NC State's Season a Mirror Image of Rutgers

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – Ask Rutgers football head coach Greg Schiano to discuss his bowl opponent, NC State, and it prompts a lightbulb of sorts. The similarities are vast.

"All you have to do is look at them statistically," Schiano said after practice Saturday. "About five games ago and look at them the previous seven games…reminds me of somebody."

The eighth-year mastermind alluded to the Scarlet Knights, the same team that turned a 1-5 start into a bowl berth.

How? By winning six straight contests to register a 7-5 record, 5-2 in the Big East.

The Wolfpack, on the other hand, dealt with a slew of injuries in the earlier part of the season, including losing their starting and reserve quarterbacks by the fifth week.

How did they become eligible? It required a four-game winning streak to finish 6-6, 4-4 in the ACC, and enter the picture.

Speculation abounds about the Wolfpack's health contributing to their early woes and recent success.

"That's what I read," Schiano said of the Wolfpack injuries. "I think one of the good things is the injuries (happened) earlier in the year, especially on defense."

Schiano said he cautioned not to overlook freshman T.J. Graham, whose speed and agility are used on offense (16 catches for 251 yards) and, more importantly, on special teams. In 36 kickoff and punt returns, Graham has amassed 893 yards and one score.

"He's lighting fast," Schiano said. "He's probably one of the fastest kids in the country. If he gets in the open, not a lot of guys are going to catch him."

With bowl experience in hand, Schiano said he will not digress from bowl preparations from previous seasons, crediting legendary Penn State football head coach Joe Paterno.

"Not too much, but also in my years as an assistant coach, I was blessed to work for the guy who's the best bowl coach of all time in Coach Paterno," Schiano said. "We've used a lot of those schedules, a lot of those principles in our preparation."

Those principles remain relatively new for San San Te, a redshirt freshman placekicker, and Teddy Dellaganna, a third-year sophomore punter, who will see action in their first bowl appearance.

"They're young kickers and punters," Schiano said. "They have good days and not so good days. But what you see is the potential there and if it can become consistent to live up to their potential, then they're as good as they are.

"It's about what you expect in a first year- some highs, some lows. I like the fact that you see real talent and a want to. They work very hard."

Notes: Schiano said the team began the game plan yesterday with special teams and moved onto offense and defense today.

"Yesterday we started getting into our special teams stuff," Schiano said. "Today was full-fledged, both three phases, so we'll have a few days up here we work on. Then we take a little break for Christmas and then get back on it down in Birmingham."

Regarding focus, Schiano said some players still have finals left, but he's not worried about concentration.

"They're chomping to get started," he said. "We've been working fundamentally-- practices up until this point. Now it's the weekend too, so if they have studying to do, they'll have time to do that. Most of the guys are done already. We got a handful of guys who still have finals left. For the majority, it's just football."

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