Notebook: Huge Game for State

NC State (1-1) hits the road to face Clemson (1-1) on Saturday in the ACC opener for both teams. Kickoff is scheduled for noon, and the game will be televised on Raycom Sports.

NC State will travel to face Clemson in its ACC opener in 2008. The Wolfpack posts a 30-24-1 record in its 55 ACC openers. The Pack is 18-13 in ACC road openers, including a 37-17 setback last season at Boston College.

The two teams have met 76 times on the gridiron since the series began in 1899, the third oldest ACC series for the Wolfpack. The Tigers hold a 48-27-1 advantage all-time and have won the last four meetings.

NC State last opened its ACC slate against Clemson with a road win in 1994, 29-12. The last time the Wolfpack played its first ACC road contest of the year against the Tigers was in 2000, a 34-27 loss to fifth-ranked Clemson.

Clemson took down NC State in 2007 in head coach Tom O'Brien's first meeting against the Tigers as the Wolfpack's leader. Clemson won 42-20, with the Tigers outgaining the Wolfpack 608-202 in total offense, posting 340 yards on the ground alone.

O'Brien is 2-1 all-time against Clemson, including a win in his only trip to Death Valley while with Boston College, a 16-13 win in 2005 in overtime. His other win was a 34-33 win in 2006 in Chestnut Hill, with that game going two extra periods.

Although not many of the players in uniform know about it, for the past 27 years (since 1981), the series between NC State and Clemson has been dubbed the Textile Bowl, as that industry has such a major economic impact on both states and both schools boast renowned textile colleges.

The North Carolina textile manufacturers donate money to NC State's scholarship fund every year in honor of the Wolfpack's MVP from the game.

Clemson posts a 18-9 advantage in the Textile Bowl.

In the past decade, the games between NC State and Clemson have for the most part been ‘made for tv' - with eight of the 11 coming down to the wire. With the exception of Clemson's 31-10 victory in Raleigh in 2005 and 42-20 win in 2007, and the Wolfpack's 38-6 romp at Clemson in 2002, the other eight games between the two teams in the last decade have been decided by eight points or less, five have been decided by six points or less and two have been decided by two points.

Redshirt sophomore Nate Irving has gotten off to a fast start this season and is leading the ACC in tackles-per-game at 11.5 through the first two games. He earned ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors for his play against William & Mary.

Irving posted 13 tackles - including 1.5 for loss - and had an interception and fumble recovery that both setup scores for the Wolfpack against the Tribe. He is second in the conference with 3.5 tackles for loss and second with two interceptions. His two picks rank fifth nationally, and his total tackles rank 10th. He had 10 tackles, including two for loss, and had his first career interception against USC.

In his career, Irving is averaging nine tackles-per-game in his six starts and has had a tackle in all 13 of his career games played. He has notched 54 of his 75 career tackles during the six starts.

Defensive coordinator Mike Archer has used his defensive schemes this season to force more interceptions than any team in the country. The team has six interceptions to lead the NCAA in the category after having just 10 all of last season.

Five of the six interceptions have come from players who had zero career picks coming into the season. DeAndre Morgan, Jimmaul Simmons (on his first career play), Nate Irving and Justin Byers had interceptions against USC. Jeremy Gray had his fourth career interception against William & Mary, and Irving picked off the second pass of the season (and his career).

As any coach will tell you, an important part of notching interceptions and being solid on pass defense is putting pressure on the quarterback. NC State ranks fourth in the NCAA and leads the ACC with eight sacks, with five coming against South Carolina and three more against William & Mary.

The defensive coaches also recorded 15 quarterback pressures after reviewing the game tape against William & Mary, including three each from defensive linemen Markus Kuhn, Keith Willis, Jr., and Willie Young.

Starting quarterback Russell Wilson suffered a grade three concussion in the second quarter of the season opening loss to South Carolina and was transported to Richland Memorial Hospital. It was determined at the hospital that Wilson suffered no injury to his spinal cord.

He played on only one special teams play against William & Mary - as the holder on an extra point - even though head coach Tom O'Brien said Wilson was cleared to play. O'Brien announced during his postgame press conference that Wilson will start against the Tigers this coming Saturday.

