Monday, October 31, 2005

Time for that dadgum game again

NC State has confidence for trip to Florida State:

Marcus Hudson remembers it all so well. The eerie silence from the home crowd at Doak Campbell Stadium, and the contrasting celebration by the small yet raucous North Carolina State fans.

"I remember not wanting to leave the field," the Wolfpack cornerback said Monday. "I get chills thinking about it right now."

Four years ago, N.C. State became the first Atlantic Coast Conference team to win at Florida State, ending a 39-0 run by the Seminoles. Hudson was only a freshman then, yet he recalled details from that victory as if it happened last week.

No wonder. At the time, the Wolfpack was the first conference foe to beat Florida State twice since the Seminoles joined the ACC, and they added another the next year in a previously unheard of run of success against the program built by coach Bobby Bowden.

Who could forget? I was a freshman at NC State in 2001, and like Marcus, I can still recall a lot from that day.

The amazing good fortune of having Derek Green (OL) pounce on a ball that Cotra Jackson had fumbled into the endzone ... Ray Rob's spin move ... a ridiculous eight-minute 4th quarter drive ... Adam Kiker's field goal that went behind a Seminole player who was diving for the block ... and that final, fateful series of downs which began inside the NC State red zone.

On that last set of downs, with FSU perilously close to scoring the go-ahead TD, I couldn't watch. I'm not sure that I've ever been more nervous during a game. After each play--each incomplete pass--I'd hop up in excitement, watch the replay, then turn away for the next play. An eternity passed, and then there were no more plays. NC State had won.

When the Wolfpack returned to Doak Campbell in 2003, the game was every bit as exciting as the one played two years prior. Although Philip Rivers was incredible, turnovers and poor defense doomed the Wolfpack to a heartbreaking loss in double overtime. Outcome aside, that was one of the most entertaining football games I've ever witnessed.

So there's some recent history for NC State and Florida State to live up to when they square off in Tally this weekend. Considering how last season's affair went, another 50-44 game is probably out of the question.

NC State is still looking for some consistency from its offense, which would be fine if this were, y'know, September.

Drew Weatherford has bounced back from a rough opener and put together an excellent season for a freshman. The Seminoles have the best passing offense in the conference. Surprisingly, FSU ranks 11th in the ACC in rushing yards/game, though they also have amongst the fewest attempts as well.

I am hoping that NC State's rejuvenated defensive line can stall FSU's running game for another week even without John McCargo's services. If Florida State's offensive line is having problems (as the rushing stats might suggest), we can make life hard on Weatherford. Mario Williams has seven sacks in the last two weeks.

It's always important for us to create turnovers simply because we know we're going to commit several of them. Turnover margin matters more this week than it would in others; we aren't going to get away with a negative margin against a team as good as Florida State.

But all of that means nothing if we can't score some points, and as far as that, let's just hope for the best.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Photos from USM/NCSU & the Red and White Game


Looking for the go-ahead score...

Saturday, October 29, 2005

OMG Running Game


What an odd afternoon.

NC State had 9 possessions in the first half. Here's how they ended:

#1: Fumble (muffed ball on punt return)
#2: Punt
#3: Punt
#4: Fumble (Toney Baker fumble on a screen pass)
#5: INT (Horrible decision by Stone)
#6: Missed FG
#7: INT (tipped ball, but not a good throw)
#8: Downs
#9: End of Half

Marcus Stone finished the first half 1-7 with 2 INTs. I don't think I've seen an uglier half of football from the offense, yet despite all the gaffes, we were only down by a touchdown at halftime. We were all like, "Merry Christmas," and they were all like, "Thanks...I guess."

Hmph. You won't be getting so much as a card next year, Southern Mississippi!

The defense played well and kept USM bottled up most of the game. Turnovers put the defense into several difficult situations, and they came through for us in most of them. Southern Mississippi's only first half score came after Toney Baker's fumble, which occurred at the NCSU 22-yard-line.

What became a bigger story than the defense, was, of course...

Brown, A. rush for 41 yards to the USM27
Brown, A. rush for 24 yards to the USM43
Brown, A. rush for 11 yards to the NCS42
Brown, A. rush for 11 yards to the USM47
Brown, A. rush for 61 yards to the USM0
Brown, A. rush for 18 yards to the USM34

...OMG running game!

Super Top Secret Weapon Andre Brown averaged nearly 8 yards-per-carry on his way to 248 yards. The Wolfpack racked up 297 rushing yards as a team, compared to 128 yards through the air. Nice to see us have a big game on the ground for a change.

I thought the offensive line did a pretty good job opening up holes for Brown, though some of his runs were un-assisted. On his 61 yarder, for example, he broke a tackle that would have limited the run to 5-6 yards. That wasn't the only instance of poor tackling by USM defenders.

The quarterback situation is obviously still a serious problem, but at least Stone looked more comfortable in the second half. He tossed the go-ahead TD pass and didn't throw any more interceptions. The biggest thing Marcus needs to take from Jay Davis is efficiency: between last week and this one, Stone is 16-42 (38.1%). We could at least count on Jay to complete a decent percentage of his pass attempts.

I still can't believe NC State won this game. When USM went up by 10 points early in the 4th quarter, I figured that was going to be too much for the offense. But Andre Brown scored less than a minute later, the defense held USM, and Marcus Stone led a clutch 15 play drive.

The Wolfpack held the ball for 11:16 in the 4th quarter.

Oh, and re: attendance? The box score lists 52,500 for today, which is 5,000 under capacity. Here's a shot I took during the first half (after allowing some time for late arrivers):

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hittin' the boards

On Saturday we get our first look at the basketball team in action, and I have to admit that I'm getting excited about the Wolfpack's potential.

Cedric Simmons and Andrew Brackman bulked up during the off-season, which hopefully means we'll see the team improve on its biggest weakness: rebounding.

NC State's rankings among ACC teams in the Four Factors:

Wolfpack 2004-2005
Four FactorsPercentACC Rank
Adj FG%53.23rd
Turnover Rate18.71st
Off Reb Rate32.29th

Grabbing just 32.2% of available offensive rebounds in '04-'05, NCSU ranked 9th out of 11 ACC teams.* Julius Hodge was the Wolfpack's most proficient rebounder, averaging about 7.7 rebounds per 40 minutes. Every other ACC team except Florida State had at least one regular contributor (i.e., a player who logged at least 40% of his team's minutes) who averaged 10+ rebounds per 40 minutes.

Simmons and Brackman had numbers similar to Hodge's, but they didn't play enough to become big factors on the glass. This season, they'll improve our ability to rebound simply by being on the court more often, and they can also help us by improving their rebs/40 min rates. That's where the added muscle comes in.

Don't expect dramatic improvement, but do expect this to be the best rebounding team since the last year of the Thornton/Inge/Kelley era (2000-2001). And that's without considering the contributions of Ben McCauley and Brandon Costner.

[*-- If you want perspective on how that OReb Rate stacks up nationally, see here.]

So is it too late to schedule more D-IAA teams?

I'm thinking it is, but it can't hurt to place a few phone calls, right?


According to the Hattiesburg American, USM will face a stout NC State defense on Saturday, though the author of the piece has an interesting way of justifying his assertion:
The University of Southern Mississippi football team will have its hands full on the offensive end as it faces a stout North Carolina State defense.

The Wolfpack defense ranks No. 6 in total defense (323 yards per game) in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Their rushing defense is No. 9 (135) and their pass defense is No. 5 (188) in conference play.

In that light, the defense looks like it's a lot closer to mediocre than to stout.

