Saturday, November 2, 2013
12:30 pm (EST), ACC Network
North Carolina (2-5) at NC State (3-4) Nov. 2, 12:30, ESPN3
Why You Should Give A Hoot: North Carolina and NC State are hooking up for the 103rd time in one of the most storied rivalries in ACC football. The winner in Raleigh gets a jolt of hope for the bowl season, while the loser goes on postseason life support. The Tar Heels snapped a four-game losing streak with their best effort of 2013, suffocating Boston College, 34-10. With the softest part of the schedule ahead, Carolina has an opportunity to rally and finish strong in Larry Fedora's second year. The Wolfpack has dropped three in a row, and is in jeopardy of challenging Virginia as this year's worst team in the league. The program was outclassed by Florida State, 49-17, to start the campaign 0-4 in league play.
Why North Carolina Might Win: The Heels were tight on both sides of the ball last Saturday, limiting big plays and adeptly mixing in starting QB Bryn Renner with change-of-pace Marquise Williams. They're have been no signs of quitting from this program, which had unbeaten Miami on the ropes just a week earlier. Not much has gone right lately for Dave Doeren's kids, who are facing a crisis of confidence and execution as November arrives.
Why NC State Might Win: Despite last week's effort, Carolina can still be a very erratic bunch. The Heels have really struggled at stopping the run, which is what the Pack will attempt to exploit. Lost in the blowout to Florida State was a career day from RB Shadrach Thornton, who rushed 23 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns. The NC State offense, in general, ought to be more efficient now that QB Brandon Mitchell has a full game under his belt since returning from an injury.
Who To Watch Out For: Can a weak Pack O-line control the Carolina pass rush? DE Kareem Martin and Bandit Norkeithus Otis have really come on of late, regularly meeting in the opposing backfield.
- State will be looking for a big day from its own pass rushers, namely linemen Art Norman and Thomas Teal. If Renner has time, he'll carve up a very young secondary with darts to TE Eric Ebron and WR Quinshad Davis.
- Fedora is doing a nice job of employing the various skills of both of his quarterbacks. Not only does it keep defenses off balance, but it's going to immensely help Williams when he assumes the full-time role in 2014.
What Will Happen: Carolina looks like a different team these days, generally playing well in October, even when it was coming up short on the scoreboard. NC State, on the other hand, remains a work-in-progress. The Heels will make it two straight to climb closer to .500, as the combination of Renner and Williams outplays a still-rusty Mitchell.
Prediction: North Carolina 30 … NC State 20
Line: North Carolina -3.5 o/u: 57
Must See Rating: (5 All Is Lost – 1 Storage Wars) … 2
Finding Something That Works
Through an 0-4 start in conference play NC State is averaging a paltry 14 points per game. When the Pack hasn't turned the ball over or shot themselves in the foot with penalties, they've sputtered offensively and haven't been able to pin down anything that they can do well consistently.
The numbers are pretty depressing. State is 90th nationally in scoring offense and that includes a 40 point game versus Louisiana Tech and a 48 point effort against Central Michigan. Take away those two games and NC State falls to 117th with only seven teams ranked lower than the Pack.
In the ACC, State is next to last in scoring offense, passing efficiency and touchdowns scored.
At times State has thrown the ball well. On occasion they've been able to put up respectable rushing numbers. However, there has been no consistency. The Pack has been terrible on third down (38%) which means they haven't been able to extend drives.
The Pack has play makers. They just have to figure out a way to get those guys the ball whether it be in the short, quick passing game or through jet sweeps, reverses, whatever. State just has to figure out some type of offensive identity and give themselves something they can build on.
Running the Football
This has been a staple in keys to the game every week. The good news is State had one of its better rushing outputs of the year last week putting up 188 yards against Florida State. Of course the Pack lost 49-17 and much of State's success on the ground came at the expense of the FSU backups.
On the flip side, UNC gave up over 200 yards rushing last week against Boston College and won 34-10.
On the surface it would appear running the football isn't necessarily a key for NC State but the reality is that it's a huge facet of the Pack's game plan.