Wilson was just 1-of-5 passing for 12 yards, with seven yards rushing, in his debut against the Gamecocks before getting hurt.

Redshirt junior Harrison Beck might be a safer bet as a backup if you look at his numbers during his two-year Wolfpack career.

Beck came off the bench to replace starter Daniel Evans and found success through the air, passing for 246 yards and two touchdowns. In the four games Beck has come off the bench in his career, he has thrown for 525 yards and four touchdowns with only two interceptions.

In the his four starts, Beck has thrown for 624 yards but has eight interceptions and no passing touchdowns (he did run for a score against BC in 2007 in his first career start).

Beck showed signs of being a clutch reliever during his freshman year at Nebraska before transferring to NC State. He came off the Cornhuskers' bench late in the season to complete a 21-yard pass with a minute remaining that led to a game-winning field goal against Kansas State.

Senior running back Andre Brown's performance was perhaps the lone offensive highlight for the Wolfpack in the loss to South Carolina. Brown ran for 101 yards on 21 carries for his sixth career 100-yard rushing effort, tied for ninth in school history with the legendary Dick Christy. Brown now has 1,916 yards rushing, good for 11th all-time in school history. He ranks sixth in the league in rushing after adding 43 yards and a touchdown against William & Mary. Brown needs just five yards to move into 10th place all-time, and 84 yards for 2,000 career rushing yards.

The senior from Greenville, N.C. ranks second in the ACC among active players in career yards and rushing touchdowns (16).

Coaches always tell their players that they are just one play away from being in the game, and NC State's tight ends are a perfect example of this. Last season, NC State ended up using its third-string running back - Jamelle Eugene, who was named team MVP after the season - after its top-two tailbacks went down with season ending injuries. This season, third-string tight end George Bryan is now poised to earn his first start in just his third career game because of injuries.

Redshirt senior tight end Anthony Hill missed the William & Mary game and is out indefinitely with a pectoralis strain. Backup tight end Matt Kushner, who started against the Tribe, left that contest with a knee inury and didn't return.

Now Bryan, a redshirt freshman from Wilmington, N.C., is slated to start against Clemson. Bryan made the most of his opportunities against the Tribe, grabbing five catches for 41 yards and his first career touchdown.

The Wolfpack defense has been extremely stingy in the first half of games so far, giving up just 102 and 103 yards, respectively, against South Carolina and William & Mary. The Pack forced three turnovers in the first half against USC and two against W&M.

The six players listed on the two-deep at linebacker have combined for just 11 career starts, and six of those have come in the first two games in 2008. Redshirt sophomore Nate Irving has six of those starts and redshirt junior Ray Michel has started three. Irving leads the ACC in tackles at 11.5 per game, while Michel is averaging eight stops in the first two contests.

Redshirt senior Robbie Leonard, a former walkon, not only had never PLAYED linebacker in a collegiate game until the opener against South Carolina, but the converted safety had played in only 12 games from scrimmage in his career. He has now started the first two games of the season and is averaging 8.5 tackles-pergame.

Sophomore Owen Spencer has emerged as one of the favorite targets for the quarterbacks this season. He leads the team with eight catches for 109 yards receiving, averaging 54.5 yards-per-game. He has led the Pack in receptions in each of the first two games.

The speedy wideout, from Leland, N.C., had just five catches for 73 yards as a true freshman, and didn't have more than a single catch in a game last year.

Freshman wideout T.J. Graham has instantly added speed to the Wolfpack.

Graham was back as a punt returner and in on kickoff returns in both games, in addition to earning two starts at wide receiver. Graham leads the team in all-purpose yards at 94.5 yards-per-game, the top mark for all freshman in the ACC and ninth overall in the league. He had three catches for 78 yards against William & Mary, including a juggling, highlight-reel 47-yard catch that set the Pack up at the nine yardline late in the third that helped push the lead to 21-3.

Graham won the North Carolina 4-A title in the 100 and 200 meters with times of 10.44 and 20.82, respectively. He also posted the nation's fastest time in the 200 meters at one point during the season. In 2007, Graham finished third nationally in the 100 meters at the Nike Nationals.

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