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Saturday, October 31, 2009

I'm Out Of Theories, Answers And Ideas


(Photo courtesy The N&O)

I don't really know what else to say. Watching today's game was like having your leg pinned in the train tracks with a slow-moving train bearing down. The feeling of impending doom, with no recourse or means to avert it.

That, in a nutshell, is Wolfpack Football.

In what universe should a team lose a game in which they post 538 yards of offense? In which the starting QB throws for 349 yards and FIVE touchdowns? Where your team averages 7.8 yards per play?

All things are possible on Planet Archer...where Defense goes to die. Where the 10-yard cushion is the norm and player confidence drops to all-time lows.

When you watch your team rally to score a go-ahead touchdown with 3:50 and yet are convinced that the game is lost, that's the essence of N.C. State fandom these days. It's a sense of dread and despair, and it looks just as palpable on the players' faces on the field as it is on the faces of fans off it. You know it. I know it. THEY know it.

This game -- perhaps more than any we've played this season -- encapsulates the most frustrating aspect of Wolfpack Football. We have a ACC title-caliber offense that can score points in bunches...and we have a last-place-in-the-Mountain-West caliber defense that can't stop anyone.

It's the same old story for Wolfpack Football since the turn of the century: only one phase -- offense or defense -- can play at a high level, but not both. Philip Rivers never had a great defense to compliment him. Following his graduation, State led the country in defense the following year. State stocked the NFL with defensive talent in the final years of Amato's time on the sidelines, and when that talent pool dried just as Chuck the Chest was shown the door, one of the league's best QBs arrived -- only to get mated up with this pitiful excuse of a defense you see trot out before you every week.

Yeah, State's defensive backfield is thin. The whole team is. Nearly 12 percent of the team is lost for the year to injury. But that's no excuse for the poor defensive effort we see every week. Enough with telling us how the players didn't execute the scheme, coach O'Brien...it would take perfect execution on every single play JUST to generate a few three-and-outs. The players are executing the 10-cushion on the corners just fine as far as I can see. The players are doing what the coaches are asking them to do. I think they're as baffled as we are as to why they constantly are put into position to fail. Setting up off the ball on 3rd and short, gift wrapping the 5-yard slant EACH and EVERY time. When Thad Lewis of Duke can't wait to run back to the press to tell them how State fell right into their hands, showed everything in the game that State did on film and made it child's play to march up and down the field, THAT'S coaching. NOT execution.

Assuming the same results are in store the rest of the year, there are some tough decisions looming for O'Brien ahead. He's made his bed with Archer, calling out his players and shifting the blame away from his defensive coordinator. The excuses are wearing thin and there's only so much time before the fans shift their ire from Archer to him. The more O'Brien hunkers down in this matter and refuses to acknowledge the defensive coaching as a problem, the more he will alienate himself from the fanbase.

View the complete entry of "I'm Out Of Theories, Answers And Ideas"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Q&A With Chantrant.com


Heading into this weekend's matchup with Florida State, Rich from www.chantrant.com got in touch with me about doing a Q&A. Sounded good to me, so here are my questions for him and his answers.

1. This week's game is another strength vs. weakness matchup for State (Duke being the first) this season. Christian Ponder's one of the best QBs in the league and playing really well. It's also a bit of a strength vs. weakness matchup for Florida State, as well (Russell Wilson versus FSU's defense). Do you think the over/under should've been in the triple-digit range?
Not a gambling man, but I think it's going to be a great show, if you like your football with non-stop offensive fireworks. FSU has had at least three such games this season -- two were at home, both of which they lost by a TD or less. Unless rain has a big affect on the game -- there's a 50% chance of thunderstorms -- this will be another barn burner. Everybody knows that Wilson is an exciting QB, who can make things happen with both his arm and his foot. Ponder has a similar style. And both teams should have some fresh incentive: The Wolfpack with a week off to heal and prepare, and the Noles encouraged by the comeback win over UNC. So I expect a fun game for fans, and the winner just may be the team that touches the ball last.

2. Florida State's defensive back seven reminds me a lot of State's in their hesitancy to attack and their sloppy play. Why do you think that is? Are they thinking too much on the field?
Most FSU fans would say the back seven isn't thinking enough. Of course, injuries have been a problem at times, and not just in the secondary. With most of the D-linemen hurting or out at various times, there's been a major lack of a strong pass rush. That's given opposing QBs plenty of time to find receivers. But blame must also fall on coaches. First, for failing to teach and develop players as FSU has in the past. Second, for not recruiting enough quality and quantity of defensive talent over the last four or five years.