The Pack needs to run the football so they can throw it when they want to instead of throwing when they have to. With a struggling offensive line, obvious passing downs have killed the Wolfpack's offense.
In losses to East Carolina and Miami, the Heels averaged giving up better than 230 yards per game on the ground. It may be a stretch to say that NC State can put up those kinds of numbers but they must find a way to run the ball consistently and effectively.
State needs momentum on offense. It simply hasn't been there in 2013. There's been success in fits and starts but nothing consistent. The Pack is one of the nation's worst in red zone trips and is just as bad in converting with touchdowns.
The offense will have a rowdy home crowd on their side and they have to force Carolina back on their heels. Big plays would be nice but there's not a lot of evidence thus far in 2013 to say the Pack can execute. State's going to have to stay ahead of down and distance and play their best game of the year to come out with a win.
There are a few facets to the UNC offense that NC State will need to be cognizant of and defend on Saturday. The first is Carolina's passing game that will look to feature talented tight end Eric Ebron.
Ebron is having a good season, but he can be defended. In five of UNC's seven games he's been held to 70 or less receiving yards. Teams that have made him a focal point have defended him fairly well. His numbers have been enhanced by a 6-catch, 108-yard effort at Georgia Tech and the nationally televised, 8-catch, 199-yard performance vs. Miami.
What can make Ebron tough to defend is that UNC uses him in a variety of ways... he's not your standard tight end that will line up alongside a tackle. The Heels will flex him out in the slot, leave him singled up one side, or even line him up in the backfield. They do a great job of moving him around in hopes of freeing him up to make plays.
Make no mistake about it, Eric Ebron is UNC's top offensive weapon. NC State has to lock him up if they are going to knock off the Tar Heels.
Rough Up Renner... And Williams
In the passing game, Bryn Renner has been solid all season. The Heels don't ask him to do a lot vertically, and his completion percentage/accuracy is built on a lot of underneath routes and quick screens/slants, but he has been successful this year. He is completing 65.6% of his passes with 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
However, like most quarterbacks, he seems to struggle when he is roughed up early and when pressured, so NC State must be able to get to him, and teams have been able to. Renner has already been sacked 15 times this season... he was sacked just 11 times in 13 games last year.
The problem for State is UNC has now been using backup Marquise Williams more often and are actually running a two-quarterback system, so it won't come down to just limiting Renner, they have to stop Williams too.
More of a dual-threat, Williams is dangerous. He has passed for five touchdowns in spot duty, but has also rushed for another score and has 50+ yards rushing in two of the last three games.
The Wolfpack's defensive line has been the strength defensively and they must come up big on Saturday. They are going to have to win the trenches, and pressure the quarterback, for NC State to win this game.
Play Aggressive... But Smart
This game is going to be intense and played with plenty of emotion. North Carolina's coaching staff hasn't denied the fact that the game is critical to them and are coming in with confidence after last week's win over Boston College.
NC State must match their intensity and especially defensively. When the Wolfpack's been successful in this rivalry, especially recently, it's often been behind stellar defensive efforts (the 2011 13-0 victory in Carter-Finley Stadium comes to mind).
They played aggressive, but smart and under control. It's been stated before, they are going to have to pressure the quarterback and limit Ebron but also defend the running game. North Carolina hasn't had much success this season with the rushing game, but are doing better recently with the added element Williams provides.
A plus for NC State's defense is they have faced teams recently with willing runners at quarterback in Clemson, Wake Forest, Syracuse, and FSU. All four teams have mobile quarterbacks capable of beating you with their legs, and that is what Williams can do.
Finally, State has to prevent the "explosive" plays that can swing the momentum in a football game. They have to make North Carolina march up the field and score with extended drives.
NC State could leave Carter-Finley Stadium with their first conference win if they are able to excel in these areas.
QUOTABLES: Dave Doeren
Looking forward to being a part of a rivalry that's been around for over 100 years, 103rd meeting. Both teams are battling hard. I know it means a lot to our fan base, former players, current players and coaches. It will be a hard-fought game. I'm really excited to be a part of it.
I know it was against a lot of their second-teamers, but how important was the second half to your team in terms of bouncing back from that horrific first quarter?
