ACC football: Wilson out to avoid more injuries
By Joedy McCreary
Associated PressRALEIGH ó Nothing could make Russell Wilson forget last year’s visit to South Carolina. Not even a concussion.
Besides, there’s always the game film to remind the quarterback of how N.C. State fell apart after he was hurt.
Calling the injury that prematurely ended his first college start “a freak accident,” Wilson said his maturity and understanding of the Wolfpack’s offense should help him avoid getting hurt this time around ó beginning with next week’s opening rematch with the Gamecocks.
“I’m never afraid. I’m never afraid of doing certain things or trying to play to the best level I can,” said Wilson, who’s carrying a school-record streak of 249 passes without a pick into that Sept. 3 opener. “I’m going to be smart. If I need to get down, I need to get down. But I think a lot of it is also watching film and understanding certain situations where I could have gotten down earlier or understanding where I am in the game.
“A lot of that’s just maturing and more experience … and the game slowing down for me,” he added. “(From) the beginning of the season last year to the end of the season last year, even though I did get hurt, the game slowed down for me a lot.”
N.C. State played like two completely different teams last season, depending on whether Wilson was on the field.
When he was healthy, the Wolfpack knocked off then-No. 15 East Carolina in overtime, then routed rival North Carolina 41-10 during the late-season four-game winning streak that helped them reach their first bowl game since 2005. He became the first freshman quarterback in ACC history named to the all-league first team after throwing just one interception all season.
But when he was hurt ó as he was all too often ó N.C. State struggled mightily.
After his concussion in the first half against South Carolina ó he was strapped to a backboard and carted off the field ó the Wolfpack went on to lose 34-0. He missed a 41-10 loss to South Florida with a shoulder injury. He hurt his knee in the Papajohns.com Bowl, and Rutgers rallied for a 29-23 victory.
Those split results are one reason why coach Tom O’Brien recently joked that the best play of a preseason scrimmage was a slide by Wilson to avoid a hit.
“I know it’s football. Things happen, situations happen and I’m definitely excited about this season, moving forward and forgetting about the goods and the bads of last year and starting a new season,” Wilson said. “Hopefully, there’ll be tons more positives than negatives.”
Wilson’s occasional flashes of brilliance last season have lifted expectations, both individually and for the team.
The Wolfpack enter the season as a legitimate contender in the there-for-the-taking Atlantic Division. After a rookie season in which he threw for 1,955 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 388 yards and another four TDs, fans can’t help but wonder what he’ll do for an encore.
“No matter what you do, if you’re doing good or bad, there’s always going to be critics (and) there’s always going to be people who think you’re better than you actually are,” Wilson said.
“I have to really recognize how good I am and how bad I am. I have to know that every time I step on the field, or if I’m in the film room, or if I’m just sitting at home thinking about the play I’m going to run, I have to really visualize it. I have to get better at it. I have to understand it. I have to do my best to be the best I can be, because I want to be the best every time I step onto the field.”
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