3. What's your take on the Bobby Bowden situation? Should the old man be allowed to call his own shot, or should be be shown the door as gracefully as is possible with a coaching icon?
As much as I revere Coach Bowden for all he's done, I don't believe it should be totally his call. The plan in place is that Head-Coach-in-Waiting Jimbo Fisher replaces Bowden by January of 2011 or he receives a $5 million payoff. If Bowden wants to remain head coach after that, the spam hits the fan. I don't believe the boosters or the school, no matter how much they love Bobby, will dig deep into their pockets so that Bowden can stay. I'd be surprised if he steps down at the end of this season. But I'd be shocked if Bowden is still the head coach in 2011.

4. Does Florida State have a run in them to close out the season? Other than probably the Florida game, every game on the schedule is winnable. How do you see FSU's final record shaking out?
My best-case scenario is a 7 - 6 record and a bowl invitation. But I wouldn't bet the farm on better than 6 - 6 (which should still be good enough for the Weedeater or Meinke Bowl). If the Noles win less than six, though, it'll be the first time they don't go bowling since Ronald Reagan's first year as President. A final record of 6 - 6 would include wins over Wake, Maryland, and, of course, this Saturday against the Pack. But it would take a 180 degree turnaround by the defense for FSU to earn W's on the road at Clemson and Florida.

5. When (if?) Jimbo Fisher finally takes the reigns of the FSU program, can you see it returning to the level it was at in the 90s?
Realistically? Probably not. It's a good bet that Bowden's record of 14 consecutive Top 5 finishes will never be duplicated. Not at FSU or anywhere else in college football. But Jimbo Fisher will be a solid, if not flashy, head coach who will install a new defensive staff, recruit well, and guide a balanced offense. Under Jimbo, I see FSU becoming to the ACC what LSU is to the SEC. That is, a team consistently in the hunt for a conference title, with big seasons now and then that put the Noles in the national championship race.

View the complete entry of "Q&A With Chantrant.com"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ACC Roundtable: Halloween Edition


It's ACC Roundtable time again. This week, Joe Ovies of the soon-to-be 620 The Buzz (formerly of the soon-to-be-dead 850 The Buzz) is hosting. Following are his questions and my answers.


1. Now that we're in the home-stretch of college football, we have enough material to begin campaigns for ACC coach of the year and player of the year. Who ya got and why?
I've gotta go with Frank Spaziani for coach of the year at this point. Damn if I didn't just assume along with everyone else that -- in the wake of the Jagodzinski nonsense and lacking a quarterback of any real note -- Boston College surely would've fallen flat on their face and stunk it up. But man, like the original Terminator (early 80s Arnold 1.0), BC just keeps on coming, no matter how many times you try and smash it in a hydraulic press. They currently lead the Atlantic Division, and while they've got a tough stretch ahead, they continue to find ways to win. I think you have to credit Spaziani with keeping the momentum going in Boston.

As to player of the year? It changes every week, depending upon whom State played.

2. Would your 2009 ACC coach of the year stand a chance in the SEC battlefields of recruiting and gameday management against the likes of Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, and Lane Kiffin?
Um, no. But there I go again…doubting BC. The mere fact that I don’t think Spaz could do it probably means he would excel at it and laugh in my face, taunting me with his mustache.

3. Getting away from the breathless week-to-week win/loss reactions such as "OMGZ!1!JUAN! WE WON, BCS NEXT!" or "WTF, WE'RE DA SUX. FIRE COACH!", where is your head coach in 5 years. If no longer with your school, how does the exit go down?
Tom O’Brien will be here in five years, barring a total collapse. He’ll retire at some point after the five year mark, but whether that’s on good terms with the fans or not is up for debate at the moment. I think he very much can right this ship, but I think hiring an old friend in Mike Archer who plays a defense that just does not get the job done could be his downfall if he’s unwilling to make a change at some point, if needed.

4. Coffee is for closers only. Which means plenty of ACC teams are walking around with empty cups after failing to finish off opponents or lock up divisions. As the worst offender, who gets the steak knives?
I thought third place was “you’re fired.” A set of steak knives looks pretty good by comparison. I think the two programs without a conference win at the halfway point – State and Carolina – are the two most egregious underperformers at this point. Both were darkhorse candidates to win their divisions, but after State’s waxing at the hands of Duke and BC and Carolina’s epic collapse against FSU, both teams look about a 1,000 miles from where they could’ve been this season.

Florida State was in the mix, but they "closed" against BYU and Carolina, so they avoid this dubious distinction.

5. Bob Griese wants to take you and Juan Pablo Montoya out for tacos. Where's the best joint in town?
I’m so unplugged from my college days at this point…is Baja Burrito still open at Mission Valley? I have fond memories of those big, sloppy tacos and burritos, long before Moe’s and Chipotle Grill moved in and "big-boxed" the Tex-Mex experience.

View the complete entry of "ACC Roundtable: Halloween Edition"

Motivation, Thine Enemy Is Wolfpack Sports


Ugh. Can someone reboot me or something? I just...cannot...think...of...anything blog worthy.

