Saturday, September 25, 2010

Pack's Wilson worthy of Heisman consideration

N.C. State has had only five players who were Heisman Trophy level players.  One of them is Russell Wilson.

You had to be impressed by the Wolfpack Saturday. State pushed its record to 4-0 with a 45-28 victory at Georgia Tech, the defending ACC champions, with a complete win that showed how much progress the Wolfpack has made. That victory win sets up a huge game Saturday in Raleigh as Virginia Tech arrives.

State’s defense was terrific, at least until the fourth quarter. The Wolfpack could do what North Carolina couldn’t, and that is jam the lanes against Tech’s option and keep the Jackets from streaking downfield.
It seems like Wilson has been around so long it’s easy to take him for granted. But his numbers, and poise on the field, are extraordinary. Wilson blistered Tech with 368 yards, three touchdowns passing and one rushing.

You had to be impressed when he watched. There were so many plays that stood out to me, but one was a simple throw on third down in the fourth quarter as State drove for a decisive score. State called a quick throw to the sideline to a receiver, who had a blocker downfield. Wilson delivered a calm, crisp pass that caught the receiver in stride, and the Pack earned a first down.

Josh Nesbitt, meanwhile, had a similar throw on Tech’s next possession, and missed.

N.C. State has never had a player finish higher than sixth in the Heisman voting:

@ In 1961, quarterback Roman Gabriel finished ninth . Ernie Davis of Syracuse won the award.

@ In 1978 running back Ted Brown was sixth (Billy Sims of Oklahoma won).

@ In 1998, receiver Torry Holt was eighth (Ricky Williams, Texas)

@ In 2003, quarterback Philip Rivers was seventh (Jason White, Oklahoma).

White is playing at a level equal or better than those, and that’s saying a great because those five are all-time stars. 

ESPN’s most recent Heisman Watch voting among its experts did not mention Wilson in the top 12. There are some great players in there – Denard Robinson, Andrew Luck, Mark Ingram – but White is worthy of voting.

Truthfully, he’s more than that. He is playing at a level worthy of the award. And if State keeps winning, you’ll hear his name more as the fall unfolds.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Should former UNC tutor remain a Durham teacher?


You have to admire the impressive reporting by The News  & Observer to ferret out the name of the tutor who worked with the North Carolina football players. Newspapers have had their woes, but the paper has pushed hard on this story and generally dominated the news (although InsideCarolina’s Greg Barnes also has been terrific, and he had the initial scoop that broke the story open).

Now, the Durham public school system has a decision to make.

According to The News & Observer, the tutor, Jennifer L. Wiley, is now teaching elementary school in Durham. If it turns out Wiley helped athletes cheat on their papers at UNC, should she should be teaching at all?

No wonder the Durham school system dodged the paper’s questions. The N&O said Wiley’s father said she had hired representation, but he would not give the name of her attorney.

Let’s face it – it would look terrible for a teacher to be working with kids if that happened. It doesn't help Wiley's case that UNC says she has not been forthcoming with information.

But if she helped them cheat, you have to wonder if she should should retain her position.

No. 1 Carolina women give up three goals; lose at home

The rest of the country and the rest of the league may be catching up to the North Carolina women's soccer team. The No. 4 ranked Boston College squad beat Carolina 3-2 in Chapel Hill Thursday night.

The loss drops the Heels to 8-1-1 and 0-1 in the ACC while Boston College improves to 8-0-1 and 1-0 in the league.

The victory was the first in BC history against the Heels, who had won all 11 meetings between the two teams. Carolina, which has won 20 of the 28 NCAA championships in women's soccer, gave up three goals in a half for the first time since 1999 and lost their ACC opener for the first time since 2002. In those 20 national championship final victories the Heels have outscored their opponents 63-6.

"There's no way we can afford to give up three goals and expect to beat anyone, so I was certainly disappointed in that," UNC coach Anson Dorrance said. "But there were a lot of things I did like. [Boston College] had a veteran roster and I feel like for the majority of the game, we were riding them. If you look at the shot differential and corner kicks, we did some good things. So I was not entirely disappointed."

The Tar Heels host Virginia Tech Sunday at 1 p.m.

Photo Gallery

Bagels with Russell Wilson, and a 'huge' opportunity for State


If it’s Friday morning and you’re looking for N.C. State quarterback, where would you look? Bruegger’s bagels at North Hills, right?