It was important. We don't ever want to quit in a game. We came in there to execute and felt like we could run the football. We showed we could do that.
We're playing a lot of our second-teamers, unfortunately, too, with all our injuries. It is what it is. The first quarter was as bad as it could be. I challenged our players. I said, Look, we lost the first half miserably, let's go out and try to win the second half. Let's execute the game plan, get better on offense and defense, turnovers. We executed a surprise on-side kick. A lot better half of football.
I don't care who it was against, the way we played in the first quarter, we needed to go do that. I was proud of the guys for finishing the way they did.
Does the momentum of that carry over to this week?
Well, all year our guys have played hard. We need to execute better. Then I think that was a pretty solid showing of what a difference in execution can be. Everything we talked about was taking care of the ball, running the football, keeping our defense off the field against their offense. We did the opposite in the first quarter. Once we started to do what we needed to do, we did a good job for the most part of staying within what we tried to have from a game plan standpoint.
As a player, you've got to make plays when you're in the right position. You've got to execute the calls. As a coach, we always try to do the best we can to put our players in that position. I know playing like that in the third and fourth quarter will help. But playing our rival helps more. These guys are excited, energized by playing in a game like this against your cross-town rival.
You've watched tape of North Carolina this year. Have you put on the tape of last year's game?
Sure, I've watched it.
Wild game in terms of emotional swings.
Yeah, a lot of big plays.
Does that give you a sense of this rivalry at all?
Yeah. I think obviously the punt return kind of makes it one of those games that real memorable for a lot of reasons. I've been in a lot of good rivalry games. I knew when I moved here that being in a rivalry game that is only 30 minutes apart is unique. I remember when I was at USC, UCLA was right down the street, that was a really unique rivalry. This is similar to that. You run into their coaches all the time. Our players run into their players.
You can't go to a grocery store without seeing fans from both schools. It's very unique from that standpoint.
Excited and honored to be a part of it.
Carolina's two-quarterback rotation, what makes them difficult to account for to defend?
Well, starting with last week's game, they both played very efficient within what they asked them to do. Renner is an accurate passer, he's an experienced player. Has good timing with his receivers. He understands where guys are. Then Marquise, think settled in with some of the runs that he can do. He's reading it well. He understands how long to ride it, when to pull it, when to give it.
You just got to be prepared for multiple systems based on who's in there and be able to execute within the framework of your defense.
So it does give you a few more things to probably have to practice from that standpoint.
You had a really nice game from Shadrach Thornton. How would you assess the way he's come along for you this year?
Shad's really improved, not just as a player, but as a person. His demeanor, the day-to-day way he approaches what he has to do as a running back, the way he studies film, the way he's handling himself in the classroom. I'm really proud of the progress he's made.
He made some mistakes. He paid for them. He learned from them. Now he's reaping the benefits of maturing, growing up, taking responsibility.
How would you evaluate Brandon Mitchell's return. He got thrown into an inferno.
He did. Like I said, it's kind of a recipe for disaster for the kid. He played in two series against Louisiana Tech, who is really struggling as a team, returns against Florida State on Bobby Bowden, throws a pick on play two.
He pressed. Brandon wants to win so bad. I think it's a great learning experience for him being in a game like this that. He just needs to distribute the ball, give it to the right people, let his arm strength and mobility do the rest. He tried to do too much.
Their leading receiver's a tight end. Is that difficult or different when you know their prime target is a tight end and not a wide receiver?
Well, they're playing like a wide receiver a lot, too. He's like a lot like many tight ends you see these guys. He's a hybrid guy. He can put his hand down and block people.
He does a good job of that. They can split him out and put him on the backside of a three-by-one, or on the front side of a formation. They do a nice job of using him on the crossing routes.
Whether you're man or zone, you have to play with attention to him, understand how they use him. That's easier said than done because he's a very good football player and he's a big part of their play selection.
NC State Game Notes
Saturday's game will mark the 103rd meeting in the series between the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels. The rivalry, which began in 1894, is the Wolfpack's oldest among ACC teams and the fourth-most played series in the ACC.
