Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shuey to visit Clemson, UNC, Tennessee

South Mecklenburg High linebacker/fullback Spencer Shuey, who has seen his college recruitment increase dramatically since an outstanding performance in the Shrine Bowl, has set up tentative visits with some of his new suitors.

He expects to visit Clemson Jan. 9, North Carolina Jan.16 and Tennessee or Illinois Jan. 23, according to his father.

"Both UNC and Clemson have told Spencer and myself that they plan to offer (scholarships) on his visits," Mark Shuey said in an e-mail. "But it is a dead period right now. So it's been a couple of days since anyone has talked.

"UT says they think they will offer also, but needed to wait until coach Monte Kiffin (father of head coach Lane Kiffin) arrives...As he will have the final say. That's where we stand right now, anyway."

- Stan Olson

Monday, December 29, 2008

Knee injury sidelines Pack's Wilson

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson is out for the rest of the Bowl with a knee sprain.

Wilson was injured on a touchdown drive that put the Wolfpack ahead 17-6 late in the second quarter against Rutgers.

At halftime, Wilson had 186 passing yards and one touchdown and 46 rushing yards on eight carries. Harrison Beck will replace Wilson.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pack safety Johnson back from injury

N.C. State starting boundary safety Clem Johnson, who missed the regular season finale against Miami with an ankle injury, will play in Monday's Bowl against Rutgers.

Coach Tom O'Brien said during Sunday's news conference that he's not sure Johnson is 100 percent, but he has been healthy enough to practice.

Johnson's play as the last line of defense could be critical against an opponent with a big-play passing attack. Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel has thrown 20 touchdown passes over the last six games.

"It's good for us that he's sharp, and he looks pretty healthy during practice, so that's good for our secondary," O'Brien said.

O'Brien is familiar from his days at Boston College with Teel, Rutgers' quarterback.

Teel played at Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey for Greg Toal, father of Boston College linebacker Brian Toal. Teel attended camp at Boston College, was recruited by O'Brien and said he was a close friend of Brian Toal.

"(Boston College) was a nice place and (O'Brien) was a great coach," Teel said. "It just wasn't right for me."

O'Brien also tried to recruit Rutgers wideout Kenny Britt, who leads the Big East in catches and receiving yards, and a few players in the Scarlet Knights' secondary.

The lone North Carolina resident on Rutgers' roster is Hickory High graduate San San Te, who starts at place-kicker as a redshirt freshman.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said he typically recruits place-kickers through specialists who run camps devoted exclusively to coaching young kickers. That's how he located Te, who is 9-for-13 on field goal attempts.

"He's had some pretty good answers for us," Schiano said.

One of the most often asked questions about the Birmingham game is why it's called the Bowl rather than just the Papa John's Bowl.

Bowl executive director Mark Meadows said the sponsorship with the pizza retailer was hatched shortly after Papa John's began making delivery available through its web site. Company executives thought the bowl would raise awareness of the Internet ordering option.

"I do think it was a successful sponsorship and partnership," Meadows said.

It was successful enough for the company to recently sign on for two extra years as title sponsor after the initial two-year contract expired. -- Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 26, 2008

Pack adds 2 more recruits from Georgia

N.C. State continues to finish its football recruiting season strong, adding two more players from Georgia, a state the school has done well in recently.

Center Camden Wentz of Lassiter High in Marietta, Ga., and offensive tackle Duran Christophe of Woodstock (Ga.) High committed to the Wolfpack on the way home from a visit to the school this week.

The players, who are close friends and live near each other, said they also considered going to Louisville - which had offered both - together.
Wentz had previously committed to Stanford but later changed his mind. He is 6-foot-3 and 275 pounds.

"It's a great school with great facilities," Wentz said of N.C. State. "All the other schools I looked at were comparable to that but the coaching staff stood out to me. Coach (Tom) O'Brien has a history with offensive linemen and the offensive line coach has a history of putting linemen in the NFL.

"It just felt that the offensive line there is a big deal to coaches."

Wentz was a four-year letterman. As a senior OT, he helped Lassiter to a 9-3 season and was an AP all-state selection.

