Gameday: NC State vs. Wake Forest

Fresh off a victory against Duke, NC State (3-6) faces Wake Forest (6-3) looking to win its third game against in-state teams. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30, and the game will be televised on ESPNU.

NC State (3-6) vs. Wake Forest (6-3)
Saturday, November 15, 2008
3:30 pm (EST) ESPNU
Raleigh, NC
Carter-Finley Stadium

NC State Links
Official Site
2008 Statistics

Wake Forest Links
Wake Forest Official Site
Game Notes

NC State Game Notes

The 102nd meeting of NC State and Wake Forest will happen this weekend, as the longest running series for the Wolfpack continues. NC State holds a 60-35- 6 record overall, including a 39-21-5 mark at home, and an impressive 16-5 in Carter-Finley Stadium.

NC State has won 14 of the last 20 meetings, despite losing the last three in the series, and also leads 35-19-1 all-time in ACC play against the Demon Deacons.

The last time the two in-state rivals met was on November 17 of last season in Winston-Salem, a 38-18 win for the Deacons. NC State trailed just 21-18 with 1:41 left in the third quarter, but the Deacons scored the last 17 points to snap NC State's four-game win streak.

The last meeting in Raleigh saw the Deacon's trip up the Pack in Carter-Finley Stadium for the first time in 11 tries since 1984.

Quarterback Russell Wilson has put up impressive numbers in his young career despite missing two full games, including most of the season opener, with injuries. Wilson leads the ACC in passing efficiency at 130.9. That mark ranks fourth nationally among all freshman signal callers and would rank 10th all-time in school history for a single season.

Wilson has thrown for 1,118 yards and completed 56.5% of his passes with 10 touchdowns to only one interception on the season. Wilson has been even better over his last five starts, averaging over 200 yards passing and had a 59.2% completion percentage with 10 touchdowns to zero picks. That translates to an impressive 142.4 passer efficiency rating over the last five games.

Russell Wilson has an active streak of 142 straight passing attempts without throwing an interception, the second-longest streak in school history for a single season. That streak spans Wilson's last five games, as his last pass attempt at Clemson was picked off.

That is the longest such streak for a Wolfpack quarterback without an interception since Jamie Barnette went 179 attempts in 1998.

Only three NC State football players on the current roster have earned three letters heading into this season: Curtis Crouch, Andre Brown and J.C. Neal.

In addition to that, only nine players - including seven starters - have 1,000+ snaps in their career. To put that into perspective, over the last three seasons (2005- 07) NC State has averaged 702 offensive snaps a year and 835 defensive snaps a year.

Despite a recent four-game losing streak that was snapped with the win at Duke, NC State's offense has been consistently good over the last few games. NC State's offense is averaging 6.5 more points, 47.5 more total yards, 36.5 more rush yards and 22 more passing yards over the last four games. The three losses during that stretch have been by a combined 19 points.

NC State has had over 150 yards rushing as a team in three straight games, the first time that has happened since 2002. In addition, NC State scored on its first four possessions of the Duke game, the first time that has happened since scoring on five straight against Eastern Kentucky in 2005.

As noted earlier, Russell Wilson's play at quarterback is a main component in the recent improvement of the offense, as he has started the last four games. In the first five games, he started and played in only three games - the win over #15 East Carolina, the loss at Clemson and the loss at South Carolina when he played just over one quarter before being knocked out of the game with a concussion.

Freshman wideout T.J. Graham has instantly added speed to the Wolfpack. Graham is returning punts and kicks for NC State and his 826 yards is a NC State school record for a single season and already ranks ninth for a career.

He ranks fourth in the ACC in both kick and punt return average, the only conference player to rank in the top-5 in both categories. Against BC, Graham returned his first kickoff for a touchdown, a school-record 100-yard sprint.

Graham also ranks third in the ACC in all-purpose yards at 123.7 yards-per-game, the top mark for all freshmen in the ACC and the seventh-best freshman mark nationally. He has had over 100 yards in kickoff return yardage in five games, including 163 kickoff return yards against USF, the third most in school history for a single game and the second highest total for a freshman. Only Greg Golden's school record effort of 175 yards against Pittsburgh in 2001 bested Graham's total.

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 while at Wakefield HS in Raleigh, Graham finished third nationally in the 100 meters at the Nike Nationals.

