Thursday Football Notebook
Game 2: NC State (1-0, 0-0 ACC) vs. Wake Forest (0-1, 0-0 ACC)
NC STATE MEETS WAKE FOREST IN OLDEST SERIES: Saturday’s matchup will mark the 105th meeting between NC State and Wake Forest, making it the longest running series in Wolfpack football history. NC State holds a 62-36-6 record overall.
Groves Stadium has not been kind to State in recent years, as the Pack has lost the last four games played on the Deacons’ home field. The last Wolfpack victory in Winston-Salem was a 17-14 win in 2001. That was the only State win in the last seven tries at Wake.
NC State has won 15 of the last 22 meetings, but only one of the last five. Of the last 12 games played in Raleigh, the Pack has won 11.
PACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN FOR ACC OPENER: For the fifth straight season, Tom O’Brien and company will open conference play on an opponent’s home field. The Pack dropped the first three league openers during O’Brien’s tenure, but won handily in last year’s ACC opener at Georgia Tech, 45-28.
TEAM EFFORT IN OPENING WIN: The Wolfpack’s 43-21 victory over Liberty to open the season could truly be called a team effort, as the State offense, defense and special teams each put points on the board. In fact, of the team’s 43 points, one could say the offense scored 24 points (3 rushing TDs and 1 pass TD), the defense scored six (on a fumble return) and special teams scored 13 (one field goal, a punt return for a score and four PATs).
OPEN A BAKERY...: ... Because the Wolfpack is making turnovers. Or at least it did in the season opening victory over Liberty. State’s defense gave up 406 total yards in the win, but allowed just one offensive touchdown while forcing an incredible seven turnovers - a mark which tied the school record (South Carolina, 1983) and was the nation’s best for the first weekend of play.
The least experienced member of the secondary, sophomore quarterback David Amerson, picked off two passes in the contest (and barely missed a third), while junior Earl Wolff and D.J. Green also had picks. One of Liberty’s three fumbles was scooped up by defensive tackle Brian Slay and taken back for a score. Slay also recovered another fumble and caused one miscue.
GLENNON GETS UP: The most memorable statistic that came out of Mike Glennon’s first career start at quarterback was the ‘1’ in the win column. The remainder of his stats were respectable, as he completed 18 of his 31 attempts (.580) for 156 yards, threw for a touchdown and did not get picked off.
Glennon was sacked four times in the game, including a blind-side hit that jarred the ball loose (that fumble was returned for a touchdown). But most importantly, Glennon took his licks and got right back up, despite the fact that it was his first time getting sacked since 2009 (he was sacked twice that season) and his first full game played in almost four years.
The graduate student hit nine different targets in the game, including six wide receivers, two halfbacks, a tight end and a fullback.
Glennon, who is tied as the second-tallest QB in the nation at 6’6 was one of 22 FBS quarterbacks making his first career start in the opening week. Prior to saturday, Glennon had played in 10 games during his two years behind All-ACC signal caller Russell Wilson, but had been in for just 100 career snaps over two years. He saw action in 65 plays from scrimmage against Liberty.
Despite his lack of experience, he was named to the preseason ‘watch’ list for the Maxwell Award. He was ranked the No. 3 quarterback in the nation by ESPN coming out of high school and was the Gatorade and AP Player of the Year in Virginia. His older brother, Sean, played quarterback at Virginia Tech from 2004-08.
SLAYING THE OPPOSITION: Defensive tackle Brian Slay said on Saturday night after the win over Liberty that he’s always dreamed of returning an interception for a touchdown in front of the home crowd at Carter-Finley Stadium. But he said his fumble return for a score on Saturday “would do.”
The junior, who was making his second career start, scooped up a ball in the third quarter and returned it 52 yards to hit paydirt. That ranked as the fourth-longest fumble return in school history and the longest in 16 years. It also marked State’s first fumble return for a score since 2007.
For the night, Slay tallied six total tackles, including two sacks, and caused a miscue and recovered a second one.
