GAMEDAY: NC State vs. Cincinnati

NC State (2-0) returns to the field tonight looking to defeat Big East champion Cincinnati (1-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm, and the game will be televised on ESPN.

NC State vs. Cincinnati
Thursday, September 16, 2010
7:30 pm (EST), ESPN
Raleigh, NC
Carter-Finley Stadium

NC State Links
Official Site

Cincinnati Links
Game Notes

CFN's Take

Cincinnati (1-1) at NC State (2-0) Sept. 16, 7:30 ET, ESPN

Here's The Deal … In front of a national TV audience, Cincinnati and NC State meet for the first time. For both, this could be the kind of crossroads game that catapults the winner and derails the loser. The Wolfpack and coach Tom O'Brien, in particular, need a breakthrough moment to offset the past few seasons of mediocrity. The Bearcats are still feeling their way through the Butch Jones era, waking up after a slow start to jet past Indiana State and even the record. In order to have any hope for a third-straight Big East championship, Cincy needs to show it's evolved from the Week 1 loss to Fresno State that raised all kinds of issues about its 2010 potential.

Why Cincinnati Might Win: No, the offensive engine hasn't started to hum on a consistent basis, but the ingredients are there for a potent attack. QB Zach Collaros has a quick trigger and an accurate arm, distributing the ball to Armon Binns, DJ Woods, and TE Ben Guidugli. While RB Isaiah Pead should be back from injury, reserves Darrin Williams and John Goebel played well in his place, averaging almost nine yards a carry. The Pack defense has had problems ever since O'Brien arrived, especially when it comes to stopping the pass. Neither the Catamounts nor the Knights provided much of a test for this group.

Why NC State Might Win: While QB Russell Wilson had an off day in Orlando, don't expect it to become a trend. He's just too good to play poorly in consecutive weeks. It helps that he has so many playmakers on the receiving end of his passes, including Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams, T.J. Graham, and TE George Bryan. The last time Cincinnati played a quality opponent, Fresno State's Ryan Colburn carved it up for four touchdown passes. The Bulldogs also had eight sacks, exposing gaping holes in the Bearcat O-line.

What To Watch Out For: Cincinnati's issues up front could be exacerbated by an NC State defense that's attacking far more in 2010. One of the biggest beneficiaries has been LB Audie Cole, who's being used liberally on outside blitzes. In the win over UCF, he was in on 12 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, and a pick, which won't be lost on the Bearcat staff when it checks out film this week.

What Will Happen: Which offense is going to break through after experiencing some power outages in the early stages of the season? Cincinnati has the potential, but NC State has the closer thing to a sure-thing, Wilson. He'll relish a rare opportunity to play in front of a large national audience, carrying the Pack to one of its most meaningful wins in the O'Brien era.

CFN Prediction: NC State 26 … Cincinnati 21 … Line: NC State -2

Must See Rating: Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps – 5 … The Event - 1 … 3

NC State Game Notes

This week's game marks the first game of a home-and-home matchup with the Big East's Cincinnati, with the Wolfpack scheduled to make a return visit in 2011. Thursday night's game will mark the first meeting between NC State and Cincinnati.

Tom O'Brien has coached one game against the Bearcats. That matchup came during his first year as a head coach at Boston College. His Eagle squad dropped that contest, 24-6.

There is a strong Cincinnati flavor to the Wolfpack coaching staff. Three members are Cincinnati natives, one graduated from the University of Cincinnati and two coached there. Head Coach Tom O'Brien grew up in Cincinnati, where he attended St. Xavier High School, one of the oldest high schools in the nation (founded in 1831).

O'Brien graduated in 1968 and the next year a young running back named Dana Bible joined the Bombers' squad. Bible, who graduated from Saint X in 1972, was the leading scorer in the Greater Cincinnati league during his prep career. Bible ended up attending Cincinnati, where he started at cornerback. He earned his B.A. in 1976 and his M.B.A. from UC in 1982. His first coaching job was as a graduate assistant at Cincinnati (1976-77) and then as the full-time quarterbacks coach from 1978-80. He returned to the area in 1990, where he spent three seasons coaching quarterbacks for the NFL's Bengals and then spent the 1994 season back at UC as the offensive coordinator.