Senior running back Andre Brown has been a solid all-purpose back for NC State in his career. He became just the 10th player in school history to amass 2,000+ career rushing yards after running for 73 yards in the win over No. 15 ECU, including the last 26 yards in overtime and the game-winning 10-yard scamper.

He now has 2,260 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns, both good for ninth in school history. Brown needs 220 yards to move into eighth all-time at NC State in rushing yards.

Brown also ranks 12th in school history with 3,144 all-purpose yards, 134 yards short of 11th place.

He is just the fifth NC State player to have 2,000+ rushing yards and 500+ receiving yards in a career, joining standouts Ted Brown, Willie Burden, Ray Robinson and T.A. McClendon.

The senior from Greenville, N.C. ranks second in the ACC among active players in career yards and is tied for third in career rushing touchdowns.

Four of the first five teams NC State played this season were ranked at some point this season, and the Wolfpack has played the nation's No. 13 toughest schedule according to the USA Today/Sagarin Rankings this week.

NC State was the only ACC team to face four teams in the first five weeks of the season that had been ranked at some point in 2008. In fact, a NC State team had never played even three ranked opponents in the first five games of the season in school history until now.

Defensive coordinator Mike Archer has used his defensive schemes this season to force nine interceptions and 16 total turnovers through nine games. In 12 games last season, the defense had just 10 interceptions and 16 total turnovers.

Seven of the nine 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 their first career interceptions against USC. Jeremy Gray had his fourth career interception against William & Mary and Irving has had a pick in each of the first three games this season. Byers added his second against ECU. Safety Clem Johnson has his first career INT against BC in just his second career game after missing the first four with a broken jaw.

Redshirt sophomore Owen Spencer has emerged as a big-play threat for the Wolfpack passing offense. A week after notching his first career 100-yard receiving game with 102 yards on three catches against BC, Spencer added three catches for 82 yards, including a career-best 67 yard touchdown, against Florida State. He was During that BC game, Spencer had a 61-yard run and catch for his first career touchdown and it was the first 100-yard receiving game for a Wolfpack player in the previous 10 contests.

Spencer leads the team in catches (23), yards (462) and yards-per-catch (20.1), and ranks eighth in the ACC in receiving yards-per-game (51.3). His yards-per-catch average leads all players among the ACC top-10 rankings for receiving yards.

Nate Irving, arguably NC State's and perhaps the ACC's top defensive player through the first four games of 2008, missed the South Florida and Boston College games before returning to play 16 snaps against Florida State. He recorded two tackles in limited action before injuring an ankle and missing the remainder of the contest and the Maryland game.

Irving returned AGAIN, this time in a start against Duke. He made an immediate impact in the game, notching 10 tackles, a pass broken up and a forced fumble.

Irving is still seventh on the team in tackles with 46 and his six tackles-for-loss are second on the team. He has three games this season of double-digit tackles in his six games played.

He also has a team-best three interceptions, getting a pick in each of the first three games this season. The three picks are tied for the most ever for a linebacker at NC State.

Entering this season, redshirt senior tight end Anthony Hill led the team and ranked in the top-15 in the ACC in career catches, grabbing 61 balls. Despite the high number of catches, Hill had just one touchdown catch, coming in 2005 as a true sophomore.

That has changed this year, as Hill has hauled in two touchdowns on just 10 catches while being limited to just five games because of injury. Hill has 71 career catches for 735 yards and three touchdowns.

Walk-on football players can usually provide support for a program during practices as scout team players, but sometimes those players can become important pieces of the puzzle on gamedays. Senior Robbie Leonard, a former walk-on, has provided a strong presence in the linebacking corps in his first season as a linebacker.

Leonard, who was a defensive back in his first few years on campus after walking on to the program, has started every game at strongside linebacker in 2008 after making the position change in the spring. He has responded by posting 68 tackles, second on the team, and recovering a team-high two fumbles. Leonard also has 4.5 tackles-for-loss and led the team with a career-high 13 tackles against Florida State.

The six players listed on the two-deep at linebacker combined for just five career starts coming into 2008. Redshirt sophomore Nate Irving had four of those starts and redshirt junior Ray Michel started the last game of 2007. Redshirt senior Robbie Leonard, a former walk-on, not only had never even 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 prior to 2008.

