The North Carolina State Wolfpack head into their ACC home opener against the Jackets coming off of a 44-14 defeat to Cincinnati. N.C. State’s record is currently 2-2, with both losses against FBS schools and both wins over FCS teams. However, they have shown promise even in their defeats: they scored two late touchdowns in a comeback against Wake Forest but ultimately fell short by a touchdown in their ACC opener. The Wolfpack have an even .500 record since Head Coach Tom O’Brien took the reins in 2007 and have beaten the Jackets in their only matchup since then. In order to avoid a 0-2 start in conference play, the Wolfpack must address the following in their gameplan.
The Wolfpack must find a way to increase their run production. They were stuffed for -26 yards rushing last Thursday night against Cincinnati, the lowest total by an ACC team in over ten seasons. Overall this year, N.C. State is ranked No. 109 in the FBS for rushing offense with 85 yards per game. The team has also scored on the ground only four times in four games and has lost six fumbles. This kind of production puts too much pressure on the passing game and can make the offense one-dimensional.
N.C. State hopes that senior quarterback Mike Glennon can continue to throw the ball effectively. He averages 270 passing yards per game, and the team is No. 33 in the nation in that category. He has also thrown ten touchdowns and only three interceptions on the year, and is completing 66 percent of his passes. Glennon’s favorite receiver is senior wideout T.J. Graham, who has 19 receptions and four touchdown catches this season. The six-foot, 180-pound receiver caught two touchdowns of 87 and 49 yards and had 176 total receiving yards last week.
Finally, the Wolfpack defense must find a way to contain the Jackets’ triple option attack. This may not be an easy task for a defensive line that has been marred by injuries. Of the four projected starters coming into the season, three of them have a reasonable chance of being on the sideline for this week’s game. However, N.C. State’s secondary can make up for the misfortunes suffered by its front seven. The Wolfpack lead the ACC and are ranked No. 3 in the nation with eight interceptions, while also forcing six fumbles. If this defense can force turnovers and give their offense a short field to work with, it may prove to be the difference in this game.
The Jackets are looking ahead to their first conference road test of the season as they prepare for N.C. State this Saturday. Tech moved up to No. 21 in the AP Rankings after beating North Carolina last week in their ACC opener and are 4-0 for the first time since their 1990 National Championship season. Last week the Jackets played their closest game of the season, as they needed a late score and defensive stop to beat the Tar Heels by a touchdown. Here are the Jackets’ keys to winning the game and remaining undefeated atop the ACC Coastal Division.
As is the case every week, the Jackets expect their running game to produce a lot of points. They gained 310 yards on the ground last week, which is actually below the team’s average and bumped them down to No. 2 in the nation for rushing yards per game. Tech’s running backs had a lot of help from the offensive line, including junior guard Omoregie Uzzi, who was named ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week for the second week in a row. The Jackets should expect similar numbers this week as they face a defense that gives up an average of 408 total yards per game.
Although not as statistically stout as UNC’s defense, N.C. State’s defense will still be a challenge for Tech’s rushers. Thus, the Jackets will have to throw the ball more in order to have a balanced offensive attack. Redshirt junior quarterback Tevin Washington is completing 64 percent of his passes and has eight touchdown throws to only one interception. He will be throwing mainly to junior wide receiver Stephen Hill, who averages 115 receiving yards and one score per game.
The defense will have to stop the Wolfpack from finding the endzone and executing big plays. In their loss to Cincinnati last week, N.C. State’s two touchdowns came on two deep passes to T.J. Graham, one for 87 yards and another for 49. The Jackets may put an extra defender or two on him to keep him in check. A few sophomore Tech defenders earned honors this week, as safety Isaiah Johnson was named ACC Defensive Back of the Week and linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu earned ACC Linebacker of the Week as well as the title of National Defensive Player of the Week. Both players are hoping to build off last week’s success as they head into Raleigh.