Wolfpack Whips UMass, 56-24
Sept 28, 2002
By Tony Haynes
Raleigh, N.C.--No. 15 NC State's lopsided 56-24 victory over Massachusetts on Saturday afternoon was really no surprise. With its decided size and speed advantage at just about every position, the Wolfpack produced the rout everyone was expecting. But that's not to suggest, however, that Pack Coach Chuck Amato was ready to jump for joy after watching his team improve its record to 6-0 for the first time since 1991.
NC State was sluggish most of the afternoon and Amato wasn't happy about it.
"The word intensity has got to be there every day you practice and every day you play," Amato said. "Anything you do, if you don't have the intensity to do it you're going to look awfully sloppy and we looked sloppy today. They know it; at halftime they got quite a reaming, especially the defense. Our fans deserve a team that will go out on the field and be intense every snap that they're out there. We got better in the second half and then we started playing third stringers and people that haven't had any reps."
Even the usually unflappable Philip Rivers made a few decisions that were out of character. Though NC State's junior quarterback did throw four touchdown passes to four different receivers and completed 19-of-30 for 227 yards, he also tossed a pair of second half interceptions, one of which was returned 58 yards for a touchdown by defensive end Doran Davis.
But it was the performance of the defense that bothered Amato the most. Massachusetts (2-2) could have scored more than 24 points had quarterback Jeff Krohn not overthrown several open receivers that managed to get behind the NC State secondary.
"Jeff didn't play very well today," said Massachusetts coach Mark Whipple. "This was probably the worst game he's had. We had some receivers wide open and he missed way over the top. If he doesn't execute the game plan then there's no way we can win a game like this because we knew we couldn't run the ball. They're just too fast."
Krohn finished 13-of-36 for 194 yards and two touchdowns. Two of his three interceptions came right at the beginning of the game and completely eliminated any hopes UMass had of keeping it close.
On the third play of the game, Marcus Hudson picked off a Krohn pass at the Minutemen 35 and returned the ball four yards to the 31. Two plays later, freshman running back T.A. McLendon sprinted 18 yards on a sweep to the right to give the Pack a 7-0 lead.
On Massachusetts' next possession, cornerback Greg Golden intercepted Krohn and returned the ball to his own 42. NC State again took advantage, marching 58 yards for a second score. The ninth play of the drive was a four-yard scoring pass from Rivers to receiver Jerricho Cotchery. And when Rivers found Dovonte Edwards with another four-yard touchdown pass to push the Pack's advantage out to 21-0 with 2:27 remaining in the opening quarter, there was very little doubt about what the final outcome would be.
And perhaps that was a part of the problem. Armed with a 21-0 first quarter lead over an out-manned opponent, NC State often had trouble maintaining its focus and concentration. After Rivers connected with Chris Murray on a 15-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-0 early in the second quarter, UMass came back to score 10 straight points.
"We started off and did some good things, then we started slopping around," Amato said. "Maybe it goes all the way back to the coaches; maybe it's not all the kids fault."
But just as Amato was writing down some notes for his halftime lecture, sophomore defensive back Lamont Reid whizzed right by him on the way to a 97-yard kick off return that would give NC State a 35-10 lead at the break. Reid later added another touchdown return on Manny Lawson's blocked punt early in the fourth quarter.
"I was upset because they had scored on me (on a 29-yard pass from Krohn to Adrien Zullo)," Reid said. "Coming out on the kick off return I knew something had to happen. We always huddle up and we always say, `if you make the block, somebody will score.' When we were on the sideline we knew we had to make a block to make something big happen."
Reid's touchdown return was his second of the year, tying an ACC record that is held by six others. His return of the blocked punt in the second half was also his fourth special teams touchdown of the year.
After NC State grabbed a 42-17 advantage on a Rivers to Bryan Peterson touchdown pass from nine yards out in the third period, Amato lifted his starters and allowed some of his little-used back-ups to take it the rest of the way. Now the Wolfpack will get a bye week before it travels to North Carolina on October 12.
"We're going to give these youngsters some time off," Amato said. "They've been going hard; the freshman reported in late July and the varsity came in on August 1. They've been going strong for two full months without a little bit of a blow. We've got this open date and we're going to take advantage of it."
In his first start at tailback, McLendon delivered his second 100-yard rushing game in as many weeks. The Albemarle rookie had 117 yards on 21 carries including his 9th and 10th touchdowns of the season.
Senior Bryan Peterson had three receptions for 61 yards and has now caught at least one pass in 31 straight games. With a pair of blocked punts on the day, the Wolfpack has now blocked a total of 37 kicks dating back to 1998. NC State also recorded its third 50-plus point scoring game, the first time that's happened since 1973.