Monday, September 20, 2010

Special teams, 3rd-down defense pace Pack turnaround

Special teams are a big reason for N.C. State's special start this season. Another key factor - third-down defense.

The Wolfpack is 3-0 and one of the ACC's few feel-good stories. Part of the turnaround is much-improved play on special teams. If you wear red, you closed your eyes and hoped for the best on special teams in 2009. 

There's a huge difference this year, especially on punt coverage. NCSU allowed 10.2 yards per punt return last season, which is beyond dreadful. This year, State is allowing -0.3 yards per return - that's right, negative yards. Part of that is because State doesn't punt the ball that far, which gives the coverage team a chance to get down the field. But at least rival returners aren't scurrying up the sidelines for game-changing chunks of yardage.

On kickoffs, State allowed 22.1 yards per return last year and has cut that to 19.2. 

One other stastistic jumps out in the Wolfpack's start - third-down defense. In 2009, the Pack allowed teams to convert on third down 42 percent of the time, which is a pretty mediocre effort. This year, rivals are converting only 24 percent of the time as the Pack's blitzing defense keeps quarterbacks guessing.

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