Gary Hahn's Scouting Report
Nov. 20, 2002
NC STATE (9-3, 4-3) vs. #14 FLORIDA STATE (8-3, 7-0)
DATE: Saturday, November 23, 2002
TIME: Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. (EST) at Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh, NC (51,500)
RADIO: Wolfpack Capitol Sports Network. AIRTIME: 2:30 p.m. (EST)
TELEVISION: ABC (Regional)
OPPONENT--So, what's new? Florida State claimed a share of the ACC football title on Saturday. Making only his third start and first at home, Adrian McPherson threw a career-high four touchdown passes as the 15th-ranked Seminoles rolled past North Carolina 40-14. In the 11 years the 'Noles have been in the league, they've won the top prize 10 times. FSU can earn a Bowl Championship Series berth and win the ACC title outright by either beating NC State or if Maryland loses any of its remaining league games.
The Seminoles are 3-0 and rolling since McPherson replaced Chris Rix at quarterback. With tailbacks Greg Jones and Nick Maddox out with injuries, Florida State relied on McPherson's arm against Carolina. The Tar Heels blitzed repeatedly. That left FSU's speedy wide receivers with one-on-one coverage, giving McPherson and the 'Noles opportunities to make big plays through the air. They didn't disappoint.
McPherson completed 5 of 9 passes for 112 yards in the second quarter, teaming with Anquan Boldin on touchdown plays covering 43 and 19 yards. Boldin finished the day by catching five passes for 104 yards. Xavier Beitia began the scoring with a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter and added a 31-yard kick midway through the third quarter that gave Florida State a 20-0 lead.
North Carolina (2-9, 0-7) cut the deficit to 20-7 in the third quarter when C.J. Stephens threw a 14-yard scoring pass to tight end Bobby Blizzard. Immediately the 'Noles countered with two touchdowns. McPherson lobbed a 4-yard strike to Boldin for a 26-7 lead, and on the next drive connected with Talman Gardner for a 20-yard score.
Rix, who lost the starting job after a loss to Notre Dame last month, came into the game in the fourth quarter and threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Craphonso Thorpe on his first play, giving the Seminoles a 40-7 lead. North Carolina added a late score on a 14-yard pass from Matt Baker to Danny Rumley with just 40 seconds left in the game.
Make no mistake, FSU is still the premier team in the ACC with the most quality depth. The 'Noles lead the league in total offense (428.6), first downs per game (22.4) and are No. 2 in the ACC in rushing (204.0), scoring (34.3), and turnover margin (+12). FSU has forced three turnovers in each of its last two games (GT & UNC).
Where the Seminoles appear to have dipped a little is on defense, but it's only a slight dip. FSU is an uncharacteristic fifth in the league in total defense (372.7) and next-to-last against the pass (244.9). Only North Carolina has given up more passing touchdowns than FSU's 19. However, the 'Noles are still good against the run (127.8) and have the ACC's fourth best scoring defense (22.2). FSU has 11 more quarterback sacks (25) than it totaled last season (14). Also, the change at quarterback has also seemed to help the Seminoles defense, keeping it off the field for longer stretches.
The 'Noles offensive line may be the best in the ACC. It's big and experienced. The smallest starter with the least experience is sophomore Ray Willis, the right tackle. He's 6-6, 295 pounds. The remaining starters are all seniors who each weigh 300 pounds or more with left tackle Brett Williams the leader of the group. Williams (6-6, 310), a three-year starter, was the ACC's top blocker a year ago. Center Antoine Mirambeau (knee) and guard Montrae Holland (ankle) were held out of the UNC game. The 'Noles offensive line has allowed 22 sacks this season.
McPherson (6-4, 180, So.), a former Florida high school Mr. Football and Basketball, is very athletic and is an accurate passer who makes very few mistakes. His 12 touchdown passes lead the team and he's thrown 97 consecutive passes without an interception. However, it is worth noting that against North Carolina, the Tar Heels had an opportunity to intercept at least five passes, but could not hold on to the ball. McPherson has also rushed for 178 yards and a 4.3 yards per carry average this season.
Boldin is McPherson's top target. He's fifth in the ACC in receiving with 51 catches and leads the league in touchdown receptions with 10. Gardner (34 catches, 8 touchdowns) is eighth in the ACC in receiving yards per game (50.6). Thorpe and P.K. Sam, both sophomores, and senior Robert Morgan are also very dangerous and skilled receivers. They've combined for 42 catches and 4 touchdowns.
The running game has been hurt by the departure of Greg Jones who was lost for the season in the ninth game with a knee injury. Senior Nick Maddox (6-0, 196) was held out of the UNC game with an ankle injury, but is expected to return to the lineup against NC State. Maddox is the ACC's seventh best rusher (57 ypg.) and has 4 touchdowns. He's also the team's No. 3 receiver with 18 catches. Third-string tailback, Leon Washington, a true freshman, stepped in for Maddox and was effective rushing for 56 yards against North Carolina.
Defensively, the 'Noles held Carolina (the ACC's top passing offense) to 19-of-50 passing for 230 yards and forced one interception. Senior defensive end, Alonzo Jackson (6-4, 250) added another sack to bring his team-best total to nine. Junior outside linebacker Kendyll Pope (6-2, 220) recorded a game-high 11 tackles and now leads the team with 102 total stops on the season. Fellow outside linebacker, Michael Boulware, is second on the team with 93 stops. During the three-game winning streak, Pope, Boulware, and middle linebacker, Allen Augustin, have combined for 113 tackles.
There are no seniors in the FSU secondary. Junior cornerback Stanford Samuels leads the 'Noles with 12 pass breakups and 3 interceptions. Second-team corner Bryant McFadden, a sophomore, also has 3 interceptions. Strong safety Jerome Carter, a junior, is the team's No. 3 tackler with 77 stops.
FSU's special teams are pretty solid. Senior punter Chance Gwaltney is No. 2 in the ACC with a 41.4 average. Beitia, a sophomore, leads the league in field goals (18 of 26) and in his two-year career is 8-of-12 from 41 yards and beyond. He's also kicked 71 straight extra points. Washington is the No. 3 punt returner in the ACC (11.0 ypr.) and has run back seven kicks for a 32.7 average and one touchdown. Thorpe and Gardner are also dangerous returners. Free safety, B.J. Ward, has 4 of FSU's 5 blocked kicks.
The Seminoles boat was sinking after a mid-season slump in which they lost 3 of 4 games. Now FSU has the rudder aimed in the right direction. That's not good news for a Wolfpack team that has averaged only 15.7 points and 87.3 rushing yards a game in the last three weeks, not to mention a minus-6 turnover margin. But, don't count NC State out. The Pack is the only ACC team to have beaten FSU twice in the last four years, so there is no intimidation factor working for the 'Noles anymore. Plus, it will be the final home appearance for the Wolfpack seniors who believe they have something to prove.
INJURIES--NC State: CB A.J Davis-Out, Fractured fibula; OG Shane Riggs-Questionable; Knee sprain; CB Marcus Hudson-Doubtful; Ankle sprain; TE Sean Berton-Probable; Broken hand; TB Josh Brown-Probable; Concussion; CB Victor Stephens-Probable; Knee sprain; LB Avery Gibson-Out; High ankle and knee sprains. Florida State: OG Montrae Holland-Probable; Ankle; TB Nick Maddox-Probable; Knee; C Antoine Mirambeau-Probable; Knee; TB Willie Reid-Probable;Shoulder.