Redshirt sophomore wideout Jarvis Williams had only eight career catches coming into the season, and he has hauled in a modest 14 catches for 206 yards this season. He ranks fifth on the team in catches, but has scored on four touchdown receptions, tops on the team.

He is catching a touchdown every 3.5 receptions, the best ratio on the team:

Wake Forest Game Notes And Depth Chart

Record (6-3)

Wake Forest National Statistical Rankings

Rushing offense...98

Passing offense...80

Total offense...103

Rushing defense...29

Passing defense...56

Total defense...31

Wake Forest’s last game from

Wake Forest 28 … Virginia 17

Wake Forest jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead on Riley Skinner touchdown passes from two yards out to Ben Wooster and 58 yards away to Devon Brown, and was up 28-3 at halftime helped by a one-yard Brandon Pendergrass run and a 53-yard interception return for a score form Kevin Patterson. And that was about it for the Wake Forest offense as it failed to score in the second half while Virginia took off in the fourth quarter. Marc Verica tried to rally the Cavaliers with a 21-yard touchdown pass to John Phillips and a five-yarder to Kevin Ogletree, but that was as close as they got. Virginia was held to just 28 yards rushing.

Player of the game: Wake Forest RB Brandon Pendergrass ran 27 times for 110 yards and a touchdown.

Stat Leaders: Virginia - Passing: Marc Verica, 23-45, 279 yds, 2 TD

Rushing: Cedric Peerman, 12-43. Receiving: Kevin Ogletree, 6-98, 1 TD

Wake Forest - Passing: Riley Skinner, 14-30, 130 yds, 2 TD

Rushing: Brandon Pendergrass, 27-110, 1 TD. Receiving: D.J. Boldin, 8-39

What does it all mean? ... Wake Forest got back to being Wake Forest again by getting a short, efficient passing game, a great game on the ground from Brandon Pendergrass, and four turnovers from the defense. The Demon Deacons were tremendous against the Cavalier running game, and they held up well late when Marc Verica had to keep throwing time and again. The formula has to keep on working against an improving NC State and in a key showdown against Boston College to close out the ACC season.


■ Wake Forest broke into the BCS Standings for the fi rst time this season. The Deacons are 24th in the poll that includes data from the Harris Interactive Poll, the USA Today Coaches Poll and computer rankings.

■ Wake has become bowl eligible for the third consecutive year. The Deacs have never been to three straight bowl games. Since the start of the 2006 season, the Deacs have gone 26-10.

■ Wake’s defense leads the nation in takeaways with 28. The Deacs have lost just 14 turnovers and are second in the nation in turnover margin at +14. Oklahoma leads the nation at +16.


Wake Forest enters the NC State game tied for first in the ACC Atlantic Division along with Florida State. Both teams own 4-2 league records, while Maryland is a half-game behind at 3-2.

The Demon Deacons can claim a share of the division title by winning its final two games. However, to earn the division’s berth in the ACC Championship Game, the Deacons need for Maryland to lose one of its fi nal three conference games. If Wake Forest and Florida State tie for the division title at 6-2, Wake would go to the Championship Game because of its regular season victory over the Seminoles. However, if the Deacons tie with Maryland, the Terps would own the tiebreaker over Wake.


Wake Forest’s win over Virginia last week was its sixth of the year, making the Deacons bowl-eligible for a third straight season. When Wake Forest was invited to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2007, it marked the first time in school history that the Deacons went to bowl games in back-to-back years. Wake Forest appeared in the FedEx Orange Bowl in 2006.

With three bowl trips in his fi rst seven years, Jim Grobe already owns the school mark for the most bowl trips by a Wake Forest head coach.


Wake Forest ranks 31st in the nation and sixth in the ACC in total defense and 20th nationally in scoring defense. The Deacons are allowing just 18.2 points per game this year. Wake’s defense has allowed 17 or fewer points in four of its last seven games. A year ago, the Deacons were seventh in the ACC in scoring defense, yielding 22.2 points per game. 


