Wes’ Ways To Win – N.C. State

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someoneGoogle+share on TumblrShare on Reddit

DON’T LET EVANS GET HOT

Life doesn’t give you many second chances. Daniel Evans is trying to make the most of his under center for N.C. State.

Evans, who started the season’s first game against Central Florida but was quickly yanked for Harrison Beck , had his finest performance (29 of 44 attempts for 335 yards to 10 different receivers) in last week’s win over East Carolina. Evans was not only effective but accurate.

“Daniel is so smooth and poised,” senior wide receiver John Dunlap said to Gopack.com. “He has been like that ever since I’ve known him. He is a very smart quarterback. He makes all the right reads. A lot of people lost confidence in him, but we never did.”

Coach Tom O’Brien believes Evans is one third of the process that led to the Wolfpack’s early 21-0 burst.

“The first thing that happened is we protected him better,” said O’Brien. “It’s always a lot easier when you’re standing up throwing the football [rather] than getting drilled. That gave him the opportunity to make some reads. The receivers made some catches and they got open. They made some catches that maybe we hadn’t made either. They’re all part of it; they have to be at the right spot to help this thing out. The passing game is still three-pronged. The quarterback is part of it, but the line and the receivers are the other two parts that have to work.”

The Wolfpack line allowed one sack on 44 attempts Saturday. Two weeks prior, the flood gates opened six times against Florida State.

That brings us back to Virginia. Nothing like having that improved stat under your belt before playing Chris Long . After a stellar showing at Maryland, a repeat performance by Long on Saturday would be wishful thinking, but there is no reason that the UVa defense shouldn’t be able to get in to N.C. State’s backfield.

“It’ll be key to get to him,” said Allen Billyk . “Shutdown the passing game because they like to throw the ball a little more than they like to run the ball. If we can get in there and shut down some of these shorter passes to mess up [Evans’] rhythm, we will be able to take control of the game.”

Virginia’s (24 sacks) best bet is to get to Evans early and often to shake up the Wolfpack’s strength on an offense that has lost its former one-two rushing punch of Toney Baker and Andre Brown . Redshirt sophomore Jamelle Eugene, who Groh calls “a real jet”, stepped in nicely rushing for 101 yards against Florida State but was more effective as a receiver (5 receptions, 45 yards, touchdown) vs. East Carolina.

Bottom line, the more pressure by the Cavaliers causes, the less time there is for Evans, which limits not only the quality of the throws but the amount of options available.

QUARTERBACK PROTECTION

6 sacks versus any team in one game in Division I football is impressive.

NCSU has struggled in many areas but getting to the quarterback and stopping plays in the backfield are becoming a growing trend the last two games. Last week, State regulated the Pirates to six punts, a fumble, and a touchdown on their first eight drives that included two sacks and a consistent pass rush.

Since the return of DeMario Pressley from injury, N.C. State has tallied 14.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks of their 14 total sacks. Martrel Brown, after returning from a coach-imposed benching, has tallied a sack in each of the past two games as well as nine tackles, including three for loss.

After two consecutive games of zero sacks against Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh, Virginia’s offensive line has allowed two sacks to both Middle Tennessee and UConn as well as three from Maryland.

SPECIAL TEAMS

To call Darrell Blackmon a special teams threat is like saying the pneumonia is just a bad cold.

Through the first six games of the season, Blackmon was the ACC’s all purpose yardage leader, the second highest punt returner by average (13.8), and was returning kickoffs at approximately 25 yards per touch (including one touchdown). Virginia’s coverage units must be on a high alert because Blackmon can not only change field position but he can alter a scoreboard when teams let their coverage down.

Elsewhere, the Cavaliers can’t afford to relax if the ball doesn’t end up in Blackmon’s hands. Last week, Donald Bowens jumped in the mix on kickoffs, returning three for 103 yards on the afternoon. Eugene returned a second quarter kickoff 74 yards the week prior against FSU before 53 of it was negated by a holding penalty.

N.C. State also helped add to its offense’s early cushion against ECU when J.C. Neal returned a blocked punt early on in the second quarter to raise the Wolfpack lead to 21-0.

GIVE AWAY, TAKE AWAY

For the first time this season, Virginia didn’t commit a turnover. Unfortunately, for the first time this season, Virginia didn’t cause a turnover.

“HOWWWWWWEVER”, this is the week to get back on track. (Writer’s note: I shouldn’t listen to the Stephen A. Smith Show while writing this.)

Point blank, N.C. State dishes the ball out. Most times, the Pack gives it away at the worst possible moment. Just pick one of the five they gave away against Louisville. Or one of the two they lost in a two-point loss to Central Florida. Opponents have converted State’s eight fumbles and 16 interceptions in 89 points.

Going into Greenville, the Wolfpack was a startling -17 in turnover margin. Last weekend looked like a bonus as N.C. State broke even in losing a fumble and interception while gaining a fumble and interception. But NCSU still ranks dead last in the nation in turnover margin.

The Cavaliers’ effectiveness in the turnover category comes from fumbles. Virginia has recovered 7 of its 12 forced fumbles. On the other hand, the Hoos’ interception totals have disappeared in the past three weeks, failing to pick off a crumb from Dwight Dasher, Tyler Lorenzon, or Chris Turner. (Granted limiting Darrius Heyward Bey to 4 catches for 52 yards and Maryland to an average of 6.9 ypc does deserve credit). The Cavs’ five interceptions place them tied for second to last in the conference.

“[We’re] lagging well behind,” said Groh. “Clearly, we have to do better in that area. It would be a great aid to us.”

Virginia could get either Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde with Evans. Before the bye, Evans launched 3 interceptions and just one score vs. Florida State. After the bye, he reversed those exact numbers against East Carolina.

In the spirit of Halloween, the Wahoos need to force out the monster from the get go.

REMEMBER CHAPEL HILL

I try to leave the abstract out of this feature but 7-5 in Chapel Hill rings too many bells. The highs can be very high and the lows can go deeper than you know. Trap game? Let down? I don’t believe it with this team … Virginia 31, N.C. State 14.


Wes McElroy is a sports talkshow host for ESPN 840 AM in Charlottesville. The Final Round with Wes McElroy airs week days from 4 to 6 p.m. Listen live on the Web site.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterEmail to someoneGoogle+share on TumblrShare on Reddit