2011 ACC Season Recap: North Carolina State Wolfpack

David Amerson and His NC State Teammates Led the ACC in Turnovers in 2011, with 39

Team: North Carolina State Wolfpack

W-L: 8-5 (4-4)

Postseason: 31-24 Belk Bowl win over Louisville

Top Offensive Performer: Mike Glennon, QB

Top Defensive Performer: David Amerson, CB

In a season where it seemed like the Wolfpack were counted out far more than they were believed in, it’s amazing that this team was able to go 8-5. There was concern after the 44-14 drubbing at the hands of Cincinnati. That increased when another loss the following week dropped them to a 2-3 mark. The team was on red alert when a 34-0 shutout by Florida State left them in dire straits and in need of a 3-1 end to the season just to make a bowl game — even more so after dropping a game to Boston College with two contests to go. Most of all, faced with a 27-point deficit in the final game of the regular season, State and quarterback Mike Glennon managed to reach for one more piece of magic en route to one of the biggest comebacks in conference history and a bowl berth.

Had it not been for a horrendous rushing attack (11th in the conference), the Woflpack’s high-powered passing game might have really flourished. Instead, Glennon’s passing (mostly to star receiver T.J. Graham) turned into a predictably one-sided affair snuffed out by several defenses throughout the season. The offense failed to be any better than average in nearly every statistical measure, the most notable exceptions being red zone scoring and time of possession (surprising, given the passing game’s prominence). Scoring wise, their 28.2 points per game ranked them fourth in the league, made a bit more impressive when considering they scored 14 or less three different times (including the aforementioned shutout). Continue reading

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Belk Bowl Recap: NC State over Louisville, 31-24

NC State's David Amerson's Two Interceptions Led the Way in a 31-24 Belk Bowl Victory

What Happened: In spite of the Louisville Cardinals‘ strong defensive attack, they were no match for NC State Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon in the 2011 Belk Bowl. The junior quarterback completed 21 passes for 364 yards and three touchdowns. While the Wolfpack’s offense was predictably one-dimensional, it didn’t much matter as they jumped out to an early lead and never let go. While the Cardinals made it interesting come the fourth quarter, State would not allow them a chance to tie the game late — forcing a third turnover to seal the deal. Overlooked by your author prior to the game, the key was the NC State secondary, which increased its FBS-leading interception total to 27 on the year.

Who’s to Blame: In part, Louisville can point to freshman quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and his three interceptions as the main cause for the loss. Though all three picks were not necessarily his fault, Bridgewater only managed to complete 24 of 43 passes and appeared to force more throws as the game wore on. The Louisville gameplan was also an issue. Uncharacteristically, the Cardinals ran far too many pass plays — making their offense suddenly one-dimensional and predictable. While Bridgewater’s a very good player, who’s sure to get even better as his career progresses, expecting his arm to carry the offense by itself was a guaranteed failure.

It Was Over When: NC State’s David Amerson, who finished his year with an ACC-record 13 interceptions (and three touchdowns scored as a result) picked off Bridgewater’s late attempt for a touchdown pass — his second interception of the game — with just 41 seconds remaining. Louisville had shut out the Wolfpack in the fourth quarter, and had scored 14 unanswered points at that juncture.

Game Ball Goes To: The aforementioned Amerson. The sophomore has already established himself as one of the nation’s top cornerbacks, and will be on every national watch list going into the 2012 season. With five tackles, two interceptions and one touchdown against Louisville, he was a force to be reckoned with, and proved the hype late in a big game. Honorable mention goes to Glennon, whose three touchdowns made up for a poor showing by the running game.

Prediction Update: Under the false assumption that Louisville’s defense would be the deciding factor, I went with the Cardinals in this matchup. That leaves both my record and the ACC’s at one win and one loss through two games.

Belk Bowl Preview: NC State vs. Louisville

This Year's Belk Bowl Matches NC State Against Big East Co-Champ Louisville

ACC bowl season rolls right along this week, with the conference’s second game in as many days. The featured matchup for this preview? Another too-close-to-call contest, this time between the NC State Wolfpack and the Big East‘s Louisville Cardinals in the Belk Bowl.

Bowl Game: Belk Bowl

Location: Charlotte, NC

First Year: 2002 (as Continental Tire Bowl)

2011 Participants: North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5) vs. Louisville Cardinals (7-5)

Last Meeting: 2007, a 29-10 road win by Louisville

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North Carolina State (previous bowl game: 23-7 win over West Virginia in 2010 Champs Sports Bowl)

As most observers know by now, NC State truly struggled to get here — needing seven wins this season in order to qualify for the postseason after playing two FCS squads. Somehow, they won three of their last four (including a tremendous 27-point comeback versus Maryland and a huge upset of Clemson) and qualified in the very last week. So at least we know they can compete when called upon. However, what of the Woflpack’s overall performance? Both the defense and offense were merely average this season, while the running game was ranked among the 15-worst in the country. The saving grace? Quarterback Mike Glennon, who led the team’s ferocious come-from-behind victory versus the Terps. His 28 passing scores on the season also don’t tell the full story, however they give a hint as to where this team’s motor lies. Four of the Pack’s losses came in games where Glennon threw two touchdowns or less — an ominous sign coming up against a good pass-rush.