We suck on defense. Boom. Blog.

We have abandoned the running game. Boom. Blog.

Coach O'Brien is sticking by Coach Archer, his scheme and his insistence that everything is fine on the coaching side of the equation. Boom. Blog.

I mean, this sounds like a total cop out, and it is, so I cop to the cop out, but there has been nothing of late that has occurred within the confines of campus that strikes me as worth writing about. It's all been hashed, rehashed, browned, smothered, covered, chopped and diced a 1,000 times by a 100 different outlets already.

Hell, the most excited I've been about N.C. State this week was when Adrian Wilson gave a shout out to Philip Rivers during an interview on the Jim Rome show.

Sadly, though, his shout out only reminded me that we never truly capitalized on their talents when they were here in the red and white, and frankly Rivers -- if not Wilson, too -- probably doesn't give more than two craps about the state of State football these days. They left for greener pastures and haven't looked back.

I could be projecting with respect to Adrian Wilson, but of our four "superstar" alums in the NFL (Wilson, Rivers, Mario Williams and Torry Holt), only Holt has been truly open in his love for his alma mater. Ironically, Holt's admission of still pulling for the Tar Heels in basketball -- the team he grew up rooting for -- caused some State fans to turn their backs ON HIM. He being the one that has worn State gear in rap video and in press conferences and hosts a charity bowling and golf tournament here in Raleigh to benefit his mother's foundation. Ridiculous.

So I guess I'm stuck in this recursive spiral of loathing and self-loathing with respect to State sports. It's sapping my will to write. I need a win this weekend -- a GOOD win, a win against a GOOD team in a convincing fashion -- to pull me out of it. That's all I ask, Tom.


View the complete entry of "Motivation, Thine Enemy Is Wolfpack Sports"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BlogPoll: Week 9


Discuss. One team of note: Check out #15 on the ol' poll, the Pittsburgh Panthers, sitting there with just one loss at 7-1 thus far. You think the folks in Pittsburgh don't look back at that game against State, then at the total disarray State's in, and think to themselves "GRrrrrrrrrrrgrumblegrumblearrgl DAMMIT!" (or something to that effect)?

1 Florida
2 Alabama
3 Texas
4 Southern Cal
5 Iowa
6 Cincinnati
8 Boise State
10 Georgia Tech
11 Oregon
12 Penn State
13 Virginia Tech
14 Oklahoma State
15 Pittsburgh
16 Houston
17 Ohio State
18 Utah
19 West Virginia
20 Miami (Florida)
21 South Carolina
22 Oklahoma
23 Arizona
24 Mississippi
25 California

View the complete entry of "BlogPoll: Week 9"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Getting Back Into The Flow Of Things...


I feel like a kid in elementary school trying to go back after missing a month with mono...I almost don't know where to begin.

So I'll start with this: Football begins play again this week, and as you've no doubt already heard, freshman tailback James Washington was put on the shelf for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Washington becomes the 10th player for the Pack to be lost for the season. Per this list compiled prior to the BC game, TE Mario Carter (knee), LB Ryan Cheek (hip), OL Denzelle Good (shoulder), LB Nate Irving (leg), FB Colby Jackson (knee), QB Everett Proctor (shoulder) and S Javon Walker (knee) and now Washington are all lost for the season.

This is now the third year in a row of the O'Brien tenure. It's also the third year in a row where State's ranks have been thinned abnormally so due to injury. It's past time, I think, to start viewing this no longer as an aberration but a trend. Something is causing these season-ending injuries to occur at a faster-than-normal rate, year after year. It looks like something we can expect to continue from here on out under O'Brien.

I hate to speculate, but the only real theory I have centers around the strength and conditioning program. It seems like the only variable directly tired to the health of the team, and if you recall, O'Brien brought S&C coach Todd Rice with him from Boston College. But even if that theory is correct, the question that follows is: Ok, now what? What can you do?

You can bring in a new S&C department, I guess. Hire a new coach with a more traditional focus on strength over flexibility. Would that solve the issue? There's no guarantee. If you hire a new guy, let him go to work and the injuries continue, well, then what?

So we're left with nothing logical left to do to address the issue except hope and pray that this trend--no longer and aberration--ceases at some point sooner rather than later. In the meantime, get well James, Rashad, Jeff, Mario, Ryan, Denzelle, Nate, Colby, Everett and Javon.

View the complete entry of "Getting Back Into The Flow Of Things..."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Apologies


Sorry for the sparse week this week, folks. The wife contracted what most likely was the H1N1 and then spread it amongst the family, so this week has been spent resting, hydrating, and spending far too much money on Tamiflu.

Couple that with State's embarrassing performance on Saturday and it hasn't exactly inspired me to pop off the couch to opine on Pack football.