The bad news entering this weekend is John McCargo's status. McCargo has been wearing a protective boot this week (maybe the offense shot someone else in the foot for a change) and has officially been ruled out of the Southern Miss game. "Foot surgery" sounds rather ominous. We've been bad enough against the run with a healthy John McCargo; how we deal with his absense is a signficant concern, to say the least.

Always a terrible sign for the gift-giving Wolfpack: Southern Mississippi ranks 5th in the country in turnover margin, in large part because they've been forcing more than 3 turnovers per game.

(Check out TCU. Twenty-eight takeaways in 8 games!)

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Will attendance start slipping?

Last year, NC State led the nation in attendance as a percentage of capacity. We're doing it again this year. The fans have done a great job filling Carter-Finley Stadium during the Amato era, even during the 2004 crapfest. But the mood among Wolfpack fans is the worst it's been in a long time, and I gotta wonder when that starts to translate into empty bleachers (Aside: even though the Clemson game was listed as a sellout, I thought attendance was noticeably less-than-capacity--even before the game got ugly.).

Wolfpack fans are angry, and from an attendance standpoint, anger can be every bit as bad as apathy. In and of itself, apathy doesn't motivate people to avoid showing support. Anger does. When high expectations turn to disappointment and frustration, there are always people who feel like they can hasten a change by staying home. That will never work around here, but it ain't gonna stop fans from trying, either.

This will be NC State's first home game since a pair of vomit-inducing losses. It doesn't help that the football team has this problem where, like, they keep losing at home and stuff. My friends missed the Student Wolfpack Club's ticket distribution for the USM game and still got good seats from the leftovers. It sounds like a lot of student tickets could go unused this weekend. This doesn't bode well for the rest of the stadium, though it seems like season ticket holders--many of whom have sunk a lot of cash into seats and lifetime rights--would be a little more reluctant to stay home. Or not.

Hang in there, y'all. Remote as the chance may be, we can still turn the season around (in any case, it doesn't hurt to keep telling that to yourself).


Wednesday, October 26, 2005

BlogPoll Roundtable XI

Time for me to stop neglecting the BlogPoll's weekly Roundtable discussions. Vijay from iBlog For Cookies hosts the action this week and offers up some interesting questions:

1. The Envy Poll
Name the five teams, other than yours, whose accomplishments you respect / envy the most. Use whatever criteria you feel is appropriate (wins, titles, consistency, academic integrity, competitive integrity, NCAA violations, general thuggery, mascot intimidation factor ...).

I've got no problem with NC State's upper-lower-middle class status in the college football world, though I would obviously be lying if I said I didn't envy the accomplishments of certain others...

Notre Dame -- For its status as an elite program for decade after decade (of all the attributes of a big time program, consistency is probably the one I respect the most). The Irish aren't the only ones who've sustained success over a long period of time, but Notre Dame is the first school that pops into my head when I think "tradition."

Alabama -- Another school with great tradition, and they've been to an incredible number of bowl games.

Southern Cal -- Dominant today, but also a school with a very good past.

Texas -- The flagship school in a state with gobs of prep talent. Good fans, great facilities, huge resources. Austin rocks, too.

Michigan -- Another school with consistent greatness through the decades, and like others on this list, "well-rounded": national titles, Heisman winners, etc.

2. Admissions
With regard to Question #1, what is the most damaging criticism of your program that you will admit is a legitimate criticism? That is, what negative trait does the most damage to the overall respect level of your program (in your eyes, or to others, interpret as you will).

We're criticized for talking big without actually accomplishing anything, and unfortunately, that's pretty close to the mark. Chuck Amato set some lofty goals when he arrived here, but despite his success during the Philip Rivers era, Amato has never led the Pack to a top-3 finish in the ACC.

These days, I'm starting to doubt that we'll ever be the consistent winners that Amato insisted we would be.

3. Unrelated Discussion Question
Who do you think is the best player in the history of your program? Tell us a little about him (especially if he's not a household name). Feel free to pick someone from 50 years ago that none of us has seen play.

The nominees are...

Roman Gabriel -- Two-time All-American, a first round draft pick in both the AFL and NFL drafts in 1962. Had a good NFL career.

Ted Brown (1975-78) -- An All-American and the ACC's all-time leading rusher with 4,602 yards (5.4 YPC). No ACC player has scored more touchdowns than Ted Brown (51). Brown rushed for 1,000+ yards three times.

Torry Holt (1995-98) -- Ranks second in the ACC behind Peter Warrick in career receiving yards. Holt was awesome in 1998, racking up over 1600 yards receiving, including two 200-yard games. A consensus All-American in 1998 and a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award (of which he was robbed by Troy Edwards).

Philip Rivers (2000-03) -- Over 13,000 career passing yards and 95 TD passes, both of which easily top the ACC record books.

I'm going with... Philip Rivers. I'm sure you're shocked. With his senior season still fresh in my memory, I couldn't convince myself to pick anyone else. In 2003, Rivers put together the most brilliant back-to-back performances you will ever see.

Short porch: we thank you

It's never easy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wolfpack QBs since 1996

It's content-alicious up in here today. Consider this a pre-emptive strike on Tuesday, as I'll probably be way too distracted by the World Series to do anything as difficult as arranging letters into words.


Off the AP this evening, posted by the Herald-Sun:

A look at North Carolina State's starting quarterbacks since 1996:

-- Jamie Barnette: Made his first start against Alabama on Oct. 12, 1996, the first of seven straight starts to end the season. Started all 35 games from 1997-99.

-- Philip Rivers: Started all 51 games for the Wolfpack in his four-year career, beginning Sept. 2, 2000, against Arkansas State. Left school as one of the nation's all-time leading passers.

-- Jay Davis: Made his first start Sept. 4, 2004, against Richmond and started all 11 games of a 5-6 season. Started the first six games of the 2005 season.

-- Marcus Stone: Expected to make his first start Saturday against Southern Mississippi.

This is the type of thing you know but which doesn't really strike you until someone points it out.

BlogPoll Ballot -- Week 9

My ballot from last week is available here. This week's edition of the BlogPoll will of course be released at mgoblog on Wednesday.

Rank TeamLast Week
1 Southern Cal1
2 Texas2
3 Virginia Tech3
4 Georgia4
6 FSU6
7 Miami (FL)7
10Notre Dame10
11 Penn State12
12Ohio State13
13Boston College15
18West Virginia20
20Texas Tech11
24Georgia Tech25
25Fresno StateNR

Dropped Out: Tennessee, Michigan State, UVA

Games viewed/heard: VPI vs. Maryland, NCSU vs. WFU, UVA vs. UNC, Tennessee vs. Bama, Texas Tech vs. Texas, Northwestern vs. Michigan State

Poll Items:

-- Disturbingly little changed this week. I'm happy to welcome Northwestern to the poll and extremely disappointed in Michigan State for not holding up their end of the Super Awesome Shootout deal.

-- Considered dropping Cal to make room for keeping the Vols in the poll. Just know I got my eye on you, Fightin' Tedfords.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Next Victim: Southern Mississippi

Okay, okay. Perhaps "victim" isn't the right word.

USM head coach Jeff Bower offered some standard fare about the Wolfpack in his Monday press conference:

“They are a talented team. Their record doesn’t indicate how good they are. They had Virginia Tech on the ropes and had a chance to win that game. The thing that has hurt this team the most is penalties and turnovers. They’ve played well enough to win if they don’t do some of those things. They have a very good defense. Their front four are very good and preseason publications had their defensive line as the best in the country. They are really good there. They have active linebackers. They will pressure you a lot and play a lot of man coverage. ..."

