South Alabama vs NC State Preview: Take Two

Sometimes, you just need a “Take Two” moment. You realize the first “take” maybe wasn’t what you wanted it to be and just need to go back to the beginning. Maybe the lighting wasn’t right… maybe the dialog wasn’t executed the best… or maybe your secondary just sucked to high Hell and needs a second chance to redeem themselves.


Now that we have that out of our system, NC State can look forward to South Alabama where it will have a “Take Two” moment to reset, evaluate problems from the first two games, reinforce strengths that we’ve seen thus far, and work on the overall execution of BOTH offensive and defensive schema. Tom O’Brien understands that this is the team’s “Take Two” game…

We have to come out with a whole different mindset and effort than we’ve been getting out of this football team. I have to get it out of them and I’m going to get it out of them. (WF-NCSU Locker Room Interview)

Take Two: On to South Alabama.


 South Alabama is in the DIAA ‘Independent Conference’ (same conference as Georgia State for those familiar).  As it is with many smaller conference schools, you’re on top of the world one week and in the gutter the next, so it’s difficult to tell what to expect.  So far, the South Alabama Jaguars (dressed in solid red… what is it with scheduling other “red” D1AA schools?) have defeated both of their opening opponents (West Alabama 20-12 and Lamar 30-8).  Even though the Jags managed to defeat West Alabama, they struggled, throwing 3 picks and allowing almost 270 yards against a team that isn’t even D1.  They were able to put it together and absolutely crush Lamar, running up the score early in the first half and not allowing Lamar to score until the second half.  What the Jaguars haven’t had to do thus far is go on the road and/or play a D1A opponent.

Jags Have Something To Prove.
Oh, when I said they hadn’t played a D1A opponent, I didn’t mean this season, I meant EVER.  That’s right, South Alabama’s FCS football program has only played 19 games in their program’s history and won every single one of them and never once met a D1A opponent.  Regardless, this is the kind of team that can embarrass a “bigger program”.  This is a team coming off a 19 game winning streak against their peers, but still not gaining any attention on any sort of a national stage due to their schedule and lack of a complete season.  Last season, the Jags only played 7 games.  Unlike other FCS opponents who come into Carter-Finley feeling cocky at their own FCS success, expect the Jags to come to Raleigh having something to prove to their peer FCS programs and willing to fight hard for a victory.

They are going to be fielding a wide receiver who was the first senior in their program’s history to make the Senior Bowl and to be signed into the NFL by the NY Jets (he did not get drafted).  Signed by the NY Jets?  Then what is he doing back on the team?!  Long story-short, he was cut.  Still, last season he earned 59 catches for 1282 yards at South Alabama.

Their quarterback is quickly improving on his early performance.  Opening week, he allowed 3 interceptions and only totaled 151 yards.  Last week he totaled worse with 144 yards.  However, when he does pass, he is reasonably accurate, completing 9 for 14 last week and 12 for 21 the week before.  The Jaguars don’t pass a lot, but that’s because they are so capable on the ground.

Last week, the Jaguars totaled 356 yards, 205 of that was on the ground.  That total is broken into 36 attempts for 5.7 yards each.  If the running game is their source of success, this may be a good opportunity to work on fundamentals and coverage for the NC State secondary.

South Alabama’s defense is suspect, even in their own division.  Against the admittedly poor performance against West Alabama, they spent most of the game down at their own endzone.  The improvements in week 2 were seen mostly in rushing defense where they were able to improve from allowing a DII team to post 170 yards rushing to holding a comparable D1AA school to 115 yards rushing.

Still Not A Huge Threat
After how furious O’Brien was in the “wake” of our last loss (my word-play is second to none…), and after the less-than-impressive victory over Liberty, I don’t see any way this game is close.  If it is, expect for O’Brien to be charged with crimes against humanity for the punishment he is likely to put his players through.  All emotion aside, NC State’s team did play better in week 2 on the road than they did week one against a D1AA opponent at home (318yds offense became 424yds offense in week 2 against a better team).  The only threat that South Alabama may pose is if their quarterback, CJ Bennet, is given a few more opportunities to go into the air.  He has managed to do “decent” in their past several games and with a fairly talented WR on the field; we can’t put it pass the secondary to wiff on some big plays.

All-in-all, this should be a fairly soft opponent that offers temporal challenges throughout the game, allowing for our players to gain more experience.