When the series began, the two teams actually played twice a year for several years (1894, 1899 and 1901). The series moved to an annual basis for 1919 through 1943 and then after a three-year hiatus, the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels have played every year since 1947 with one exception.
In 1952, the game between the two teams was cancelled because of a polio outbreak on UNC's campus.
The Tar Heels hold a 64-32-6 overall mark over the Wolfpack, including a 27-14-4 advantage in Raleigh. However, NC State has won five of the last six meetings between the two teams and four of the last five at Carter-Finley Stadium. NC STATE VS. UNC The 19th century was all UNC. The 20th century was more even. But in the 21st century, the Pack has definitely ruled.
The Tar Heels posted a 6-0-1 mark against the Wolfpack in the 1800s, then posted a 53-24-5 mark in the 1900s. But since the year 2000, NC State has won eight of 13 games against UNC - four at home and four on the road.
PACK, HEELS PLAY CLOSE
In the past decade, when NC State and UNC have met on the football field the final scores have been fairly close. In fact, the average scoring difference over that time frame is just 10 points, while five were decided by seven points or less.
Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren has talked about building a wall around the state of North Carolina and keeping the in-state players at home. He's taken that a step further by fielding a team that boasts many local players seeing action.
On the current roster, 21 players are from Raleigh or Wake County. Of those 21 players, eight are listed on the two-deep and five have started games this season.
In the Davis household in Raleigh, some colors that usually don't seem to go well together are blending just fine. Pete and Debbie Davis certainly have a lot of red in their wardrobes, as their youngest son, Drew, is a redshirt freshman defensive end at NC State and they are always in the stands to cheer him on.
Their middle child is a basketball player, and when they go to his games, they have to wear that shade of blue that's not too popular among State fans. Luke Davis is a junior point guard for the UNC Tar Heels who played in 20 games last season.
Davis' oldest brother also attends UNC, as did his grandfather. Drew grew up pulling for the Tar Heels. Although his allegiance has obviously been reversed, he attends his brother's games at the Dean Smith Center frequently, which he says is "pretty awkward."
SADE SEES IMPROVEMENT
Just past the midpoint of the 2013 season, one player who could make a legitimate argument for team MVP would be junior placekicker Niklas Sade. Sade, who is the most experienced player on the team in terms of games started with 33, ranks fourth in the ACC in scoring for the season with 8.1 points per game.
His 13 field goals made in 2013 ranks second among league players while his .867 percentage on those kicks ranks fourth. He has already connected on as many field goals as he made in all of last season. In fact through seven games a year ago, he had only kicked seven FGs and posted a .700 mark. For the season last year, his mark stood at .565.
Sade ranks second in school history with 108 career PATs and needs just 11 for the school record. His 37 career field goals is the sixth best mark in the NC State record books.
Sade has been named a Lou Groza "Star of the Week" twice, is a two-time winner of the College Football Performance Awards "Placekicker of the Week" and was the ACC Specialist of the Week for the week of Sept. 7.
The third-best kicker in the country coming out of high school, he hit four field goals in the opener whch tied as the second-highest tally in school history and he personally outscored the entire Louisiana Tech squad, 16-14. Against Richmond, he connected on 46 and 19 yarders before nailing the game-winner from 48 yards with 33 seconds on the clock.
Graduate quarterback Brandon Mitchell's return to the field might not have come at the most auspicious time, as the Wolfpack was playing the No. 2 team in the nation on its home field, but following surgery for a broken foot, he was able to compete on 76 snaps and get his timing and rhythm back.
Mitchell completed 17 of 33 attempts for 128 yards to nine different receivers and was sacked three times in the contest. He ran 11 times as well.
Mitchell, a graduate student who transferred from Arkansas in July, appeared in 21 games for the Razorbacks, but had played wide receiver in 2012. He was named the starter before the season opener with Louisiana Tech and led the Pack on three promising offensive series - two of which were 65 and 75 yard touchdown drives. He completed all three of this throws for a quick gain of 93 yards before a broken foot sent him to the sideline where he has remained for the past five games.