Et cetera.

Noteworthy from the press conference: USM is dealing with an injury in its secondary. Bower laments the fact that his defense has given up some big passing plays.

I don't know that we're in any position to take advantage of whatever issues Southern Miss has at corner, but considering the strength of Marcus Stone's arm, I think we're likely to take some shots.

Stone averaged over 20 yards per completion in the Wake Forest game:

Stone, M. sideline pass complete to Williams, T.J. for 25 yards to the WF40
Stone, M. crossing pass complete to Hill, A. for 21 yards to the WF22
Stone, M. flag pass complete to Clark, B. for 36 yards to the WF0, TOUCHDOWN
Stone, M. flag pass complete to Clark, B. for 30 yards to the WF6
Stone, M. slant pass complete to Hall, T. for 19 yards to the WF0, TOUCHDOWN
Stone, M. screen pass complete to Washington, B. for no gain to the NCS22

Granted, I didn't see the game, so I don't know how much YAC was involved.

Judging from Southern Miss's depth chart, their defensive line poses problems for the Pack's running game. Then again, with the way we've been running the ball, who doesn't pose problems? The Eagles have an upper-classmen-laden starting lineup, but there is a good bit of youth on the second string. Can NC State's offense stay on the field long enough to make depth a factor?

The Durham Herald-Sun posted a short piece on USM senior quarterback Dustin Almond. Almond and the passing game are USM's strengths. They rank 80th in total offense, 44th in passing offense. Aside from a 4 INT disaster against Tulsa, Almond has been good, particularly of late.

In his last two games (against UCF and UAB), Almond is a combined 41-70 for 524 yards, 8 TDs and 1 INT.

Like NC State, the Golden Eagles are weighted-down by their ground game, which ranks 93rd in the country (the Pack's running game has dipped to 109th...ouch).

Expect to see a couple of one-dimensional offenses on Saturday.

Ugliest. Website. Ever.

I imagine this site, which appears hastily thrown together (Mustn't wait for the head to clear! Or for NC State to win a football game!), is a work in progress. Still...ugh.

Is the blog really necessary, though? In how many different ways can you say the same thing?

"November 13th, 2005: Yep, We're Still Angry"

Marcus Stone gets promoted

Not surprisingly, Chuck Amato has decided to start Marcus Stone against Southern Mississippi. Although Stone was just 6-of-16 against Wake, he led State on both of its touchdown drives. For the season, Stone is 16-32 for 230 yards, 3 TDs and 1 INT.

Like the team itself, Jay Davis started the season looking quite solid, but it's been all downhill since then. NC State has dropped to 85th in the nation in total offense after another rough go of it against the Deacons.

I like the move not only because the offense is struggling but also because we've never really gotten to see what Marcus Stone brings to the table. Davis is a known quantity at this point; he's started enough games to show us where his ceiling lies.

Stone has mostly played in spots; a little here, a little there. More often than not, his playing time was cautiously choreographed--designed QB runs, plenty of handoffs, a few safe passes. Sitting at 2-4, we don't have much to lose; from now on, the only thing limiting the playcalling with Stone in the game should be his grasp of the playbook.

Hopefully, we'll see a more exciting and dangerous offense against the Golden Eagles. Marcus is a much better athlete than Jay, and I think his (Stone's) scrambling ability alone will make things more interesting. Whether or not Marcus can make good, consistent decisions for 60 minutes remains to be seen. I'm not optimistic, but I figure Stone can't be any worse than Davis in that department. And hey, at the very least, he's got this going for him.

I liked this comment from Amato (from the above-linked GoPack article):
"Marcus threw two touchdown passes in the game and you can't take that away from him," said Amato. "It's time to find out how good he is. These two young men have been fighting for that position the last year and a half, in a very competitive fight. I said [to Stone] `you've got the ball and you don't need to be looking over your shoulder. Jay is there, but you don't need to be looking over your shoulder.' We've got to give him an opportunity."

Injury is likely the only thing to result in Stone's removal this Saturday. Unfortunately, as Chuck notes, that is a legitimate concern:
"... Marcus is capable of doing a lot of things. Every time we tried to get him in last year he got hurt. It happened two weeks ago; he threw one pass, the guy hit him and he hyper-extended his knee. Hopefully, none of that will happen and this will be good for all of us."

Cheers to that last sentence.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ewww gross

Here da box sco' at.

There is good news: we managed to break the 300 total yards barrier today. Which is nice.

Jay Davis: 15-29, 102 yds, 0 TD, 2 INT
Marcus Stone: 6-16, 136 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT

Jay Davis appears to have Chris Rix Disease. Meaning, he's getting worse with each subsequent game he plays. It's difficult to explain.

Wake returned two INTs for touchdowns, and that proved the difference. A pretty good effort by State's defense was squandered...not that that's anything new.

I'm too dejected to offer much else right now. More later.

If anyone needs me, I'll be over in the corner, curled up in the fetal position.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Shades and shoes not working; new ideas sought

When Chuck Amato didn't wear his sunglasses and red shoes during the Georgia Tech game, people noticed. The Wolfpack beat the Jackets, so Amato went without his trademarks against Clemson as well. Strangely, this had no observable effect on the game.

Worn or not, the shades/shoes don't seem to be helping. Time to update the wardrobe?

I have a few ideas, which I have attempted to illustrate (poorly):

He could go with the sombrero in a shallow attempt to garner jumbotron time.

There's also the Elvis costume.

It never hurts to be pragmatic. Called to action by an early reminder of their true prey, the hibernating Anti-Herbites will emerge from Carter-Finley Stadium in a rage, shouting incoherencies as they charge toward the NC State basketball offices.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Barclay, Fridge just want to keep runnin'

For some reason, I find this note about Chris Barclay a little unsettling:
Barclay ranks 11th in Division I-A with 113 yards rushing a game, and even though he was suspended from the opener for a violation of team rules, he should surpass 1,000 yards for the third consecutive season.

More importantly, the 5-foot-10, 180-pounder needs only 230 yards to become the all-time leading rusher in Wake Forest history.
That couldn't happen on Saturday, right?

Moving on...

The Charlotte Observer added to speculation about Cory Randolph today. Jim Grobe says he'll be surprised if Randolph is ready to go this weekend. I'm still not ready to buy it yet.

Also in that Observer article: Ralph Friedgen orders a treadmill for his office so he can run while watching film (try not to picture that). Something's coming to me...
Later, with wires attached to him, Homer runs on a treadmill in naught but his underwear. Mulder and Scully watch.

Mulder: Wait a minute, Scully. What's the point of this test?
Scully: No point. I just thought he could stand to lose a little weight.
Mulder: His jiggling is almost hypnotic.
Scully: Yes. It's like a lava lamp.
-- "The Springfield Files"

In other news, NCSU athletics director Lee Fowler has been practicing his standup routine at the Raleigh Sports Club:
When there were no more questions, Fowler closed with a quip.

"It's almost 1 o'clock," he said. "I know a lot of you are hard-working guys who have to get back to your Internet."

CanesVision apologizes for jumbotron incident

As if last Thursday's happenings on the field weren't embarrassing enough, the university has also had to deal with the "Mexi-cam" incident. Today, CanesVision apologized for its actions. CanesVision operates and produces the content for Carter-Finley Stadium's scoreboard.

Here is the important item in the link (emphasis mine):

The incident occurred during the Wolfpack's 31-10 loss to Clemson last Thursday. After several fans were featured on the video screen with titles such as "Kissing Cam" and "Fan Cam," an image appeared with the title "Mexi-Cam," according to an editorial Monday in N.C. State's student newspaper, The Technician.