Well, that’s correct. The Capital Sports Report was having a bagel and pondering the State-Georgia Tech game in a cozy corner of Bruegger’s when in walked Russell Wilson. Cool guy, by the way. If you’ve never met him, he’s much more muscular up close than you’d think, and just as well-spoken as on camera. Impressive guy.

So, on to Saturday. We expect Wilson to play well, but the difference in this game will be N.C. State’s defense.
State can score on Tech, just like North Carolina did. But Tech kills teams with big plays. The difference in that game in Chapel Hill was one Tech pitch to Orwin Smith that turned into a 73-yard touchdown. On that play, Smith burst through the left side quickly and Carolina’s inexperienced secondary was nowhere to close the gap.

State faces Georgia Tech with a defense featuring  similar personnel. Both State and Carolina have some talent, though inexperienced, on the defensive front backed by tremendous linebackers. But the secondary is more questionable, with UNC missing all four starters because of NCAA and academic issues and State having a young secondary.

The Wolfpack has two significant advantages going in. One is that it gets to look at vide of the UNC game and show its players where Carolina broke down. The other is the defense, with coordinator Mike Archer and new linebackers coach Jon Tenuta, has showed a knack for coming up with aggressive, but controlled, blitzes that snuff out offenses.

Asked about Tenuta, O’Brien said, “I think he’s contributed, how much I’m not sure. But certainly one of the things we talked about when I hired him was to help with our third-down defense. Our third-down defense is much better through first three games of the year.

“He’s helped us get off the field, which we had tremendous problems with a year ago.”

State allowed rivals to convert 42 percent of their third downs last year. This year, that number has dropped to 23.7 percent, by far the best number in the ACC.

O’Brien said State was running some blitz packages last year, but has been more successful this year in part because the defense is more familiar with it.

All that has put State in position to go 4-0 and win its ACC opener for the first time under O’Brien.

A win Saturday, O’Brien said, “I think it would be huge for this football team.”

Consider attending one of these 10 area high school football games tonight

Here are 10 football games that are within driving distance in the Triangle area tonight. In bold is the predicted winner. Most games are at 7:30 p.m. You might want to check with local officials as some games start at 7.
My record last week was 8-2 for a season total of 36-15.

Broughton at Millbrook, 7 p.m.

Cary at Holly Springs

Charlotte Country Day at Ravenscroft

East Chapel Hill at Durham Jordan

Enloe at Leesville Road, 7 p.m.

Knightdale at Southeast Raleigh

Lee County at Green Hope

Middle Creek at Athens Drive

Panther Creek at Apex

Wakefield at Sanderson, 7 p.m.

Check the scores in our Sports Roundup on the left navigation bar.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

UNC's Thorp misses the point on importance of facilities

North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp had an excellent column in Thursday's News & Observer that addresses the football situation. In that, he defends athletics director Dick Baddour and the school's investigation into what happened with the players.

But Thorp made an assertion that is worth addressing. He wrote, "Better facilities will give us the ability to attract even better recruits who can succeed both in the classroom and on the field."

In fact, the evidence in the Triangle shows just the opposite - better facilities do not lead directly to success on the field. UNC itself is a perfect example - the Kenan Football Center opened in 1997, but UNC's football fortunes collapsed when Mack Brown left for Texas after that season. That facility, especially at the time, was astonishing, but Carolina still couldn't win.

N.C. State has made multiple upgrades to Carter-Finley Stadium, all fueled by the promise of ever-improving records, and the Wolfpack has been rewarded with four straight losing seasons for the first time since the 1950s.

Duke moved into the swank Yoh Football Center in  2002 - and the Devils still haven't won. The bottom line is quality coaches - especially quality assistant coaches - are more significant than facilities.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Duke was part of historic football game 59 years ago

It was 59 years ago that the first live sporting event was seen coast-to-coast. NBC televised the Duke at Pittsburgh football game on Sept. 29, 1951.

Oddly a big deal was not made of that fact in the 1952 Duke yearbook. However, viewers got to see a good one.

Duke, with Bill Murray in his first year as coach, took an early 7-0 lead but trailed 14-13 at the half. It was beginning to look as if it would end that way but with five minutes left George Grune raced 42 yards with a Pitt punt down to the enemy 26 yard line. Just four plays later, halfback Charlie Smith bulled his way into the end zone to give the Blue Devils the lead. The Duke defense stopped a Panther drive to ensure the Devils 19-14 victory.

