Notebook: Duke Up Next

NC State (3-2) will be back in action on Saturday against Duke (2-3). The Wolfpack will be looking to win its first ACC game of the season. Kickoff is set for 4:00 and the game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

The overall series between NC State and Duke is almost even, with the Blue Devils posting a 39-36-5 advantage. Since 1924, the two teams have faced off 80 times on the gridiron, playing every year except once (1944) until 2003, when ACC expansion caused a break in the series. Since 1963, however, the Wolfpack holds a 29-10-3 advantage against Duke since 1963.

This will mark the first time the Pack has played Duke at home since 2002. NC State has also won the last 11 meetings - and 14 of 15 dating back to 1990.

The Blue Devils' last win was a 21-20 decision in 1993 at Durham. The 11-game win streak by NC State is the longest in school history versus a conference opponent.

The distance between Wallace Wade Stadium and Carter-Finley Stadium is only about 20 miles, but the distance between scores when the two teams play is usually even less.

Eleven of the last 18 contests between NC State and Duke have been decided by eight points or less, with seven being decided by three or less points (that includes a tie in 1988).

And even though NC State has won the last 11 meetings between the two schools, seven of those victories have been by a touchdown or less.

One thing that Tom O'Brien's Wolfpack squads have NOT been known for in his first two seasons has been penalties. In his first season, 2007, NC State finished the season ranked seventh in the ACC in penalties, averaging just 7.2 per game for an average of 58 yards lost. In 2008, NC State was in a three-way tie for fourth in the league but averaged just 5.5 yellow flags per game, losing an average of 42.3 yards.

This season, after five games, the Pack is averaging 7.2 infractions for a loss of 62.8 yards per game after posting a dozen versus Pitt (the most since O'Brien came to NC State) and then nine against Wake Forest. The total yardage lost in those two games because of penalties? 166.

In the six-point loss to Wake Forest, NC State committed seven of its eight penalties in the first half, including one that nullified a fourth-down conversion that would have given NC State a first down on the Deacon 27. On Wake's next drive, two 15-yarders against the Pack defense led to a WFU field goal.

In the seven-point win over Pitt, NC State drew nine of its 12 yellow flags in the first half.

In the last two games, field position has definitely not been in the Wolfpack's favor. In the win over Pitt, NC State's average start was its own 24-yard line, while Pitt's 12 drives averaged a start on their 40. Last Saturday in the loss to Wake Forest, the Deacons average start was close to midfield, at their 45-yard line. NC State's average drives started on the 27.4.

Wake averaged 31 yards per punt/kickoff return on Saturday, while Pitt averaged 21.

Although NC State has lost six of its last 13 games, posting a 4-4 mark at the end of last season and a 3-2 mark in 2009, all of those losses have been by single digits. In those six losses, the margin has been just 5.7 points. This season, the Wolfpack's only two losses have been by four points to South Carolina (now ranked 25th) and by six points to Wake Forest. In the Wolfpack's 10 previous losses under O'Brien (seven losses in 2007 and the first three of 2008, the average margin was 22 points.

For the second time this season, the Wolfpack will play on brand new turf when Duke comes to Carter-Finley Stadium this week. On Saturday evening, the stadium hosted U2 in a concert that drew more than 60,000 people. The stage setup covered 70% of the playing surface, so months before the concert came to town, Precision Turf in Atlanta began growing sod to replace what was covered. The sod will be installed on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

The Pack opened the season with a new field as well, as for the first time since Carter-Finley Stadium debuted in a game against South Carolina in 1966, the Wolfpack finally played on a level playing field when South Carolina came to town on September 3. Two days after NC State's 2009 spring game, the process began to remove the crown from the Wayne T. Day Family Field.

Crews lowered the field some three-and-a-half feet at the center, less around the edges. It took about three weeks to haul thousands of cubic yards of topsoil from the stadium. After installing drainage sand and gravel that met United States Golf Association specifications for golf greens, the crew spent weeks making sure the field was as level as a pool table. Some 240 rolls of sod were used to cover the 68,400 square feet of the field, which has a synthetic buffer around the playing surface, 10 feet away from the wall surrounding the field on the sidelines and five feet away from the wall everywhere else. Unfortunately, the outcome of the first game on the new turf was the same as the first game on the old turf back in 1966: a loss to South Carolina.

After opening the season with four straight home games for the first time since 1984, Tom O'Brien and his squad took their first road trip on October 3. It marked the fourth straight year that the Wolfpack has lost its first road game.

The October 3 date marked the latest conference opener for NC State since the 1959 season, when Earle Edwards' squad played North Carolina to open league play on October 3.