The person featured on the video screen was a CanesVision employee, and company director Pete Soto has sent a letter of apology to the university, Hanlin said.

It was a joke amongst coworkers that (go figure!) no one else got. On the surface of it, this whole thing appeared stunningly idiotic. I'm relieved and not entirely surprised that the motivation behind the gag was something a little more reasonable than overt racism/cultural insensitivity.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I liked Wake Forest a lot more when they were going 2-9

Gameday inches closer. Today, we learn that, yes, Wake Forest is pretty good at running the ball and it might be a good idea for NC State to stop said running game. That W-S Journal piece is not short on barbs:

Next comes Wake Forest, a team that is masterful at the kinds of things that have given State's defense fits. The Deacs specialize in counters, misdirections and all the other plays that work well against undisciplined defenses. Wake Forest leads the ACC in rushing, averaging 205.1 yards a game, and tailback Chris Barclay is the league's leading rusher at 112.8. And that's against fundamentally sound defenses such as Florida State and Boston College.

That's harsh, man. But also accurate. I hope the Wolfpack's defensive coaching staff is too busy to read the newspaper. The implications from the above paragraph are pretty clear.

Apparently, Wake's Cory Randolph is hurt, and according to the article, could miss Saturday's game. Considering Randolph is listed as probable, I'm not holding my breath. It would be a break for State if Randolph doesn't start; the Deacs are much less interested in running the option when Mauk is under center. Although Wake doesn't need the option in order to be effective on the ground, it'd be nice to have one less thing to worry about. I'm not sure we've seen the option all year, and, well, yikes.

On the other side of the ball, Wake has probably the weakest secondary we will see in conference play. There is no better time for Jay Davis to halt his regression and start playing like he did in the first couple of games of the season.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

BlogPoll Ballot -- Week 8

My submission from last week is available here. This week's edition of the BlogPoll will be published tomorrow in the usual place.

Rank TeamLast Week
1 Southern Cal1
2 Texas2
3 Virginia Tech3
4 Georgia4
6 FSU4
7 Miami (FL)7
8 UCLA11
10Notre Dame10
11 Texas Tech18
12Penn State12
13Ohio State15
15Boston College19
20West VirginiaNR
22Michigan State17
25Georgia Tech25

Dropped out: Louisville, Baylor, Arizona State

Games viewed: Clemson vs. NCSU (well, part of it...), Wake vs. BC, Wisconsin vs. Minnesota, Michigan State vs. tOSU, Northwestern vs. Purdue, Louisville vs. WVU, Florida vs. LSU, USC vs. Notre Dame

Certain Poll Items:
-- Yeah, so all the staring-blankly-at-the-screen in the world didn't really help me compile the latter half of the poll. I went around looking at other people's submissions in the hopes of finding some comfort. Didn't help, either.

-- West Virginia, TCU, and Virginia are new to the poll this week. I realized I couldn't ignore the Mountaineers any longer. Virginia got a big win at home, and the TCU has, well, they've just been winning.

-- I realized I couldn't fit Arizona State in, even though they were in last week's poll. They did nothing to justify the drop (considering they didn't play), but it became too difficult to convince myself to rank a 3-3 team. It was difficult enough keeping Georgia Tech in there.

-- LSU dropped a few spots despite beating Florida. Probably because I saw that game.

-- I considered several teams near the end of the poll, including a couple that dropped out: Iowa, Fresno State, Nowledge, Arizona State, Louisville, Michigan

-- Would-be surly commenters: I beseech you. Have mercy.

Fun with search queries

It's always interesting to see how people are stumbling across this here intarweb site. A few of the latest:

"sox win pennant panic airraid"

"Ozzie Guillen Jr. is sexy" (At this point I would like to note that at no point have I ever placed those words in the same sentence together.)

And my personal favorite because it seems oddly fitting:

"what does oy vey mean"

Monday, October 17, 2005

Wolfpack prepares for a trip to Winston-Salem

It's a break-slightly-less or break game for the Pack. If we hope to entertain any thoughts of a crappy bowl, we have to beat the Deacs. A couple of weeks ago I felt like NC State should definitely win this game, but now I'm feeling more like we'll be lucky to do so. Since Jim Grobe replaced QB Ben Mauk with Cory Randolph, Wake has played much better; they've actually looked like a Grobe-coached team.

NC State, on the other hand, is clearly trending in the other direction:

Wolfpack 2005
vs. Virginia Techvs. E. Kentuckyvs. UNC-CHvs. Georgia Techvs. Clemson
Yards Gained438475270286267
Yards Allowed232228321443489

The offense is in a terrible funk right now, and the defense has been sliding for several weeks. I think the yardage given up to GT is because of the discrepancy in the number of plays run by each team (50+ by NCSU, 90+ by GT) more than anything else. They were worn out by the 4th quarter (meaning I'm willing to give them a pass). The performance against Clemson was simply a pathetic effort.

Where is the team that played Virginia Tech?! Despite their faults, those guys had promise.

The rankings continue to slip along with the team: NC State ranks 78th in total offense and 40th (yikes) in total defense.

But the Wolfpack does lead the nation in yards per kickoff return, so that's something.

After the loss on Thursday, people couldn't wait to start pointing fingers. Fire Chuck. Fire the offensive coordinator. Fire the defensive coordinator. Bench Jay Davis. Fire Herb.

And as is often the case in tough times, rumors about internal unrest are starting. Amato's lost the players, the players don't care any more, etc.

I try to remind myself that things are never as bad as they seem. Don't get me wrong--things are bad right now. But suggestions of player mutiny are almost certainly false. Just typical, baseless "the sky is falling!" talk. It's a bit early for that, if you ask me.

Even as I try to calm my own fears, I have to admit that Thursday's loss was disturbing in more than one way. Charlie Whitehurst regarding State's defense:

"They really weren't a factor," Clemson senior quarterback Charlie Whitehurst said of the N.C. State defensive line. "They really weren't. I'm amazed, because they are such great players."

Poor scheme/gameplan? Lack of effort (My sense from the game, though admittedly it's unprovable; I could be in denial.)?
"Up and at them?"

Essentially, we have no freakin' idea what is going to happen against Wake Forest. Will the guys play hard and play confidently? How will they react to falling behind? Shrug.

This is probably the least optimistic I've ever been preceding a football game against Wake Forest, which doesn't speak too highly for our current state of affairs. I am hopeful, though.

Ever the sucker, I'm even planning on being in attendance.


All the frustration, the nail biting, the hard work--it's led to this point. As is typically the case with this White Sox team, there is no one player or coach to thank.

I'm so happy right now, I could hug Timo.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Football postmortem, Hoops, and a White Sox Winner

Dude, Whatever
Grasping at straws:

"I'm surprised at the way we played," NCSU coach Chuck Amato said. "One play seemed to do something to turn it all around. We missed making a play, they make a big play out of it and go down and score, and it just steam-rolled."

Late in the first quarter, State linebacker Stephen Tulloch sniffed out a screen pass and made his move on an interception. But the ball slipped out of Tulloch's hands, Clemson receiver Chansi Stuckey snatched it out of the air and streaked for a 22-yard gain.

"After that, things went sour," Williams said. "If not for that play, ... we might have scored and had the momentum."

This is so weak. One missed INT that turned into a 22-yard gain. The Tigers go from 3rd-and-4 at their 45 to 1st-and-10 at NC State's 33. That's it? That's the big, psychologically damaging turning point? Even if you could make the case that "momentum" exists and that this play had an obvious effect on it, how could any play occurring in the first quarter impact a game so dramatically?