Bible's roommate during his graduate assistant days ended up marrying O'Brien's sister. Offensive line coach Don Horton was born in Cincinnati and went to Indian Hills High School. He attended Wittenberg University in nearby Springfield. Tight ends coach Jim Bridge, who hails from Cleveland, also attended Wittenberg. Finally, defensive line coach Keith Willis spent two seasons coaching at Cincinnati - 1999-2000.

There are also a couple of Wolfpack players who hail from Cincinnati and the Ohio area. Starting defensive end Jeff Rieskamp attended Elder High School in Cincinnati, while reserve tight end Anthony Talbert graduated from Winton Woods. Other Ohio players include redshirt freshman linebacker Ryan Cheek (Lancaster) and freshmen offensive lineman Andy Jomantas (Dayton) and freshman wide receiver Bryan Underwood (University Heights).

NC State and Cincinnati both played games on Saturday, just five days before Thursday night's matchup, but the Bearcats played a day game at home, while the Wolfpack played a night game on the road.

Temperature at kickoff down in Orlando was 87 degrees, with high humid- ity and the game didn't end until 11 p.m. The team buses pulled back into the Murphy Center around 3:15 a.m. on Sunday morning. Only twice since 1980 has NC State had a five-day turnaround which included at least one game on the road. In 1997, Mike O'Cain's Wolfpack topped Northern Illinois at home (9/20) before falling at Wake Forest (9/25), while Chuck Amato's 2002 squad beat Duke at Carter-Finley Stadium (10/19) prior to defeating Clemson on the road in an ESPN Thursday contest (10/24).

Junior linebacker Audie Cole was the team's leading tackler in 2009, but never has he dominated a game like he did against Central Florida on Saturday. Cole was credited with a dozen stops in the contest, including nine solo stops, a 10-yard sack and two other tackles for loss. He also pulled down his first career interception and forced another fumble on a play that ended up being overturned.

Cole, who had twice as many tackles as any other defender in the game (for either team) was front and center in the Wolfpack's aggressive defensive scheme, making plays all over the field. Cole made his tackles count. Three times, twice in the first quarter, Cole made stops on third down to force the Knights to punt. His interception was on a pass from wide receiver Nico Flores on a reverse play in the third quarter to stop another UCF drive at midfield as the Knights were attempting to rally.

He was named the ACC Defensive Back of the Week and the ACC Player of the Week for his performance.

Last season, the Wolfpack defense picked off eight passes in 12 games. On Saturday, that feisty unit pulled down three in a single contest. Audie Cole, Earl Wolff and C.J. Wilson all performed acts of thievery in the win at Central Florida, marking the first pick of each of their careers. Wilson took his interception to the house, returning it 43 yards for a score.

NC State forced a total of five turnovers in the game, one of which clinched the victory for the Wolfpack. With under a minute to play and UCF on NC State's 31 yardline down a TD, Knight quarterback Jeff Godfrey completed a 20-yard pass, but safety Brandan Bishop put his helmet on the ball to force a fumble and linebacker Terrell Manning recovered at the 10.

The most turnovers NC State forced in 2009 was three in a single game. Saturday's turnover tally was the most since the Pack forced UNC into six miscues in Chapel Hill in 2008.

For the season, NC State is at the +6 mark for turnover margin, as the squad also forced a fumble in the season opener. The Pack currently leads the ACC in turnover margin.

Between the last practice before last year's season finale against North Carolina (Nov. 26, 2009) and the first practice of this year's fall camp (Aug. 3, 2010), 250 days elapsed. That's the amount of time that Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson DID NOT practice football. He missed spring practice. He missed seven-on-seven drills in the summer. He missed football workouts in the Murphy Center weight room. Instead, he was playing baseball for the Wolfpack squad in the spring and for the Colorado Rockies' Tri-Cities Dust Devils in the summer Although Tom O'Brien and Wilson himself said after the season opening 48-7 win over Western Carolina that Wilson had to shake a little rust off, it certainly wasn't evident from looking at the stat sheet.

