FTRS: Russell Wilson has been the model of inconsistency this season throwing for 300 yards, throwing for 100 yards, throwing for 300 yards... Who is the real Russell Wilson? The guy that torched Cincinasty or the guy who struggled against UCF?
BTP: I don't expect to see any more performances like the UCF game this season. It wasn't unprecedented, but certainly a rare thing. I think Wilson had some noticeable rust after spending the entire spring and summer playing baseball. The other thing was UCF really killed us up front in the second half. We had an offensive lineman go down early and the pass protection deteriorated. He got better protection against Cincinnati and looked much more comfortable.
FTRS: Tom O'Brien is 3-9 in ACC road games while coaching at NC State. What is the main difference between 2010 and O'Brien's 2007-2009 squads that makes you believe the Pack's road woes will subside?
BTP: Three of those losses were 50-50 games that went the wrong way late in the game (two of them, losses at Wake Forest and at Florida State, occurred last season). I don't think there's anything plaguing O'Brien's teams outside of the usual road issues that every team has to deal with. We need to play more consistently on the road--we lost six of those games by at least three scores--but other than that, I don't know. Be more luckier.
Is this year's team any different? I'll tell you in six weeks or so. No environment is going to bother Russell Wilson. And it is encouraging that we've already won a game on the road. We also got almost every break imaginable in that game. If TOB's found a lucky coin, or if this is a sign that the football gods are paying us back for all those injuries, then things are going to be very different indeed.
FTRS: Have Pack fans grown in excitement since the first game or has the excitement been fairly consistent since late Summer? Have the expectations changed with the 3-0 start?
BTP: I think the pre-season consensus among Wolfpack fans was a 6-6 or 7-5 season. 7-5 seemed the ceiling for this team considering how difficult the schedule looked at the time. The excitement level definitely has increased with the 3-0 start, and the expectations naturally go with that. I hear more people talking 8-9 wins than I did before the season began. Our schedule doesn't look quite as daunting as it did a month ago; both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech have looked vulnerable, and North Carolina is considerably more beatable what with two thirds of its defense in the penalty box.
We haven't been 3-0 since 2002 and it's tough to keep the mind out of the clouds when a season starts so unexpectedly well. But the defense hasn't really been challenged yet, and expect Saturday's game to tell us a lot.
FTRS: Besides making a bowl game, is there one game or goal State fans have pinned as a critical point for the season? A make or break game?
BTP: I thought we needed to get three wins out of conference if we were to have any shot at a bowl game, and we've done that. So that's the first critcal hurdle cleared. The critical stretch remaining is the last quarter of the schedule when we play Wake Forest, North Carolina, and Maryland. Those are all winnable games, and all games we may need to get bowl eligible (though I really hope that doesn't end up the case). And of course beating Carolina is always important.
FTRS: The biggest thing I've heard from my State alum coworkers is that Jon Tenuta has turned around this State defense. Who are the main guys we need to watch for up the middle defending our B-Back dive? Who are the main guys defending Nesbitt and the A-Backs on the edge?
BTP: It does look like the defense has more bite to it than in years past, but again, we've not been challenged by a good offense yet. We haven't had to deal with anything that presents the sort of fundamental and disciplinary challenge that Tech's offense does.
Nate Irving is at middle linebacker this season, and while he's clearly not 100% at this point, the other two linebackers, Audie Cole and Terrell Manning, have played well. This is the best I've felt about our linebacking corps since O'Brien got here. So I think we'll be okay up the middle. Irving may not be making a lot of plays, but his ability to recognize what opponents are doing has huge value.
What really worries me is the secondary--specifically, how they tackle along the edges. We have six freshmen or sophomores in the defensive backfield two-deep. Hard to say whether or not they're up for the task ahead.
FTRS: First and goal on the two yard line. Thirty two seconds left in the game. You have no time outs left. You trail by 3. What play do you call?
BTP: According to every television analyst ever, what I want to do here is get the quarterback out of the pocket and give him a run-pass option. Also wouldn't be a bad idea to throw the fade to Jarvis Williams or Darrell Davis. But I think I'd go with this because it's pretty.
Thanks to Backing the Pack for indulging our curiosities about NC State football. Good luck to the Pack and may both Tech and State finish Saturday 3-1.