Once things return to some sense of normalcy, the blog should follow suit.

View the complete entry of "My Apologies"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Holy Hell...Is It Basketball Season Already?


I guess so. Damn, I'm getting old.

I bet when you're 80, a month feels like a freaking week. No wonder old people eat dinner so early...the speed of life must seem like a 1,000 miles an hour. The quicker you eat, the quicker you can get to bed and stop the madness.


Here's a great read from Andy Katz on State's two title-winning alums trying to get the team back to glory.

View the complete entry of "Holy Hell...Is It Basketball Season Already?"

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ACC Roundtable: Midseason


Jim Young of ACCSports.com is hosting this week's edition of The Roundtable. Jim's offered up six questions to all of the participating bloggers, and following are my answers:
Most of the ACC has now reached the halfway point of its season. On a scale of 1 (I’m rounding up pitchforks, torches and a mob to storm the football office) to 10 (I’m selling of organs to raise money for a statue of the coach) how do you feel about your team’s performance thus far?

I'm at about a 5. I suppose that's appropriate for an even-keeled guy like O'Brien. I think a lot of State fans felt like this would be the year we turned the corner and got 8-10 wins, and since the rest of the Atlantic Division is down this would've been the perfect season to take that big step forward. But losing Nate Irving at the beginning of the year was huge and the defensive play has sucked accordingly. The offense has been good enough to win, but the defense can't keep the opposing teams off the field. So give the offense an 8, the defense a 2, and average them out for a very O'Brien-like 5.

Give me the best case scenario for your team the rest of the way. Then give me the worst case.

Best case: State wins out. Somehow, with his feet in the fryer, Mike Archer lights a fire under this defense and they play lights out the rest of the way. They shutdown BC, gain confidence and play with the aggression and ball-hawking skills we saw when Nate Irving was captaining the ship. After four key Atlantic Division wins, State stuns VT in Blacksburg much like they did in 2004 on a late missed field goal by the Hokies and the Pack finishes the season 9-3 with a crushing of the Heels in C-F.

Now, with that daydream behind me, the nightmare scenario: State's defense actually regresses the rest of the way as Archer and O'Brien keep tinkering with the lineup, rotations and scheme to try to find something that works. Teams continue to use the Duke blueprint (five-yard outs) to rack up huge passing yards. Russell Wilson goes down to injury, Mike Glennon comes in and looks like his brother Sean and the saving grace of the team -- the offense -- grinds to a screeching halt. State loses all its remaining games to finish a very Mike O'Cain-ish 3-8. Fans burn their Lifetime Rights contracts and then toss themselves from the top of Vaughn Towers, Lee Fowler is installed as the new chancellor of N.C. State and pushes the Board of Governors to rename the school "The University of North Carolina -- Raleigh." State's remaining fans are sold into indentured servanthood to Dick Baddour and are sent to work hand-cleaning every square inch of Kenan and The Dean Dome while Fowler lords over his dream school: One without fans.

That would be about as bad as it gets.

Because it’s my turn to host the roundtable and I like fantasy football, I’m going to ask a few questions with that theme. First, you’re in an ACC keeper league. Which three players on your team do you designate as keepers for next season? (Obviously this rules out seniors, except for Riley Skinner, who I assume has six more years of eligibility remaining)

1. Mike Glennon
2. George Bryan
3. Nate Irving

I think this is Russell's final year with football. He'll graduate this Spring, be a featured member of the State baseball team and realize that all the abuse and pounding he took on the football field isn't worth it when there are potentially big, guaranteed dollars out there for a player with his skillset. Certainly it all depends on where he's drafted by the MLB and what kind of potential cash is there, but assuming he does well this year, stays healthy and is drafted in a high round, I don't think football will make enough sense for him to return for his junior season.

Let’s do the reverse of this, with coaches. You’re forced to drop one member of your team’s coaching staff. Who gets the axe? (Head coaches or assistant coaches are eligible here)

Tom O'Brien -- "Everyone who wants to remain a part of the N.C. State football coaching staff for 2010 step forward. Not so fast, Mike Archer."

Let’s say the rest of the ACC is available via free agency. Who’s the one player from the other 11 teams that you’d most like to add to your squad?

Since State is in desperate need of help defensively in the back seven, I'll take Sean Spence from Miami. I think he's enough of an athlete to elevate the play of those around him in the same way Nate Irving did for State last season.

Finally, we’ll stage a mock draft of ACC quarterbacks. Who are you taking with the first pick, and why? And who would you get stuck with if you had to pick No. 12?

I think we're good. Russell is still the most versatile QB in the league, in my opinion, and does more damage in both phases of the game (passing and rushing) than does a Jacory Harris or a Tyrod Taylor. As for the 12th pick, I'd probably take whichever option BC decides to run out there in a given week. Dave Shinskie looked like he was getting it after a couple of games, then ran into the VT defensive juggernaut.