1) Glennon keeps getting hotter and hotter.  His performance last night was less than stellar before the second half, but at the end of the night, he matched his 58% completion rate from his first game and had made 10 more passing attempts than the week prior.  Watch for how long it takes Glennon to warm up.  In both games, his first halves are averaging out to a 54% completion rate while his second halves are at 61%.  Can Glennon come out of the gate hot (or at the very least, start getting hot before the half)?

2) Attention Offensive Line… if you can’t beat the easy ones, you can’t beat the hard ones.  During the Liberty game, Glennon was in serious trouble.  It’s fair to say that they did much better against Wake, but still didn’t perform well (Glennon was sacked 4 times against Liberty vs 0 times against Wake).  They need to maintain the protection over the pocket and help to open up the run.  Against Wake, NC State was unable to improve on it’s 111 yards rushing and ended up with 109 yards.  Watch to see how the offensive line stiffens against the blitz and opens up the run.  That could be said of any football team, but against a soft opponent, these maneuvers should be flawless (if executed correctly).

3) Secondary needs to work on basics. There are different coaching mentalities with defensive backs and I’m not sure which one our staff is teaching.  They need to continue to play the ball, not the receiver. (NOTE: One of our staple members/writers and former Wolfpacker, “theCOWDOG”, has brought up that this may semantically be incorrect.  I am attempting to point out that the secondary has been playing with a very “soft” defense where they allow the receivers to make-or-break their own catches, and simply prevent “the big play”.  This seems to make it easy for talented QBs to go downfield and rely on the skill of their receivers.  What NC State needs to begin to do is poise themselves better to interrupt the pass before it gets to the receiver’s hands.)  Against Liberty, the defense was able to pull down 4 interceptions because on those plays they were trying to play the ball rather than the receiver.  There were moments against Wake where you could see that happening, but there was a lot of aimless chasing around of the receivers.  I think we’d all like to see better fluidity between safeties and see more aggressive plays for the ball.  Watch to see how these safeties are worked on throughout the week to see if their fundamentals are being reinforced and they are executing efficiently.

4) If nothing else, Wil Baumann and Niklas Sade will have an outstanding game and will no doubt become the guys we rely on to clean-up whatever mess the offense may lay on the field.  Sade, despite missing 2 extra points, is totaling 16 points on the year including 3/3 field goals, one from 45 yards out.  Baumann is averaging almost 40 yards per punt with long-kicks both against Liberty and Wake Forest that are close to 50 yards.

About NCStatePride

***ABOUT THE AUTHOR: NCStatePride has been writing for since 2010 and is a 2009 graduate of the College of Engineering.

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46 Responses to South Alabama vs NC State Preview: Take Two

  1. Prowling Woofie 09/14/2011 at 8:18 AM #

    Good preview, Pride –

    This needs to be a complete, four quarter beat-down – no let up, no mass substitutions.

  2. VaWolf82 09/14/2011 at 8:29 AM #

    By all means, let’s risk injuries to the starters while giving no game experience to the lower ends of the depth charts….all during a blow out. That’s a win-win proposition all the way around.

  3. VaWolf82 09/14/2011 at 8:32 AM #

    or maybe your secondary just sucked to high Hell

    It would be interesting to know if the secondary plays so far off of the receivers because that’s TOB strategy regardless of talent…or if the huge gaps are because the secondary can’t cover and TOB is more concerned about the big play.

    Of course, there is not anything that I could do with that info. I would just like to know.

  4. NCStatePride 09/14/2011 at 9:33 AM #

    I completely agree and I still can’t tell what the coaching approach is, either (note the last paragraph in the article). I have always been of the mindset that you “play the ball”, not the receiver, but some DB coaches are convinced it’s better to “play the route” that the receiver is going for. I really can’t tell what our secondary is doing because they seem to inconsistently play to both of these approaches. Like you said, though, it *might* just be that it has been made perfectly clear how the DB’s need to drop into coverage and they just aren’t executing.

    I don’t care what they do… but they need to stop allowing teams to wrack up ~300 yards on passing each game we play.

  5. TruthBKnown Returns 09/14/2011 at 9:47 AM #

    I think our starters need to play at least three full quarters. Even if we have a solid lead, we don’t want them to get fat and happy. Make sure they get their reps so they can gain more confidence and improve their conditioning. We need to learn to play four quarters and never EVER take our foot off the opponent’s throat.

    If we have a huge lead, only then should the scrubs come in sometime in the fourth quarter.

  6. NCSU88 09/14/2011 at 9:48 AM #

    ^^ Blowing multiple third and longs = giving up the big play.