THORNTON BREAKS LOOSE
One of the bright spots in the Pack's loss at Florida State was the play of sophomore tailback Shadrach Thornton. Thornton, who missed the first game of the season due to a suspension and did not break into the starting lineup until the fourth game of 2013, rushed for a career-high 173 yards in the contest, including a career-long 72-yard touchdown scamper. He was also the Pack's leading receiver in the game with five catches. That was the most rushing yards for a Pack player since 2006 and the 18th-best mark all-time.
Thornton's performance pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark for this career, as he know boasts 1,051 career rushing yards after only 16 games.
PLAYMAKERS RETURN TO LINEUP
One of the biggest obstacles that Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren knew his team would face in 2013 was a lack of depth. That lack was magnified after the Pack has suffered injuries at key positions earlier this season, but most of those players returned last week against Florida State.
At one point in the second half of the Syracuse game, seven of the Pack's starters for the season opener were out with injuries: Quarterback Brandon Mitchell, top two offensive linemen Rob Crisp and Joe Thuney, leading receiver Rashard Smith, defensive tackle T.Y. McGill, defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop and safety Jarvis Byrd. Add to that fullback Logan Winkles, the returning starter who was injured in preseason drills and several others who were hurt in the course of the game (QB Pete Thomas and CB Jack Tocho) and you have a pretty depleted Pack.
Against Wake Forest, the Wolfpack was without the services of its leading rusher and top two receivers. Freshman running back Matt Dayes, the team's leading rusher and touchdown scorer, dressed but was unable to go due to an injury. Freshman wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who was the leading receiver through the first three games did not play for the second straight game. Six plays into the game, Smith, who had taken Valdes-Scantling's place as the team's leading receiver, went down with an injury and did not return.
Each of those players, with the exception of Byrd, Crisp and Winkles, was available for the Florida State contest.
Fifty-six days into the 2013 football season, The Wolfpack left the state of North Carolina for a game when it traveled to Florida State to take on the No. 2 Seminoles last weekend.
NC State has played five games in Carter-Finley Stadium already in 2013 and Saturday's game will mark the first of three final home contests. The Wolfpack's only previous road game before the trip to Tallahassee was the quick bus trip down I-40 to take on Wake Forest.
The only other time the Pack will play a game outside of its home state this season will be on Nov. 16, when the squad heads north to take on Boston College. The only other road game will be at Duke on Nov. 9.
PUSH ‘EM BACK
The Wolfpack ranks 13th nationally in tackles for loss, with 54 stops behind the line (7.7/game) - including a season-high 12 vs. Clemson. One reason behind that is perhaps the depth State has at defensive line, where at least nine players have seen action in every game.
Seven games into the 2013 campaign, the Wolfpack has had five different players lead the team in rushing. Three running backs, a quarterback and a wide receiver have all earned top rusher billing this season. Seven State players have rushed for at least 100 yards, but none had reached the 200 yard mark until Shadrach Thornton's breakout performance at Florida State.
BYRD LOST FOR SEASON
Senior safety Jarvis Byrd suffered the third torn ACL of his career in the loss at Wake Forest and will miss the remainder of the season. Byrd, a member of the Pack's Leadership Council, had played 302 snaps and tallied 17 tackles before the injury.
TOCHO TAKES IT
The loss of Jarvis Byrd at safety has caused some shuffling in the defensive secondary. Dontae Johnson, who played safety as a freshman and sophomore, has moved back to that spot and true freshman Jack Tohco has moved into the starting job at corner.
Tocho didn't take long to make his presence known as a starter. The Charlotte native played 35 snaps in the Syracuse game before leaving with an injury, and during his time in the game made three tackles, broke up a pass and intercepted two others - returning them for 50 yards.
He had a pair of tackles and a pair of PBUs in 69 snaps at Florida State.
NO SUB FOR YOU
The Wolfpack's starters on the offensive line have not gotten a breather so far in 2013. Starting center Quinton Schooley has played every offensive snap of the season - a total of 497 (81.9 per game). Joe Thuney had played every snap prior to the Syracuse contest, when he had to exit with an injury after 38 snaps.