Christophe, who is 6-6 and 275 pounds, said he also had offers from East Carolina, Tulane, Indiana, Central Florida and Middle Tennessee State.
He is scheduled to play in Georgia's high school North-South all-star game Monday. While he is expected to play defense in the game, Christophe expects to play the offensive line at N.C. State.

The Wolfpack now has 24 commitments.

-Stan Olson

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shuey's stock rises after Shrine Bowl play

South Mecklenburg High linebacker/fullback Spencer Shuey made a splash during last week's Shrine Bowl practices and game in Spartanburg, and college coaches noticed.

Although Shuey, who is 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, did have offers from Illinois, Duke and Appalachian State among others, most of the major schools in the area hardly seemed to have noticed him.

Then came the Shrine Bowl.

Shuey wound up as the North Carolina squad's defensive MVP in his team's 24-16 loss Saturday. He had eight tackles, including two for losses, but seven of them came in little more than a quarter, before he broke his thumb.
Since the game, the calls have been pouring in.

"Clemson has called," South Mecklenburg coach James Martin said this evening. "North Carolina called and talked to his father, and Tennessee is showing interest. This weekend certainly has helped; just being named MVP in the game has made a difference."

Martin was asked why Shuey, who rushed for over 1,200 yards and scored 14 touchdowns offensively and had 87 tackles on defense, seemed to play under the radar for much of his career.

"He plays baseball as well (third base), and nowadays sophomores and juniors in high school go to the summer camps and attract attention there," Martin said. It also hurt that the rebuilt Sabres, who reached the state semifinals this season, had struggled in recent years.

"He was sort of a late bloomer. And he's absolutely able to play at the next level."

That could be at any number of positions. Schools are looking at him at middle linebacker, defensive end, tight end or fullback, Martin said.

"And he has very good speed," Martin said. "We've clocked him at 4.7 in the 40 (yard dash)."

- Stan Olson

Meineke Bowl: Davis re-tires, fast

The oddsmakers may say West Virginia is a 1 1/2-point favorite over North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Saturday but history -- and lug nuts -- came down on the Tar Heels' side on Tuesday.

During the annual trip to Lowe's Motor Speedway for both teams, North Carolina coach Butch Davis squared off against West Virginia's Bill Stewart in a tire-changing competition.

By their own admission, neither is particularly familiar with rapid-fire tire changing and air wrenches but, then again, the competition isn't all that serious either. It comes between ride-along sessions for players and coaches on both sides and after a buffett lunch of barbecue, baked beans and cole slaw.

When it came to tire changing, Davis won the "five off, five on" race with a time of 17.12 seconds, exactly .12 faster than Stewart in what may have been the most competitive coaching challenge in the history of lug nuts.

What does it mean?

It means history is on the Tar Heels' side because four of the previous six winners of the tire-changing competition have led their teams to victory in the bowl game.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Thursday, December 18, 2008 Bowl: Good response from Pack

N.C. State’s ticket office has sold about 5,500 of the school’s allotment of 10,000 seats for the Bowl, school assistant athletics director for ticket operations Brian Kelly said Thursday.

The Wolfpack (6-6) will meet Rutgers (7-5) on Dec. 29 in the game in Birmingham, Ala. Kelly said school officials still are taking orders daily. The school ticket office will take orders by phone through Tuesday and will continue accepting online orders through Dec. 26.

Bowl sales and marketing manager Bo Kerr said most of the ticket orders taken directly by the bowl are received online, so it’s impossible to tell for sure how many patrons of that outlet are N.C. State fans. But he said there are a lot of orders from fans who have phone numbers with North Carolina area codes.

“We’ve gotten very good response from N.C. State,” Kerr said. “We’re expecting to have a good crowd.”

– Ken Tysiac

Florida DB commits to Tar Heels

North Carolina has received the commitment of a top Florida defensive back, choosing the school over finalists Georgia and Michigan, among others.

Angelo Hadley, a 5-foot-11, 190-pound safety at Armwood High in Seffner, Fla., announced his selection of the Tar Heels today, continuing a strong recruiting effort from coach Butch Davis' staff.

"He really liked the school and campus, and had a great relationship with his position coach," said Armwood coach Sean Callahan. "He runs a 4.4 40, but he’s football-fast, better on the field than when being timed.