Wake Forest has relied on creating turnovers on defense and taking care of the ball on offense. In eight of nine games, the team that won the turnover battle has won the contest. Last week against Virginia, Wake lost one fumble but gained a fumble and made three interceptions. The only game this season in which the team with more turnovers won was at Maryland. The Terps turned it over twice, while Wake had no turnovers in the 26-0 loss. In its 16-10 loss at Miami on Oct. 25, Wake was unable to force a turnover by its opponent for just the second time since the start of the 2006 season (at Clemson, 11/10/07). Of Wake’s 180 points scored this season, 80 have come off 28 opponent turnovers. Last year, the Deacs had 108 points off 35 forced turnovers. Over the previous two seasons, the Deacons tied for the national lead in creating turnovers. Wake, Oregon State, South Florida and BC each forced 65 turnovers from 2006-07.

In Jim Grobe’s 7+ seasons at Wake Forest, the Deacons are +62 in turnovers, having gained 213 and lost 151.


Kevin Patterson’s 53-yard interception return for a touchdown last week against Virginia marked the 20th time in the Jim Grobe Era that a Deacon has returned an INT for a score. Prior to Grobe’s arrival, in 44 seasons from 1956 through 2000, Wake Forest returned just 17 interceptions for touchdowns.


■ Wake Forest has won seven straight home ACC games.

■ Wake Forest has scored on seven of its last nine trips to the red zone over the last three games.


Wake Forest’s defense has done an excellent job of keeping opponents out of the endzone and limiting them to fi eld goal attempts. Unfortunately, those opponents have not missed many field goals. Wake’s foes had connected on 10 straight fi eld goal attempts and 10 of 11 total tries until Duke’s Nick Maggio missed a potential game-winning 42-yarder as time expired in regulation on Nov. 1.

For the year, Wake Forest’s opponents have hit on 11 of 13 attempts. The Deacs have made 16 of 24 FG attempts.


Wake Forest’s magic number is 24. Under Jim Grobe, the Deacons are 42-13 when scoring 24 or more points. When scoring fewer than 24 points, Wake Forest is only 10-29 and 2-3 this season.

Since the start of the 2006 season, the Deacs are 19-1 when scoring 24 or more points. The only loss during that span was a 38-28 setback in the 2007 season opener at BC.

Wake Forest is 7-9 when scoring less than 24 points since the start of the 2006 campaign.


QB Riley Skinner has attempted 132 consecutive passes since he last threw an interception against Navy on Sept. 27. Skinner attempted 34 passes against Clemson, 30 at Maryland, eight against Miami, 21 against Duke and 20 against Virginia.

Skinner’s longest career streak of consecutive passes without an interception is 133. He did not throw an interception over his fi nal 23 attempts of the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2007, then opened the 2008 campaign with 108 consecutive interception-free attempts. Skinner was intercepted on his third passing attempt against Navy. 

Through the fi rst nine games, Skinner has thrown 10 touchdowns to just four interceptions. All four interceptions came against Navy.


Redshirt freshman P/PK Shane Popham posted his best punting game of his still-young career as he averaged 46.4 points per game on nine punts last week against Virginia. Popham had punts of 47, 44, 48, 46, 43, 47, 50 and 46 yards and killed three of his eight punts inside the Cavalier 20. Popham also kicked three extra points for the Deacons and was not called on to try a fi eld goal vs. the Cavaliers. Playing in place of the injured Sam Swank, Popham has handled both the placekicking and punting chores. Swank strained his right quadriceps muscle in practice on Monday, Oct. 6, and has not played since, missing a total of five games.

Along with the immense pressure of replacing the All-American Swank, came a slow start for Popham. Popham hit on just three of his fi rst eight fi eld goal attempts before nailing all three attempts on Nov. 1 against Duke. Popham was on target from 24, 44 and 28 yards vs. the Blue Devils and also connected on a pair of PATs. His 28-yarder won the game for the Deacons in the fi rst overtime.


RB Brandon Pendergrass posted his fi rst career 100-yard rushing game with 110 yards on 27 carries against Virginia on Saturday. Pendergrass’ carries were also a career-high and the most rushes by a Deacon in a game since Josh Adams carried 27 times against Navy last season.

Pendergrass scored on a one-yard plunge to give Wake a 21-3 lead late in the second quarter. He accounted for 59 yards on the ground during the 15-play, 71-yard scoring drive. His 19-yard gain to the UVA nine-yard line set up the touchdown.


