Sep 27 2010

Georgia Tech Report Card

This was a very impressive performance all around.  We followed the “how to beat Georgia Tech” recipe to perfection.  We got ahead early and made them play from behind all game, forced them into passing situations on 3rd down, didn’t lose the turnover margin, minimized their big plays on offense, and made a huge special teams play.  You couldn’t have scripted it any better … well except that interception returned for touchdown early in the 4th quarter that cut the lead to 3 points.  The drive we had following that was the most clutch NC State drive of the TOB era.  If we don’t score we likely lose the game, but score we did and the Pack pulled out a very gutty ACC road victory.

Quarterback – Grade: C+

Russell Wilson had the TV announcers raving about him all game as he set a career high in passing yards (368 yards) and accounted for 4 TDs (3 passing and 1 rushing).  All over the internet you can read articles praising Russell, and rightfully so, but I can’t get past the terrible pick six in the 4th quarter.  We still won the game, largely due to Russell’s play before and after the pick, but a 3 year starter can’t make that mistake.

Running Backs – Grade: A

Mustafa Greene was impressive again (68 yards rushing, 1 TD & 4 receptions, 41 yards receiving), extending his streak of a touchdown in all four games of his young collegiate career.  Dean Haynes bounced back nicely from his terrible game last week (75 yards rushing, 34 yards receiving) and Taylor Gentry continues to be a force to be reckoned with on passes out of the backfield.

Receivers – Grade: A

This receiving corps has to be the best in the ACC and they played like it against the Yellow Jackets.  There were two drops that I remember, but that’s really all there was to critique.

Offensive Line – Grade: A-

Run blocking was very good, but we still have to do a better job protecting Russell.  There were several plays were miscommunication led to Tech defenders getting through untouched.  Russell is our meal ticket and we have to do a better job of protecting him.

Defensive Line – Grade: A+

They really dominated the line of scrimmage and clogged up all the blockers so our linebackers could run free and make plays.  Very impressive game from this unit.

Linebackers – Grade: A+

If there was any doubt that Nate Irving had lost a step due to the car wreck, he squelched all that talk with his performance (16 tackles, 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks) on Saturday.  All the other linebackers were great as well.

Defensive Backs – Grade: B-

Georgia Tech doesn’t throw the ball so the DBs weren’t really challenged much this game.  When they were, however, C.J. Wilson and Earl Wolff made a couple great plays to break up some passes, but we also had two breakdowns that led to big plays.  Going forward this unit has to tackle better and eliminate the busted coverages.

Special Teams – Grade: C

Asa Watson blocked a punt and Jarvis Williams recovered it for a TD.  That’s two straight weeks with a blocked punt, but the good stuff ends there.  Josh Czajkowski missed 2 chip shot field goals, Andy Leffler took over the punting duties (37.3 avg) and was no better than Ruiz, and our coverage teams were solid but not as good as they’d been in the previous 3 games.  This unit is still a huge liability.

Coaching – Grade: A+

To go into Atlanta and dominate the defending ACC champs the way we did earns kudos for the entire staff.  The redzone playcalling is questionable at times, but most of our other problems are not due to poor coaching, but rather poor execution.

Sep 21 2010

Cincy Report Card

ESPN Thursday night games are always great exposure for your university and your football program … even more so when you win the game in dominating fashion as we did.  The Bearcats looked nothing like the two-time reigning Big East conference champs and the Wolfpack swiftly took care of business en route to a 30-19 victory.  The game was never in doubt as the Pack improved to 3-0 becoming one of only two undefeated ACC teams (Boston College, 2-0, is the other).  The schedule gets harder going forward, but the Pack is halfway to bowl eligibility and we’re getting votes in both the AP Poll and the USA Today Coaches’ Poll so life is good right now for Wolfpack Nation.  Games like this are fun to watch and even more fun to grade so without further ado here they are:

Quarterback – Grade: A+

Russell Wilson shook off his poor performance from the UCF game and was absolutely fabulous for the ESPN national TV audience (333 yards passing, 3 TDs, 33 yards rushing).  This is the Russell Wilson that Wolfpack Nation has grown to know and love so it’s nice that the whole country got to see what he can do.

Running Backs – Grade: B+

Mustafa Greene was very impressive (16 carries, 84 yards rushing, 1 TD & 5 receptions, 54 yards receiving) and does not look like the true freshman that he is.  Dean Haynes struggled mightily putting the ball on the ground twice in only 5 carries.  If not for that this would have likely been an easy A.

Receivers – Grade: A

There were a few drops and a Jarvis Williams fumble on a wacky play that dampered an otherwise great night for the receivers.  To redeem himself for the fumble that cost us a TD, Jarvis did make 3 amazing catches and led the team in receiving yards with 111.  Jay Smith is going to have to step up and take a bigger role next year so it was nice to see him get his first career TD.  The receivers also did a great job of blocking down field.

Offensive Line – Grade: B-

The blocking was good all night long protecting Russell for the most part (only 2 sacks allowed) and opening up decent running lanes (158 yards rushing).  There were way too many penalties, though.  It was good to see R.J. Mattes back out there even though he looked a good bit rusty.  Hopefully his return to full strength will solidify the O-line.

