Wednesday, October 27, 2010

N.C. State's offense is astonishing, but whew, FSU's defense is tough

N.C. State's offensive production this season is amazing when you consider that it started the season with real questions on the offensive line and huge doubts about its running back situation. 

It's a given that Russell Wilson is one of the ACC's best players, but even with Wilson, you can't help but be impressed by State's output so far. The Wolfpack leads the ACC in total offense at 448.9 yards per game, a number that would ranks second all-time in Pack history. The only team with better production - the Philip Rivers attack of 2003.

Here's a breakdown of N.C. State's best seasons for total offense per game:

1, 453.2 (2003) ... Philip Rivers at quarterback
2, 448.9 (2010) ... Russell Wilson at quarterback
3, 442.8 (1998) ... Torry Holt at receiver
4, 432.5 (1972) ... First year of Lou Holtz and split-back veer
5, 409.9 (1973) ... Second year under Holtz

All this is relevant because the Wolfpack plays its toughest defense of the year Thursday night when the Florida State Seminoles are in Carter-Finley Stadium. FSU leads the league in scoring defense at 16.1 per game, and there's a sense in Tallahassee that a program that once dominated the ACC is on the way back.

State's offense is all the more amazing when you look at what is a relatively mediocre running game. Freshman Mustafa Greene is good but he's not Herschel Walker. So Wilson has shouldered more of the load, sometimes even forcing passes to receivers. Wilson has a national reputation for not throwing interceptions but has thrown nine in the last three games. FSU coach Jimbo Fisher, asked about that Wednesday, downplayed the impact of those interceptions.

"You can look at interceptions in different ways. Sometimes you can play too conservative, but sometimes you  be too aggressive and try to make plays and interceptions occur," he said. "Sometimes if you are confident in your abilities, that’s part of the game. But he always comes back an make plays

"You never want them but you can't tell a guy to 'make all these plays but don’t make a mistake.' That’s hard to do."

That's essentially what happened to Wilson against Virginia Tech. The game plan called for State to challenge the Hokies down the field, and Virginia Tech grabbed three interceptions - and a win. It was a bold approach, but State never would have run the ball against Tech and won.

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