In three games this season (Clemson, Wake Forest and Florida State) all five starting linemen have played the entire game.
Four players went the distance in the season opener and against Richmond while three played the entire game against Central Michigan.
NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE
Who needs depth? We've got Joe Thuney! In 2013, two returning starters on the offensive line have lost time due to injury. The solution to both of those problems has been the same: redshirt sophomore Joe Thuney.
Thuney spent all of last season at center, where he played in eight games. He spent spring practice and preseason camp at right guard.
But when right tackle Tyson Chandler was forced to miss the opener with an injury, Thuney started in his spot. In the second game of the season versus Richmond, he was back at his regular spot - right guard.
Prior to the game against third-ranked Clemson, left tackle Rob Crisp went out with an injury. Thuney, who had never had played with his left hand down in his career, was the solution. He has now started each of the last five games at that position and against Central Michigan, posted the highest coach's grade of an offensive lineman all year.
The only position on the offensive line that Thuney has not played (so far!) is left guard.
In the preseason, there was much talk about how the Pack's new up-tempo offense hoped to wear down the opposing defense late in the game. Seven games into the 2013 campaign, however, it seems that it is the Pack's defense that is having that effect on the opposition.
In the 105 combined minutes of fourth quarter action through seven games, the Pack defense has given up an average of 53.0 rushing yards, 27.1 passing yards, and 80.1 yards of total offense. The Pack has forced 11 punts, three turnovers, and three times opponents have turned it over on downs in 26 fourth quarter opponent possessions thus far.
Only once has an opponent reached 50 yards passing in the final quarter this season (Richmond – 50).
In the season opener against Louisiana Tech, a team that led the NCAA in total offense last season, the Pack gave up just one first down, 2 yards rushing, and no yards passing. The Bulldogs had the ball for just 2:40 of the final 15 minutes, and were forced to punt twice and also had a fumble.
UNDERWOOD GETS INVOLVED
It might have taken speedy junior wideout Bryan Underwood a while to find his role in the Pack's new offense, but based on his yardage in the last five games, he seems to have figured it out.
In the Pack's first three games of 2013, Underwood caught eight passes for a total of 56 yards and did not have any rushing attempts. But over the last four games, Underwood's role in the offense has grown dramatically.
Underwood has been the Pack's leading in three of those four outings, pulling in 24 catches for 326 yards.
He has also seen an increased role in the ground game - in the last five games, he has rushed 12 times for 135 yards.
Underwood has scored just one touchdown this season - against Central Michigan - after scoring 10 a year ago.
PENALTIES PUSH PACK BACK
The Wolfpack's achilles heel in the first five games of 2013 was penalties. That trend has reversed in the last two contests, as the Pack, which had averaged 7.6 penalties in the first five games, has drawn just six yellow flags in the last two.
Almost 10 percent of the National Football League's starting quarterbacks are NC State alums. No other school in the nation can boast three starting signal callers in the NFL and only two other schools have two (Florida State and USC).
Philip Rivers, who still holds the ACC career record with 13,582 yards of total offense, is in his 10th season with the San Diego Chargers - his eighth as the starter.
Russell Wilson, who ranks eighth on the league's career total offense charts, was a rookie sensation for the Seattle Seahawks last season and is in his second campaign as the starter.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers recently named rookie Mike Glennon their starter. Glennon, a third round selection in the 2013 draft, ranks 30th in ACC history in total offense and was a two-year starter for the Wolfpack.
TACKLE BY CALDWELL
Senior linebacker Robert Caldwell has definitely made his presence known for the Wolfpack this season. The Pack's starting middle linebacker is ranked 12th in the ACC in tackles with 7.7 per game.
Against No. 3 Clemson, he had a dozen tackles and made three stops behind the line of scrimmage. Caldwell did not see action from scrimmage in 2012 after transferring from College of the Desert JUCO. He arrived to camp late from JUCO and did not have much time to learn the Pack playbook, but he did see action in every game on special teams.
NC State Depth Chart
NOTE: *- Indicates a player has redshirted a season.
|2013 NC State Depth Chart|
Thanks to NC State and UNC Athletics for much of the information in this preview.