"He's one of my favorite players; he's a tremendous hitter, but he would never put a big hit on our guys in practice. He would save it for Fridays. And he’s good enough that he will be playing on Sundays.”

Hadley had ten interceptions as a senior, giving him a school-record 19 for his career. He returned three of those ten for touchdowns, and also had 79 tackles. He’s expected to play free safety in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina is also recruiting two of Hadley’s teammates -- defensive end Ryne Giddins, a top-flight national prospect who is also considering UNC along with a number of other schools, and quarterback Mywan Jackson, who would play cornerback for the Tar Heels.

-- Stan Olson

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wolfpack gets another commit, from NJ safety

N.C. State, which seems to add another commitment daily, now has one from 6-foot, 210-pound safety Donald Coleman of the Hun School in Princeton, N.J.

Coleman, who grew up in Detroit, said he was also offered scholarships by Iowa, Minnesota and Delaware. He is the 22nd player to commit to the Wolfpack.

He liked the way N.C. State finished strong in coach Tom O'Brien's second season, he said, and thinks the program is on the way to winning championships.

In his post-graduate season at the Hun School, Coleman, who has 4.45 speed, had 75 tackles and also forced five fumbles. He played running back as well, scoring seven touchdowns and gaining more than 800 yards rushing.

--Stan Olson

Future Tar Heels litter top 100

The recent addition to the updated top 100 prep football prospects list of quarterback Bryn Renner of Springfield, Va., (No. 94) gives the North Carolina four commitments in that group, leading area schools. There's more good news for Tar Heels fans; seven undecided players are still considering UNC.

One of them, CB Gabe Lynn of Jenks, Okla., will make his choice Thursday, and while the Tar Heels may be longshots in a competition that includes in-state powers Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, they remain in the running.

In addition to Renner, North Carolina's other top 100 players are DE Donte Moss of Jacksonville (N.C.) Northside High at No.40, WR Jheranie Boyd of Gastonia Ashbrook High at No. 67 and LB Justin Dixon of Smithfield-Selma High at No. 91.

South Carolina has Rock Hill South Pointe High safety Devonte Holloman (No. 31) and Clemson has the No. 78 player in DE Malliciah Goodman of West Florence High in Florence, S.C.

And Virginia Tech has No. 86 in TE Logan Thomas of Lynchburg, Va.

-- Stan Olson

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Boxes dropped from Kenan expansion Phase I

Phase I of North Carolina's Kenan Stadium renovation, which will begin in the coming months, won't include luxury boxes after all.

Athletics director Dick Baddour said Tuesday that in the new design plan, one — not two — floors will be added to the existing Kenan Football Center, at the cost of $18 million. Phase II — slated to begin after the 2009 season — will include adding more than two dozen luxury boxes and a new press box to the south side of the stadium where the current press box sits; Baddour said the athletics department is still working on that financial plan.

Phase III will eventually include adding seats to the east end zone, where the old field house currently stands, but plans for that are a ways away.

"The materials are on order, work has already started,'' Baddour said of Phase I, " ... but I'm not sure yet when you'll see a crane over there; probably not until at the end of January, at the earliest."

The new floor of the football center will be used for added space as recruiting rooms and offices are enlarged throughout the complex; the extra floor will also be used by the operations staff while Phase II is in progress.

Last summer, the state legislature approved $50 million of debt for the renovation project, which the school must pay back.

Baddour said he is hopeful that the first two phases will be financed through the sale of premium seats; the Educational Foundation (also known as the Rams Club) will not undertake a major campaign right now to finance the project, although there will be some focused fundraising by the organization, he said.

Pack's Young, Eugene to explore draft prospects

N.C. State juniors Willie Young and Jamelle Eugene are submitting their names to the NFL draft advisory board for feedback on where they might be selected in the draft in April if they choose to leave school early, coach Tom O’Brien said Tuesday.

Young, a defensive end, leads the team with 11 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. Eugene has rushed for 432 yards and two touchdowns.

“Neither has any intentions at this point of leaving, but they want to know (their status),” O’Brien said during his news conference to preview N.C. State’s Dec. 29 appearance against Rutgers in the Bowl.

