While I’m no botanist, it is interesting to take note of the fact that the state flower for North Carolina is actually a tree; flowering dogwood. Not having done any further research on the subject I would think that this might be the only non true state flower in the entire 50 states. Given that we are now in the middle of a 3 game stretch of opponents from the ACC who reside in the State of North Carolina, I thought it was deserving that we acknowledge them with this curious fact as we inflict another loss on the entire compliment of teams from the state where the first successful flight in aviation history took place; Kitty hawk, North Carolina. This ends the academic portion of the article.
While the wolfpack rely on their quarterback Russell Wilson much like we do on Joshua Nesbitt, they are a team who reflects the image of their leader; Coach Tom O’Brien. He is a no nonsense former US Marine who hates making mistakes with the football, and enjoys winning the turnover battle. In their 2nd game this season, a 28 to 21 win on the road at Central Florida and the former Notre Dame Coach George O’Leary, the wolfpack came up with 5 turnovers, including a fumble by the Golden Knights as they were driving for the tying touchdown late in the 4th quarter. In essence they don’t make mistakes as I’m certain Coach O’Brien is about as much fun to face after a loss as our own Coach Paul Johnson. Note to the A-Backs who dropped a pitch or 2 the last game; we certainly don’t need to see any of that in this game, or the rest of the season for that matter.
While everyone has written the usual repetitive “we must stop Russell Wilson”; and “we must contain Russell Wilson” articles all week long, the real key to this game is eliminating the wolfpack running game that currently consists of true freshman; Mustafa Greene. While not putting up gaudy rushing statistics, he has been very effective in causing teams to detract from their primary mission of slowing down the passing attack of Russell Wilson. What this means is that we had better not turn Mr. Greene into C.J. Spiller this week. If we do that then we are going to be in for another of those type games from last season in which the team with the ball last scores and wins the football game.
Last week was the first time that I can remember our defense being able to get some turnovers and control an offense in the 2nd half of a game and actually end the game with a stop! Now before everyone starts saying “what about Clemson in the ACC Championship Game last year;” Let me assure you that everyone watching (myself included) was just cringing going into the last 1:20 minutes of that game hoping that C.J. Spiller didn’t rip off another 50 yard touchdown run. This year with Al Groh walking the sidelines I don’t have that same reaction as I did before; Oh no, here comes the dreaded defense! What a difference a coach makes! I expect stops this season! So does Coach Johnson!
Now while the wolfpack come into this game undefeated, Western Carolina, Central Florida, and Cincinnati (new coaching staff) are not exactly considered; “murderers row.” But I do give them credit for winning all of their games to this point in the season. Now they will face for the first time a very proficient running attack in Georgia Tech who is averaging around 345 yards per game on the ground. I expect to see NC State load up in the box with 8 or 9 players to start the game, which is why I think this is the week our passing game comes up huge. Provided our eligible receivers continue catching the ball like they did last week against the Tar Heels. After we hit a few long gains by going vertical, then NC State will be scrambling to match up against the triple option the rest of the game. This is where Coach Paul Johnson is at his best; playing chess with his opponent on the other side of the field. We should continue to score 30+ points again this week against NC State.
That will place an enormous amount of pressure on Mr. Wilson who was only 10 for 30 against Central Florida and sacked a couple of times. We should be able to accomplish something similar given that our players, especially the defensive linemen, are starting to make some plays in the backfield and getting more aggressive each week as they find their comfort zone in the new 3/4. The tackling has to improve, but there isn’t a team in the country that doesn’t need improvement in this aspect of the game.
We need another big game from TJ Barnes in the middle this week to shut down the interior running game, along with Brad Jefferson, Brandon Watts and Kyle Jackson inside at linebacker sealing off those cutback lanes. By doing this we can take away a major portion of the wolfpack offense causing them to pass the ball more than they would like to, placing even more pressure on Mr. Wilson to carry the offense all by himself. That is a tall order for any individual player, even one as talented as him.
So now the Yellow Jackets come back home undefeated in the ACC after a 2 game road trip that hopefully turned out to be a wakeup call for the rest of the season. We need to fill up BDS this Saturday and give our Yellow Jackets a huge lift by welcoming them home after a job well done in the first game of a trio of games against those teams from the flowering dogwood state. Let’s get real loud this game and as always; Go Jackets!