The Pittsburgh yearbook claimed that the Panthers outplayed the Devils in "every department" and lost due to "a freak pass interception and a blocked punt." There was no mention of the punt return or the fact that the game was televised across the country. It was Duke's second game of the season and Pitt's first. The Devils would finish the year at 5-4-1 while the Panthers would finish 3-7.

As a bit of trivia, the game was not seen in New Orleans because the coaxial cable wasn't extended there until almost a year later.

Also, Wikipedia says the game was played on Sept. 22 but, as you can see from the football program, the game was actually played on Sept. 29. In addition, the Pitt sports information office says on its athletics website that the game was played at the Rose Bowl when it was really played at Pitt Stadium. Not sure why there is so much confusion.

The game was part of an experiment. The NCAA feared that live telecasts would reduce attendance at games. In January of 1952, after the 1951 season experiment, the NCAA adopted a plan where the NCAA would have total control over one national telecast each week.

ACC football notes: Duke center honored for community service

Below are mid-week notes provided by the four ACC schools in the state of North Carolina.

Duke senior center Bryan Morgan has been named to the 2010 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team® announced by the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). “It is a huge honor and I am thankful to have been nominated,” said Morgan. “I love to work in the community and work with the kids and people of
Durham. It makes me very grateful for all of the opportunities I have been given.”

Morgan is the third Blue Devil to earn the honor, joining Zaid Abdul-Aleem (1994) and Re’quan Boyette (2008). A native of Hoover, Ala., Morgan has participated in community service projects involving Duke Children’s Hospital, Durham Rescue Mission, Read with the Blue Devils, Marbles Kids Museum, E.K. Powe Elementary School, Sandra E. Lerner Jewish Community Day School, Veterans Affairs Center, Forest at Duke Retirement Home, among others.

North Carolina
Quarterback T.J. Yates (Marietta, Ga.) has not thrown an interception in his last 89 attempts, dating back to last year’s bowl game vs. Pittsburgh. He has thrown 70 passes without an interception this year. That is the longest streak in his career. His previous best was 67 attempts in 2008 - last 12 vs. McNeese State, 22 vs. Rutgers, 18 vs. Virginia Tech, 3 vs. Georgia Tech and first 12 vs. NC State. The school record for attempts without an interception is 154 by Oscar Davenport in 1996-97. Yates’ 46 attempts without an interception vs. LSU was a school record for a single game. The previous record was 42 by Darian Durant vs. NC State in 2003.

NC State
NC State enters the Georgia Tech game tied for sixth nationally in turnover margin, with seven takeaways to just two giveaways for a +5 mark. The Wolfpack didn’t turn the ball over in its first two games, but fumbled twice in the win over Cincinnati.

Quarterback Russell Wilson (Richmond, Va.) has thrown 101 passes this season without an
interception and even though the Pack is playing two freshmen at halfback, there have only been two lost fumbles.

The Pack’s success in holding onto the ball is even more impressive considering that in 2009, NC State finished the season ranked 114th nationally in turnover margin, with 25 turnovers to just 14 takeaways.

Burney out six games, Williams out four for Carolina

North Carolina football players Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams must miss competition and repay benefits as a condition of becoming eligible to play again, the NCAA decided Wednesday.

Burney, who received $1,333 in benefits, must miss six games and pay $575.19 to a charity of his choice. Williams, who received $1,426 in benefits, must miss four games and pay $450.67 to charity of his choice.

“We plan to appeal the length of the suspensions,” said Dick Baddour, UNC Director of Athletics.  “While I respect the NCAA process, I believe the penalties to be unduly harsh given the individual circumstances in these cases.”

The university declared both student-athletes ineligible for violations of NCAA agent benefits and preferential treatment rules. According to a UNC release, these benefits in part included trips to California, Atlanta and Las Vegas for Burney and two trips to California for Williams. The majority of the benefits Burney received were from an agent. The majority of Williams’ benefits were preferential treatment violations associated with visiting a former North Carolina player.

NCSU's Yow addresses football, spring sports, marketing ... and Tuffy

The Raleigh Sports Club was packed Wednesday, and for good reason. New N.C. State athletics director Debbie Yow addressed the club, and as you might expect, it was a straight talk about where the Wolfpack is headed.