Funny note from that play: after Tulloch tipped the ball, Phillip Holloman, who was moving in to tackle Chansi Stuckey, let up and began jumping up and down in celebration. Stuckey then caught the tip and took it for the 22 yard gain. Holloman could have ended the play in the backfield had he simply stayed with the ball. That's what we call a perfect microcosm.

Ooh, hoops!
Seth Davis shows that him sucking at things isn't merely limited to March:

13. N.C. State: Will losing Julius Hodge be addition by subtraction?

My opinion of Hodge vacillated from year to year, game to game and sometimes from possession to possession. While Hodge's versatility and talent cannot be questioned (his winning drive in the second-round against UConn last year was the program's biggest bucket in more than a decade), the Wolfpack suffered when his teammates relegated themselves to bystanders. Now all hands must be on deck in Raleigh, and the 'Pack has some pretty good paws -- most notably those belonging to 6-10 sophomore center Andrew Brackman. N.C. State doesn't have any player as talented as Hodge was, but its whole may wind up exceeding the sum of his parts.

I can't believe this question is even being posed. There are plenty of reasons why we'll miss Jules.

Jon Garland

I'm a bad fan

I am one tonight, anyway.

I did something I have never done before and hopefully will never do again: I left early. Really early. Like 8:00-left-in-the-2nd-quarter early. And up to that point, I was the douchebag who makes endless sarcastic comments about his team. My "performance" was as poor as the Wolfpack's tonight, which is probably why I'm feeling a little embarrassed right now.

I'm not one who is prone to jumping off the deep end (you won't find me calling for the coach's head); rarely does emotion propel me to irrationality. But I lost my grip tonight. It wasn't any one thing or play. Maybe it was the result of a season-and-a-half of frustration. Or the obvious lack of effort on the part of a team in such an important game. Whatever the case, I snapped at an unusually early point in the game, said "[] it," and ran out of the stadium without thinking twice.

Suffice it to say that very little is required for me to lose faith in the the Pack's ability to win.

Here is the box score, if anyone's interested. Although this loss was by no means heartbreaking, it was extremely discouraging. Last week's win allowed my positive outlook to creep back in--I couldn't help but think, "we can still have a good season." Clemson doused those thoughts pretty quickly, and probably for good.

Blowout losses are usually easier to talk about because you see them coming so much earlier in the game and thus have time to sever your emotional attachment. I'm not much interested in talking about this one, however. This is the low point of the Chuck Amato era.

It's no longer worth arguing that we're a talented but underachieving bunch. That we'll come around. That we should expect to play better. We are not any good, and that's all there is to it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

BlogPoll Ballot -- Week 7

This week's edition of the BlogPoll is available here. My ballot from last week is here.

Rank TeamLast Week
1 Southern Cal1
2 Texas2
3 Virginia Tech3
4 Georgia5
5Florida State6
6 LSU 8
7 Miami (Fl)9
8 Alabama10
10Notre Dame12
11 UCLA 20
13Penn State25
15Ohio State4
17Michigan State21
18Texas Tech23
19Boston College24
23Arizona State12
25Georgia Tech22

Ain't Ranked No Mo': Michigan, Texas A&M

Games Viewed:
NCSU vs. Georgia Tech, Marshall vs. VPI, Wake Forest vs. FSU, Wisconsin vs. Northwestern, Kansas vs. K-State, UVA vs. BC, Georgia vs. Tennessee, UNC vs. Louisville, Texas Tech vs. Nowledge, Arizona vs. USC, tOSU vs. Penn State, Cal vs. UCLA

Couple notes:
-- In relation to the BlogPoll, I seem to be over-valuing LSU and Auburn every week. This is mostly because of how I treated them after losing: LSU fell from 3rd to 9th, Auburn from 16th to 20th. Since then, wins by the Tigerseses coupled with losses by the teams around them have elevated them a little higher than perhaps they should be. Maybe I didn't punish them enough for losing. I'll re-evaluate before next week's submission.

-- I was going to drop ASU this week, but after getting to the end of the ballot, I realized they were still better than the alternatives. That said, the Sun Devils have run out of leeway. If they don't start playing better, I'll drop them without thinking about it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Gavin Grant: Illegal Alien

Sometimes I can't believe the things that happen around here. Grant may have been brought from Jamaica illegally.

Fortunately, it's very unlikely that Gavin won't be playing for the Wolfpack this hoops season. Should make for some interesting signage during conference play.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Might as well be another close one

I wouldn't wish it on Clemson fans, but I can't imagine this game being a laugher for either team. Although if Jay Davis wants to look like Peyton Manning for a night and throw like 6 TDs, I think I can live with that.

What happened last year?
My eyes! NC State turned it over six times (including an INT returned for a TD) and committed ten penalties, two of which negated touchdown passes. Despite all of that, the Wolfpack had the ball 1st-and-10 at the Clemson 11-yard-line with under a minute left in the game, their fate in their hands. Jay Davis couldn't find anyone in the endzone, so the Tigers held on for a 26-20 win.

Let's not do that again.
Both teams are a bit different this year, which is to say that neither teams sucks quite as much at moving the football. Charlie Whitehurst has looked a lot more like his pre-2004 self, meaning he's the best passer in the ACC--kind of by default, kind of because of talent.

Even with Whitehurst's regained competence, the Tigers offense isn't great: they're 57th in passing offense and 76th in rushing (73rd in total offense).

While the running game doesn't look too scary on paper, the Tigers do possess a couple of running backs who are averaging better than 4 YPC. James Davis has received the bulk of the carries (72 car, 290 yds, 2 TD), but Reggie Merriweather has been a little more efficient (54-277-3).

At receiver, I think Curtis Baham is the guy with whom State needs to be careful. Baham averages fewer than three receptions per game, but is averaging 22.3 yards-per-catch and has caught three of Whitehurst's four TD passes. Baham looks to be the big play guy (I haven't seen enough of the Tigers this year to say for sure).

Statistically speaking, the strength of NC State's defense is its secondary. Performances against Calvin Johnson will be stricken from the record since Johnson is clearly not of this planet. The Pack ranks 4th in pass efficiency defense, although we haven't exactly been facing some dynamic passing offenses over the first month of the season. The Pack's run defense has been somewhat disappointing, particularly against North Carolina (Barrington Edwards ran for 129 on 25 carries; Tarheels rush offense ranks 106th). So while the Tigers don't have a great rushing attack, that hardly means they won't have a good night on Thursday.

NC State's offense has been a little more effective than Clemson's through the air, but that may be due to circumstances more than anything else. State's trailed late in three of four games. Still, Jay Davis deserves credit for averagining 271 YPG even though he continues to look shaky and scare the crap out of us on a regular basis.

Similarly to Georgia Tech, Clemson's secondary has been pretty blah. Their run defense isn't any better, but I still like their chances against our running game. We're averaging less than 100 yards rushing per game, which is good enough to put us a few slots ahead on UNC in the national rankings. It isn't Toney Baker's fault.

By now it's evident that the OL is going to have issues all season (again); I'd hoped that Amato's recruiting efforts in this area would start to pay off by now, but that hasn't been the case. Hopefully we'll see (if nothing else) improved depth in 2006 and beyond thanks to the big uglies Amato has been bringing in in the last couple of classes.

This game features one of the bumblin'-est, fumblin'-est, kick-me-in-the-groin stupid teams in the country versus one of the more prudent and secure teams in the country. It must be nice to play the Wolfpack, knowing that they're absolutely definitely going to out-mistake you. Never hurts to have an edge going into a game.

