ACC Football: N.C. State defense still looking for answers
By Joedy McCreary
RALEIGH ó Tom O’Brien spent a decade at Boston College, so the North Carolina State coach has a pretty good idea how the Eagles will try to beat his defense.
“(BC quarterback David Shinskie) is probably licking his chops after the last two games, watching us play pass defense,” O’Brien said Monday.
Then again, it doesn’t take much more than a quick glance at the stat sheet to figure that out.
N.C. State’s stint as the nation’s best defense? That’s history, after Wake Forest’s Riley Skinner and Duke’s Thaddeus Lewis torched the Wolfpack (3-3, 0-2 ACC) in back-to-back weeks. They allowed a combined 820 yards passing and 79 points in a pair of losses, and once again find themselves looking for answers heading into this week’s trip to BC.
“It’s about time that we stood up, became accountable for ourselves and start tackling people and get off the field,” O’Brien said.
That certainly hasn’t happened frequently enough lately for N.C. State.
Skinner was first to light up the secondary, throwing for 361 yards and three touchdowns in beating the Wolfpack 30-24 and prompting O’Brien to replace three starters in the defensive backfield.
That didn’t seem to help much against Duke. Lewis was 40 of 50 against them for 459 yards and five touchdowns to help the Blue Devils claim a 49-28 win.
Suddenly, the nation’s once-No. 1 defense slipped to No. 19 overall and 101st in pass efficiency, and put pressure on the offense to outscore opponents.
“We felt like, coming into the game, like we were going to have to put up points regardless,” running back Jamelle Eugene said. “That’s our mindset each and every week. We’ve got to match a score with a touchdown or no score with a touchdown. That was the pressure we put on ourselves from the get-go.”
That poor performance prompted another change. One of the new starters in the secondary ó cornerback Justin Byers ó has been replaced by freshman Rashard Smith, one of four freshman defensive backs on depth chart, for the BC game.
While O’Brien’s got them lined up to his liking, he’s still looking for improved effort and execution.
“Certainly, when you’re in position, you’ve got to be able to get a guy on the ground,” O’Brien said.
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