Defensive Line – Grade: A

Led by J.R. Sweezy and Michael Lemon, the D-line played its best game of the young season in holding Cincinnati to only 75 yards rushing.  They also did a good job of keeping pressure on QB Zach Collaros for most of the game.

Linebackers – Grade: A+

This is quickly becoming the best unit on our team.  Terrell Manning, Audie Cole, Nate Irving, and even Sterling Lucas were all over the field making plays.  They face a very tough test this week at Georgia Tech, but against Cincinnati the linebackers were dominant.

Defensive Backs – Grade: B-

It’s not as bad as last year, but we’re still giving up way too many big plays as evident by the 68 yard TD pass to D.J. Woods in the 2nd quarter and the two garbage TDs late in the 4th quarter.  The DB’s tackling has improved, but it’s not yet where it needs to be.

Special Teams – Grade: C+

Special teams is still the weakest part of our team.  Josh Czajkowski missed an extra point ending his school record 83 consecutive PAT streak that could have been the difference in a tight game.  Also Jeff Ruiz had a punt shorter than 15 yards for the 2nd consecutive game and a pathetic 30.5 yard average on 4 punts.  There were a few good things as the kickoff coverage team continued to impress and we did something I didn’t think could happen with a TOB coached team … we blocked a punt.  This unit is still a liability, though.

Coaching – Grade: A

On a short week, the coaches had a great game plan on both sides of the ball and they had the players prepared, well rested, and ready to play.  We didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to put this game away in the 1st half and then we gave up those 2 garbage TDs in the 4th quarter so that knocked down the grade just a tad.

Sep 14 2010

UCF Report Card

This game was a tale of two halves.  The Pack absolutely dominated the first half with the lone exception being the UCF kickoff return TD.  The offense was clicking (174 total yards, 3 TDs, and 4 for 8 on 3rd down) and the defense was shutting down the UCF offense (2 turnovers, 5 yards rushing and 0 TDs allowed).  Then in the second half the offense totally fell apart (only 65 total yards and 5 first downs) and the defense slacked up, but we made enough plays in the end to barely hold on.  That caused the grading to be a little harder than normal.

Quarterback – Grade: C

Russell Wilson certainly looked rusty.  He missed several throws, his decision making was questionable at times, and he had a number of throws knocked down at the line.  He even had several throws that should have been intercepted, but the UCF defenders didn’t make the plays.  He did make some plays with his feet to extend drives so I won’t be too harsh on him.

Running Backs – Grade: B+

Mustafa Greene almost had that disastrous fumble right before half time, but he recovered it and everything was okay.  Other than that we had good ball security the entire game and even out-rushed UCF.  Greene and Dean Haynes ran hard all game, but struggled to find yards in the second half.

Receivers – Grade: C+

Owen Spencer once again got deep for a big play, but something happened that I’m not sure we’ve ever seen … Russell overthrew him.  George Bryan had a decent day and Darrell Davis scored a TD, but other than that there wasn’t much for the receivers to do with Russell having an off night.

Offensive Line – Grade: D+

The O-line looked fine in the first half until RT Mikel Overgaard left the game with an injury.  I could have miscounted, but it looked like we tried 4 different O-line combinations after that and not one worked.  The run blocking was better than last week, but the pass blocking was terrible.

Defensive Line – Grade: B+

The UCF offense only mustered 5 yards rushing in the first half and QB Rob Calabrese was constantly under pressure.  By the time QB Jeff Godfrey came in the D-line was gassed and it showed as Godfrey had all day in the pocket to throw and he was able to run at will.

Linebackers – Grade: A

Audie Cole was all over the field making plays.  His interception on the trick play was SportsCenter Top 10 worthy.  Terrell Manning recovered the final fumble that sealed the win.  The only thing keeping this group from an  A+ was that they didn’t contain QB Jeff Godfrey better when he came into the game for the last quarter and a half.

Defensive Backs – Grade: A+

Earl Wolff’s pick set up our first TD, C.J. Wilson’s pick six was the deciding points, and Brandan Bishop forced the fumble to clinch the win.  The tackling still needs to improve and there were some lapses in coverage, but this much maligned group stepped up big.

Special Teams – Grade: C-

Let’s see … we allowed a kickoff return TD and had a terrible 33.7 yards per punt avg. including the 14 yarder at the end of the game that gave UCF great field position to start their final drive.  We did recover the ball that hit a UCF player on the punt which led to a TD and Czajkowski had two touchbacks giving us two more than we had all of last year.

Coaching – Grade: D/A-

I’m going to split this grade up into separate grades for the offensive staff and the defensive staff since it wouldn’t be fair to lump them together.  The offensive game plan was very predictable and not very effective as we were held to under 250 total yards for the first time since the South Carolina game last year.  The defensive game plan was very aggressive and totally shut down the UCF offense until QB Jeff Godfrey came in late in the 3rd quarter.  I’m sure we prepared and had a game plan for him, but whatever it was it wasn’t very good so that’s the only mark against the defense.