View the complete entry of "ACC Roundtable: Midseason"

Q&A With Eagle In Atlanta


One of Boston College's more well known bloggers, Eagle in Atlanta, got in touch with me this week about doing a Q&A leading up to the Boston College game.

You can find my answers to his questions here and his answers to my questions below:

Dave Shinskie looked like he'd wrapped up the quarterback position heading into the Virginia Tech matchup but struggled mightily in that game. Mike Marscovetra came on in relief and went 10-for-16 with two touchdown passes. Is the quarterback position still up for grabs this late into the season? If so, who's your preferred choice?

The QB situation is definitely up for grabs. The coaching staff really likes Marscovetra, but being an 18-year-old true freshman is different from being a 25-year-old baseball refugee. I think they went with Shinskie because of his maturity and arm strength. Those qualities should have helped him in an environment like Lane Stadium. However, he has not played well on the road so far in his career.

I expect Shinskie to start this weekend and he deserves the chance. He looked very good in the Wake and FSU games. He moves well for a pocket passer and has a good release and good touch. I think Shinskie's biggest challenge is football smarts at this point. He hasn't played in a while and certainly not at this level. He admitted that VT's schemes confused him. Now that he is back at BC and facing a less intimidating D, we will see if last week was just a rough day or a sign of things to come.

I expect Marscovetra to play too, but in a more limited capacity.

Since we're comparing coaches, what's your take on The 'Stache (Frank Spaziani) and the job he's done so far? Is there any bitterness still about the way things went down with Jeff Jagodzinski and GDF? How have those wounds healed thus far?

I am trying to give Spaz the benefit of the doubt. I didn't like the hire at the time and his game management has been spotty so far (in my opinion). We had pathetic offensive performances against Clemson and Virginia Tech and nearly blew home games to Wake and FSU after establishing early leads. But he is 4-2 and has the team in contention. If he keeps winning there will be less to complain about.

Most BC fans have already forgotten Jags. The ones who follow these sorts of things closely remained divided. The people with bitterness towards our AD for firing Jags are a vocal minority. Those Gene critics will probably not go away unless Spaz -- Gene's handpicked guy -- wins big.

ESPN's Gameday was on-site in Boston two weeks ago. Were you able to be in attendance? If not, what was your reaction when Mark Herzlich announced that the cancer was all but gone?

I was not in Boston for GameDay. As you can guess from the name of the blog, I don't get to that many BC home games. I did go to the Clemson game and will be going to the Maryland game later this season.

Obviously the whole BC community was thrilled with Mark's prognosis. Word had leaked through a few different sources that his scans were good so the announcement on GameDay was not a total surprise. Yet BC fans couldn't have asked for a better day or a better representative of the school.

Give me your prediction for Saturday's match up.

I am really torn. I know TOB. And while he has many faults and choked when he had the chance to take BC to the next level, there are two types of games that he always seems to respond to. One is the rivalry game. He knows that he appeases the masses with those wins (so you can expect to beat UNC as long as he is there). The other game he always managed to win was the stop the bleeding game. This type of game is a little harder to describe but the jist is that any time his butt was on the line or things were falling apart, he'd get a much needed win. All that is subjective, but consistent with TOB's performance.

On the other side of the field you have Spaz. He needs this win too and supposedly has been prepping for this game since the minute that schedules were announced. Because Spaz has put so much emphasis on this game, I think he better win. Losing would cause him a lot of pain in the AD's office and among the fanbase.

I think we are in for another high scoring affair with BC pulling away in the 4th quarter 38-28.
Both he and I are expecting a lot of offense in this weekend's game. I predicted a score of 34-31, State. That means, of course, that the game will surely end in a 6-9 slugfest.

View the complete entry of "Q&A With Eagle In Atlanta"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back


Somewhat lost in all the justified gnashing of teeth following the Duke loss was this little factoid: State committed ZERO penalties. This was, of course, in stark contrast to the prior games against Wake Forest and Pittsburgh in which the Pack committed eight and 12, penalties respectively. The closest State had come to playing penalty-free football prior was the four penalty performance in the opening game against South Carolina.

It doesn't change the "L" to a "W," of course, but there's no one complaining about it. You have to think that playing mistake-free football was a point of emphasis during practice the week leading up to the game. To the team's credit, they took heed.

But if State is to become a better football team -- one that plays up to and above its talent level -- the course of the season can't be spent addressing a new glaring issue each week.

After the first week loss to SC, the issue was offensive line play. South Carolina shredded our line and sacked Russell Wilson six times. During the next three weeks as the Pack destroyed its FCS competition, you could tell offensive line play was a point of emphasis. Sure enough, the offensive line looked like a new unit against Pitt's athletic defensive front, limiting the Panthers to just one sack while State racked up 530 yards of offense.

