College Football Notebook: Moral victory: No new injuries for Pack
The college football notebook …
RALEIGH ó North Carolina State entered its week off after its most encouraging loss of the season ó not because of the score, but because no starters were hurt.
For the injury-riddled Wolfpack, that’s saying something: It’s the first time all season they’ve finished a game without any injuries to the first-stringers.
Now, coach Tom O’Brien hopes his team can keep healing enough to generate another strong second-half push.
“We’re making progress in some areas,” O’Brien said. “Our growth has been retarded by some lineup changes we’ve had to make. Hopefully, we’ll settle down now.”
Injuries have been the story of O’Brien’s second season in Raleigh. The list of banged-up players who missed varying amounts of playing time so far includes starting quarterback Russell Wilson, running backs Toney Baker and Andre Brown, top receiver Donald Bowens, tight ends Matt Kushner and Anthony Hill, linebacker Nate Irving and defensive tackle Alan-Michael Cash.
Baker, Bowens and Kushner are out for the season, but some of the others have trickled back into the lineup ó Brown was back for an overtime upset of then-No. 15 East Carolina three weeks ago, and Hill and Wilson returned for last week’s 38-31 loss to Boston College.
But the remaining holes on defense left the weary Wolfpack unable to pressure quarterbacks ó N.C. State has one sack in its last two games, after racking up nine in the first four weeks.
“You had a lot of those young guys in there playing, and it shows up in our pass rush,” O’Brien said. “We haven’t gotten to the quarterback for two weeks in a row. … We had shown the ability to do (that) in the first four games. We have to get our legs back, and we have to help some of the young guys that are starting for us now.”
Still, with some time off before a visit from Florida State on Oct. 16, N.C. State is looking for another late-season rally. Last year’s team started 1-5 before regrouping during an idle week to win four straight from mid-October to mid-November and briefly flirt with bowl eligibility.
-PUNT BLOCKER: Bruce Carter knows he and his North Carolina teammates are supposed to move on quickly after wins and losses. Still, the linebacker couldn’t help but think back about his three blocked punts last week against previously unbeaten Connecticut.
The three blocks were an ACC single-game record, and the third was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. It was a performance Carter claimed he had only watched once on film ó and that came when the team did its usual film work.
In the days after the game, Carter also got used to seeing his feat mentioned repeatedly in newspapers and on television.
Will he go back and enjoy his personal block party?
“We’re not really supposed to,” Carter said. “We’re supposed to move on and stuff, but now I’ll go back and see what I did.”
QBS ON THE RUN: Christian Ponder’s 144 rushing yards against Miami was the most for a Florida State quarterback in 60 years and the first time a Seminole quarterback hit triple digits since Charlie Ward in 1992.
AUBURN: Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville fired offensive coordinator Tony Franklin on Wednesday just seven games into his tenure.
The 20th-ranked Tigers have struggled offensively all season after entering as the favorites to win the SEC Western Division. They have dropped league games to LSU and Vanderbilt after beating Mississippi State by a score of 3-2.
“It hurts. It hurts bad,” Tuberville said after practice Wednesday.
GONE COUNTRY: South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier doesn’t pay too much attention to critical fans. He does, however, enjoy his Kenny Chesney.
Spurrier says he’ll pop on a CD by his friend, country music star Chesney, or other performers of that genre to pass the time or keep his mind off South Carolina’s offensive problems.
Spurrier was listening to one earlier this week and decided to call his pal to thank him for selecting the Gamecocks to beat Ole Miss during Chesney’s guest appearance on ESPN GameDay last Saturday.
“Good to have somebody that picks you occasionally,” Spurrier said with a grin.
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