Neither player was available for comment Tuesday. Sophomore linebacker Nate Irving, who led the team with four interceptions, said he hasn’t thought about his plans beyond this season.
“I’m just getting ready for Rutgers,” Irving said. “After Rutgers I’ll worry about my future plans.”

The deadline for underclassmen to apply for the draft is Jan. 15. The draft advisory board reviews the credentials of underclassmen and provides them of an estimate of where they might be selected in the draft if they leave school in order to help them make informed decisions about their future.

O’Brien also said Tuesday that safety Clem Johnson is supposed to return to the practice field this week in hopes of returning for the bowl game. He missed the first four games while recovering from a broken jaw and didn’t play in the regular season finale against Miami because of an ankle injury.

“We think he’s our best safety,” O’Brien said. “We know we’re going to need our best players to slow this passing game (of Rutgers) down some. It would be fortunate for him, too.”

N.C. State fans will be able to get a rare glimpse at the team during a practice this weekend. O’Brien is opening up practice to the fans at 4 p.m. Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.

The Wolfpack has a basketball game scheduled at the RBC Center at 2 p.m. Saturday against Lipscomb. Fans who do not attend the basketball game but want to attend football practice are asked to park in the lot to the south of Carter-Finley Stadium.

– Ken Tysiac

N.C. State gets commitment from TE/DE

N.C. State has received a football commitment from A.J. Ferguson, a 6- foot-2, 250-pound tight end/defensive end from South Brunswick High in Southport.

He picked the Wolfpack over Appalachian State and Coastal Carolina (offers), and was receiving interest from Virginia Tech and North Carolina, according to South Brunswick coach Gordon Walters.

A four-year starter, Ferguson's 10 receptions on offense included four touchdowns. He also scored three touchdowns on defense.

"He was under the radar when the season began," Walters said. "He never came off the field and had a great senior season.”

Ferguson helped South Brunswick to a best-ever 10-3 mark as a senior.

An all-around athlete, he also ran track (100- and 200-meters) and plays basketball. The Wolfpack's 21st commitment, he's expected to play defensive end.

--Stan Olson

Monday, December 15, 2008

Heels sell out bowl allotment of 22,000 seats

North Carolina has sold out of its 22,000 allotment of bowl tickets to the Dec. 27 Meineke Bowl against West Virginia, the school announced; any remaining tickets can be purchased at from Ticketmaster.

UNC's original allotment was 12,500, but it asked for additional tickets to bring it to the 22,000 total.

"In addition to the 22,000 tickets we sold in Chapel Hill, we have been told that many of our fans purchased tickets directly from the Meineke Car Care Bowl and Ticketmaster,'' Clint Gwaltney, UNC's associate athletics director for ticket operations, said in a prepared statement.

"We expect more than 40,000 Tar Heel fans to be at the game."

Only 5,000 tickets remain, according to a bowl spokesman.

— Robbi Pickeral

Hargrave defensive back commits to Clemson

Clemson has added the commitment of defensive back Jonathan Meeks, a highly rated defensive back from Hargrave Military in Chatham, Va., who also played for Rock Hill High. He also visited North Carolina and N.C. State and considered a number of other schools.

Meeks, who is 6-foot-2 and 193 pounds, has 4.5-second speed in the 40- yard dash. He chose the Tigers Sunday, at the conclusion of his official visit. He is new coach Dabo Swinney's first commitment and No. 9 in the Tigers' current class.

He's expected to play safety for Clemson.

--Stan Olson

Friday, December 12, 2008

Recruiting: Rivals updates Top 100 prospects

Recent North Carolina commitment Donavan Tate, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound athlete from Cartersville (Ga.) High, has jumped into the just-revised Top 100 prospects list, at No. 81. Tate, who runs the 40- yard dash in 4.5 seconds, was also offered by Southern Cal, Alabama and Georgia, among others.

The Tar Heels also have No.17 on the list, Donte Moss of Jacksonville (N.C.) Northeast High, a powerful DE, and WR Jheranie Boyd of Gastonia Ashbrook (No.34).