Aug 10 2010

Sonic Boom?

The Pack held their first scrimmage on Monday and the stats that were released sure as heck don’t give me a warm fuzzy feeling inside.  Check ‘em out for yourself:

  • Rushing – 55 carries for 92 yards (1.6 ypc)
  • Passing – 8 of 20 for 116 yards
  • Defense – 6 sacks, 8 tackles for loss
  • Czajkowski – 2 of 4 FG (misses 45yds & 43yds)
  • Punting – 5 punts for 40 yard average

I know you can’t put too much stock into these stats because they were working on a lot of situational stuff, but you also can’t totally ignore them.  We all know how bad the defense is so this doesn’t seem to bode too well for the offense, especially the offensive line and the running backs.  With a running back tandem recently dubbed “Sonic Boom” one would expect more than 1.6 yards per carry average.  Wait, we have a running back tandem that has a nickname?

Surely there’s been other running back tandems with this nickname, but it’s catchy and I’ve never heard it before so I’ll give a solid B grade for creativity.  For execution, however, it’s more like a D-.  Two guys that have combined for 72 carries, 276 yards, and 3 TDs so far in their collegiate careers don’t really deserve a nickname.  I’ll cut Washington (Sonic) and Underwood (Boom) some slack since it was Audi Augustin that came up with the nickname, but what about Tony Creecy, Brandon Barnes, and Mustafa Greene?  I got it … Mach, 9, and Hyper respectively for a sick running back quintuple called “Mach 9 Hyper Sonic Boom.”  Now that sounds pretty kickass I must say.

In other news from today’s scrimmage Nate Irving was held out for precautionary reasons and Russell Wilson looked very rusty.  The second part is something that has gone largely ignored so far this preseason.  Russell has proven how good a quarterback he is and what he means to the NC State football team, but he hasn’t done any football related activities in the last 8 months (sorry, throwing the football around with your baseball teammates before a game doesn’t count) so of course he’s going to be rusty.  I have faith that the rust will be gone by the start of the season and if it lingers for the Western Carolina game it really won’t matter, but if it’s still around on Sept. 11 then that turns a toss-up game against UCF into a very loseable proposition.

Finally, I don’t talk too much about recruiting around here because, frankly, there’s rarely anything exciting to talk about and that’s a huge problem.  TOB just doesn’t seem to relate well to high school kids in the South and thus his recruiting has declined every year since he got here.  You cannot build a successful program with nothing but “sleepers” and “diamonds in the rough” but that seems to be his strategy.  Well if you thought NC State recruiting couldn’t get any worse than it has been the past 2 years … guess again.  Damn!

Feb 3 2010

Wishing Upon Some Stars

Well 2010 National Signing Day has come and gone.  It was a pretty routine day around the Murphy Center.  No surprises, good or bad.  My take: there are a few guys that really impress me, but overall it’s a lot of average.  I will admit it’s a little crazy ranking the classes 7 months before these guys ever play their first game, but if you think the rankings don’t matter then you’re a little naive.

There’s a bunch of different recruiting services that release rankings, so I averaged the rankings from Rivals, Scout, and ESPN to come up with a consensus ranking.  Let’s look at the consensus Top 10 classes in order:  Florida, Texas, Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma, USC (sorry Cock fans … this is the real USC), LSU, UCLA, Florida State, and Penn State.  That list reads like a Who’s Who of college football programs.  It includes the last seven national champions and eight of them show up in the top 14 on the Top 25 College Programs of the Decade list put together by my buddies over at Frumpzilla (one of my college roomies and half my fantasy football league keep that site running so show them some love).  It’s a lot easier to win when you have the best players so let’s all just agree that the rankings do matter.

Speaking of rankings let’s get back to the Wolfpack’s class.  The recruiting gurus have it as the 6th or 7th best class … in the ACC.  I guess that is better than where we’ve finished in the actual league standings during the TOB era.  I just expect better than that, especially with our passionate fan base and the best facilities in the ACC (per ESPN).  We did get a few guys that I’m really excited about (shown in the picture below) including one BIG time pickup, literally.

The six guys I'm most excited about.

The jewel of the class is OL Rob Crisp (6’7″ 299lb.) out of Raleigh.  He was rated one of the best players, regardless of position, in the country and should man the LT spot for the next four years.  Two others that have me excited are DB’s David Amerson and Dontae Johnson.  Hopefully they can step in immediately next year and help solve the massive problems we had in the secondary this past year.  The final three I can’t wait to see in the Red and White are WR’s Tony Creecy and Bryan Underwood, and RB Mustafa Greene.  You can never have too many speedy playmakers and I think these three will fit that mold for the Pack.  I’m sure there will be a really good player or two come out of the rest of the class, but these are the six that have me looking to the future with hope and anticipation.

To these six and all the other new Wolfpackers (click here for bios) … welcome to the family!  You made the best decision of your life (I’m not biased at all).  To TOB, take a day to do your honey do’s, then start working on next year’s class.  GO PACK!