I hope it doesn't come down to a field goal, because Jad Dean--football uniform modeling issues aside--is money.

I picked the bad guys in my rundown for Golden Tornado and everything worked out great, so I'll stick with that angle:

Tigers: 24
State: 21

Sunday, October 09, 2005

How we doin'?

Remember all that focusing on mistakes we did during the off-season? Y'know, bringing in refs to call scrimmages extra-tight and what have you? Yeah, neither do the players.

2004 TO Margin: 114th (-1.55)
2004 Fewest Penalties/Game: 115th (9.2, 71 yds)

2005 TO Margin: 89th (-0.50)
2005 Fewest Penalties/Game: 112th (10.0, 89.5 yds)
"To be honest, I can't really
anything through these."

I got a new idea: reverse psychology. Since this constant
fixation/obsession/reiteration stuff is actually causing more penalties, maybe the coaches are better off ignoring/encouraging the problem.

"Penalties? Flags? What are you people talking about?"

Actually, that's a terrible idea. Forget I even mentioned it.

We could use a clean effort this week, because Clemson is one
of the least error-prone teams in the country (despite what
their 2-3 record might indicate).

The Tigers are 17th in turnover margin (+1.00) and 2nd in Fewest Penalties/Game (3.4/game). Man, that must be nice.

Iowa is the least-penalized team in the country, averaging 2.8 penalties per game. Derek Morris commits 3 penalties before breakfast.

Friday, October 07, 2005

In case you missed it...

Video of Garland Heath's game-sealing INT is available here.

GT Game Addendum: Coaching Decisions

Let's skip ahead to the second half...

In the third quarter, NC State had three drives--the first two ended in punts, the third ended with an interception (that was, like, legitimate and stuff).

Both of the drives that resulted in NCSU punts were halted on the Georgia Tech side of the field. In the first instance (and the first drive of the second half), the Wolfpack had a 4th-and-14 at the Tech 40. I can live with the decision to punt there--it was probably a little too long even for John Deraney, and we had no reason to believe that Jay Davis could convert that first down. And with the way the defense played in the first half, it couldn't hurt to play conservatively at that point. We'd kept the field position in our favor for most of the first half, and if Deraney could pin the Jackets again here (which he did), there was a good chance we could control field position in the second half as well.

I can't take issue with the punt even though it turned out Tech went on a long TD drive. Charlie Weis might disagree, but he's actually got a quality quarterback.

The next Wolfpack drive ended in a much more borderline situation, however. State had a 4th-and-6 at the Tech 35, and again Amato decided to punt (and the Jackets were again pinned inside the 5 yard line). Regardless of the nice work by the kick coverage guys (namely Marcus Hudson), punting in this situation was not the proper move. I think you gotta throw the punt out of the equation once your offense gets inside the 40 (and, as I've discovered, game theory more than agrees), especially if you've got a manageable 4th down--like 6 yards for a first down, for example. Going for it isn't the only option. You could also have Deraney come out and attempt a field goal; frankly, I'm disappointed that this wasn't more seriously considered. We know Deraney's got the boot; he's shown off on numerous occasions during halftime warmups. Not to mention that he's hit a field goal from that distance during a game.

Instead of staying aggressive, the coaches punted the ball and we lost our last legitimate possession on Tech's side of the field. We would score later on the slant to BC, but that brief sprint was the only other time in the second half where the Pack had the ball on Tech's side of the 50.

Tech didn't score on the immediate drive after the Wolfpack punt, so I'm not second-guessing because they went on another lengthy scoring march. I'm second-guessing because it seems evident that the payoff outweighed the risk. We just weren't willing to gamble.

In the 4th quarter, when State got the ball back with 5:15 left, Georgia Tech had 2 timeouts left. After converting one third down, the Pack quickly found itself in another third down situation. There were less than three minutes left, Tech had only one timeout left, and State only needed a yard.

Out of one of our familiar WCO formations--a one back set with three receivers bunched right next to the offensive line--Marc Trestman called a toss to the bunched side (wide side) of the field. Toney Baker received the pitch and got some decent blocking, but was stuffed as he turned upfield. It's been argued that we should have simply run straight at Georgia Tech, possibly with Reggie Davis carrying the ball.

I don't have a problem with the toss for a couple of reasons. For one thing, that play had netted nearly 8 yards on first down. Secondly, and more importantly, I think Toney Baker cut up the field too quickly. Had he sprinted around his blocks to the outside (rather than cutting up into the area between the bunched recievers and the OL), I think he'd have gotten the first down easily. It looked to me like the two receivers near the edge of the play had created an effective seal. But Toney cut it up sooner, which allowed the Tech defenders who were initially behind the play to more easily catch up to him.

I'm not criticizing Toney here, just using him to make my point--after all, the fact that he did quickly cut up the field indicates that he understood the situation. In short yardage situations, it's obviously not a good idea to dither in the backfield for too long. Toney recognized this; he's a smart guy. He knew that if he attempted to run to the outside, there was a chance (albeit not much of one in this case) he could get strung out and tackled for a loss.


A bases loaded/no outs situation is worth, on average, 2.3 runs. That was the mess Orlando Hernandez came into in the 6th inning, and the White Sox were only up 4-3. Once I was through hurling expletives at Damaso Marte, I said to myself that I'd be thrilled if the White Sox managed to get out of the inning with the score tied.

In one of the tensest innings I've ever witnessed, El Duque managed to get out of the jam without allowing a run. The count went to 3-2 on the last two hitters of the inning, much to the chagrin of my life expectancy.

Hernandez breezed through the 7th and 8th, and Bobby Jenks made it look just as easy in the 9th. Unbelievable.

One-man show

Never a doubt

Uh huh. At no point did I think we were going to lose the game. Nope.

Okay, none of that is true.

Box Score

Watching this team play football--even during a win like tonight's--is still like getting a route canal. If nothing else, I have to admire our consistent stupidity: another game, another ten penalties. Including a running into the kicker call that netted GT a first down. I can't get enough of those, let me tell you.

Jay Davis, you are a girly man, but I love you anyway. Why does the ball sail on you at the worst possible times?

The officiating in the early stages of the game, which included two apparent turnovers (one that counted and one that didn't), was ghastly. Both calls went Tech's way, not that I'm surprised, because it seems like those calls always go the other way.

The first--a supposed Jay Davis INT--pretty clearly hit the ground. Was there a stoppage for review? Nah.

Later, Reggie Ball fumbled before his arm started moving forward. The officials called it a fumble on the field, there was a review this time, and, naturally, it was ruled an incomplete pass (total bleeping BS). Fortunately, Georgia Tech's kicker missed his chip shot attempt on that drive, so the Jackets didn't get anything from their pair of breaks.

There aren't a lot of good things to take from the game other than the outcome, but hey, that's more than enough for me.

The offense was pretty terrible tonight, especially in the second half. Tech held the ball for 18:00 in the second half, and their offense started moving consistently as our defense tired. The Jackets ran more than 90 offensive plays compared to NC State's 56. They outgained the Pack 443-286. We've outgained so many opponents on the way to losing over the last 15 games that I have no sympathy.

Reggie Ball was a laughable 6-25 in the first half, but he did manage 15-28 in the second. That makes him 30-80 with 5 INTs against NC State in the last two years.

As I noted in my rundown over at Golden Tornado, we haven't run the ball effectively against the Jackets over the last four years. That didn't change tonight: 56 net yards rushing.

Surprisingly, we saw absolutely no Darrell Blackman in the backfield. Toney Baker got almost all of the carries (I have no problem with this at all). Toney did the best he could tonight and showed some good vision and footwork. Even on the plays that were blown up by terrible blocking, Toney fought for yards and often broke tackles. He's a good one.