Louisville Cardinals (previous bowl game: 31-28 win over Southern Miss in 2010 Beef ‘O’Brady’s Bowl)

Like NC State, Louisville started off slow, before catching fire in the second half of the year. At just 2-4, the team looked listless and uninspired, with an offense averaging around 15 points per game. Then suddenly, something clicked. Freshman Teddy Bridgewater stepped in at quarterback, the team started actually scoring points and moving the ball, and a previously disappointing campaign almost resulted in a BCS bid for the Cardinals. And while Bridgewater surely deserves some of the credit here, the real props should be awarded to Louisville’s defense. Ranked 14th overall in points allowed (19.2 per game), they were a force defending both run and pass schemes, and only allowed one team to top 30 points in a game all year. Though the total season numbers won’t give this away, Louisville was probably one of the scariest opponents on teams’ schedules come the last five weeks of the season.

Verdict

As mentioned earlier, NC State’s biggest problem is its inability to run the ball — something that is sure to crush the Wolfpack in this matchup. Though the Cardinals can’t score points themselves, consider the following: Three Louisville defenders recorded 80 or more tackles in 2011. Four players had four or more sacks. The team defended 42 passes, intercepted nine, forced 11 fumbles and even blocked four kicks. As well-regarded as Glennon is on this site, if he’s the only weapon in the State arsenal to go up against what I’ve described above it’s tough to see them winning this game. Sure, he could go all-world like he did in the Maryland game, or the Clemson game. But can the team count on that? Unfortunately, they’ll have to if they want a win here. Prediction: Louisville 28, NC State 21

ACC Bowl Projections, Week 14

Virginia Tech Looks Poised to Win Its Fifth ACC Title

Admittedly, including Syracuse and Pittsburgh in these bowl projections makes little sense, so that won’t happen until the teams actually begin conference play. Each week, I’ll just provide a postseason ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on both, while for the current ACC schools, a bowl game will be assigned.

In this week’s rankings, Virginia Tech gets more entrenched as the odds-on favorite to win the ACC, and the conference’s second tier jostles for position in the middle of the bowl lineup. After some late heroics, NC State finds itself in the postseason, while either Syracuse or Pitt will end up sitting at home late this December.

Discover Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech Hokies (11-1)

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Clemson Tigers (9-3)

Champs Sports BowlFlorida State Seminoles (8-4)

Hyundai Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-4)

Belk BowlVirginia Cavaliers (8-4)

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: NC State Wolfpack (7-5)

Advocare V100 Independence BowlNorth Carolina Tar Heels (7-5)

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop GrummanWake Forest Demon Deacons (6-6)

Syracuse Orange (5-6): As far as most SU fans are concerned, the 2011 season ended back in October. With very little offensive production and a defense that refuses to wrap up when making tackles, how can you blame them (us)? Still, the Orange have an opportunity to wrap up a bowl bid (potentially) by beating rival/expansion-mate, Pittsburgh. Can they do it? No. And I say that as someone who’s chosen to watch every game this season.

Pittsburgh Panthers (5-6): Few can blame Pitt for falling by one point to a superior West Virginia squad, but mistakes did cost them dearly at several junctures. Pitt has had to rely heavily on their passing game and defense these past few games, and it will likely be up to them to halt Syracuse on Saturday. If the Orange play-calling resembles recent weeks, the Panthers should be just fine.

ACC Bowl Projections, Week 13

As it Stands, Virginia Tech Looks to Be Returning to the Orange Bowl This Postseason

Admittedly, including Syracuse and Pittsburgh in these bowl projections makes little sense, so that won’t happen until the teams actually begin conference play. Each week, I’ll just provide a postseason ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on both, while for the current ACC schools, a bowl game will be assigned.

In this week’s rankings, the shuffling all over the board reflects the weekend’s unexpected results and the shifts happening all over the ACC power rankings. With a new king of the hill, some teams in a freefall and one squad (Miami) taking itself out of the postseason picture in spite of bowl eligibility, things are looking drastically different from week to week — with some more changes bound to happen before season’s end.

Discover Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech Hokies (10-1)

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Clemson Tigers (9-2)

Champs Sports Bowl: Virginia Cavaliers (8-3)

Hyundai Sun Bowl: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (8-3)

Belk Bowl: Florida State Seminoles (7-4)

Franklin American Mortgage Music City BowlWake Forest Demon Deacons (6-5)

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl: NC State Wolfpack (6-5)

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: North Carolina Tar Heels (6-5)

Syracuse Orange (5-5): Will the bye week do the Orange a favor in either of their final two games? Knowing the mentality of this team, they’ll have to win this weekend’s contest versus Cincinnati, otherwise, it’s very difficult to see them gathering the ability to emerge victorious in a season-ending, must-win contest. As of right now, I’d say they’re not headed to the postseason.

