Wolfpack Hits the Road Again
Game 2: NC State Wolfpack at Connecticut Huskies
Of the Pack's 80 total plays in the game, 48 were passes and 32 were runs. The unbalanced ratio is significant because tailbacks Tony Creecy and Mustafa Greene both averaged 4.8 yards per carry against a Tennessee defense that occasionally looked vulnerable against the run.
"The running game is always the best friend of the quarterback," Bible said. "We feel like we're making strides and heading in the right direction as far as the run game is concerned."
This week, NC State will be facing a Connecticut defense that is coming off of a dominant opening night performance against UMass. In their 37-0 romp last week, the Huskies yielded just 59 yards of total offense and never allowed the Minutemen to cross midfield. UConn features a total of seven defensive players who are either in their fourth or fifth years, including speedy defensive end Trevardo Williams, a former sprint champion in high school.
It was just two years ago that Connecticut advanced to the Fiesta Bowl after winning the Big East Championship.
"It's a very senior football team," said O'Brien. "They're a veteran team on defense and the same is true up front on offense with a couple of redshirt seniors and two redshirt juniors. Both tight ends are redshirt seniors, so there's a lot of experience on the football team."
In his Connecticut debut at quarterback last weekend, junior college transfer Chandler Whitmer was 15 of 25 through the air for 219 yards. Whitmer wears No. 10 while 6-2, 224 pound redshirt sophomore Scott McCummings owns the number 11. Why is that significant? McCummings enters the game and takes snaps from center when the Huskies go to the `Wildcat' formation. State will have to do a good job of recognizing when McCummings is in the game and adjust accordingly. Out of the Wildcat, McCummings will either look to run himself or handoff on a `speed sweep' to receiver Nick Williams, who accounted for 140 yards of total offense last week.
"It's a totally different offense when [McCummings] gets in there," O'Brien said.
In the backfield, small (5-8, 166) but exceptionally quick redshirt sophomore tailback Lyle McCombs rushed for 1,151 yards last season.
Establishing the running game has always been the top priority of UConn's second-year coach Paul Pasqualoni, and there's no reason to believe this week will be any different.
"We've got to do a better job of running the ball," said the former Syracuse head coach. "We ran the ball for 140 yards or whatever it was, but our consistency with yards per attempt wasn't what it has to be."
To be exact, the Huskies rushed for 147 yards against UMass and averaged 3.4 yards per carry.
From 1991-2004, Pasqualoni turned Syracuse into a Big East power, winning 107 total games and four league championships. Even after posting a 5-7 mark in his first year at UConn last season, he is still the league's all-time winningest coach. When Pasqualoni was at Syracuse and O'Brien at Boston College, the two coaches met a total of eight times with the Orangemen prevailing in five of those matchups.
"I have great respect for the coaching staff there," O'Brien said. "I know they have a lot of guys who played in a BCS bowl a few years ago, so they've got some experience. They're not going to be intimidated by NC State coming up to Hartford, Connecticut.
This will mark only the second time NC State and Connecticut have met in football. The only other game between the two schools, on October 11, 2003, produced one of the most exciting finishes at Carter-Finley Stadium in the last 20 years when linebacker Freddie Aughtry-Lindsay intercepted a Dan Orlovsky pass and raced 56 yards for a touchdown with just five seconds remaining to give the Wolfpack a 31-24 victory. Aughtry-Lindsay's `pick-six' was his second defensive touchdown of the day, as he recovered a fumble and returned it for a 48-yard TD in the third quarter as well.
Wolfpack Sports Network coverage of Saturday's contest will begin at 10 a.m. with the Mathews Motors Countdown to Kickoff. Follow the network on Twitter and ask questions of our game announcers before and during the game @packradio.
Wolfpack Sports Network analyst Johnny Evans will be fielding questions from fans via Twitter or by email here.