Senior D.J. Boldin has become Wake Forest’s go-to receiver this season. Boldin is first in the ACC and 25th nationally in receptions per game. Boldin’s 55 catches equates to 6.1 per game.

After catching eight passes last week vs. Virginia, Boldin is now tied with Kenny Duckett (1979) for 10th place in the school record book for receptions in a season.

Boldin has a pair of 100-yard receiving games this season. On Sept. 6 against Ole Miss, he caught 11 passes for 123 yards. His 11 receptions matched his season total from 2007, while he came within four yards of matching his yardage total from 2007 as well. Boldin posted his second 100-yard receiving game of the season when he collected eight catches for 106 yards vs. Navy.

The senior wide receiver came into the year with 26 career receptions for 351 yards and no touchdowns. In 2008, he has 38 catches for 383 yards. His seven-yard, game-winning touchdown catch against Clemson marked his fi rst career touchdown.


Senior CB Alphonso Smith had two interceptions on Nov. 1 against Duke and, in the process, set the school record for career thefts.

Smith’s first pick, which came in the third quarter, was the 18th of his career and broke the school record formerly shared by Ronnie Burgess (1981-84) and A.J. Greene (1985-88).

Smith’s overtime interception that sealed the win was the 19th of his career. He is now just one pick shy of the ACC career record of 20 set by North Carolina’s Dre’ Bly (1996-98).

Against Florida State on Sept. 20, Smith made an interception on the opponent’s fi rst play from scrimmage for the third time in the past two seasons. He picked off Christian Ponder and returned it 18 yards to set up a Sam Swank field goal.

Last year, Smith picked off Boston College’s Matt Ryan and returned it 21 yards for a score in the season opener. In the final regular season game of the year, Smith stole a pass by Mackenzi Adams of Vanderbilt on the fi rst play of the game.


Wake Forest has started a pair of true freshmen in TE Andrew Parker and LG Joe Looney in two games this season (at Miami; vs. Duke). Both were pressed into starting roles by injuries to other players. Looney became a starter after C Trey Bailey suffered a broken ankle at Maryland, necessitating a move by LG Russell Nenon to C. Looney has made three straight starts. Parker started the Miami and Duke games in place of Ben Wooster who had been sidelined with a strained hamstring he suffered in the Maryland game. Wooster returned to the starting lineup last week vs. Virginia. This marks the fi rst time since 2000 that Wake has started two true freshmen. Against Virginia on Sept. 27, 2000, the Deacs started Quinton Williams at CB and Tyson Clabo at RG.

Including Looney and Parker, only five true freshmen have started a game during the Jim Grobe Era. That list includes CB Eric King in 2001, DE Jyles Tucker in 2003 and OG Chris DeGeare in 2005. The Deacons also started three redshirt freshmen against the Blue Devils in RB Brandon Pendergrass, CB Josh Bush and DE Kyle Wilber. Due to injuries, redshirt freshmen OT Doug Weaver and P/PK Shane Popham also saw considerable playing time against Duke.

True freshman Chance Raines has also taken snaps at center in a pair of games this fall. This marks the first time since 2002 that Wake has played three true freshmen in a season. RB Chris Barclay, WR Chris Davis and P Ryan Plackemeier all saw time as true freshman in 2002.


CB Alphonso Smith has been named a Mid-Season All-American by two publications this season. He was named to The Sporting News All-America squad and to the Mid-Season All-America team. Smith is fi rst in the nation in passes defended with 18 (2.0 per game) and is tied for sixth in the country with fi ve interceptions (0.56 per game)


Wake Forest trails NC State 35-60-6 in the all-time series that originated in 1895. The Deacons have won three straight over the Wolfpack including the last meeting at Carter-Finley Stadium in 2006. The Deacons have lost nine of 10 games played at Carter-Finley since 1986 and are just 7-20-1 in Raleigh since the formation of the ACC. Wake’s only win in Raleigh was a 25-23 decision in the last meeting there on Oct. 14, 2006. All-time, Wake Forest is just 5-16 at Carter-Finley and 21-39-5 in games played at NC State. Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe is 4-3 vs. the Wolf Pack, including a 1-2 mark at Carter-Finley.