  7. JEOH2 09/14/2011 at 9:54 AM #

    One factor that has to be mentioned…we have a game next Thursday on the road against a BCS opponent on ESPN. We have to run up the score early and hopefully only play our starters for about 2 1/12 quarters so we can rest them for UC.

    A win at UC would right the ship so far, giving us confidence in the extra time we’ll need to prepare for a different type of GT offense then we have seen.

    Our goal for the USA game is simple: Complete and utter annhilation from the opening kick. Pull out all the stops early…

  8. WolfBlood 09/14/2011 at 9:57 AM #

    What the hell is a Lamar?

    NCStatePride: Just roll with it. They are D1AA.

  9. NCStatePride 09/14/2011 at 9:58 AM #

    When we are talking about “resting our starters”, remember that part of this game is going to be working the kinks out of a somewhat broken system. At this time, I think saying “take the starters out after the 2nd quarter” or anything like that is premature. Seems to me you continue to play starters until you feel confident that they are executing correctly, THEN you take them out.

  10. TruthBKnown Returns 09/14/2011 at 10:05 AM #

    It would be interesting to know if the secondary plays so far off of the receivers because that’s TOB strategy regardless of talent…or if the huge gaps are because the secondary can’t cover and TOB is more concerned about the big play.

    I was thinking about this exact possibility just this morning. Our secondary seems to play “soft”, presumably to prevent the “big play” (like you said). But they’re not even preventing the big play. So we need to play tightly and at least maybe prevent some of the smaller plays that end up extending opponents’ drives. If it doesn’t work, and we’re giving up even more big plays, then abandon that strategy and resume the soft coverage and hope for the best.

    This is really disappointing, because after last year, I thought our secondary had made the turn and was going to be a strength. Instead, they’re a liability. Maybe giving up 400+ yards of offense to Liberty was a wake-up call.

  11. coach13 09/14/2011 at 10:14 AM #

    60 something to 0 = good progress, we are starting to correct some things

    40 something to 20 something = no progress, long season, no bowl

    barely win = TOB is in trouble and should be concerned about his future employment.

    We lose = Debbie Yow goes onto the field immediately, fires TOB and company and offers job to SA coaching staff.

  12. TheCOWDOG 09/14/2011 at 10:16 AM #


    Counter opinions in the form of questions.

    1. What does a +30 pt. win over a South Alabama demonstrate?

    2. What is the purpose of a zone defense? Favored by this staff.

    3. What is the purpose of the blitz? And what happens when you don’t finish off said blitz?

    4. Why are DBs taught to play the receiver? And what happens when they start playing the ball?

    The answers are football 101, boys.

  13. coach13 09/14/2011 at 10:21 AM #

    When is the last time we buried a team in the first quarter…just demoralized a team and had it in the bag before halftime? I can’t remember.

  14. VaWolf82 09/14/2011 at 10:26 AM #

    The only valid conclusions that you can reach from playing a I-AA opponent are “negative” ones. In other words, if some aspect of the team sucks against a I-AA team, then it’s only going to get worse from there.

    giving up 400+ yards of offense to Liberty was a wake-up call.

    This warning was obviously ignored by those that were predicting an easy win against WF.

  15. LRM 09/14/2011 at 10:29 AM #

    I’m with cowdog and va. This is South Alabama’s first ever I-A/FBS opponent. Beating them badly is indicative of nothing.

    However, struggling against them is indicative of plenty.

    “This warning was obviously ignored by those that were predicting an easy win against WF.

    I recall someone predicting an easy 35-point win over WF because of our superior talent and depth.

  16. NCStatePride 09/14/2011 at 10:43 AM #

    …like I said, to me the score, time, or possession is irrelevent. This should be treated as a scrimmage for the staff and when they are satisfied with this week’s progress in practice, yank the starters. If that’s the first quarter, so be it.

    theCOWDOG, to your last point, if that’s football 101, I’m not sure that it’s universally taught. For example, when I was at a couple of Wake’s football combine several years ago, they were all about after the pass, playing the ball and not the receivers. Logic being that if you play the receiver, there is a high likelihood that your response will be purely reactionary and you leave whether the pass is a completion up to the opposing team. If you play the ball, you can force the missed pass or the interception.

    Maybe it was football 101, but I’m just saying that I’ve seen programs that were later successful explain EXACTLY why you play the ball. Either way, you don’t see any type of consistency across our D-Backs. Whether its execution or instruction, it’s not working.