But with the offensive line issue seemingly fixed, the penalty bugaboo made its presence known against Pitt with the aforementioned 12 penalties. The penalties decreased the following week against Wake but were more damaging -- the brain-dead, drive killing/extending kind.

State puts a goose egg in the penalty column against Duke but now faces its third glaring issue of the year (one that's been there since the Pitt game, truthfully): defensive woes. Specifically, poor tackling and lack of aggression.

The scheme is to blame for a good bit of it, particularly the ease with which Duke completed five-yard outs, but the scheme doesn't prevent a player from making tackles or pressuring the opposition when they squat down in the zone. Too many times the State players would drop into coverage on their heels, waiting for the pass to be thrown before making a move toward Thad Lewis' intended target. Rarely, if ever, did State's defenders anticipate the throw.

Even more alarming is that State switched to a man defense in the second half to adjust. Couldn't tell? Don't worry...not many folks noticed, either. The film of State's "man" defense in the second half could very well be submitted to coaching clinics on how not to play man defense. Entitle it: "How To Play Man So Soft They'll Think You're Playing Zone!"

So here we are at the midway point with yet another large, glaring issue waiting to be solved. So far, the coaching staff has seemingly fixed the offensive line issue, and subsequently the penalty issue. Can they fix this one in time to salvage a bowl bid? Moreover, can they fix it without creating more problems along the way? Or will a fourth glaring issue of the season arise against Boston College that requires another week or two of practice to correct, just in time for the conclusion of the season?

View the complete entry of "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back"

Monday, October 12, 2009

Hey, Wanna Make Your Blood Boil?


Then head on over to Backing The Pack, where Steven's done an excellent job of breaking down film on State's defensive non-performance from Saturday.

He even included a clip of quite possibly the most maddening defensive play you'll see all year -- the five-yard-out in the third quarter that turned into a 21-yard pass play following the blown tackle by Rashad Smith. This was the play that unleashed a volley of pent-up boos the folks in Carter-Finley had been itching to fire off all day long.

View the complete entry of "Hey, Wanna Make Your Blood Boil?"

BlogPoll: Week 7


View the complete entry of "BlogPoll: Week 7"

So yeah...FAIL


Ugh. Let's just get this over with.

Reasons we lost:

1. Defense, defense, defense. Where was it? It certainly wasn't on the field Saturday. I've been hemming and hawing about whether I felt Mike Archer's system could work, but after two weeks of watching a good quarterback pick it apart, I'm convinced that this bend-don't-break, umbrella, soft zone, whatever-you-want-to-call-it defense will not work on a consistent enough basis to stick with it for the long haul. The reason is simple: Good quarterbacks can pick it apart. We've seen it two weeks in a row now. And if State wants to reach the level of an ACC title contender, they're going to face plenty of good quarterbacks along the way. If we have to bank on beating only the teams with young/subpar quarterbacks, you can forget about any title aspirations.

2. Abandoning the running game at key times: More specifically in the fourth quarter, down two scores, when State elects to pass on 2nd and short in two possessions that ultimately result in 3-and-outs.

With 11 minutes to go in the game, on 2nd and one, with State averaging over six yards per carry, Dana Bible dials up a pass play that results in a nine-yard sack to Russell Wilson. State can only get four yards on 3rd and 10, and needing two scores to tie the game, State elects to punt instead.

On the following possession with 7:17 on the clock, State gains eight yards on first down, then instead of turning to the ground to pick up the remaining two yards, State goes back to the air. The pass is incomplete, setting up third and two. State gains one yard on third down and is then stoned on fourth and one to seal the deal for Duke. Is there a chance that Duke stops State all three times on the ground? Sure, but in a 2nd and short situation where you've shown a willingness to pass, my guess is the likelihood of converting there is greater when your offensive options are more varied.

If you have 2nd and one and are gaining huge chunks of yardage on the ground, there's no reason to try and pass the ball in those situations. Passing on 2nd and short can yield some big plays if the defense is geared up to stop the run, but typically those are gambles you take when the game isn't hanging in the balance. If you take a sack on 2nd and one in the first quarter with the score tied, so what. Big deal. Down two scores midway through the fourth, however, you take two or even three cracks at getting those few yards on the ground and keep the drive going.

Credit the Blue Devils for stopping the run when it counted, though, in the obvious running downs.

3, 4 and 5: Special teams gaffs, poor tackling and lack of pressure on Thad Lewis.

There's probably a handful of others, but I don't really care to relive this game through the box score any more than I have to. Now it's on to Boston College in the "Battle Of Teams Who Got Humiliated The Week Prior."

