College Football Preview: N.C. State vs. South Alabama
RALEIGH ó North Carolina State wants to bounce back from its first loss of the season by handing South Alabama the first defeat in program history.
After the defense yielded at least 400 yards for the second straight week, the Wolfpack (1-1) are in desperate need of a pick-me-up.
They’ll hope to find it Saturday night when they play host to a fledgling group of Jaguars that has won all 19 games it has played since starting the program two years ago but has never faced a team from the Bowl Subdivision.
“I’m sure they’ll be a tough foe, they’ll come in and this will be their Super Bowl,” N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien said. “But it’s a good thing we’re not playing another ACC game on the road at this point in the season.”
The Wolfpack’s schedule certainly has an unorthodox appearance. After opening against Liberty, they were sent across the state to Wake Forest for their Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
Now comes a second game against a Championship Subdivision team and a contest that ultimately means nothing for N.C. State’s bowl eligibility. Teams may count only one FCS win per season toward the six victories necessary to make the postseason.
What O’Brien doesn’t want to happen is for the Wolfpack to take a step back following a big 2010 in which they went 9-4 and won the Champs Sports Bowl ó and a loss in this one certainly would qualify as a step back.
“Every program I’ve been around, you have your breakthrough year (and) the next year’s always the toughest, because people take you a little more seriously,” O’Brien said. “They’ve got their eye on the bull’s-eye. The team gets that attitude that, ‘Hey, we’re pretty good, we can just go play,’ and that’s why we started harping from (January) on that you have to do everything better this year than you did last year.”
The biggest problem N.C. State faces is a defense that ranks 94th nationally, allowing an average of 422 yards. The Wolfpack were without their top three pass rushers and couldn’t get much pressure on quarterback Tanner Price during last week’s 34-27 loss at Wake Forest.
“It was ugly and there were a lot of reasons why it was ugly, but the good thing is, everything’s fixable,” safety Brandan Bishop said. “We’ll correct those things.”
An angry Wolfpack team should provide quite a measuring stick for South Alabama (2-0) as it takes the fast track up college football’s ladder.
The Jaguars started their program in 2009 and are scheduled to jump to the Bowl Subdivision in 2013. The teams will play three times in five years, with South Alabama returning to Raleigh next season and the Wolfpack heading to Mobile, Ala., in 2015.
“It will show us who we really are and what kind of teammates we have on our team,” Jaguars tight end Kevin Helms said. “We’ll see who has the heart and who is really a football player. This will either make us or break us. … Hopefully, we can go out and show everybody what kind of team we are.”
The most notable connection between the schools: New N.C. State men’s basketball coach Mark Gottfried is the son of retired South Alabama athletic director Joe Gottfried. The younger Gottfried is scheduled to make a tandem jump into Carter-Finley Stadium at halftime with the Ranger ROTC parachute team as part of the school’s “Military Appreciation Day.”
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