Clemson has an outstanding catch at No.36, Malliciah Goodman, a 6-4, 255-pound DE out of West Florence (S.C) High. And South Carolina claims the No.89 prospect, DB/QB DeVonte Holloman of South Pointe High in Rock Hill. The Gamecocks also landed No.91, athlete Damario Jeffery of Columbia (S.C.) High.

Virginia Tech, assembling another strong class, has commitments from TE Logan Thomas (No.29) of Lynchburg (Va.) Brookville High, and RB David Wilson (No.46) of Danville (Va.) George Washington High.

--Stan Olson

3 Mountaineers named All-Americans

Three Appalachian State players were voted Walter Camp Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) All-Americans.

That quarterback Armanti Edwards made it was no surprise. He's joined by offensive tackle Jonathan Bieschke and safety Mark LeGree. The Mountaineers were the only team with as many as three players selected to the 25-member first team.

Edwards is the first Appalachian State quarterback to be so honored. The 2008 Southern Conference Player of the Year finished the season with 2,902 passing yards, 941 rushing yards and a Southern Conference-record 41 touchdowns responsible for (30 passing, 11 rushing).

He ranks second nationally with a 170.19 pass-efficiency rating. He's also one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award, the division's Heisman, which will be announced Thursday.

Bieschke is the third Appalachian State offensive linemen in as many years on the Walter Camp All-America team (Matt Isenhour in 2006, Kerry Brown in 2007). The senior right tackle keyed a line that helped the Mountaineers to
463.6 yards of total offense a game.

LeGree, a sophomore, leads the nation with 10 interceptions. That total broke the 45-year-old school record. He also had 17 passes defended (second in the Southern Conference) and 58 total tackles.

-Stan Olson

Thursday, December 11, 2008

UNC's Goddard named 2nd-team All America

North Carolina safety Trimane Goddard has been named to the Walter Camp All America second team, the school announced.

Goddard, a senior, snagged seven interceptions this season, tied for the national lead.

— Robbi Pickeral

Florida safety commits to Wolfpack

N.C. State, on a recruiting roll lately, has received it's 20th commitment, landing Brandan Bishop of Boca Raton (Fla.) High. Bishop was recruited to play safety, but he also played wide receiver in high school.

Bishop, who is 6-1, 200 pounds, has 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, and is also expected to compete in sprints for the Wolfpack track team.

He said his other finalist was West Virginia.

“It was a combination of a lot of things," Bishop said. "It’s a great university and they have great facilities there. I think the football program is moving in the right direction under Coach (Tom) O’Brien. I felt real comfortable there when I visited.”

As a senior, he had 108 tackles and five interceptions, returning one for a score. He also caught 45 passes for 600 yards and eight touchdowns as his team went 8-3 before losing in the first round of the playoffs.

--Stan Olson

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Moore talks of next year

Following Appalachian State's first playoff loss in four years, coach Jerry Moore held a conference call this morning while driving past
Richmond, on the road recruiting. He was wrapping up 2008 and looking ahead at the same time.
"We're all on the road recruiting, up in Virginia, Pennsylvania, to down in Florida," Moore said. "Some coaches left Monday night, most
left Tuesday morning. We haven't done this in three years; we haven't been able to recruit before Christmas because of the championship
runs. So it's a little bit get back on track. I'd a whole lot rather be getting ready to play somebody else."
Moore said he talked to the team about what lies ahead "For four or five hours" Monday morning.
"The main thing for us is to try and grow some of the young guys up; get some kids healed up. Work hard on developing really strong
leadership through some of the competitive things in the spring, through the weight room, through the lifting through the running.
We've got issues, not meaning that there's anything bad. But those are things we think we've got to do to get to the level that we want to be
at. I think we're pretty close.
"We've got a lot of players coming back, but I don't think you can just say 'status quo' either, and just think that because they're
young and coming back that you're gonna be good.
"You've got to work harder; I know staff-wise, we made a commitment to work harder than we've ever worked."
Someone asked Moore if he thought ASU's dynasty was over.
"Is it the end? I don't think that," he said. "It would be the end if we all quit. If we quit working that would be the end. That never even
crossed my mind. You take the Patriots, the Boston Celtics, the Yankees; at some point in time they lose. But they don't quit; it's
not the end of the dynasty.
"I can speak for myself; I'm probably more driven now than in the 20 years I've been at Appalachian State."
*Moore thinks highly of Rod Chisholm, a running back from Independence High who was redshirted as a freshman this season after
coming off ankle surgery. Chisholm is a talented player and Moore thinks he will see considerable playing time in the future. That might
have happened this year if the Mountaineers had known they would have so many injuries at the position.