It also included some insight into the football program, Olympic sports, agents, the marketing of N.C. State and even an interesting comment about The News & Observer.

But the big news of the day? Well, Tuffy, of course. Tuffy is the new Wolfpack mascot, a Tamaskan dog bred to look like a wolf, who delighted fans in the Thursday night win over Cincinnati.

“I’ve never spent so much time talking about a dog,” Yow joked to the crowd of several hundred.

State introduced a new dog at the opener against Western Carolina, but that Tamaskan, which Yow said was a female, did not work out. Yow said they found the current Tuffy from a private owner in New Bern, who wants to stay anonymous. “They are thrilled that their dog, the Tamaskan, is our Tamaskan,” Yow said.

Yow said the school will create a Facebook page for Tuffy and possibly even electronic birthday wishes that, say, a grandparent can order to send to a grandchild from the mascot.

“We have some plans for Tuffy,” Yow said.

On a more serious note, Yow – the sister of former Wolfpack coach Kay Yow and a native of Gibsonville - said the chance to return to her native state and work for new chancellor Randy Woodson led her to Raleigh. A headhunter who had called her through the years called one more time, and this time she shocked the headhunter by saying , Maybe. In particular, she wanted to meet Woodson to see if there was a fit.

“I met Randy and he blew me away,” she said. “He is stable, he is talented and he is going to stay.”

On other issues:

@ Yow said N.C. State athletics could no longer stand to be last in the Sears Director Cup standings among ACC schools and last in overall graduation rates.

“They are going to be flipped,” she said of those numbers. 

@ Yow said she had heard many Wolfpack fans complaining about The News & Observer but said, “The N&O has been fair to us.”

@ Yow raved about a recent Wall Street Journal article praising the hiring potential of N.C. State graduates.

@ Yow said she felt for North Carolina and its football troubles, saying, “A rogue tutor can happen anyway. The other [staff member] is different.” UNC assistant coach John Blake resigned earlier this season after questions about his connections to a California sports agent.
@ Yow said she is thrilled with State's 3-0 start in football, but said Saturday's game at Georgia Tech is a critical one. She said she was impressed by how coach Tom O'Brien commands the attention of his team during meetings. "As an AD, that's the first sign of trouble, if the coach is speaking and they aren't really on point."

State has had four straight losing seasons, three under O'Brien. "I hope he turns it. He's a good guy. I'd like to see him turn it," Yow said.

Yow also said she wore a watch that celebrated Maryland's 2001 ACC football title, and plans to continue to wear it until State wins the league (which it hasn't done since 1979). "I'm going to wear it until that's us and then it goes into the trash at that point," she said

@ N.C. State has struggled in the non-revenue sports, a point that hasn’t been lost on Wolfpack fans. Yow praised new volleyball coach Bryan Bunn, who was hired by Lee Fowler, and women’s soccer coach Steve Springthorpe. But as for spring sports, she said, “All the spring sports are on notice.”

She said State would look to address what the programs need, and then, “We’re going to expect a heightened level of achievement.”

@ Yow spoke with fire about the issue with athletes and the letter she sent to all the registered agents in North Carolina, saying the school would pursue legal action if an agent cost her athletes eligibility.
“They have no right to do that, and they are going to pay personally,” she said.

@ In response to a fan’s question about N.C. State’s marketing and sports information efforts, Yow spoke directly about Annabelle Myers, the Wolfpack’s long-time sports information director. “Annabelle’s really not as bad an SID as the message boards think she is, but she does need some direction, and we’re going to provide that for her.”

(Quick aside - the Capital Sports Report has known Myers for years and finds her quite professional, helpful and responsible.)

As for marketing, she said, “We’re going to have a whole branding campaign.”

However, Yow said N.C. State had the lowest athletics department budget in the ACC, and that would affect any initiatives.

Davis quips that Carolina might put NCAA updates on I-40 billboard

You could tell in Butch Davis’ voice Wednesday that he is weary of talking about the NCAA and academic investigations and whether the 12 players being held out will return. Davis said again Wednesday that there is no update as Saturday’s game at Rutgers approaches.

“We’ll probably put up billboards on I-40 and announce it,” Davis said. “But as of right now, the team we played with against LSU and Georgia tech is the team we are preparing to play against Rutgers.” Davis said

Carolina decided to take that approach before the opener against LSU. “We practice all week long with the players we know are going to play,” he said.

