Pack Defense Continues to Improve
Sept. 15, 2012
RALEIGH, NC - While the N.C. State offense was running on all cylinders in the first half Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium, the Wolfpack defense was just as effective on the opposite side of the ball.
Coach Mike Archer's defenders went to the locker room at halftime, keeping South Alabama off the scoreboard with the Pack ahead, 28-0. At intermission the Pack had held the Jaguars to 21 net yards on the ground and 101 in the air. With the game well in hand and coach Tom O'Brien making full-scale substitutions in the second half, the Pack prevailed, 31-7. The Wolfpack has yielded just two touchdowns during the past two contests.
South Alabama finished the contest with 263 passing yards on 24 of 36 aerials and two interceptions. Rushing yards were difficult for the visitors - 23 rushes for 51 yards.
Junior defensive end A.J. Ferguson was instrumental in the State defensive effort with two quarterback sacks in the first 30 minutes.
Junior linebacker Rickey Dowdy recovered a South Alabama fumble off one of Ferguson's big hits. He also recorded a sack of his own in the second half. Dowdy was just glad to be back in the friendly confines of Carter-Finley. "It was good to be home and play our first home game. Everybody was glad to see us after playing two weeks away in a row. The atmosphere was great. The fans were great. We just had to come out there and play."
And not to be outdone, All-America cornerback David Amerson, who led the nation in interceptions in 2011, stole another enemy pass on South Alabama's first possession with the Pack already ahead, 7-0.
The 6-foot-3, 194-pound junior literally took Jaguar quarterback C.J. Bennett `s aerial away from his intended receiver on a third-and-15 situation at midfield - South Alabama's first possession. He now has 15 INTs for his career, just one away from the school record.
"I saw the ball and that he had it in his hands," Amerson quipped. "I just kind of ripped it from him. I guess it was good awareness. I think after the first game and the performance we put up as a team, we weren't satisfied with that, but we used that as motivation."
The Pack defense kept the Jaguars at bay in the third period as South Alabama could not advance the pigskin past the Wolfpack 29. The Jaguars finally moved deep in Pack territory and scored on an eight-yard aerial from reserve quarterback Ross Metheny to Jeremy Jones off a Pack blitz with 1:28 left to play.
Strong side sophomore linebacker Brandon Pittman from Raleigh led the defense with eight unassisted tackles and was followed by senior safety Brandon Bishop with seven. Commenting on the defense, O'Brien was pleased with that unit's keeping South Alabama 0 for 11 on third downs.
"That's a good stat," he pointed out. "Our defense did a good job all night until the fourth (quarter). It still leaves a bad taste in our mouths that they scored at the end, though."
The State coach was pleased that many subs got to play. "We tried working some more guys in there. We have still got some things to work on and will do that as we shift to prepare for The Citadel (next Saturday night at Carter-Finley)."
By George Cox