Wilson threw for four touchdowns in the game (the sixth time in his career that he had thrown for four or more scores). He threw for 306 yards, marking the fifth time he's topped the 300-yard mark and he completed 68% of his throws (21 of 31).

Last week's game at Central Florida was a slightly different story, however the outcome was the same: a Wolfpack victory. Wilson was sacked three times (he's been sacked six times so far this season) and was under consistent heavy pressure (especially after starting right tackle Mikel Overgaard went out with an elbow injury in the second quarter). He threw for 105 yards and a touchdown and had the lowest completion percentage of his career except for a 1-5 mark in his first college game versus South Carolina in 2008, when he left the game with a concussion in the first half.

After looking at his stat line following the game, Wilson smiled and said, "We won. That's all that matters to me."

Senior placekicker Josh Czajkowski set an NC State record for consecutive point-after-touchdown makes in the Sept. 4 win over Western Carolina and has now added to that streak. He has hit all eight of his PAT attempts in 2010 and has now connected on 81 straight, dating back to the 2008 campaign. He also holds the Wolfpack career record for PAT percentage, as he has hit 85 of 86 tries for his career, a .988 mark.

Czajkowski ranks fourth in school history in field goal percentage (.848), ninth in field goals made (28) and fifth in total PATs (85).

The 2010 version of the Wolfpack football team has a central theme: YOUTH. Of the 105 players listed on the roster, 60 (57%) are either true freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores (redshirt or true).

Although the youth of this year's team might be a concern early in the season, it certainly bodes well for NC State's future. On the depth chart for the first two games, 39% (17) of the 44 players listed on the offensive and defensive two-deep charts have been either true or redshirt freshmen or sophomores.

There were 30 players on the Wolfpack squad who played for the first time in an NC State uniform in the win over Western Carolina.

Six true freshmen saw action in the season opener for NC State, while one, offensive tackle Robert Crisp, started the Wolfpack victory. In addition to Crisp, defensive backs David Amerson (CB), D.J. Greene (FS) and Dontae Johnson (BS) saw action. Freshman A.J. Ferguson, who actually graduated from high school in 2009 but joined the team in January of this year, saw action on the defensive line, while true freshman Mustafa Greene played halfback.

In addition to those six true freshmen, a whopping 24 other players played for the Wolfpack for the first time. Transfers David Akinniyi (Northeastern) and Mikel Overgaard (Snow College) both started, while Ellis Flint (Hofstra) kicked off twice.

Ten redshirt freshmen got into the game as well: Darryl Cato-Bishop, Ryan Cheek, Duran Christophe, Donald Coleman, Rickey Dowdy, Dean Haynes, Sam Jones, Everett Proctor, Hans Rice, and Anthony Talbert. Tight end Mario Carter, who redshirted as a freshman and then missed last season with an injury also played, as did linebacker William Beasley.

And finally nine walk-ons who had never played before got into the contest: Donovan Counts, Jackson Diaz-Cobo, Zach Gentry, Tyler Kloc, Travis Leggett, Curtis Martin, Seth Pavarnik, Cameron Ray and Keegan Ray.

Of the nine starters on the offensive and defensive lines, seven got their first career starts at NC State in the season opener. Four of the five starting offensive linemen started for the first time: tackles Rob Crisp and Mikel Overgaard, guard Zach Allen and center Cam Wentz. On the defensive line, end David Akinniyi joined tackles Natanu Mageo and Brian Slay as first-time starters for the Wolfpack.

The only first-time starter that wasn't on one of the two front lines was Dean Haynes, who started at halfback.

Although a 5-7 record in 2009 wasn't what the NC State coaching staff was hoping for, a closer look at the scores shows that the Wolfpack wasn't too far away from being 8-4. Three of the team's losses last season were by six points or less: a three-point loss at Florida State, a six-point loss at Wake Forest and a four-point loss to South Carolina to open the season.

In 2008, the Wolfpack posted a 6-7 mark, winning four straight games to close the regular season and earn a bowl bid. Four of the seven losses that season were by nine points or less: a seven-point loss to BC, a nine-point loss to Florida State, a three-point loss to Maryland and a six-point loss to Rutgers in the Bowl.

