Notebook: Bragging Rights on the Line

Fresh off wins over Duke and Wake Forest, NC State (4-6) faces North Carolina (7-3) looking to finish 4-0 against in-state opponents. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00, and the game will be televised on Raycom.

This will be the 98th 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 canceled because of a polio outbreak on UNC's campus.

The Tar Heels hold a 63-28-6 overall mark over the Wolfpack, including a 34-16- 2 advantage in Chapel Hill.

The Tar Heels' lead in the series is just seven games - 30-23 - in ACC matchups all-time.

NC State has lost 11 of the last 15 matchups to UNC, but the series is tied at four wins each in the last decade. Five of the Pack's last six losses to UNC have been by margins of eight points or less, while NC State has won by double-digit margins in three of the Pack's last four wins. The margin was just four last season, (31-27) but NC State won by 13 in 2003, 17 in 2002 and 18 in 2000.

Quarterback Russell Wilson has put up impressive numbers in his young career despite missing two full games, and most of the season opener, with injuries. Wilson is second overall and leads all freshman in the ACC in passing efficiency at 127.0. That mark ranks fourth nationally among all freshman signal callers and would rank 11th all-time in school history for a single season if the season ended today.

Wilson has been even better over his last six starts, passing for all 12 of his touchdowns and not throwing an interception in that span. His performance over the last six games translates to an impressive 135.74 passer efficiency rating.

Quarterback Russell Wilson passed for 152 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions, in NC State's upset win over Wake Forest. He completed 16 of 33 pass attempts and also carried the ball 14 times for 69 yards and a touchdown. He was NC State's leading rusher for the game and was responsible for all three of the Wolfpack's touchdowns and 221 yards of total offense.

It was his first Rookie of the Week honor, but the redshirt freshman won ACC Offensive Back of the Week honors after the win against then-No. 15 East Carolina.

Russell Wilson has an active streak of 175 straight passing attempts without throwing an interception, the second-longest streak in school history for a single season. That streak spans Wilson's last six 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 Jaime Barnette went 179 attempts in 1998.

Among active NCAA quarterbacks, that mark ranks fifth and is the longest active streak in the NCAA.

On the season, Wilson has just one interception, the fewest in the nation among qualifying quarterbacks who rank in the NCAA top-100 for passing, passing yards per- game, total passing yards and/or passing efficiency.

Wilson has obviously performed well as a passer, but the versatile quarterback can also move the ball with his legs. He ran for 69 yards on 14 attempts against Wake, including a four-yard touchdown. The 69 yards rank 10th all-time at NC State for rushing yards by quarterback in a single game (dating back to 1970).

Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien and Tar Heels head coach Butch Davis have met five times in their careers as head coaches, with Davis holding a 4-1 advantage.

Davis won all four meetings between the Miami Hurricanes and Boston College Eagles while the two coaches were at their former collegiate coaching posts. O'Brien won the meeting last season in Raleigh, 31-27, between the two coaches at their current schools.

Three of the previous five meetings have been decided by four points or less, a 45-44, double overtime Miami win in 1997, a 31-28 Miami win in 1999 and NC State's four point win in 2007. Miami won 35-17 in 1998 and 52-6 in 1999 when the Hurricanes were ranked No. 2 nationally.

Not quite two full years into his Wolfpack coaching career, head coach Tom O'Brien has found success on the field and off with his team. One of the areas that has been particularly strong has been the play against in-state rivals. O'Brien has posted a 5-1 mark against teams from the state of North Carolina, including a perfect 3-0 mark at home.

That 5-1 mark is tied for the best record against in-state opponents to start a Wolfpack coaching career over their first two seasons, tying Lou Holtz, Dick Sheridan and Chuck Amato. The Pack won at East Carolina, 34-20, in 2007, at home against UNC, 31-27, and lost at Wake Forest, 38-18.

So far in 2008 the Wolfpack has defeated all three in-state rivals, taking down then-No. 15 ECU in overtime, 30-24, winning at Duke, 27-17, and this past week against Wake Forest, 21-17.

From the day he took the job at NC State, Tom O'Brien and his staff made a commitment to sign the top talent in the state of North Carolina. The 2008 Wolfpack roster is made of up 60 players who call the state of North Carolina home, including 17 players our of the 44 listed on the two-deep. Thirteen of those 17 are on the offensive side of the ball.

Eight of the top 30 recruits in the state (according to signed to don the red and white in 2008 - three more than any other school (Virginia Tech signed five of the state's top 30 players). The Pack also landed three of the top six North Carolina prospects.

NC State's 2008 signing class ranked higher than any school in the state according to both and

NC State's injury troubles were well documented in 2007, with 13 starters missing time in 44 total games, and six starters missing multiple games.

So far during 2008, NC State has had 12 starters - including projected starters - miss playing time because of injury for a total of 60 games. All 12 of the players have each missed multiple games because of injury. Those fortunes have reversed course over the last two games - wins over Duke and Wake Forest - as NC State has had most of the starters back in the lineup with the exception of four guys - Toney Baker, Donald Bowens, Matt Kushner and Javon Walker - who are all out for the season.

In fact, for the first two weeks all season, NC State has had zero players listed on its Thursday injury report heading into that week's game.

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 improving over the last few games. NC State's offense is averaging almost six more points and 42 more rush yards over the last five games.

In addition, the three losses during that stretch were by a combined 19 points. NC State had over 150 yards rushing as a team in three straight games, the first time that has happened since 2002. The team rushed for 149 yards against Wake Forest.

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 five 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.

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 2,326 rushing yards and 19 rushing touchdowns, both good for ninth in school history. Brown needs 154 yards to move into eighth all-time at NC State in rushing yards.

Brown also ranks 12th in school history with 3,229 all-purpose yards, 148 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.

Freshman wideout T.J. Graham has instantly added speed to the Wolfpack. Graham is returning punts and kicks for NC State and his 852 yards is a NC State school record for a single season and already ranks eighth for a career.

He ranks third in kick returns and fifth in punt returns in the ACC.

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 113.9 yards-per-game, the top mark for all freshmen in the ACC and the ninth-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.

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. 9 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.

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. He had a game-high 11 tackles against Wake Forest, including two for loss and a sack.

Irving is fifth on the team in tackles with 57, despite missing three games, and his eight tackles-for-loss are tied for first on the team. He has four games this season of double-digit tackles in his seven games played. Irving 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 among active players 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 three touchdowns on just 13 catches while being limited to just six games because of injury. His last touchdown was an eight yard grab for the game winning score against Wake Forest.

Hill now has 74 career catches for 761 yards and four touchdowns.

Defensive coordinator Mike Archer has used his defensive schemes this season to force 10 interceptions and 17 total turnovers through 10 games. Last season, the defense had 10 interceptions and 16 total turnovers.

Seven of the 10 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. Gray added his second of the season against Wake Forest.

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