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September 9, 2011N.C. State at Wake Forest
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Stadium: BB&T Field
Kickoff: 3:30 PM ET
TV/Internet: RSN, Gameplan/ESPN3.com
Wake Forest: 0-1, 0-0 ACC (Lost to Syracuse 36-29 F/OT)
N.C. State: 1-0, 0-0 ACC (Beat Liberty 43-21)
Series record: N.C. State leads 62-36-6 (The Wolfpack defeated the Demon Deacons 38-3 in Raleigh last season, but N.C. State has lost four straight in Winston-Salem.).
Quotes of the week
"It's another Wake Forest type of team that has a lot of redshirt juniors and seniors, a lot of guys that have been in their system and played, so I think that helps them get better. That's when I think Jim (Grobe) feels he's got his better team when he's into that having them come from the pipeline, having them come from the system." -N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien
"Everybody has kept a positive attitude, and has been pretty fired up at practice, and understands that this is an important game. It's a long season. We're going to be alright." -Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price
"I think they're very consistent. They get good effort from them every week, very physical team, and fundamentally they're always well-coached. That's what you notice when you watch them on videos. They're just very well-coached and very disciplined, as you would imagine with Tom (O'Brien) being a Navy grad. His teams kind of take his mentality, so they're very disciplined and play hard. They play really, really hard. That was the way did things at Boston College, and the way they are at N.C. State." -Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe
10 keys to the game
1) Wake exploiting State's weakness in the middle
The Demon Deacons could not have caught the Wolfpack at a better time. N.C. State is extremely vulnerable in one of the most vital areas that a team's success often hinges on, the interior of its defensive line.
The Pack are without All-ACC defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy (broken foot), and Thomas Teal who stepped in for him. Teal suffered the same injury last week against Liberty.
This is Wake Forest's chance to establish a strong rushing attack behind its experienced offensive line. If the bruisers up front can soften an already lean N.C. State defensive front Josh Harris and Brandon Pendergrass will improve on last week's sorry showing in the running game (80 yards rushing against Syracuse).
2) The kicking game and penalties
This is kind of a two-part key, but Jim Grobe addressed them at the same, citing both as categories that caused the Deacs problems that must be fixed this week.
Coulda, shoulda, whoulda is one way to think about last week's loss to the Orange. If Jimmy Newman had not missed that extra point or on the second chance he got at that 34-yard field goal Wake would have won in regulation.
"The extra point you just can't do that," Grobe said. "Jimmy had not done that. The first field goal whether it's getting run into that gets in your head you miss the 34-yarder, and then you miss it again. You get two shots at it. That's what's so disappointing. You miss two in a row that's not good."
Wake cannot afford to leave those points on the field this week, especially while facing a defense as opportunistic as N.C. State's.
It is hard to get much worse than 34.5 yard per punt for a division one punter, which is what Wake Forest's Alex Wulfeck averaged against the Orange.
Combine bad kicking and punting with 10 penalties for 94 yards and there is a recipe for disaster. Scott Betros said some of those mistakes were from players who were overly aggressive. The Deacs do not want to lose that intensity, but it is imperative they harness it and use it constructively against the Pack.
3) Price vs. State's secondary
Before getting knocked out of last week's game Tanner Price carved up the Orange defense, completing 18 of his 31 attempts for 289 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
He will face an N.C. State defense that intercepted four passes in its season opener.
All of State's starters in its secondary from 2010 remain intact, bringing experience and battle-tested instincts to the positions.
Price will have to be on his game, or tomorrow's contest will be a beating similar to the one Wake received from State in 2010.
"Tanner can improve," Grobe said. "He had two or three easy throws that he missed, so he can better."
4) Slowing down the Pack's running attack
Wake Forest played well defensively for three quarters last week, but obviously that does not cut it at this level. The Deacs will face another great challenge Saturday with the task of containing N.C. State's rushing duo of Curtis Underwood, Jr. and James Washington. The tandem combined for 181 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries in their season opener.
The Deacs held Syracuse running back Antwon Bailey in check deep into the fourth quarter before he broke loose for 53 yards for the touchdown that setup the game-tying two-point conversion.
Underwood, Jr. and Washington bring balance to State's offense, forcing Wake to be alert and plug holes.
"They've got a big bruiser (Underwood) and they've got a little a speedy guy (Washington)," Betros said. "They've got a big O-line that he can run behind. We've just got to stop the run. If we don't stop the run we'll be in trouble."