In all, of NC State's 14 losses in the past two seasons, seven have been by nine points or less, five by six points or less and three by four points or less.

Cincinnati Game Notes

* The University of Cincinnati is in its 123rd football season with an all-time record of 548-543-51 (.502).
* Cincinnati (1885) is one of the five oldest programs in college football along with Rutgers (1869), Michigan (1879), Navy (1880), and Minnesota (1883).
* Cincinnati won its second straight BIG EAST Conference title in 2009, earning the league's BCS bowl bid for the second time.
* Head coach Butch Jones enters his first season with the Bearcats after going 27-13 with two Mid-American Conference Championships in three years at Central Michigan University.
* UC returns 13 starters from the 2009 squad, including all- league selections Armon Binns (WR), Ben Guidugli (TE), Alex Hoffman (OL), and Jason Kelce (OL).
* The defense returns four of its top six tacklers from 2009, including LB JK Schaffer (100 tackles), DB Drew Frey (64 tackles, 2 INT), DB Dominique Battle (60 tackles, 2 INT), and LB Walter Stewart (59 tackles, 8 TFL, 4.5 sacks).

UC will play its first three games of the season in 12 days. After battling Fresno State on Sept. 4, the Bearcats opened the home schedule against Indiana State on Sept. 11 before a quick turnaround to play at NC State on Sept. 16.

* Cincinnati finished the 40-7 win over Indiana State with 263 rushing yards, the most since the Bearcats tallied 263 rushing yards against San Diego State on Sept. 29, 2007.
* For the first time since 2008, the ground game outgained the passing game.
* In a road game at Marshall on Oct. 3, 2008, UC rushed for 203 yards while passing for 158.
* The game was backup QB Chazz Anderson's first start at UC and a 33-10 win for the Bearcats.
* UC passed for 130 yards against the Sycamores, it's lowest passing output in a game since Oct. 22, 2006 when the Bearcats recorded 105 yards passing in a 23-6 win over USF.

* Head coach Butch Jones presented a game ball to UC President Gregory Williams in the locker room following the win over Indiana State.
* Following that, director of athletics Mike Thomas and the team captains presented Coach Jones with a game ball in recognition of his first win at UC.

* QB Zach Collaros became the fourth different QB to start the home opener at Nippert in the past four seasons. Collaros (2010) followed Tony Pike (2009), Dustin Grutza (2008), and Ben Mauk (2007).

* Darrin Williams, who started at RB in place of Isaiah Pead who had knee swelling, finished the Indiana State game with a career-high 117 yards rushing on 13 carries.
* Pead was the last UC player to rush for more than 100 yards in a game (vs. West Virginia on 11/13/09).

* Kicker Jacob Rogers enters the 2010 season in striking distance of UC's all-time scoring record.
* Rogers sits second with 278 career points, trailing only Jonathan Ruffin (1999-2002) who tops the list with 315 points scored.
* Rogers already holds the school marks for extra points made (155) and extra points attempted (158), and he sits second in PAT percentage (.980), points scored by kicking (276), and third in field goals made (41).

* Colin Lozier, who started fall camp at fullback, made the move to linebacker in the last week of August.
* He recorded his first career tackle against Indiana State and finished the game with a career-high four stops.

* Senior WR Armon Binns recorded his first touchdown of the season on a 16-yard pass from Zach Collaros in the second quarter against Indiana State.
* Binns recorded his second touchdown in the third quarter, a 29-yard reception from Collaros.
* Over the past two seasons, Collaros has found a knack for finding Binns as the pair have connected for six scores. f Binns, who just cracked 1,000 receiving yards for his career entered last season, his junior year, having caught only two balls for 19 yards.

* LB JK Schaffer, UC's leading returning tackler entering 2010 (100 tackles in 2009), leads the squad with 16 tackles through two games. f He tallied a season-best nine stops along with a tackle for loss and pass break up against Indiana State.