BC! Holy crap, holmes. It's nice to see us make some big plays through the air. I thought Jay Davis was going to get crushed on the flea flicker, but he somehow managed to get the ball off ahead of the hit. And that throw to BC on the slant...thing of beauty.

I can't blame Davis too much tonight. His first interception should have been reviewed and overturned; his second was another overthrow, which although a mistake, was not a poor read. It would be nice if he could get through a game without being responsible for a turnover...

TJ Williams: thanks for fighting for the tough yardage and getting some significant first downs. You rock.

The defense was excellent in the first half, forcing the Jackets to punt on 5 of 7 possessions. Ball threw an INT on another and the Jackets also missed a field goal (on a drive that started around NCSU's 40). Unfortunately, it appears that Miguel Scott, who made the pick off Ball in the first half, has broken his ankle. Major bummer. Now we'll see more JJ Jones...that ain't good.

I am disappointed in the lack of pressure on Ball; then again, pressure isn't a requisite for Ball having a bad game.

Good effort by the special teams tonight aside from the obligatory dumbass penalties. Deraney did a good job pinning the Jackets with punts and made his only field goal attempt.

What an unbelievable finish. I mean, we caught a break! Us! NC State! Seriously.
Calvin Johnson was in the midst of a brilliant performance, so I figured there wasn't much chance that he'd drop the ball. Marcus Hudson put enough of a hit on him to knock it loose, and Garland Heath was johnny-on-the-spot.

Two missed chip shot FGs and a last-second INT off of a tip. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.

On to Clempson.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Tudor goes out on a limb

Crunch the numbers until the calculator punts, and the conclusion you reach is that Chuck Amato hasn't advanced the N.C. State football program much within the ACC.

Wow, thanks for the insight.

The perception is that State's program is much stronger now than when Amato arrived. There's no question the infrastructure is much better, and Amato has earned a reputation as a prolific recruiter.

But the last time State won six ACC games was in 1994, O'Cain's second season. If Amato loses tonight, he can't match that this year.

So when it comes to N.C. State's standing in the ACC, not much has changed. a fair point. But the idea that the program is "much stronger" is based on a lot more than perception. The ultimate measuring stick is wins and losses, and I won't argue that; however, Tudor's not giving enough weight to the "infrastructure"--better facilities, a vastly improved recruiting presence in the southeast, four bowl trips in five years.

And we may not be winning a lot more conference games, but we are significantly more competitive. I think that's extremely important.

Mike O'Cain took State to 3 bowls in seven years, and they weren't consecutive. Aside from the 1994 team that went 9-3, the next best record O'Cain managed was 7-5. Prior to last season, 7-5 was Amato's worst mark as the Wolfpack's coach. State went 3-8 in both 1995 and 1996; we'll never have a record that poor while Amato's here.

Tudor glosses over these points by narrowing his scope to conference W-L and pointing out the cupcakes Amato has beaten (several, though, like UConn, New Mexico and Kansas shouldn't be on the list because they were bowl-caliber teams), but he ignores the cupcake wins from the O'Cain era (not to mention the painful upsets; i.e., Baylor 1998, UNC 1999). And I dare say that the ACC is stronger now (especially after expansion) than it was back in the 1990s.

Not all 23-25 records are created equally.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

We're due.

Screw it--I'm tired of thinking about all the ways we can keep losing games, and there's not much point in worrying about it in the hours leading up to a game. Lament the mistakes in the immediate aftermath of a game, sure; constantly frustrate myself by asking why we can't be more error-free, no.

If the flags start to fly and the turnovers become numerous, well, it'll be just another one of those days. By now, these things are to be expected, which makes it a lot easier to laugh them off. So we embarrassed ourselves on national television again. Big deal.

And we are due. No wins in Atlanta since 1988; four consecutive losses to Tech, a couple of which were to some pretty blah GT teams, too. Here we are in October, the only team other than Duke still looking for its first conference win.

I realize the "we're due" thing is garbage--once the game starts, NC State's recent struggles against Georgia Tech are as irrelevant as Tech's home winning streak against NC State is. But I'm saying it because, I dunno, it feels like the right sentiment. It might just be a sign of desperation. I find that these sorts of feelings tend to creep in when I don't want to consider what a loss could mean for the season. When you're winning your fair share, the losses are easier to stomach...falling two games under .500, though, is difficult to consider.

It's tough to wipe the mental slate clean and not worry about circumstance. Here's hoping that the Pack make me blissfully forgetful for a few hours.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Visitor's Perspective: Georgia Tech

Editor's Note: Leading up to Thursday night's game, Nathan from Golden Tornado and I are trading posts about our respective teams. You can view my rundown of NC State over on Golden Tornado; this is Nathan's analysis of the Jackets:

Ronald Reagan was the president the last time NCSU won in Atlanta. The Braves were the worst team in baseball still. I was 8 years old, and growing up the child (and grandchild) of UNC alums. So yeah, I pretty much don't remember the last time my Yellow Jackets lost to the 'Pack at home - for all my memory of ACC football, State just goes to Atlanta and loses. Will that be any different this time around? I have no idea, both teams have huge question marks going into the game and are coming off bad losses - it will be interesting to see how well they rebound.

On offense, everything starts (or stops) with Reggie Ball for Tech this year. When he's playing well - like he did against Auburn and UNC - this is a very good offense. Ball has his limitations, in that he's fairly short and therefore has trouble with some throws over the middle of the field. He will also never be the most accurate thrower. Our passing offense utilizes a number of designed rollouts to get him out of the pocket, where he can see better and is more dangerous as a runner. Ball's best throw is an obscenely high mortar trajectory fade that he throws, and combined with CJ and Bilbo's size, it is almost unguardable -this is a route that GT likes to try and run 3 or 4 times per game, especially in the red zone. Ball's decision making has improved dramatically this year, and he should be fully healthy from the meningitis that hospitalized him last week. I actually expect him to play pretty well, as long as our o-line buys him some time.

In the backfield, P.J Daniels is a former first team All-ACC player, and is one of the better backs in the conference. He is normally paired with Mike Cox who is an excellent lead blocker at the fullback spot. Chan Gailey likes to run a ball control offense, andDaniels is the perfect sledgehammer back for him to do it with. Expect to see 25 or so carries for him in the game if things are going well, and another 10 or so for Tashard Choice, the transfer from Oklahoma who backs him up. Daniels has 3 100 yard games already this season, and is the emotional leader of the offense. When he's running well, this is a totally different team.

The offensive line is young, young and younger. They are very athletic, but also undersized, and got absolutely manhandled by VT's physical defensive line in Blacksburg. However, they played very well against Auburn's terrific line in the opener. Auburn's line is smaller and faster and has a pair of bookend DE's, more in the same mold as NCSU's. On Thursday night, I expect to see many of the misdirection and zoneblocking schemes that Tech used successfully against Auburn - as well as several designed QB runs like Ball had early in that game to try and help the offensive line out. Gailey has used a number of misdirection runs, traps and counters to help out the line and to maximize their athleticism as opposed to brute size.This is probably the most interesting matchup of the day, because if NCSU's line dominates the way VT's did, it's going to be a long night in Atlanta for the Jackets.