View the complete entry of "So yeah...FAIL"

Thursday, October 8, 2009

So yeah...Duke


Despite my relative lack of activity here on the blog, State nevertheless plans to host the Blue Devils this weekend on new turf with a revamped secondary.

Duke's aerial attack + State's tweaked secondary could = bad news for State, particularly if the issues that plagued the Pack against Wake Forest continue (poor tackling, stupid drive killing/extending penalties, etc.). You know David Cutcliffe and the offensive staff of the Blue Devils had to be drooling when they got the film from the Wake game. Mike Archer's "umbrella" zone coverage gives QBs plenty of opportunities for quick outs and slants when the Pack's corners set up 5-10 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Three things to look for this weekend:

1. A sense of purpose on defense. Against Wake, the back seven of State's defense seemed content to let the play come to them, not the other way around. The front four did a great job of generating pressure, but sacks alone won't shut down an opponent's passing game. The linebackers and secondary need to dictate to Duke's offense through punishing hits and solid tackles that limit yards after the catch. In short, State's back seven needs to crank up the aggression level.

2. Can State establish a running game? Russell Wilson had plenty of time to throw last week, but because State's run blocking was largely ineffective, Wake had the ability to drop more defenders into coverage and take away the big play. State's offensive line needs to re-establish the line of scrimmage downfield when the Pack runs the ball, driving Duke's defensive line off the ball rather than simply negating their push.

3. How will the new turf hold up? Yeah, Lee Fowler toured the turf today, and yeah, he says it's good to go. Would we expect him to give it the thumbs down if it weren't? Of course not. Expecting new sod laid on Tuesday to have taken root by Saturday is ambitious for even the greatest of turf managers. I look for the majority of the turf between the hash marks to be a heaping mess of turf chunks...let's pray no one from either squad gets injured.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Atlantic Division Ripe For The Picking


N.C. State may still be a year away in terms of depth, but if State is going to make a push for the Atlantic Division title and a berth in the ACC title game, they may never get a better look at it than now.

The Washington Post examined the current state of the division after five weeks of play in this article posted this morning:
Sitting alone atop the ACC's Atlantic Division standings this week is a Maryland team that limped into October without a division I-A victory. And alone at the bottom of the standings is the preseason favorite, a Florida State team that finds itself 0-2 in the conference for the first time ever.

The peculiar order makes sense only in the topsy-turvy world of the wackiest division in major college football. Neither a favorite nor a dark horse can be found among the Atlantic Division's six teams that have rendered nonconference performance and preseason rankings irrelevant.

"All the media picked Clemson and Florida State as the two teams to beat, and both have two losses" in the ACC, Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said. "If we can get a road win against Wake Forest [Saturday], it would be very big and hopefully build some momentum for us."
State certainly didn't do itself any favors by losing to Wake Forest this weekend. With the way things are going, it could end up being a crucial loss, as well. Should State and Wake finished tied atop the standing, of course, Wake would once again appear in the ACC title game by virtue of the tiebreaker.

There's a lot of football yet left to be played. There's still plenty of talent left on Clemson and Florida State's rosters and -- despite their 0-2 starts -- they'll be tough outs as the season goes on. But the Tigers and FSU are in such a hole at this point they'll need to virtually win out to get back into the mix. That leaves the other teams with zero or only one loss -- State included -- with the upper hand.

Russell Wilson may entertain baseball only following this season, and while Mike Glennon has shown he can gun it, he's still an unknown commodity, so State's window of opportunity at the moment is as open as it gets.

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Ray Brincefield Clearly Not A U2 Fan


In regards to the resodding project that will take place following the U2 concert this weekend, Ray Brincefield, Assistant AD of Outdoor Athletic Facilities, had this to say:
"If you happen to be in the path of a tour like this where they go from D.C. to Virginia to North Carolina to Georgia, we just happened to be in the path," said Ray Brincefield, assistant athletic director for outdoor facilities.
I'm sorry...are we talking about a concert or an F5 tornado?

When your life revolves around ensuring the turf at Carter-Finely, Doak Field and the other outdoor facilities is top-notch, I can understand your apprehension about hosting a large-scale concert, especially given that Brincefield oversaw the crown leveling and resodding project this offseason.

But doesn't the way Brincefield describes the tour, like a whirling dervish of turfgrass destruction, make it seem like he's really pissed about having to deal with it? Maybe he is, maybe he isn't, but State's coming out ahead on the deal and getting some good exposure nationally for it.

Trust me, Ray, this is a good thing.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Stephanie Glance Hired By Pat Summitt At Tennessee


In a somewhat ironic turn of events, the women's basketball programs of N.C. State and Tennessee further intertwined with the hiring of State's former interim head coach Stephanie Glance. This move comes months after State hired one of Tennessee's most decorated former players to take Glance's place.

