Notebook: Deacs Up Next

Fresh off a win 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.

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:

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