"I think our whole defense [needs improvement]," said Archer after Tuesday's practice. "We had opportunities to get the quarterback on the ground and sack him and we missed him... gave up a big play. We come clean on a blitz and miss the quarterback.
"It's not any one particular group, it's all three. It's the pressure, the coverage... we've got to get better at it. We were able to do those things before and right now we're not executing. That is what we've got to get done."
A major concern for Archer was the big plays yielded by his defense. The Demon Deacons ran three successful reverses, with two resulting in touchdowns and the other a 12-yard gain on the opening drive. On that same drive Wake scored on a third-and-8, a 31-yard touchdown catch by wideout Michael Campanaro who broke tackles along the way.
"Obviously the big plays [are hurting us]," Archer stated. "It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure that out. It doesn't matter who you play against, you've got to eliminate the big plays. We gave up too many."
Wake Forest came out and max protected on obvious passing downs which limited the effectiveness of NC State's blitzing schemes. In the first half, Wake Forest converted on 5-of-8 3rd-and-long situations, which kept the Pack's defense on the field and led to multiple scoring drives.
Even more frustrating had to be State's inability to force turnovers. After forcing seven against Liberty, the Wolfpack had just one versus the Demon Deacons.
"They did a good job last week," Archer said of Wake Forest. "They did a nice job preparing for us and game-planning us. They threw the ball quick. We got one turnover and had [another] opportunity on the first drive. We knock a ball loose on a blitz, and it doesn't bounce to us. Part of it is the way the ball bounces too. We've got to keep working at it and hopefully we'll get our share of turnovers this week.
Some of NC State's lack of pressure could be attributed to the rash of injuries sustained along the defensive line. Returning starters Jeff Rieskamp and J.R. Sweezy accounted for all of the Wolfpack's returning sacks among defensive linemen entering the 2011 season, and both were out with injuries for the Wake Forest game. Top defensive tackle reserve Thomas Teal was sidelined as well and is out indefinitely with a foot ailment.
The Wolfpack started redshirt freshman Art Norman, who was making his first career start, and Brian Slay and Darryl Cato-Bishop were starting just their second games. Senior Markus Kuhn was the other starter, and the foursome is backed up by a group that is essentially playing the first major snaps of their careers in Sylvester Crawford, McKay Frandsen, A.J. Ferguson, and true freshman T.Y. McGill.
However, none of that matters to Archer, who believes that the job still has to get done.
"I'm not making excuses," he said. "The ones we have, they have to play. That's football. We've got some young guys that are learning the game, learning the pace of the game, and how hard you have to play.
"We have to be better there, and that's not the only area. We have to be better everywhere."
Next up for NC State is South Alabama, a program that began play in 2009 and is 19-0 but will be facing their first Football Bowl Subdivision opponent on Saturday. The Jaguars opened the 2011 season with wins over West Alabama and Lamar, and feature an offense led by quarterback C.J. Bennett and tailbacks Demetre Baker and Kendall Houston. As a unit they are averaging 353 yards per game while scoring 25 points per contest.
"We looked at them in the offseason last year, and they really tried to throw the football," said Archer. "Right now they are running the ball more than they are throwing the ball. In their two wins they've run the ball about 75% of the time. Now, is that going to continue on Saturday? We don't know. We have to be prepared for not only their running game but when they go empty and spread the field. We've got to be ready on both ends.
"They've got good athletes. They've got kids that can run, they've got guys that can throw it, guys that can catch it. They've got some young men who have transferred from D-I schools, and they've got some good football players. We have to go into this game with the idea that we have to play a lot better than what we did last week if we want to have a chance to win."
It seems an emphasis this week for NC State will be starting fast and coming out ready to play from the opening kickoff.
"If you're not ready to play you're going to get beat," added Archer. "You find [that] out every Saturday."