5) Tracking T.J. Graham
Graham will never be a team's No. 1 option at receiver, but nonetheless the 6-foot-0 and 180-pound senior commands the attention of opponents. He only caught one pass for seven against the Flames, but burned Liberty with an 82-yard punt return for a touchdown.
he Raleigh native is a nightmare to cover in the return game. Graham has returned two kicks and two punts for touchdowns in his college career.
Wulfeck will have to do better than 34.5 yards per punt, and might what to consider booting it away from Graham. Same goes for Newman on kickoffs. He might want to try his luck with Tobais Palmer.
6) Getting to Glennon
No more read options, quarterback draws or crazy 46-yard scrambles. The Russell Wilson days are over. Well they are far enough away in Madison, Wisc., putting ACC foes at ease.
But do not fall asleep on Mike Glennon. The younger brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon can hurt a defense in other ways. Now while he lacks the fleetness of foot Wilson had, Glennon makes up for that with height, vision and an ability to slay a secondary from the pocket.
Though his stats were not overly impressive last week, just completing 18 of his 31 attempts for 156 yards and a touchdown; he did not make a mistake.
"I think Mike did a nice job of he took a hit, got up," O'Brien said. "It didn't bother him. He was able to pull the ball down, take off, scramble, and get the first down. That's a positive. When things weren't going his way he didn't panic, and came back. All but the sack in the second half he played well, seven of 10, used the running game effectively, and came away with the victory."
Glennon makes preparation difficult for defenses. He spreads the ball around. In the Wolfpack's win over the Flames he threw to 10 different receivers.
"I thought Glennon was really poised," Grobe said. "He's got a big arm. You can really tell he can throw the football, and he's got a really nice group of receivers to throw it too, some really fast guys that cover ground in a hurry. They use their backs really well. He'll just continue to get better as the season goes on. He did a good job last week for his first game. I'm sure they're encouraged."
7) Get Givens the ball
Chris Givens put all concerns and questions about his toughness and physical condition to rest in upstate New York.
The junior wide receiver caught seven passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns in a losing effort Thursday, Sept. 1 after missing most of training camp with hamstring problems.
"I thought he did show a little bit of toughness, and a little bit of durability, because that was a really hot environment," Grobe said. "He just played through it, and did some really nice things. I think he could play well. He made a couple of really nice catches. We've got certainly a lot of reasons for him to feel good for us to pat him on the back, but he knows he can play better. That's what we've got to push him to do."
It is obvious who State's defensive backs will be gunning for, but Price will still need to make an effort to get arguably Wake's top play-maker the ball. If Givens is on lockdown, then Michael Campanaro (seven receptions for 70 yards and a touchdown against Syracuse) will have to be that go-to receiver for Price.
8) A corps to overcome
All-ACC linebackers Audie Cole and Terrell Manning head one of the conference's most talented and toughest groups.
Cole led State in tackles last week, making 10 stops, two for loss and a sack.
If running the football successfully on Syracuse was a challenge, then finding a way to do it against State's linebacking corps will be similar to trying to solve Rubik's Cube.
"They're good, they're very talented, very talented front," Grobe said. "Linebackers are really aggressive guys. They'll present a little different challenge. They'll press us a little bit more with their front."
9) Breaking Bryan
Ironically N.C. State's best receiver went without a catch in the Wolfpack's first game. He even dropped a pass, but expect All-ACC tight end George Bryan to use every bit of his 6-foot-5 and 265-pound frame to get open, forcing Glennon to throw him the ball.
In 2010 he caught 35 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. One can be almost certain offensive coordinator Dana Bible will be dialing him up early.
"That's something we don't really see much of, the really good receiving tight ends," Grobe said. "That's a good target for Glennon. Typically you see a guy that's more of a blocker at tight end. This kid can really catch the football."
Bryan is too big and tall for cornerbacks and safeties, and too fast for most linebackers, so Wake Forest will have to go zone or coverage by committee to slow him down. They have the number of bodies to do it, especially in the secondary, but it may be an issue of finding out if the Deacs are good enough or not to cover him.
10) Answer the bell
Joe Looney said the team motto is 'Refuse to lose.' Many wondered if it was the other way around after Price went down in the Carrier Dome as the Orange began their comeback.
That has to change this week.
"When a starter goes down the team's morale can't plummet," Price said. "We have to be able to stay strong, and finish games."
N.C. State is coming, and like Grobe said about Syracuse the Wolfpack are not going to be pulling their flags out. They are going to be knocking people over. Wake Forest has to show some true grit, and punch back.
A new season starts Saturday, the conference season.