  17. TruthBKnown Returns 09/14/2011 at 10:44 AM #

    This warning was obviously ignored by those that were predicting an easy win against WF.

    I’m not sure why you come after me at every turn.

    Obviously, I was one of those, and my reason for that was I expected Price to either not play much or not play well on that sprained knee. Without Price, Wake has nothing on offense. I really thought our D-line would put the smackdown on Wake with Price’s wounded knee. It sure didn’t look wounded to me.

    And our superior depth is precisely why we made the comeback that fell just short. We had no business falling behind by 21 points to Wake Forest. If our all-ACC tight end was not dropping first down passes out there and we had tied the game on that late drive, no doubt we’d have won the game in overtime. Because of the depth.

    I was right about everything I predicted except for underestimating the health of Price’s knee.

  18. JVM4PACK 09/14/2011 at 10:44 AM #

    Coach 13…if I remember correctly, Western Carolina, 48-7 in 2010. Which I’m not sure if that is saying much…now I can’t remember total dominance against a BCS team

  19. coach13 09/14/2011 at 10:49 AM #

    Yes a BCS/D1 team…I meant to specify…

  20. TruthBKnown Returns 09/14/2011 at 10:49 AM #

    now I can’t remember total dominance against a BCS team

    Seems like we beat Wake by 35 last year, didn’t we?

  21. NCStatePride 09/14/2011 at 10:53 AM #

    I was right about everything I predicted except for underestimating the health of Price’s knee.

    No, you made a bunch of ambiguous assumptions that lead you to believe we would win by 35. The *facts* were completely against anything you predicted. Part of the reason I write these previews is because I admit that I don’t really know what is going on with every single team we play, so this forces me to do the research that I can then pass on. If you were clueless in what to expect from Tanner Price, then you could have read the article. From last week’s Wake VS State preview…

    “In last Saturday’s overtime loss to Syracuse, Tanner scored 3 touchdowns amounting up to 289 yards, averaging just over 9 yards per completion. He also managed to complete 18/31 passes over a better team than Liberty. The moral of the story: the Wolfpack secondary needs to man-up and stop the pass.”

    Expectations should be made on what you know has occurred in the past, not necessarily what you think “should” happen on Saturday. With a fairly young team, I don’t think you can “assume” a D-line is going to smash a quarterback that just had a sprain the previous week, especially if the coach thinks he’s healthy enough to play the following week.

  22. rtpack24 09/14/2011 at 10:57 AM #

    Someone asked where Lamar was located, Beaumont Tx. At one point they had a fairly decent basketball program. If we struggle against South Ala. then we might be in for along year. Hopefully, the defense will show vast improvement. Giving up over 400 yds to Liberty and for the most part running in the wrong direction against Wake most of the day makes you wonder what Archer has been doing during preseason practice.

  23. TruthBKnown Returns 09/14/2011 at 11:03 AM #

    What in your preview stated that Price was going to be playing on a healthy knee?

    I stand by what I wrote. Without Price doing damage the way he did to Syracuse, we’d have won like I expected. The entire dynamics of the game would have changed. Their offense would not have kept our defense on the field as much. Our defense would have just gotten stronger as the game wore on.

    I assumed Price would either not play much, if at all. Or if he did, he’d be a little gimpy. I’m not on Wake Forest’s medical staff, but I did know that Wake kept him out in a winnable game that they ended up losing. Keeping him out against Cuse was more important to Wake than getting the win. So I rolled with that.

    A gimpy Price (or no Price) would have resulted in an easy win for State.

  24. TheCOWDOG 09/14/2011 at 11:07 AM #

    ” they were all about after the pass ”

    ‘Pride, you just said it yourself. You play the receiver and then react.

    Skate and read. That is a known mantra.

    Where do picks come from? QB mistakes mostly. Pressure anyone? Finishing what you started, ie blitz?

    Wake, as your example, is well known for ball hawking SAFETIES, said so last week, made it a point. However, the hawking is executed by safeties coming off their guy and helping out the corners on sight of a ball in front of them and not until.

    Maybe it’s semantics, but a DB who plays the ball and not the man is not going to be on that field long.

  25. ChemE79a 09/14/2011 at 11:09 AM #

    Speaking of Lamar basketball, back in the late 70’s a kid from my high school (New Hanover in Wilmington) went there. He was a big 6’5″ kid who played center in high school and Lamar. Anyway he was good enough and got enough exposure there that he got drafted into the NBA and lasted at least 3 or 4 seasons. Yes Lamar basketball was good back then.

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