Following the win over Pitt, NC State led the nation in total defense, allowing just 201.2 yards per game. After the loss to Wake Forest, the Wolfpack still leads the ACC in that category, but has dropped to sixth nationally, after Wake gained 391 yards. The Wolfpack has remained solid against the run, allowing just 30 yards by the Deacons. The team also leads the league in rushing defense and ranks seventh nationally, allowing just 66.8 yards per game. In the first three games of 2009, NC State allowed just 28 points, the fewest points allowed in the first three games of the season since 1991, when Dick Sheridan's squad allowed just three points in the first three contests.

In the season opener, NC State's "D" held South Carolina, now ranked 25th in the nation, to just seven points. Since then, South Carolina has averaged over 30 points per game in four outings, including two against ranked teams.

On September 12, Murray State gained just 36 total yards, even though NC State played it's second, third and fourth teams. That yardage total was the lowest for a Pack opponent since the season opener of 1990, when Western Carolina gained just 17 total yards.

The longest interception-free streak in Division I history ended on Saturday afternoon in Winston-Salem, when Russell Wilson was picked off on his 16th official pass attempt of the game.

It marked the first time Wilson had been picked off in 380 attempts and 14 games. Wilson broke the mark of 325 passes without an INT, which was set by Kentucky's Andre Woodson from 2006-07, against Gardner Webb and finished the streak with 379 straight passes without being picked off.

Willie Young, who celebrated his 24th birthday a couple of weeks ago, currently ranks fifth nationally and leads the ACC in sacks, with seven for the season. He had three in the loss at Wake, a career high. The grandfather of the team, who was rated the ninth-best player in the ACC by in the preseason, also ranks as the active ACC leader in career tackles for loss (39.5) and sacks (19.5). Those marks ranks sixth in school history.

Young, who earned his degree from NC State in May, has been named a preseason candidate for four national awards: the Bednarik, Hendricks, Lombardi, and Nagurski.

The Wolfpack is still leading the ACC in scoring, averaging 35 points per game. That mark ranks 19th this week among FBS schools. Pretty amazing considering that the Wolfpack didn't score a touchdown until the second game of the season and only scored three points in the season opener versus South Carolina.

In the last four games combined, the Wolfpack has scored a total of 178 points - 65 vs. Murray State, 45 vs. Gardner Webb, 38 vs. Pitt and 30 versus Wake Forest.

The first four games of 2009 meant four different lineups in the defensive secondary for the Wolfpack. Injuries played a big role in the changes, as cornerback DeAndre Morgan didn't play until the third game of the season, safety Clem Johnson missed the third game and corner Rashard Smith has missed the last two games - all due to injuries.

For the first time all season, NC State started the same backfield in back-to-back games versus Pitt and Wake Forest: Brandan Bishop and Earl Wolff at safety and Morgan and Koyal George at corner. After giving up 361 passing yards in Winston-Salem, however, that backfield looks like it could change again for the Duke game. This week's depth chart lists Johnson and Bobby Floyd at safety and Justin Byers and either Morgan or C.J. Wilson at corner. Byers has played safety and corner in the past.

Quarterback Russell Wilson quieted any speculation about his hampered running ability on September 26 versus Pitt. Wilson rushed for a career-high 91 yards in the contest (in addition to throwing for 322 yards), the highest rushing total for a Wolfpack quarterback in more than three decades. The last NC State signal caller to rush for more yards was Johnny Evans, now a color commentator on the Wolfpack radio network. Evans ran for 126 yards on 15 carries against Clemson in 1976. Wilson has tallied 503 rushing yards for his career.

Russell Wilson currently is tied for the national lead with 14 touchdown passes and ranks fifth in ‘points responsible for' with 18 per game. Wilson posted his personal best of four touchdown throws in each of the games against Murray State, Gardner Webb and Pitt and then added a pair against Wake Forest.

Although he's only a sophomore, Wilson currently ranks seventh among current ACC players in passing yards (3,199), fourth in passing touchdowns (31) and eighth in total offense (3,743).

And after playing just 17 career games, Wilson's 31 touchdown passes already rank in a tie for fourth in school history.

Redshirt sophomore tight end played football, basketball and baseball in high school. In other words, he's pretty athletic. Bryan has shown that ability this season as he has been the go-to guy for quarterback Russell Wilson. Bryan currently leads the team in receptions with 22 for 234 yards in five games. His four touchdown catches also lead the Wolfpack.

Bryan didn't get the start over Gardner Webb after he missed practice time with the flu during game-week preparations. But he came off the bench and made up for missed time, catching a career-high six passes, for a career-high 89 yards and a career-best two touchdowns. He also had six grabs last week against Wake Forest.

Bryan ranks eighth in the ACC this week as he is averaging 4.4 catches per game. He is tied for the ACC lead in touchdown catches.

Six true freshmen have seen action so far this season: S Brandan Bishop, DT Brian Slay, CB Rashard Smith, HB James Washington, TE Asa Watson and C Camden Wentz. Bishop and Smith have each started games, with Bishop getting the nod three times and Smith twice.

So far this season, 31 players have seen their first action at NC State.

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