Meineke tickets selling fast

North Carolina has already sold 14,000 tickets for the Dec. 27 Meineke Bowl, which will pit the Tar Heels against West Virginia.

After quickly selling out of its initial 12,500 ticket allottment, it requested and received 2,500 more. The remaining tickets can be purchased at

-- Robbi Pickeral

Moore: App's Edwards played hurt Saturday

Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore just had a wrap-up-the-season conference call, and went into detail on quarterback Armanti Edwards' physical problems in Saturday's playoff loss to Richmond, a game in which Edwards threw five interceptions after totaling four in the season's first 13 games.

"He wasn't 100 percent, that's for sure," Moore said. "I think anybody that's seen him play knows that. He had a hip pointer that he got about three weeks ago. Then he hurt a knee; it wasn't a surgical kind of deal, just aggravating. And Tuesday in practice, it began to bother him a little bit more than it had in the past.

"And he was just limited. He threw a couple bad balls, a couple of them off his back foot. It's strange; he did the same thing against South Carolina State. He tried to throw the ball away, he just didn't have anything on it. And some of that's the hip pointer; the only time it really bothered him was when he was throwing. He couldn't throw the ball with the velocity that he wanted to."

--Stan Olson

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Running back picks Gamecocks over Vols

Jarvis Giles, a highly-rated running back from Gaither High in Tampa, Fla., has committed to South Carolina.

He officially did so at a news conference at Gaither today.

Giles, who is 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, had also strongly considered Tennessee, but the coaching change there helped solidify his commitment to the Gamecocks, he said at the news conference.

He has 4.4-second speed in the 40-yard dash, and ranks him as the No.2 all-purpose back in the country.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier and his staff are looking for speed, and Giles' explosiveness could get him into the lineup quickly.

Giles is graduating early and expects to enroll in Columbia for the spring semester.

- Stan Olson

Monday, December 8, 2008

Fret not, App fans: Mountaineers will be back

As Appalachian State football fans try to get over that rare FCS playoff loss -- Richmond's 33-13 quarterfinal win in Boone Saturday was the Mountaineers' first in 14 postseason games -- they might consider this:

ASU could be the preseason favorite in 2009, picked to win its fourth national championship in five years.

It starts with quarterback Armanti Edwards, a marvelous player who could win the Payton Award (the FCS version of Heisman) and who has already said he will return for his senior season.

Including Edwards, 17 of the 22 starters on Saturday's depth chart return. And 21 of the 22 backups are underclassmen, meaning 38 of the Apps' top 44 players will be back.

While punter Neil Young graduates, kicker Jason Vitaris is a sophomore.

Of 44 players on this year's two-deep roster, only six were seniors.

Don't forget that three key players--junior running back Devon Moore, junior defensive lineman Tony Robertson and freshman defensive back Dominique McDuffie -- were all lost to season-ending injuries, and should return.

Another boost could come from defensive end Gary Tharrington and tight end Jordan Gary, if they become academically eligible.

"We wasted a lot of time out there, and we're going to learn from it," Appalachian coach Jerry Moore said of the loss. "That's the way we're going to approach the winter, the spring and the summer. We're a relatively young football team. ... Guys just kept stepping up and making plays all year long, and (against Richmond) we just weren't able to do it. On either side of the ball, offense or defense."

Expect the Mountaineers to make adjustments. And to be back in the hunt next year.

--Stan Olson

Heels' Houston happy to head home

North Carolina sophomore running back Ryan Houston, who played at Charlotte's Butler High, has had more than 100 requests for tickets from family and friends.

CHAPEL HILL — There may be a few North Carolina players who would rather have played in an out-of-state postseason game, rather than the Meineke Bowl on Dec. 27.

