NC STATE FOOTBALL
Joe Giglio (N&O)
Preview: N.C. State at Connecticut
Keep an eye on
RB Lyle McCombs, UConn
At 5-foot-8 and 166 pounds, the biggest problem in defending Lyle McCombs isn’t tackling him but finding him behind UConn’s offensive line. McCombs moved his way through traffic last season for 1,151 yards as a redshirt freshman. Six times he broke the 100-yard barrier last season. In UConn’s 37-0 season-opening win over Massachusetts, McCombs ran for 82 yards and a touchdown.
Given Tennessee’s success on the ground against N.C. State’s defense, expect to see a lot of McCombs – or at least see a lot of results.
“He’s not a real tall kid,” Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said, “but he’s shifty and quick he makes a lot of people miss. It’s tough to find him sometime behind that big offensive line.”
McCombs is on the watch list for several offensive awards.
Cory Smith (N&O)
N.C. State’s Sweezy starts for NFL’s Seahawks
Have you heard the story about the former N.C. State player who was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks and became a starter on opening day? No, this is not Russell Wilson’s story. While Wilson’s journey to becoming the starting quarterback has been grabbing headlines, the story of J.R. Sweezy is equally as important for the Seahawks.
The former standout Wolfpack defensive tackle was drafted in the seventh round in this year’s NFL draft as an offensive guard – and will start in his first game on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. But the transition hasn’t been as easy as it may appear for Sweezy.
“The best way to put it is that everything is opposite right now,” Sweezy said. “I have to use my hands differently, my footwork is different – it’s just been crazy so far. It was a pretty tough transition, but I’ve had nothing but positive people behind me helping me during this offseason.”
Akula Wolf (BackingthePack.com)
Trevardo Williams: UConn’s Track Guy Speed Rusher
While UConn may have some problems with its interior defensive line, the Huskies have the best pure pass rusher in this game. Tom O’Brien has mentioned the kid with the track speed a couple of times this week, and his name is Trevardo Williams. Williams finished the 2011 season with 12.5 sacks, which earned him second team all-conference honors. And as TOB noted, he was one of the top 100 meter sprinters in New England during his high school career.
Sammy Batten (FayObserver.com)
State and UNC will find out more about themselves today
A more clear indication of the kind of success the Wolfpack and Tar Heels can anticipate this season will be known after today’s games.
One of the common beliefs among coaches at nearly every level in football is that teams show the most improvement from the first to the second game.
Unlike their NFL counterparts, who have multiple exhibition games to work out the bugs, college teams get to test themselves against another opponent for the first time only in season openers. When that opener comes against an opponent of Tennessee’s caliber, mistakes are more likely to occur.
Luckily, most of the problems the Wolfpack had against the Volunteers are correctable. I’d be willing to bet you won’t see Mike Glennon throw four interceptions today against Connecticut, nor will David Amerson get burned multiple times on long touchdown passes.
That doesn’t mean Connecticut won’t beat N.C. State. But a truer picture of the Wolfpack will emerge from this game.
Brett Friedlander (starnewsonline.com)
Five questions to ponder before kickoff
2. Can N.C. State bounce back from its opening week disaster in Atlanta?
Friday’s loss to Tennessee at the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic was an opportunity wasted for the Wolfpack. With a roster coach Tom O’Brien has openly called his deepest and most talented since arriving in Raleigh and a big-name SEC opponent coming off a 5-7 season, the stage was set for State to prove to the world that it has arrived as a top-tier program. Instead, it laid a nationally televised egg with its two best players – quarterback Mike Glennon and cornerback David Amerson – having the worst performances of their respective careers. Now the Wolfpack faces another difficult task when it takes to the road again to play Big East contender UConn. It’s a pivotal contest that will likely set the tone for the rest of the season. As disappointing as last week’s result might have been, it’s important for State to realize that it was only one game. There’s still plenty of time for O’Brien and his team to realize its preseason potential. But only if it has a short memory.
Andrew Skwara (accsports.com)
ACC Weekend Preview, Sept. 7
N.C. State (0-1) at Connecticut (1-0)
When: Noon (EST)
TV: Big East Network/ESPN3
Radio: XM 193/Sirius 137
What’s at Stake?
Beating UConn wouldn’t erase the damage done by falling to Tennessee in N.C. State’s heavily-anticipated season opener, but it would certainly help. UConn is a quality opponent and being on the road as well makes for a significantly tougher test. This will also be the Wolfpack’s last chance to grab a solid non-conference win since its remaining two games out of ACC play are against The Citadel (an FCS program) and South Alabama (in its first year at the FBS level). A loss would be a heavy blow since it would give the Pack an 0-2 start with a tough start to ACC play ahead. Three of its first four league games are on the road and the lone home matchup is against No. 6 Florida State.
Key for the Wolfpack
Better decision-making from QB Mike Glennon. The Wolfpack doesn’t have a good enough run game to make up for Glennon throwing four interceptions again. The senior must show more poise.
