October 8, 2011

Keys to the game - revisited

NC State snapped a two-game losing streak and beat Central Michigan at home by the final of 38-24. The Wolfpack improved to 3-3 in front of 54,388 fans at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Here are the Keys to the game - revisited.

Protect quarterback Mike Glennon

What we wrote: Central Michigan has struggled getting a pass rush this season, and that trend will need to continue. The Chippewas have just five sacks in five games, while the Wolfpack has allowed 16 sacks this season. NCSU redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon is a pocket passer, but isn't totally immobile. He can slide-step an on-coming pass rusher and fire a rocket downfield.

Quarterbacks have had good success this season against Central Michigan. Western Michigan quarterback Alex Carder threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in the Broncos' 44-14 win Sept. 17. He was 28-of-37 passing for 355 yards with an interception.

Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins connected on 13 of 22 passes for 213 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the Spartans' 45-7 victory Sept. 24.

Northern Illinois quarterback Chandler Harnish completed 27 of 50 throws for 370 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, plus rushed for 92 yards and a score on 18 carries, last Saturday in the 48-41 loss.

What happened: The Pack did a great job in this regard. The offensive line allowed Glennon to be sacked only one time and he took the blame for it after the game in his post-game comments. Clean game for the front line, who helped the Pack also run for 162 yards on the night.

Keep running the ball

What we wrote: The Wolfpack rushed for 195 yards on 38 carries in the 45-35 loss to Georgia Tech last week. The Yellow Jackets play a 3-4 defense, which Central Michigan does not, but a commitment to the running game will also make life easier for Glennon.

Junior running back James Washington had a career day for the Wolfpack. He rushed for 131 yards on 20 carries with a 46-yard touchdown run, plus added five receptions for 35 yards. His speed in the open field should match up well against the Central Michigan linebackers. Redshirt freshman backup running back Tony Creecy also added 77 yards on 12 carries with a long of 27.

What happened: The Pack made a point of running the ball today and James Washington had his second-straight game with at least 100 yards rushing. Backup Tony Creecy also was singled out in the post-game press conference by coach Tom O'Brien for running well and finished with 16 rushes for 60 yards. On the day, the Pack tallied 162 yards on the ground and averaged 3.6 yards on their 45 totes.

Get T.J. Graham back on track

What we wrote: Senior wide receiver T.J. Graham had a string of three straight 100-yard performances snapped last Saturday against Georgia Tech. In fact, he didn't touch the ball once on offense.

NC State will need to rectify that situation against Central Michigan and turn his big-play speed loose against cornerbacks Lorenzo White Jr. and John Carr. The latter is filling in for the injured Taylor Bradley.

Graham enters the contest with 19 receptions for 428 yards and four touchdowns this season, and he should be able to build upon those numbers and prove the Georgia Tech game was a blip on the screen.

What happened: Senior T.J. Graham was held under 100 yards receiving tonight, but still made his impact on the game. He finished with just two catches for 56 yards, including a 47-yard reception, and had a few nice returns. The Raleigh native finished the game with 186 all-purpose yards when his 83 yards on three kickoff returns and 47 yards on three punt returns are factored in.

Locate CMU's Paris Cotton amidst the trees

What we wrote: Central Michigan has great height on its offensive line with 6-8 left tackle Eric Fisher, 6-8 right tackle Jake Olson, 6-6 right guard Rocky Weaver and 6-5 left guard Mike Repovz. Center Darren Keyton is the "short" one in the group at 6-3.

Senior running back Paris Cotton showed a knack for hiding behind his lineman at 5-9 and 179 pounds, and then exploding into space last Saturday against Northern Illinois.

Cotton scored three touchdowns in the second half against the Huskies - two on receptions and one running - and was particularly adept on screen plays. Cotton rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and he caught four passes for 115 yards and two scores vs. the Huskies.

What happened: Coach O'Brien mentioned after the game that the run defense did a good job, except for a few long runs. The diminutive Cotton rattled off a 77-yard touchdown run and finished with 158 yards on the ground. However, the Pack bottled up the dangerous dual-threat in the receiving game and he tallied just three receptions for two yards. That 77-yard gain may skew the stats, but it didn't hurt the Pack big time.