NC State head coach Tom O’Brien holds a 3-2 advantage in games played against Jim Grobe’s Demon Deacons. While at Boston College from 1997-2006, the Eagles were 3-1 vs. Wake Forest. Last year, the Deacs beat O’Brien’s Wolfpack team 38-18.



QB 11 Riley Skinner 6-1 205 R-Jr.

6 Brett Hodges 6-1 197 R-Jr.

TB 22 Brandon Pendergrass 5-9 200 R-Fr.

27 Josh Adams 6-0 182 R-So.

FB 44 Mike Rinfrette 6-3 265 R-Jr.

35 Rich Belton 6-1 250 R-Sr.

or 23 Kevin Harris 6-1 225 R-Jr.

WR 88 Chip Brinkman 6-1 195 R-Sr.

8 Marshall Williams 6-1 193 R-So.

WR 4 D.J. Boldin 6-0 220 R-Sr.

3 Devon Brown 5-9 185 R-Fr.

TE 85 Ben Wooster 6-5 235 R-Jr.

80 Andrew Parker 6-5 225 Fr.

LT 76 Joe Birdsong 6-4 290 R-Jr.

75 Michael Hoag 6-6 295 R-Fr.

LG 78 Joe Looney 6-3 295 Fr.

77 Boomer Peterson 6-5 292 R-Jr.

C 72 Russell Nenon 6-4 285 R-So.

71 Ryan Britt 6-4 275 R-Fr.

RG 61 Barrett McMillin 6-3 285 R-Jr.

69 Dennis Godfrey 6-3 320 R-Fr.

RT 64 Jeff Griffi n 6-3 292 R-Jr.

62 Doug Weaver 6-8 290 R-Fr.


DE 42 Matt Robinson 6-2 248 Grad.

34 Antonio Wilson 6-1 270 R-Sr.

NG 96 Boo Robinson 6-2 325 R-Jr.

58 Michael Carter 6-3 315 R-So.

DT 51 John Russell 6-4 283 R-Jr.

99 Michael Lockett 6-0 285 R-Jr.

DE 97 Kyle Wilber 6-5 230 R-Fr.

93 Anthony Davis 6-5 251 R-Sr.

SLB 59 Aaron Curry 6-3 247 R-Sr.

26 Jonathan Jones 6-3 231 R-Jr.

MLB 43 Stanley Arnoux 6-1 240 R-Sr.

46 Matt Woodlief 5-11 254 R-So.

or 52 Dominique Midgett 6-2 252 R-Jr.

WLB 39 Chantz McClinic 5-11 225 R-Sr.

56 Hunter Haynes 6-2 232 R-So.

CB 2 Alphonso Smith 5-9 190 R-Sr.

29 Kerry Major 5-11 180 R-Sr.

CB 25 Josh Bush 5-11 205 R-Fr.

17 Brandon Ghee 6-0 191 R-Jr.

FS 9 Chip Vaughn 6-2 215 R-Sr.

21 Alex Frye 6-3 193 R-So.

SS 10 Kevin Patterson 5-10 191 R-Sr.

28 Cyhl Quarles 6-3 205 R-Fr.


PK 14 Shane Popham 5-11 192 R-Fr.

20 Andrew Wright 6-2 195 Sr.

38 Sam Swank 6-2 201 R-Sr.

P 14 Shane Popham 5-11 192 R-Fr.

38 Sam Swank 6-2 201 R-Sr.

H 13 Ryan McManus 6-1 191 Sr.

14 Shane Popham 5-11 192 R-Fr.

LS 53 Greg Bechtel 6-1 200 Jr.

13 Ryan McManus 6-1 191 Sr.

PR 2 Alphonso Smith 5-9 190 R-Sr.

3 Devon Brown 5-9 185 R-Fr.

KR 3 Devon Brown 5-9 185 R-Fr.

21 Alex Frye 6-3 193 R-So.

14 C.J. Washington 5-8 160 R-Fr.

Saturday's Keys

NC State Offense vs. Wake Forest Defense

It is vital for NC State that they win the turnover battle against Wake Forest. That is priority #1 for the offense, especially against a team so opportunistic in Wake.

The Deacons are #2 in the nation in turnover margin, and #1 in the ACC at +1.56. Through nine games, Wake leads the country in turnovers forced, totaling 28 with 15 interceptions and 13 fumble recoveries.