At wideout there's Calvin Johnson. Quite simply, he's the best WR in college football and absolutely uncoverable by any college corner. He beat Jimmy Williams from VT like a rented mule last weekend, but Ball barely ever had time to throw him the ball. When he did, CJ made the most of it (5 catches for 123yards and 1TD). Johnson is averaging a ridiculous 21.0 ypc this year, despite facing almost constant doubleteams. When he gets the ball in space he's extremely dangerous because of his speed, but more often our passing game calls on him using his leaping ability and body control to make a play in coverage. Unlike Torry Holt, he's a great receiver because of his freakish athleticism and size moreso than his skill and polish - more in the Randy Moss mold. Alongside Johnson is Damarius Bilbo, another big wideout who's finally coming into his own. Originally recruited as a QB, he's bounced around the program without a position, but playing WR exclusively this year he's looked very good. At 6'3" and 220+, he's a physical mismatch against almost any teams #2 corner and he had a huge game against UNC when they rotated the coverage to CJ's side.

The Jacket defense is a tale of two parts so far this year. The run defense has been exceptional, the pass defense has been hide-your-eyes brutal at times. Unfortunately for Thursday night, two of the key components to our very thin defensive line are a bitbanged up, and that may have a huge effect on the game. GT's defense has basically no depth other than at LB, and it's especially bad along the defensive line. Eric Henderson is the best player on the defensive line, a former first team All-ACC defensive end and ACC sack leader. He's actually a better runstopper than pass rusher (in my opinion) and is the anchor of the line when he's healthy. Right now he's questionable for the game with an ankle sprain, and it's unlikely he'll be 100% if he does play.

[Editor's note: here's an addendum from Nathan regarding Henderson:
Eric Henderson is now out for the game, and Darrell Robertson will play instead, and while he's a good pass rusher - he's undersized and is not nearly as effective in the running game. Quite frankly, he's just not Eric Henderson, and when you lose a first team all-conference player it's a big blow.]

Along with him, Joe Anoai is the best tackle on the GT line, a big mean run stuffing Samoan (he's the son of "Sika"from the WWF "Wild Samoans" tag team if you remember that). He also left the VT game early with an injury, though he's likely a go for Thursday.

The 3 linebackers at GT are the strength of the defensive unit, and all 3 starters have a shot at playing on Sundays. Gerris Wilkinson is the senior leader at MLB, and the brains of the defense. Kamichael Hall and Philip Wheeler are both extremely quick outside linebackers and big time hitters -though the best hitter is Gary Guyton off the bench. Even in the defeat to VT, GT's defense gave up only 2.2 yards per rush - and a huge part of that is the fact that our LB's just fly to the ball carrier. Expect to see all 3 of them actively involved in nearly every play, this is one of the better units in the ACC. Tenuta would blitz with the tuba player if he could, but he settles for one of these guys on almost every play instead - I don't think he's been too dissapointed so far to this point.

The secondary. Ugh. James Butler is now playing for the NY Giants, Rueben Houston is off the team (though will likely not be charged with anything) and our starting SS is a converted linebacker. This unit hasn't tackled well, and this has led to several long catch and runs that should have been stopped for short gains. Chris Reis led the team in the sacks last year as an OLB, and is still a terrific blitzer and runstopper at the SS position. He hasn't played very well in pass coverage yet, and the two corners (Scott and Davis) have both struggled as well. If the tackling improves, this unit could be fairly solid - but that is just killing us right now, because Tenuta's constant blitzing requires that the secondary make tackles in one on one situations. Both Auburn TD's came on broken tackles on simple out routes, and that will be this team's defensive achilles heel if they can't fix it.

On special teams, the field goal and punt teams are among the best in the ACC. Travis Bell has missed only one kick inside of 40 yards in his career, and that was the block last week at VT. Ben Arndt is one of the better punters in the ACC. Our kickoff unit has been awful though, and our kick coverage in general hasn't been very good. Expect a lot of high kickoffs to the 15 yard line or so, and the possibility of breaking one for a TD is always there with as poorly as we've covered them. This GT team is just so thin they can't risk playing anyone on special teams and it showed against VT, where we just got dominated completely in that area.

As for a prediction ... well, Gailey led teams have always done well coming off a bye week, and it was sorely needed to get everyone healthy. This GT team hasn't shown the penchant for beating themselves some other versions have, and has already won 3 pretty tough games so far. @Auburn, UNC and UCONN is a nice resume to this point and I'd expect another good performance at home and at night. So ... 20-10 Tech. I don't expect NCSU to be able to run the ball, and asking Jay Davis to beat a Tenuta defense on his own might be too much. But who knows, it's the ACC and every game seems to take a bizarre twist somewhere along the line. Enjoy your time in Atlanta if you are going to the game, Bobby Dodd is a unique experience in college sports.

BlogPoll Ballot -- Week 6

Last week's BlogPoll is here. My week 5 ballot is here.

Rank TeamLast Week
1 Southern Cal1
2 Texas2
3 Virginia Tech5
4 Ohio State4
6 Florida State7
7 Tennessee8
8 LSU9
9Miami (FL)10
11 Florida3
12Notre Dame14
13Arizona State12
18Texas A&M18
21Michigan State13
22Georgia Tech22
23Texas Tech23
24Boston CollegeNR
25Penn StateNR

Hasta lasagna: Minnesota, Purdue

Games viewed this week:
Saturday: VT vs. WVU, UVA vs. Maryland, Michigan vs. Michigan State, Baylor vs. Texas A&M, Clemson vs. Wake Forest, Florida vs. Alabama, USC vs. ASU, Notre Dame vs. Purdue

Ballot Notes:

-- I don't really like Penn State that much, but, like, who else is there?

-- Losses by teams in the 15-20 range of last week's ballot have forced me to jump a few teams higher than I'd prefer to.

-- Arizona State only loses one spot after their effort against Southern Cal. Maybe that's not enough, but I couldn't justify ranking them behind the teams in their immediate rear. Conversely, I might've dropped Michigan State too far.

-- Scott Podsednik just hit his first homerun of the season! Holycrapdudes.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Reality check

A good reminder here about the difficulties of building a great football program.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Random Saturday thoughts

-- Wake Forest replaced Ben Mauk with Cory Randolph during the week, and it paid off pretty much immediately against Clemson. Considering how well Randolph played, it's hard to figure how he lost the job to Mauk. I'm sure he's glad not to be playing wide receiver any more.

-- Virginia = Maryland = Clemson = NC State.

-- I'm surprised and disappointed by how many points Virginia gave up to Maryland. I thought they were much better than that, but then again, they did allow Syracuse to break 20. The Terps seem to have turned things around a bit; they're still not particularly impressive, but I can see them sneaking into a bowl game.

-- Dude, Clemson, what happened? And what was up with that fake FG with about 3:30 left? No one should have to go through what the Tigers have over the last three games.

-- The Tar Heels won, though I see they've gone back to rushing the ball anemically. Their offensive performance against NC State remains their best of the season.


-- Chad Henne looked excellent against MSU in the first half...or maybe that was just the Spartans defense. Mike Hart was excellent as well.

-- Most impressive performance this week, by far: USC's ground game. Good god. Lyndale White and Reggie Bush were awesome in the second half. I'm still pretty impressed with ASU despite the outcome. They showed that this year's team is different and that they're capable of playing with the conference's best team. ASU is definitely a top 20 team.

-- Purdue secondary = um...

-- Figures--I finally buy into Minnesota, and they go lay an egg in State College. You know what, fine, Gophers; I didn't want to rank you anyway.

-- Rutgers 37, Pitt 29. The comedy continues.

-- Al-uh-bama, y'all! Alabama.

-- Tied with Texas A&M, Baylor had the ball with about :50 left around their own 35 yard line. They played for OT and lost. Why not try to get into field goal range? What'd they have to lose?