Matchups to watch

What we wrote NC State OLB D.J. Green vs. Central Michigan TE David Blackburn: The 6-4, 220-pound D.J. Green has 26 tackles and four tackles for loss from his strongside linebacker position. CMU senior tight end David Blackburn has pretty good athleticism and streaked for a 61-yard touchdown last Saturday against NIU. The 6-3, 242-pounder has seven catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns this season, and caught 22 passes for 285 and three scores last year.

What happened: Blackburn was essentially a non-factor and finished with a pair of receptions for eight yards. Meanwhile, Green finished with five tackles, a sack and a pass breakup.

What we wrote: CMU SS Jahleel Addae vs. NC State RB James Washington: Strong safety Jahleel Addae will be colliding with Washington plenty of times Saturday if the Wolfpack keep their commitment to the running game. Both players might be coming off their best college games. Addae had 18 tackles and two interceptions last Saturday, while Washington had his previously mentioned big performance against Georgia Tech.

What happened: Addae is a great player and probably a legitimate pro prospect - he laid two big hits, but wasn't able to record any game-changing plays. He finished with seven tackles and three pass breakups while Washington enjoyed a monster night. Washington ran 25 times for 109 yards and a touchdown while he also tied for the team lead in receptions and hauled in a five passes for 55 yards. Washington gets the edge in this match-up, although Addae certainly didn't disappoint.

Stats to watch

What we wrote: 3: Game-high for catches this season for fifth-year senior tight end and co-captain George Bryan. He had three catches against both Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Bryan has nine catches for 95 yards and a touchdown this season.

What happened: Captain George Bryan was held to just one catch, but it was a big one - an 18-yard touchdown reception on the Pack's first drive of the game.

What we wrote: 85: Combined starts for NC State defensive backs David Amerson, C.J. Wilson, Brandan Bishop and Earl Wolff. The quartet will get tested often by CMU's passing attack.

What happened: It was a phenomenal effort from State's backline defenders. The secondary forced four of the Wolfpack's five turnovers, including four interceptions. Safety Brandan Bishop said after the game that the secondary is experienced and they are playing fast, it was evident in the final stats. In addition to the turnovers, the Pack's main four defensive backs (Bishop, Earl Wolff, David Amerson and Rashard Smith) combined for 27 tackles, a forced fumble, a recovered fumble and three picks.

NC State offensive player of the game: James Washington edges out quarterback Mike Glennon for this one. Washington led the team with 109 yards and a score on the ground while he also tied for a team-high five receptions. The junior tailback had at least 150 all-purpose yards for the second-consecutive game and finished with 164.

NC State defensive player of the game: Terrell Manning was excellent in his return to the lineup, despite not playing at one hundred percent, according to coach Tom O'Brien. The linebacker finished second on the squad with nine tackles, including a sack, 1.5 tackles for loss, a forced fumble and an interception.

NC State special teams player of the game: Honorable mention goes to kicker Niklas Sade for nailing a 45-yard field goal, but the missed 27-yarder gives the edge to teammate T.J. Graham. The senior finished with 130 yards in returns and had an average of 27.7 yards per kick return and 15.7 yards per punt runback.

Play of the game: NC State took a 21-17 lead into the half, but the score almost certainly would have been different if safety Brandan Bishop didn't force a fumble on a 46-yard completion to Titus Davis near the end of the second quarter. Earl Wolff pounced on the ball and although the Pack couldn't convert the turnover into points, it preserved the lead and kept the momentum from turning.

Run of the game: After the Pack took a 38-17 lead in the fourth quarter, Central Michigan responded with a 77-yard run from Paris Cotton. Cotton broke through a big hole on the right side of the line, tight-roped the sideline and found pay dirt.

Pass of the game: The score was tied up at 7 with the Pack driving the ball when Mike Glennon rolled out of the pocket and found T.J. Graham on a 47-yard strike. That play moved the Pack to the CMU 25 and they scored four plays later on a 12-yard pass to Jay Smith.

Special teams play of the game: The Pack has been plagued by slow starts all year, but Graham made sure that wasn't the case today. He took the opening kick back 42 yards to allow NC State to open the game with the ball at the CMU 48. That was only the second time they have scored a touchdown on the opening drive, South Alabama was the other instance.

Hit of the game: CMU safety Jahleel Addae should go by the nickname, "the head hunter." On one drive in the second quarter, he absolutely tattooed Graham on a reception attempt and the pass fell incomplete. Graham ran off the field under his own power and Addae laid out Jay Smith on a questionable hit two plays later. Smith, however, held onto the pass for a 17-yard gain and the Pack took over at the five-yard line.

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