Here's the release from the University of Tennessee, courtesy of WBIR in Knoxville:
Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee head women's basketball coach, announced today that Stephanie Glance has been hired as the Special Assistant to the Head Women's Basketball Coach for the Lady Vols.

Glance comes to Knoxville after serving 15 seasons under the late Kay Yow at N.C. State, serving as interim head coach for parts of the 2006-07 and 2008-09 seasons. In addition to being the associate head coach, she also served as recruiting coordinator and was in charge of the daily operations of the women's basketball program.

"I am very excited that Stephanie is going be a part of our staff. She was superb as an assistant and as interim head coach at N.C. State," said Summitt. "She did a great job working with the Wolfpack last season and keeping everything together. She is a very positive person, a very hard worker and understands what it takes to be at a program like Tennessee."

At N.C. State, Glance worked with post and perimeter player development, monitored the academic progress of the team, oversaw practice and game preparation, and was the scheduling coordinator. During her tenure in Raleigh, the Wolfpack made 11 NCAA appearances, four Sweet 16 berths and one Final Four.

"I am very excited for the opportunity to be a part of the Lady Vol program," said Glance. "I have the utmost respect for Coach Summitt and her staff. I'm thrilled to be working with a program that has accomplished so much."

Several individuals also achieved national personal success as well while Glance was at N.C. State. During her time on staff, the Wolfpack produced eight professional draftees, one Kodak All-American, and one GTE Academic All-American and GTE National Player of the Year. Glance also helped develop one ACC Player of the Year, one ACC Rookie of the Year, five First Team All-ACC selections, 15 Second Team All-ACC selections and seven All-Rookie Team ACC selections.

During her tenure, the Wolfpack compiled a 285-178 record, averaging nearly 20 wins a season. Academically, the women's basketball team at N.C. State consistently boasted the highest NCAA APR among all teams on campus, as well as regularly ranking among the top three programs in the ACC.

Glance served on the Board of Directors for the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) from 2003 through 2009 and was the elected representative to the Board of Directors for all Division I Assistant Coaches for the same time period. In 2009, she was named president of the Kay Yow/WBCA Cancer Fund.

Prior to arriving in Raleigh, the Clyde, N.C. native, honed her skills as the recruiting coordinator for Southwest Texas State (1993-94) and the University of South Florida (1988-93). She played at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., from 1982-1985 and earned her Bachelor of Arts in English and Education in 1985.
This is a fantastic move by Tennessee as they get one of women's college basketball's most experienced coaching talents. Congrats to Glance and the best of luck to her.

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Defensive Statistics Versus FBS Opponents


We've heard a good bit this week about State's defense being ranked #1 in total defense. That's an impressive statistic, for sure, but given State's played two FCS opponents in its four games, that stat's a bit misleading. So let's look at how the numbers shake out with those two opponents taken out:
  • 556 total yards in two games, for a per-game average of 278. That would slot State 22nd just behind Central Mich.
  • Those 556 yards were surrendered over 110 plays for a per-play average of 5.05. That slots State 53rd, just behind Army.
  • 202 total rushing yards over two games, good for a per-game average of 101. That's 28th best. Those 202 yards came over 65 carries, a 3.11 per-carry average, 30th best.
  • 354 total passing yards, 177 per game, 38th best. Those 354 yards came on 45 attempts for a per-attempt average of 7.87, 98th best.
So you can see, state's defensive numbers are a tad inflated by their cupcake games. Against the FBS competition, the numbers tend to fall more in line with what your eyes would tell you, not the stat sheet.

Note the discrepancy between the per-game and per-attempt rankings in the passing stats--60 slots. That could be the result of a couple of things.

For one, South Carolina was incredibly imbalanced in their play calling (42 rushing attempts versus only 22 passing attempts). Pitt, conversely, was perfectly balanced at 23 apiece. Had SC evenly spread their play selection out to 32/32 and gained the same number of yards through the air (a weak assumption, but stay with me), the per-attempt figure would drop to 6.43, good enough for a much more respectable 53rd place in the standings.

The other could be excessive yards-after-catch boosting the yielded yardage as a result of poor tackling. The prime example was the 79 pass play in the Pitt game where Bill Stull hit Jonathan Baldwin in the open field. Due to a poor angle on the attempted tackle, Baldwin was able to shoot past all of State's secondary for the score. Negate out the majority of Baldwin's yardage on that play (let's say 65 of the 79 yards), the yardage figures drop to 289 total, 144.5 per-game (11th) and 6.42 per-attempt (52nd).

Given the per-attempt passing figures are as high as they are, it will be key to limit the amount of time Riley Skinner sees the field this weekend. If State can dominate the time of possession like they did against Pitt (~37 mins to Pitt's ~22), that will bode well for the Pack limiting the damage done by Skinner.

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