That has meant some opportunities for other players, including tailback Johnny White. White fumbled early against LSU and disappeared, but ran hard Saturday in the 30-24 loss to Georgia Tech. Shaun Draughn, the starter in 2009, had been held out of the LSU game but was reinstated for the Tech contest.

“It was good to get Shaun back,” Davis said. “There is room for both of these guys to play. Johnny has earned everything he has been given right now.”

Davis said it will take time for Draughn “to get back into game playing condition.”

“Shaun will play a little bit bigger role each week as he gets back into the groove of the offense,” Davis said.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Panthers score three goals early to beat Hurricanes in exhibition opener

The Florida Panthers scored three goals in the first five minutes of the Carolina Hurricanes' exhibition opener and went on to win 4-1. For more information, please click here.

In a fascinating volleyball match, State can't knock off UNC

One of the good stories in the Triangle has been the surprising rise of N.C. State in volleyball. Last December, athletics director Lee Fowler fired Charita Stubbs after she couldn't produce a winning season in four tries. Given State's mediocre history in the sport, that was no surprise.

But State, under new coach Bryan Bunn, started 10-3 and came into Tuesday night's match with North Carolina looking to see where it stands compared to the ACC powers. State lost 25-20, 20-19, 25-20 in a match that was hard-fought, fast-paced and fun to watch.
Volleyball is quite a bargain. You can take your daughter, park for free, sit in a front-row seat, buy her a scoop of ice cream and not spend more than $3. If you do go to Reynolds, remember there is food being sold right nearby at the student union, and you can easily walk over and walk back to Reynolds in a matter of minutes. Given the quality of play, and ease of getting into Reynolds Coliseum, it's an amazing deal.

State had about 1,000 people at Tuesday's contest, including athletics director Debbie Yow. One of the frustrations with Fowler that Wolfpack fans voiced was State was at the bottom of the ACC in sports across the board, including volleyball. Yow didn't hire Bunn, but the Wolfpack appears to have a winner in a coach with 20 years of experience, including the last three as associate head coach at Baylor.

Carolina's experience and talent was obvious Tuesday. Emily McGee had 16 kills and 13 digs for UNC, but the Tar Heel who seemed to give State the most trouble was 6-2 Courtney Johnston, who officially had nine kills but seemed to rise well above the net and slam down impressive shots.

State got a great game from Luciana Shafer, the UNC-Greensboro transfer who features a brilliant serve and ability to spike with real force. Watching the women on both sides rise to block spikes and dive to save balls was a joy. And a free joy at that.

Hurricanes sign Skinner to three-year deal but hasn't made roster yet

NEWS RELEASE – Jim Rutherford, President and General Manager of the National Hockey League’s Carolina Hurricanes, today announced that the team has signed center Jeff Skinner to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Beginning with his first full professional season, the contract will pay Skinner $810,000 per season at the NHL level or $67,500 per season at the minor-league level. Skinner receives a $270,000 signing bonus as a part of the contract.

“Jeff was one of the OHL’s top forwards last season and really stood out at the prospects tournament in Michigan,” said Rutherford. “He’s an exciting, young player and an important part of the future for the Hurricanes.”

Skinner, 18, finished the 2009-10 season ranked second in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with 50 goals, and ranked seventh in the OHL with 40 assists while playing in 64 games with the Kitchener Rangers. The Markham, Ont., native ranked tied for first in OHL playoff goals (20), and second in OHL playoff points (33), as Kitchener won two postseason series before falling to the Windsor Spitfires in the Western Conference Finals.

The Hurricanes selected Skinner (5’10”, 193 lbs.) in the first round, seventh overall, of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He played for Team Orr in the 2010 Canadian Hockey League Top Prospects Game, and was named Most Valuable Player after picking up a goal and an assist in the contest. Skinner also played for the gold medal-winning Team Ontario at the 2009 World Under-17 Challenge, scoring the game-winning goal against Russia in the championship final.

Under the guidelines of the NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, Skinner may still be reassigned to his junior hockey team, Kitchener, but may not be assigned to the Hurricanes’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers.

- Ken Preston

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hurricanes should find a roster spot for 18-year-old Skinner

The Carolina Hurricanes had trouble scoring goals and creating scoring chances last season. Jeff Skinner, the team's first-round draft pick, scored 70 goals in 84 games last year for the Ontario Hockey League's Kitchener Rangers.

