TN: First of all, as someone who watched the entire NCSU-Miami game and who instinctively roots against the Canes, that was one of the most excruciatingly frustrating games that I have seen in quite some time. For a Pack fan, it obviously had to be exponentially worse. Tell us a bit about your feelings on that debacle and those of the fanbase at large.
BTP: I'm still baffled by that game. I mean, it was incredible in a way, what with the sheer number of insanely poor mistakes made by both sides. Miami missed three field goals and threw an INT in the end zone. NC State fumbled the ball away at the goal line and had a shotgun snap fly over Mike Glennon's head, resulting in a safety. And that's not even getting into the offside penalties and mental breakdowns in the secondary. It was bizarre, frustrating, and just confusing. Miami's inexplicable last-minute TD was the ending that game deserved.
TN: We heard a lot about the NC State secondary during the pre-season, but it has experienced many issues thus far in the 2012 season. David Amerson in particular has had a rough go of it for the Wolfpack. Do you think this group was overrated? What are your thoughts on the matchup between the DB's and the FSU wideouts and EJ Manuel?
BTP: I'm not sure if "overrated" is the right word. A secondary has to have help from the front seven to succeed, and it's always a bit tough to separate certain influences. Additionally, it's hard to see how some plays develop and break down based on television angles. But there's clearly something off about Amerson this season, and there are internal frustrations for sure, as safety Brandan Bishop had some pointed remarks after the Miami loss (http://www.backingthepack.com/nc-state-football-ncaa/2012/9/30/3435086/nc-state-vs-miami-acc-football). He didn't name names, but was clearly talking about Amerson.
I suspect that Amerson has simply gotten too cute--he made a lot of great plays for the team last year, of course, and now I think he is overly reliant on his perceived ability to bait quarterbacks, recover, and make a play. That'll work sometimes. It worked a few times last year. It's fine to that on occasion--like maybe he's spotted a tell from the quarterback or a receiver--but in the long run, it's not real bright. Tom O'Brien spoke to this on Monday (http://northcarolinastate.scout.com/2/1226853.html).
The matchup with FSU's skill players is going to be a big challenge, but I would expect this to be NC State's most focused effort of the year given the way they embarrassed themselves last weekend.
TN: The defense as a whole struggled against both Tennessee and Miami. What have been the central problems facing this NC State unit and how will Tom O'Brien's staff seek to ameliorate them before Saturday's game? What will the Pack need to do to give themselves a chance to stay in the game against the ‘Noles offense?
BTP: The Pack's inability to generate much pressure on the quarterback was a major problem in both of those losses--I can't remember if Tyler Bray was even knocked down. We are breaking in a brand new group of linebackers, which is a contributing factor. Tackling needs to improve. And against Miami, we killed ourselves with a slew of offside penalties; I have never seen anything like that from a Tom O'Brien defense. Quitting on one of those plays gifted Miami a touchdown during NCSU's first quarter meltdown.
Honestly, the focus should be simply on not doing stupid dumb crap this week. Get back to the fundamentals, and keep focused. It won't make beating Florida State much easier, but it's a start.
TN: On the other side of the ball, the Wolfpack managed to move the ball very effectively, especially on the ground, against Miami without their starting offensive tackles and while suffering another loss on the OL during the game. What is the injury status on the line and for the team as a whole?
BTP: We'll know for sure by Thursday afternoon, but neither Andrew Wallace nor Rob Crisp (the tackles) were listed on the initial depth report for the Florida State game. Tom O'Brien said Monday that guard Zach Allen--who got rolled up on during the Miami game, will not be available. We've had some injuries at running back, though those are not major concerns, and safety Earl Wolff has been banged up in a couple of games but should be good to go.
TN: Mike Glennon is a quality pro prospect with an excellent arm and a growing understanding of the State offense. How would you rate his performance and progression during the early part of this season? How will Dana Bible deploy him and the Wolfpack offense against the Seminole defense on Saturday night? What will be the key to their success?
BTP: While the season opener was a bit disappointing on his part, I think generally he's been fine. He had to deal with a pressure-heavy UConn defense and difficult throwing conditions in week two. His teammates stepped up against Miami and were better in pass protection, and he was very good. But really, both defenses in that game were hot garbage.
It'd be nice to continue to get more support from the ground game, but I expect that aspect of NC State's offense to return to a state of impotency against Florida State's defense. We simply are not skilled enough up front to run the ball well on a consistent basis against above-average defenses. And this is part of the problem for Glennon and Bible, especially against a team that is deep and fast like FSU. Glennon is going to be throwing the ball a lot, and obviously, if he's on his back all night, things aren't gonna turn out well for us. We don't have much of a screen game, which might hypothetically give pass rushers a few moments of pause, but maybe we'll make some adjustments along those lines this week.
TN: Tell us a bit about the North Carolina State special teams unit and any unmentioned playmakers that FSU fans should have their eyes on during Saturday's game.
BTP: As a field goal kicker, Nik Sade has been erratic in 2012 after an encouraging freshman debut last season. Eighteen of his 28 kickoffs have resulted in a touchback, as NC State has been content to just give opponents the 25 yards rather than try to sky the ball and land it inside the five or 10.
Rashard Smith handles the punt returns and Tobais Palmer generally returns kickoffs, though neither is an exceptional threat to take one to the house like T.J. Graham was.
TN: Finally, how do you see this game playing out? The spread sits around 14.5 right now (early in the week). Do you think NC State covers or even pulls the upset?
BTP: I don't expect NC State to win, but as for the margin, I really have no idea. The team called a players-only meeting after the Miami game, and they will be sharper this week. It would be almost impossible for them not to play better. And, hey, the phrase "ACC roulette" didn't become popular for no reason. There's always a little extra juice from the crowd in night games, especially with a highly ranked opponent in town. The crowd doesn't change the reality of the matchups on the field, but it will at least help the team's energy level.
Thanks to Akula Wolf and Backing The Pack! Make sure to check out their content, including our answers to their questions found here.