HAYNES: Short Week for Pack
Sept. 13, 2010
Off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2002, NC State had very little time to truly enjoy Saturday night's 28-21 victory at Central Florida. After the Wolfpack's charter flight arrived back in Raleigh at around 3:00 a.m. Sunday, coach Tom O'Brien and his staff were right back in their offices just a handful of hours later. By midday Sunday, the players were filtering back into the Murphy Football Center to begin preparations for Thursday night's home game against Cincinnati (1-1).
Not only was Saturday night's game at UCF a physical battle, it was played in the heat and humidity of central Florida.
"It was pretty hot and muggy on the field," O'Brien said during his weekly press conference on Monday. "It drains you physically and it takes a couple of days to get your legs back. We had a lot of guys play a lot of plays there at the end and that's my biggest concern. We were sluggish today (at practice)."
Monday is normally a day off for the players, but with a Thursday night game looming against the two-time Big East champs, the Pack doesn't have the luxury of an off-day this week.
"It's tough to get going because we just played a game on Saturday," said offensive tackle Jake Vermiglio. "We started off a little sluggish today, but we picked it up towards the end of practice."
And while the energy level may have been sub-par on Monday morning, the level of optimism is running high following back-to-back wins to start the season. NC State has now put itself in a position to do something it didn't do in O'Brien's first three years: play winning football in the month of September.
The overall performance of the defense at Central Florida is another reason the Wolfpack was feeling upbeat on Monday. After basically outscoring its opponents in five wins last year, NC State was able to turn back the Golden Knights on an evening when its offense wasn't hitting on all cylinders. Central Florida didn't score its first offensive touchdown until the early moments of the fourth quarter.
"Our defense was just unbelievable," Vermiglio said. "They just played phenomenal.It was a great win for the team and we're just looking forward to playing Cincinnati on Thursday."
Said junior defensive end Jeff Rieskamp: "Everything clicked, everyone did their job and we got it done. The defense played well this week, but that's not to say that the offense isn't going to have to pick us up at some point during the year. We got the job done and we're ready for this week."
The 2009 NC State defense often had problems getting off the field because it had a league low in takeaways with 14, while also allowing opponents to convert 42 percent of their third down plays. On Saturday, however, the Wolfpack turned the tables, forcing four turnovers on defense (one of the total of five came on special teams) and holding UCF to just one third down conversion on 11 tries.
There was no word on the status of starting right tackle Mikel Overgaard, who never returned after injuring an elbow in the first half of Saturday's game at UCF. In the aftermath of Overgaard's injury, three different players - Sam Jones, Gary Gregory and Vermiglio -- all spent time trying to fill the void.
It was clear that O'Brien and offensive line coach Don Horton were searching for some stability on that side of the line, an in-game experiment that probably won't happen on Thursday night.
"Putting four different guys over there is probably something we shouldn't have done," O'Brien said. "I think it's better keeping guys where they are and be strong at the spots that you have and if you have a weak spot, not try to fix that spot at the cost of hurting another position. I don't think I'd do that again."
O'Brien is referring to the fact that Vermiglio moved to the right side for one series after spending his entire career at left tackle.
Cincinnati, which is fresh off back-to-back Big East titles, will come in with a 1-1 record on Thursday. After falling to Fresno State in the debut of first year coach Butch Jones two weeks ago, the Bearcats bounced back with a 40-7 demolition of Indiana State on Saturday. This will mark the first ever meeting between NC State and Cincinnati.