But not running back Ryan Houston.

The sophomore from Butler said Monday he's already received requests from friends and family in the Charlotte area for 100 tickets, and he loves the idea of playing close to home.

"I always wanted to play at -- it's Bank of America Stadium now, but when I was growing up, it was Ericsson Stadium -- I always wanted to play in there,'' he said. "When I was a senior, and I was in the Shrine Bowl, we went to the Giants and Panther game, and me (and a couple of other players) ... went, and got presented at halftime as being the players representing North Carolina and South Carolina. It was kind of fun being on the field, and it will be even better playing on it."

— Robbi Pickeral

Sunday, December 7, 2008

UNC to Meineke; Wake to D.C. bowl

Charlotte’s Meineke Car Care Bowl landed the local draw it craved Sunday when North Carolina accepted an invitation to play in the Dec. 27 game at Bank of America Stadium.

The Tar Heels (8-4) will meet West Virginia (8-4) of the Big East in a game that will be televised at 1 p.m. on ESPN. The Meineke has averaged 60,000 fans over its previous six seasons by relying on schools within a short driving distance of Charlotte to deliver big crowds.

In 2002, West Virginia lost to Virginia as the bowl debuted in Charlotte with a sellout crowd. Two years later, North Carolina helped deliver the bowl’s only other sellout in a loss to Boston College.

This will be the Tar Heels’ first bowl appearance since that game.

Wake to play at RFK

Wake Forest has accepted an invitation to play Navy in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl on Dec. 20 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.

It will be the second meeting of the schools this season. Navy defeated the Deacons 24-17 on Sept. 27 in Winston-Salem.

The bowl will kick off at 11 a.m. and will be televised by ESPN. It will be the first of the 34 bowl games this season.

- Ken Tysiac

Pack, UNC, Meineke still waiting

N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler has a feeling the Wolfpack is heading to Birmingham, Ala., for the PapaJohn' Bowl, but said he still isn't certain.

Reached by telephone at 2:15 p.m. Sunday, Fowler said N.C. State still is talking to officials at the and Texas bowls about their games.

The Bowl is Dec. 29. The Texas Bowl is Dec. 30 in Houston.

"They're saying, 'Don't worry, you're going to be in a bowl,' " Fowler said.

But neither bowl officials nor the ACC office have confirmed which one. Fowler suspects that officials want to withhold an announcement until after the Champs Sports Bowl's 4:30 p.m. meeting Sunday to select its ACC representative.

Champs officials are expected to choose Florida State but still haven't officially ruled out North Carolina. If Florida State goes to the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 27 in Orlando, North Carolina will be selected for the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte.

"I cannot imagine they don't take Florida State," Meineke Bowl executive director Will Webb said at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, "but they have surprised me in the past."

Late Saturday night, Meineke executives announced that West Virginia (8-4) of the Big East will meet the ACC representative on Dec. 27 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. – Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 5, 2008

Charlotte bowl scenario not clear yet

It will likely be Sunday before Meineke Car Care Bowl officials know for certain which two teams will be playing in their game at Bank of America Stadium on Dec. 27.

Will Webb, executive director of the game, said Friday that he remains hopeful North Carolina will be the ACC representative against either West Virginia or Pittsburgh from the Big East.
However, it's possible the Tar Heels could wind up playing someplace other than Charlotte depending on various factors.

Webb had hoped the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando would release the Tar Heels this week so the Meineke Car Care Bowl could finalize bringing the Tar Heels to Charlotte. However, Webb said, the Orlando bowl hasn't released the Tar Heels though Florida State is expected to be headed there.

Should a scenario play out that keeps the Tar Heels out of Charlotte, Webb said it was likely the Meineke bowl would invite Maryland.

The Big East representative will likely be determined by the Sun Bowl, which is expected to have its pick of either West Virginia or Pittsburgh, leaving the other free to come to Charlotte.

-- Ron Green Jr.

Is ACC better than SEC in 2008?

Maybe the ACC is better than the SEC in football after all, at least this year. That’s the belief of alert fan Max Daniel, who sent me a pile of statistics to back his opinion.