Pittsburgh Panthers (5-5): No easy tests left for Pittsburgh either, with arguably their two biggest rivals remaining (SU and West Virginia). Most frustrating for the Panthers is that they were within a score in all but two of their losses. As mentioned, I think you’ll see Pitt win a must-win scenario with ‘Cuse, especially given they can still win the Big East right now (miraculous).

ACC Bowl Projections, Week 12

This Week's Projections Feature a New Orange Bowl Representative

Admittedly, including Syracuse and Pittsburgh in these bowl projections makes little sense, so that won’t happen until the teams actually begin conference play. Each week, I’ll just provide a postseason ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on both, while for the current ACC schools, a bowl game will be assigned.

In this week’s rankings, there was plenty of shake-up. Clemson’s sudden vulnerability has them shaky as the presumed league champ, while Virginia Tech’s running game makes them a likely replacement. Two of the league’s 5-5 teams need just one more victory to become bowl eligible, while another (NC State) needs an unlikely two wins to get it done.

Discover Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech Hokies (9-1)

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Clemson Tigers (9-1)

Chick-fil-A BowlFlorida State Seminoles (7-3)

Champs Sports BowlGeorgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-3)

Hyundai Sun BowlVirginia Cavaliers (7-3)

Belk BowlNorth Carolina Tar Heels (6-4)

Franklin American Mortgage Music City BowlMiami (FL) Hurricanes (5-5)

Advocare V100 Independence BowlWake Forest Demon Deacons (5-5)

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman: If the ACC lands two teams in the BCS, it’s likely the Military Bowl takes an at-large school from the Big East or Conference USA.

Syracuse Orange (5-5): And this may not even be rock-bottom. Once 5-2, the Orange could now very likely finish 5-7, killing the program’s momentum and making everyone forget why they were invited to the ACC to begin with (beside basketball, the appearance of a football upswing had to have helped). If you’re an SU fan (like your author), just pray.

Pittsburgh Panthers (5-5): Pitt may be able to attribute last week’s win to the release of “Call of Duty 3,” but it’s unlikely they’ll have the same luck to end their season. If both SU and the Panthers lose their next game, it’ll set up a playoff-style regular season finale — winner gets the “honor” of playing in a minor bowl game, loser gets to hand their head in shame and belabor a season that could have been so much more.

ACC Bowl Projections, Week 11

Clemson, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech Are All Gunning for an Orange Bowl Berth

Admittedly, including Syracuse and Pittsburgh in these bowl projections makes little sense, so that won’t happen until the teams actually begin conference play. Each week, I’ll just provide a postseason ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ on both, while for the current ACC schools, a bowl game will be assigned.

In this week’s rankings, there was little movement at the top, with the league’s three best squads taking a bye last week. With losses by Wake Forest and UNC however, Virginia did jump up to the Belk Bowl. As their tailspin continues, the Demon Deacons are now positioned in the ACC’s final bowl slot, the Military Bowl. NC State, after upsetting the Tar Heels Saturday, have to win two of their final three in order to qualify for a postseason game.

Discover Orange Bowl: Clemson Tigers (8-1)

Chick-fil-A BowlGeorgia Tech Yellow Jackets (7-2)

Champs Sports Bowl: Virginia Tech Hokies (8-1)

Hyundai Sun Bowl: Florida State Seminoles (6-3)

Belk Bowl: Virginia Cavaliers (6-3)

Franklin American Mortgage Music City BowlNorth Carolina Tar Heels (6-4)

Advocare V100 Independence BowlMiami (FL) Hurricanes (5-4)

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop GrummanWake Forest Demon Deacons (5-4)

North Carolina State Wolfpack (5-4) also figure to be bowl-eligible at the moment, however the team will likely have to play in a game looking to fill an extra spot.

Syracuse Orange (5-4): A few weeks ago, the sky was the limit for Syracuse and its bowl aspirations. Now two weeks and two losses later, things are about to get downright scary. The Orange finish up their schedule with three very losable matchups and if they don’t clear up some tackling issues on defense, SU could be plunged back into the program’s dark ages.

Pittsburgh Panthers (4-5): Another loss now has Pittsburgh even more on the ropes than before. Needing to win two of their final three, they have the advantage and benefit of facing familiar foes — but can they put the pieces together in time to stop the bleeding? There are matchup problems abound with every opponent left, as all will likely try and exploit Pitt’s newfound one-dimensional attack. Don’t be shocked to see the Panthers sitting home this winter.