman Curtis Underwood has played just 27 snaps for the season.

In the four games since Brown's injury, Eugene has rushed for 365 yards (91.5 yards per game) and averaged 33 receiving yards. He led the team in rushing and receiving in both games played in his home state of Florida (Florida State and Miami). Eugene's 71 gradeable snaps at ECU were the most for a Wolfpack running back since 2000, when Ray Robinson played 72 snaps against Maryland. He topped that tally with 76 snaps in the Virginia game, most since Robinson had 89 earlier in that 2000 season.

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