The good news for NC State is they have been strong with the football in recent weeks. The key has been quarterback Russell Wilson. In State's last five games, the offense has had just one turnover, a fumble at Maryland. Wilson has had zero fumbles and zero interceptions in his last five starts while accounting for 12 touchdowns.

Wake's defense is experienced, hard-hitting, and tough. They play a bend-don't-break style and create a lot of confusion with their scheme, generally forcing quarterbacks into bad decisions.

If NC State wins the turnover battle, they likely win this football game.

The formula for NC State's offense is simple: sustain drives, control the clock, stay balanced, limit turnovers, and be efficient in the passing game. The Wolfpack also has to be opportunistic.

When NC State has a chance to make a big play, they must make it. If a wide receiver is open, Wilson has to find him and the wideout has to catch it. If there's one man to miss for a big run to happen, Jamelle Eugene or Andre Brown have to shake him. In a game that should be close and come down to the wire, capitalizing on potential scoring opportunities will go a long way to determining the winner.

Against Duke, the wide receivers and tight ends did a great job of making plays when the ball was in their area. Eugene had a huge run out of his own endzone that gave the Wolfpack breathing room and turned the field position battle in their favor. Even on special teams, J.C. Neal had a kickoff return for a touchdown that gave the Wolfpack an early double-digit lead.

Capitalizing on those plays is essential to the Wolfpack's offense.

The environment should be electric for this in-state rivalry game. With this year's matchup being played in Carter-Finley Stadium, there will be a bunch of pumped up Pack fans, especially coming off a road win at Duke.

The key for NC State's offense is to start fast. They must get off to a good start offensively and put points on the board early. Whether it's by a big play or a sustained drive, NC State has to jump out front and keep the home crowd in the game.

In recent weeks, they have been able to do that. Against Florida State, the Pack connected on a field goal and a touchdown on its first two possessions. The next week versus Maryland, the Pack opened the game with two drives that ended in touchdowns. NC State was extremely effective last week at Duke. The Wolfpack scored on its first four possessions, a field goal followed by three touchdowns. In the three games, NC State jumped out to an early lead but it wasn't until Duke were they able to finish with the victory.

The way the Wolfpack will likely have to do this is via the passing game.

Through nine games, Wake Forest has been very good defensively, ranking No. 31 nationally in total defense. If there is a weakness, the Deacs are No. 56 nationally against the passing, allowing 199 yards per game. Look for the Pack to try and exploit Wakd through the air with Wilson and his emerging weapons attacking on the perimeter and across the middle of the field.

If they can jump out to an early lead, the Wolfpack can come back with an emerging ground game. In its last three games, the Pack has rushed for over 150 yards. Tailbacks Jamelle Eugene and Andre Brown form a solid duo and establishing the running game will be important as the Wolfpack's defense lacks depth and can't stay on the field all game.

If NC State can start fast with a lead, play from ahead behind a solid ground game and opportunistic passing, and allow its defense to stay rested, the Wolfpack will have a chance to pull off what most would consider to be an upset.

NC State Defense vs. Wake Forest Offense

One of the keys for the NC State defense will clearly be the play of their offense. Wake Forest isn't flashy and their offense hasn't shown the explosive potential of 2007. However, the Deacs formula is much the same as it's always been since Jim Grobe became the Wake Forest head coach.

A huge part of that formula is ball control. Wake Forest wants to make sure they keep it and you don't. The Deacs boast roughly a three minute time of possession advantage per game. For NC State, this means that the Wolfpack offense must be efficient, sustain drives and keep the defense off the field.

The Pack defense has been porous at times this season and have had a tendency to wear down late in the game. To counter this, State's offense needs to keep that group on the sideline as much as possible with a ball control offense and lack of turnovers. Wake Forest makes a living off of teams beating themselves and the Pack has to make sure that doesn't happen on Saturday.

State has to put the Deacs in a position where they are forced to make plays to win the game.

In 2008 Wake hasn't displayed the big play capability of year's past. Instead, they thrive at methodically moving the ball down the field and even on possessions where they don't score points, the Deacs like to gain enough yardage to make opposing offenses drive the length of the field to score.

