Tony Haynes: Surging Pack Defense Gets Test at Maryland
By Tony Haynes
Raleigh, N.C. Maryland head football coach Ralph Friedgen probably didn’t feel any sympathy for NC State when defensive end Mario Williams left the Wolfpack after his junior year to ultimately become the first player taken in April’s NFL Draft.
After all, it was Williams who terrorized the Terrapins with four quarterback sacks in a 20-14 win that sent NC State to a bowl game last year and knocked the Terps out of postseason consideration.
Friedgen also didn’t mind seeing other Wolfpack defensive stars like Manny Lawson, John McCargo, Stephen Tulloch, Oliver Hoyte and Marcus Hudson taking their games to the next level. It was that same cast of characters, along with Williams, who held
Upon its return to the D.C. area for a kick off on Saturday, the Wolfpack (3-3, 2-1) will be trying to make it three wins in a row over
When Friedgen started watching NC State tape this week, he might have been surprised to see a unit that lost six players to the NFL during the offseason is still playing some decent defense.
“I think they’re younger,” said the seventh-year
And they’ve been particularly good the last three weeks. Since getting manhandled in a 37-17 loss at Southern Mississippi on September 16, the Wolfpack defense has bounced back with positive efforts against
Despite falling to
Wolfpack head coach Chuck Amato credits the inspired play of seniors Tank Tyler, linebacker Pat Lowery and corner A.J. for setting the tone.
“I think Tank cranked it up a lot in the
Held together by its seniors, the Wolfpack defense has started to round into form in recent weeks, a trend that must continue this weekend in
“The biggest difference is that we’ve cut down on the loafs and missed assignments,” said
Of course, there’s always room for improvement. One thing this NC State defense has not been able to do with regularity is take the ball away from its opponents. Through six games, the Wolfpack has forced just five turnovers. Generally speaking, teams that play as much man coverage as the Pack don’t get as many interceptions as teams who use more zone. That can partly explain why NC State has only three interceptions.
Of course, luck can also impact a team’s ability to collect turnovers. Twice in the fourth quarter two weeks ago,
“It gets kind of frustrating,”
There may be some opportunities this weekend. With eight lost fumbles and five interceptions over its first six games,
“I think we’ve gotten better,” Friedgen said. “Obviously, we were fortunate to win the game last week and disappointed we didn’t win the game the week before. I’m hoping our team will gain some confidence from how we’ve been playing and continues to improve. “I think we still have to get better in the throwing game and make more plays in the throwing game. There are plays that are there but we have to make them. We need to continue this balance. We need to be more wide open offensively, and defensively we need to do a better job in the running game and stopping the long passes.”
Quarterback Sam Hollenbach has hit 60 percent of his passes, but also has as many interceptions (5) as touchdown passes. Backs Josh Allen, Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore, who ran for 114 yards at
With tailbacks Andre Brown and Toney
“[The offensive line] loves to run block for Andre and me,”
The running game is also being complimented by the passing of quarterback Daniel Evans, who will be making his fourth consecutive start on Saturday.
The series between
“The first three years we weren’t supposed to win and we did,” said Friedgen. “They have won the last two. They have all been close games. I have tremendous respect for Chuck, his coaching ability, his recruiting, and the NC State program. I think we are both very good coaches, we work very hard at our job, and we are both very aggressive. I think there are a lot of similarities between us.”
NC State Injury Report:
LB Reggie Davis -- Neck Strain
QB Daniel Evans -- Concussion
DT DeMario Pressley -- Wrist
DE Littleton Wright -- Ankle Sprain