WOLF PUPS SEE ACTION: Seventeen Wolfpack players saw their first career action in the win over Liberty, including eight redshirt freshmen, five true freshmen, two transfer and two walk-ons. Three players earned their first career start in the win: Veterans Mike Glennon (QB)D.J. Green (LB) and Darryl Cato-Bishop (DT) and freshmen Niklas Sade (PK) and Wil Baumann (P).
GOLDEN GRAHAM: Senior T.J. Graham has already made a name for himself as a kick returner. He entered the season as the school record holder in kickoff return yards for a single game (202), single season (1,028) and career (he now has 2,266). That career mark ranks fifth in ACC history.
Lately, Graham is picking up his pace as a punt returner as well. In the last four games (including last three games of 2010), he has posted two of the top six single-game punt return totals in school history. He had two returns for 88 yards and a touchdown in the 2010 win at UNC and had three for 88 yards and another score on Saturday versus Liberty. His big return in the opener was an 82-yarder, the 11th-longest in school history.
Graham now boasts 521 career punt return yards, the sixth-best mark in school history. He has tallied 3,486 all-purpose yards for this career, which ranks 10th on the Wolfpack career list.
GOING GREEN: Sophomore D.J. Green’s move to strongside linebacker for spring drills is already reaping dividends for the Pack early in the 2011 campaign. Green, who saw action mainly on special teams as a safety last season, “really played well” in the season opener according to head coach Tom O’Brien.
In the opener, Green tallied five tackles and picked off a Liberty pass. He posted the highest coach’s grade among the starting linebackers.
Green’s move also paved the way for veteran Audie Cole to make the move to middle linebacker, where he tallied a team-leading 10 tackles in the season opener.
YOUNG SPECIALISTS: Tom O’Brien has been in coaching for a long time - 36 years to be exact. But this season, his team has something that he’s never come across in almost four decades in the profession: true freshman starters at placekicker, punter and long snapper.
NC State is one of only two schools starting true freshmen at both kicking spots and the only school that has a rookie at all three positions: Niklas Sade at placekicker, Wil Baumann at punter and Scott Thompson at long snapper. Each saw their first action in the season opener - making NC State the only FBS school in the country that started true freshmen at those three positions. Sade was good on his only field goal, a 33-yarder, hit four extra points, missed one and had one blocked. Baumann punted seven times for a 36.4 yard average and placed two inside the 20 (his worst punt - a shank - actually was his longest, as it ended up rolling for a 50-yard measurement). Thompson had one bad snap on the missed PAT but was otherwise solid.
TROUBLES AFOOT: The defensive line is down two bodies following the season opener - both defensive tackles. Senior captain J.R. Sweezy underwent surgery two weeks before the opener for a broken bone in his foot and redshirt freshman Thomas Teal, who moved up the depth chart because of Sweezy’s injury, underwent surgery following the game Saturday night for the same injury. Teal was in for 15 snaps and had a four-yard sack prior to the injury.
NO RUSHING BACK: When the 2011 campaign kicked off, the leading rusher from last season, Mustafa Greene, was wearing a boot on his foot and sitting in the stands. The second-leading rusher, Russell Wilson, was playing for another team. The third-leading rusher, Dean Haynes, actually saw action, but was playing safety for the Pack.
NC State’s top returning rusher, is junior halfback James Washington, who played in eight contests last season rushing for 215 yards and started the season opener. Washington is one of only three returning players who gained yardage rushing the ball last season who return for 2011 (Curtis Underwood gained 63 yards and Mike Glennon gained 3). Washington averaged 54 yards over the last three games last season, starting the last four contests. In the opener he gained 67 yards on 14 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Underwood became the first State back to rush for over 100 yards since 2009 when he gained 114 yards on 14 carries in the opener. Underwood, who also scored a TD, had the longest rush of the game, a 35-yarder, but fumbled the ball at the end of the run.
The third back for the Pack is redshirt freshman Tony Creecy, who was in for just one carry, a seven-yarder.
DID YOU KNOW......?