* John Goebel, who missed a good portion of the 2009 season due to injury, recorded his first touchdown since Nov. 29, 2008 (Syracuse) when he scored on a 3-yard rush in the third quarter against Indiana State.
* It was the eighth rushing touchdown of his career and came after a 28-yard gain on the previous play.
* He later scored on a 1-yard scamper after a Reuben Haley fumble recovery, giving the senior his first multiple touchdown game since Sept. 20, 2008 when he recorded two touchdowns against Miami (OH).

* Backup safety Pat Lambert has made the most of his playing time in 2010.
* Against Indiana State, the sophomore finished with a career-high six tackles and in the opener at Fresno State, he recorded his first career interception.

* Much was expected of sophomore LB Maalik Bomar entering the 2010 season, his first as a starter.
* Through a pair of games, the sophomore has produced, ranking third on the team with nine tackles.
* He leads the squad with 3.0 tackles for a loss and recorded his first career sack, a 7-yard loss, against Indiana State.

NC State Depth Chart

  • NOTE: * - Indicates redshirted one season

    2010 NC State Depth Chart
    16Russell Wilson5-11/201Jr.*
    8Mike Glennon6-6/225So.*
    29 Dean Haynes 5-11/199 Fr.*
    33 Mustafa Greene 6-0/201 Fr.
    47 Taylor Gentry 6-2/250Jr.
    37 Donavon Counts 6-1/221Sr.
    Wide Receiver
    13Owen Spencer6-3/185Sr.
    6 T.J. Graham 6-0/180Jr.
    Wide Receiver
    5 Jarvis Williams 6-4/219 Sr.*
    15 Darrell Davis 6-4/211Sr.*
    Tight End
    84 George Bryan 6-5/265Jr.*
    82 Asa Watson 6-4/225So.
    Left Tackle
    70 Jake Vermiglio6-5/325Sr.
    78 Robert Crisp 6-7/312Fr.
    Left Guard
    64 Andrew Wallace 6-5/304So.*
    54 Henry Lawson6-3/290Jr.*
    53 Camden Wentz 6-3/296So
    67 Wayne Crawford6-3/303Jr.*
    Right Guard
    72 Zach Allen6-3/322So.*
    71 Gary Gregory6-4/325Sr.*
    Right Tackle
    76 Mikel Overgaard6-6/289Jr.*
    66 Sam Jones6-7/314Fr.*

    Special Teams
    Place Kicker
    36Josh Czajkowski5-9/184Sr.*
    38Jeff Ruiz6-2/185Sr.*
    Long Snapper
    59Corey Tedder6-1/220Sr.*
    57Michael Maurer5-11/225Sr.*
    59Corey Tedder6-1/220Sr.*
    Kick Returner
    6 T.J. Graham 6-0/180Jr.
    Punt Returner
    6 T.J. Graham 6-0/180 Jr.
    Strongside Defensive End
    99 Jeff Rieskamp 6-3/245Jr.*
    94 Michael Lemon 6-4/274Sr.*
    Defensive Tackle
    90 Natanu Mageo 6-3/285Sr.
    91 Markus Kuhn 6-4/303Jr.*
    Defensive Tackle
    55 Brian Slay OR 6-3/290So.
    52 J.R. Sweezy 6-5/293Jr.*
    Defensive End
    97 David Akinniyi 6-4/262Sr.*
    11 Audi Augustin 6-2/256Sr.*
    Weakside Linebacker
    35 Terrell Manning 6-3/224So.*
    41 Dwayne Maddox 6-2/234Jr.
    Middle Linebacker
    56 Nate Irving 6-1/231Sr.*
    7 Sterling Lucas 6-2/238Jr.
    Strongside Linebacker
    42 Audie Cole 6-5/239Jr.*
    26 Asante Cureton 5-11/214Sr.
    Boundary Cornerback
    28 Justin Byers 6-0/183Jr.*
    12 Jordan Monk 6-0/184Jr.
    Boundary Safety
    27 Earl Wolff 6-0/201So.*
    25 Dontae Johnson 6-3/184 Fr.
    Free Safety
    30 Brandan Bishop 6-2/210So.
    31 D.J. Green 6-4/214 Fr.
    Field Cornerback
    20 C.J. Wilson 5-11/179So.*
    1David Amerson 6-3/185Fr.

    Cincinnati Depth Chart

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

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