Sure, there will be growing pains if the Hurricanes give the 18-year-old Skinner a roster spot. But the Canes are looking for a third-line center behind Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter, and the Canes have decided to go young. So, why not give the youngster a chance?

By all accounts, he is mature for his age. He comes from a good family. He can handle the fame and limelight. He's a competitor. He plays intelligently. He works hard as evidenced, in part, by his commitment to conditioning and strength training that he's done with Gary Roberts. He's quick and a natural goal scorer.

While he's relatively small at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds and he's not known for his skating ability, those aren't things that are going to change after another year in the Ontario Hockey League.

Hopefully the Canes will find a roster spot for Skinner. If they have someone else they want on the squad as the third center, they can try Skinner at wing. But the Hurricanes need scoring and Skinner can score.

Canes Notes: The Carolina Hurricanes open their 2010 exhibition schedule against the Florida Panthers Tuesday at the RBC Center.

The Hurricanes signed former Edmonton Oiler Patrick O'Sullivan, who was raised in Winston-Salem. He had an undistinguished season a year ago but he's only 25 and will be playing for his home state. Maybe his career can get back on track. O'Sullivan was the American Hockey League's Outstanding Rookie and was named to the 2006 AHL All-Star game.

Carolina begins the regular-season with two games against the Minnesota Wild in Helsinki, Finland on Oct. 7-8. For the record, I'm not fond of playing regular season games overseas - for any sport.

Hurricanes to announce player signing at noon Tuesday

NEWS RELEASE - The Carolina Hurricanes will hold a player-signing news conference tomorrow, Tuesday, Sept. 21, at noon in the RBC Center Arena Club Restaurant.

President/General Manager Jim Rutherford will speak at the news conference, and Rutherford and other members of the team’s management, as well as the signing player, will be available for comment.

Live streaming of the press conference will be available on CarolinaHurricanes.com.

State's Wilson named an ACC football player of the week

NC State redshirt-junior quarterback Russell Wilson, Florida State senior offensive guard Rodney Hudson and Georgia Tech sophomore defensive end Izaan Cross headline a list of six players recognized as the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Players of the Week, announced Monday by the ACC. Wilson threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns, his sixth career 300-yard game, as the Wolfpack topped Cincinnati, 30-19.

Hudson helped the Seminoles accumulate 427 yards of total offense and tallied 10 knockdown blocks as FSU defeated BYU, 34-10. Cross recorded five tackles, forced a fumble and was part of a defensive line that held North Carolina scoreless in the fourth quarter, earning the Yellow Jackets their first conference victory of the season, 30-24.

Joining Russell as an honoree was teammate Mustafa Greene, who was named rookie of the week. Cross and Scott Blair, this week’s specialist of the week, represented Georgia Tech, while Virginia Tech’s Rashad Carmichael was tabbed defensive back of the week.

Fox needs Clausen to produce, and soon

The Panthers got lucky in the draft when Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen was available in the second round. Now Carolina is about to find out how lucky it was, and the future of coach John Fox depends on it.

Carolina's offense was brutal in the preseason and not much better through two games. Matt Moore threw one interception Sunday against Tampa Bay that was just inexcusable, trying to rifle a pass between three defenders to Steve Smith. Smith has to have help from other receivers, but Carolina just hasn't been able to provide that for him.

The Panthers have a brilliant running game, but the modern NFL isn't the SEC of the 1960s. You have to throw the ball, and Moore is nothing more than a decent backup. Clausen has a tremendous arm, as anyone who saw Notre Dame at Kenan Stadium last year knows. Given that the Panthers are 0-2 - and that Fox doesn't have a contract after this season - Carolina had to make a move. It was clear where this team was headed with Moore.

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.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

N.C. State deserves to be ranked this week

N.C. State deserves to be ranked when the newest polls come out on Monday. The Wolfpack received some votes in both polls, being 34th among vote-getters in the AP poll and 37th among the coaches voting.

The Pack's 3-0 start sets up a fascinating game Saturday at noon at Georgia Tech. The game will be broadcast on ESPN, while Carolina's 3:30 game at Rutgers is relegated to ESPNU and Duke, after its nationally televised execution against Alabama, has its home game with Army pushed to ESPN3.com at 3 p.m.