Key for the Huskies
Ball control. The Wolfpack defense excelled at creating turnovers last year and cornerback David Amerson (13 interceptions in 2011) will be anxious to redeem himself after a poor showing against Tennessee.
These teams have met just once, with N.C. State winning 31-24 in 2003 thanks to an interception returned for a touchdown with five seconds left … UConn crushed UMass, 37-0, last week … UConn linebacker Yawin Smallwood had 3 ½ tackles for a loss against UMass … N.C. State tight ends Mario Carter and Asa Watson combined for nine catches for 96 yards last week against Tennessee.
N.C. State by 4.5
N.C. State 29, Connecticut 21 – Glennon is a better QB than he showed in Atlanta. He’ll bounce back with a big game and carry the Pack to a much-needed win.
GAMEDAY: NC State vs. UConn
Wolfpack Hits the Road Again
Perhaps most surprisingly, two of the Pack’s best players, quarterback Mike Glennon and All-America corner David Amerson, both had bad days at the office. Glennon, who threw only 12 interceptions in 453 passing attempts last season, had four picks against the Vols. Amerson, the nation’s interception leader with 13 in 2011, was beaten for two long scoring passes in the first period.
It all added up to an early deficit that couldn’t be overcome against a talented team from the SEC.
“I know exactly what happened,” Amerson said. “I had my eyes in the wrong place. I wasn’t looking at the receiver and looking at the quarterback too much and he got behind me. You have to have a short-term memory. You have to learn from it and compete.”
As he spoke following Wednesday’s practice, Amerson’s steely-eyed demeanor suggested a burning desire to get back on the field and make amends for what happened last week. Glennon, meanwhile, hunkered down in the film room with offensive coordinator Dana Bible to dissect each throw and each decision in hopes of returning to the form that allowed him to pass for more than 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns last season.
“I think, as much as anything, it was a first game, the speed of the game and trying to force it once or twice,” said Bible. “I want to give the defense some credit. Tennessee’s defense is talented and they made some plays. [Glennon] has looked at it, we’ve looked at it and moved on. We’ve learned from it and he’ll be the better for it.”
Inside Wolfpack Sports TV Show
On the season debut of Inside Wolfpack Sports host Tony Haynes and Mark Thomas prepare State fans for the Connecticut game. Also on the show, Don Shea visits with American Idol and NC State student Scotty McCreery.
Ryan Tice (TheWolfpacker.com)
UConn presents different challenge than Tennessee
The players must now move on because last week is over and done with, and Connecticut presents a whole new set of challenges for the Pack defense.
“It’s a whole lot different,” Archer said. “They play with two different quarterback. No. 10 [starting quarterback Chandler Whitmer] runs a particular system – it’s normal football, from the standpoint of the throw and pass. They want to run the ball, but they didn’t show much last week against UMass. They ran the ball almost 70 percent of the time. When No. 11 [Scott McCummings] comes in, it’s wildcat, it’s the option, it’s the zone read, it’s a whole different style of offense. We’ve got to do a good job of identifying who is in the game at quarterback and then be able to play our defense.”
The other player to watch on the UConn offense is redshirt sophomore running back Lyle McCombs, a second-team All-Big East selection last year that totaled 1,151 yards on the ground en route to Freshman All-America honors. McCombs stood as the second-leading rookie runner in the country last week, and he will be operating behind an experienced front of upperclassmen that averages over 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds.
Jacey Zembal (TheWolfpacker.com)
Offense learns from mistakes, ready for UConn
“It was a much [being the] first game, the speed of the game and trying to make some things happen,” Bible said. “We forced it once or twice, but I want to give the defense credit. Tennessee’s defense is talented and they made some plays too. It wasn’t like it was easy for them. He’ll be the better for it.”
NC State’s rushing attack can help take some pressure off of Glennon by pounding the undersized Huskies defensive line, which averages 261 pounds. NCSU rushed for 119 yards on 32 carries against the Volunteers.
“The running game is always the best friend of the quarterback and that never changes,” Bible said. “We feel like we are making strides and moving in the right direction as far as the running game.”
NC State tight ends Asa Watson and Mario Carter combined for nine receptions for 96 yards, and wide receiver Quintin Payton took advantage of his opportunities for four receptions for 129.
“Those are some people in new roles, and it was good to see them step up and make a splash,” Bible said.
PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
UConn defense preps for a tough test: NC State
North Carolina State and Connecticut faced vastly different levels of competition in their season openers.
No one knows that more than the Huskies.
Saturday’s matchup will be a big step up for the Huskies (1-0), who gave up just 59 yards and three first downs last week in a 37-0 rout of Massachusetts, a team that was playing its first game as a FBS program. NC State (0-1), meanwhile, is coming off a disappointing 35-21 loss to Tennessee, and UConn players understand that most people consider this game a step down in competition for the Wolfpack.
“NC State is going to be one of the better teams that we are going to play all year,” UConn linebacker Jory Johnson said. “I know we had a good game coming in, but this one, and the next one coming up (at Maryland) are going to define our team and see how we are really going to be able to play.
“This is going to be a statement game for us.”