For the Wolfpack, a major key will be State's ability to get Wake Forest off schedule on down and distance. The Deacs want to face second and five and third and two. They don't want to face second and 13 or third and 10. If the Pack can be successful on first down and limit the yardage gained by Wake Forest, their odds for success improve dramatically.

The Deacs are a team that love to dictate the flow of the game. The times that they have struggled have come when they were forced to do things they're not accustomed to.

Wake Forest doesn't appear to use as much misdirection as in year's past but you still have to account for every skill player on each play. They still like to use the wide receiver on orbit plays and you have to be prepared for a wide receiver pass as well.

Whereas Duke tested NC State and their corners on the perimeter. Look for Wake Forest to attack the Wolfpack inside the tackles. They're going to try to establish the inside running game and take advantage of State's 81st ranked rush defense.

The Pack will need to control their gaps and the linebackers will have to make sure they don't get caught trying to cover someone else's responsibility. Whether State wins or loses this game will likely boil down to how they fare against Wake Forest's rushing attack.

NC State Depth Chart

2008 NC State Depth Chart
16Russell Wilson5-11/191Fr.*
12Harrison Beck6-2/220Jr.*
24 Andre Brown 6-0/228Sr.
29 Jamelle Eugene 5-10/195Jr.*
47 Taylor Gentry 6-2/215Fr.
27 Harrison Ritcher 5-11/215So.*
Wide Receiver
13Owen Spencer6-3/180So.
6 T.J. Graham 6-0/180Fr.
Wide Receiver
5 Jarvis Williams 6-4/205 So.*
15 Darrell Davis 6-4/212So.*
Tight End
83 Anthony Hill 6-6/265Sr.*
84 George Bryan 6-5/265Fr.*
Left Tackle
70 Jake Vermiglio6-5/315So.
55 Desmond Roberts6-4/295Fr.*
Left Guard
75 John Bedics 6-4/295Sr.*
61 Matt White6-6/325Sr.*
58 Ted Larsen 6-2/295Jr.*
74 Andy Barbee6-3/310Jr.*
Right Guard
60 Meares Green6-4/306Sr.*
76 Curtis Crouch 6-5/320Sr.
Right Tackle
50 Jeraill McCuller6-7/330Jr.*
71 Gary Gregory6-4/305So.*

Special Teams
Place Kicker
36Josh Czajkowski5-9/184So.*
26Bradley Pierson5-9/163Sr.*
38Jeff Ruiz6-2/185Jr.
Long Snapper
59Corey Tedder6-1/212Jr.
57Michael Maurer5-11/225Jr.
26Bradley Pierson5-9/163Sr.*
59Corey Tedder6-1/212Jr.
Kick Returner
6 T.J. Graham 6-0/180Fr.
24 Andre Brown 6-0/228Sr.
Punt Returner
6 T.J. Graham 6-0/180 Fr.
29 Jamelle Eugene 5-10/195Jr.*
Left Defensive End
98 Shea McKeen 6-5/250Jr.
91 Markus Kuhn 6-5/280So.
Left Defensive Tackle
94 Keith Willis Jr. 6-1/284Sr.*
96 Antoine Holmes 6-2/281Sr.
Right Defensive Tackle
49 Alan-Michael Cash 6-1/286Jr.*
95 LeRoy Burgess 6-1/300Jr.
Right Defensive End
97 Willie Young 6-4/243Jr.*
99 Jeff Rieskamp 6-3/235Fr.*
Weakside Linebacker
56 Nate Irving 6-1/225So.*
42 Audie Cole 6-5/215Fr.
Middle Linebacker
44 Ray Michel 6-0/224Jr.*
7 Sterling Lucas 6-2/220Fr.
Strongside Linebacker
34Robbie Leonard 6-0/205Sr.*
16 Ryan Goodman 6-2/205Sr.*
30 Jeremy Gray 6-2/188Gr.*
20 Dominique Ellis 5-11/190Fr.
14 J.C. Neal 5-11/195Sr.
32 Jimmaul Simmons 6-2/200 Fr.*
19 Clem Johnson 6-0/190 Jr.
28 Justin Byers 6-0/185Fr.*
21 DeAndre Morgan OR 5-10/170So.*
33Koyal George 5-11/175Jr.*

Thanks to NC State and Wake Forest Athletics for much of the information in this preview.

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