He uses the Sagarin ratings, which rank college teams, to make his points. Start with those rankings, which show every ACC team among the nation’s top 51 squads. And all 12 ranked above six SEC teams: Vanderbilt (52), Kentucky (63), Tennessee (67), Auburn (71), Arkansas (75) and Mississippi State (102).

The ACC’s lowest is Duke at 51.

The SEC has the top-end teams (Florida at No .3, Alabama at No. 6) but Daniel’s point is that top to bottom the ACC is stronger. The ACC’s top-rated teams are Boston College at 14, Florida State at 15, Georgia Tech at 17 and Clemson at 19.

The ACC’s overall strength of schedule is also far better than the SEC’s.

The nation’s four most difficult schedules all belong to the ACC (Virginia, Duke, N.C. State, Wake Forest) and no league team is below 34th.

The SEC’s toughest schedules belong to Georgia (7th) and South Carolina (10th), but seven teams are 38th or lower, meaning that each has an easier schedule than any ACC team.

Looking at the leagues as a whole, that’s a pretty good case for the ACC.

—Stan Olson

Bowl predictions: Wolfpack to Detroit?

Louisville's loss on Thursday night all but guaranteed N.C. State an at-large bowl bid. The question remains where will the Wolfpack go bowling?

The definitive answer won't be decided until Sunday.

Rutgers eliminated Louisville from the at-large bowl pool with the 63-14 win, leaving the Wolfpack and Notre Dame as the only unaffiliated BCS teams with a 6-6 record.

Given two teams each from the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten are selected for the BCS bowls, there will be at least three open at-large bowl bids (Independence, Motor City and Texas) and potentially as many as five ( and/or Hawaii).

Arizona State (5-6) can join the Pack and Irish with a win over rival Arizona on Saturday but there would still be enough bowl bids to go around for the Pack, Irish and Sun Devils.

The winner of the Arizona State-Arizona game will go to the Las Vegas Bowl. If Arizona State wins, Arizona will go to the Hawaii Bowl. If Arizona wins, the Sun Devils are 5-7.

Louisville (5-7), on the other hand, would have been a viable candidate to snag an at-large bid from N.C. State in either Birmingham, Ala. — State's preferred choice — or Detroit.

As it stands of today, there is one at-large team with a record of 7-5 or better that is guaranteed a bid (either Western Michigan or Central Michigan) in front of N.C. State.

One of two things need to happen for the Wolfpack to find a preferred bowl home:

1) Ohio State selected as an at-large BCS team.

All $ign$ point to the Buckeyes (10-2), No. 10 in the BCS standings, going to either the Fiesta or Sugar over Boise State (12-0), ranked No. 9.

Only one team from outside the BCS conferences is guaranteed a BCS bid if it finishes in the top 12. Utah (6) fills that quota leaving Boise State on the outside.

The Broncos and WAC have surrendered the BCS dream, not even waiting for the official word to come Sunday before trying to convince Ball State to come to Boise for the only matchup of unbeaten teams. The Cardinals declined.

With Ohio State out of the Big Ten rotation, a spot is cleared in the Motor City Bowl because there are seven Big Ten tie-ins and only seven bowl eligible teams, two of those — OSU and Penn State (Rose) — would be in BCS bowls.

As far as attractive opponents, the Motor City would be State's best-case scenario because No. 12 Ball State is likely going to be the Mid-American Conference champion.

The undefeated Cardinals (12-0), who play Buffalo (7-5) in the MAC title game tonight, are being relegated to a return trip to Ford Field.

The reason N.C. State stands a good chance of playing in Detroit on the day after Christmas is of the at-large bowl spots, this one can't go to either Western Michigan (9-3) or Central Michigan (8-4) — a pair of MAC teams, one of which will be left out of the MAC bowl mix and guaranteed an at-large bid.

At-large teams with a record of 7-5 or better are guaranteed spots before 6-6 teams.

The other 6-6 teams from outside BCS conferences seeking an at-large bid are: San Jose State, Northern Illinois (another MAC team), Bowling Green (another MAC team), Louisiana-Lafayette, Florida Atlantic and potentially Arkansas State, which is 6-5 and an 11-point underdog at Troy.

The question is: What would the Motor City do if it doesn't take State? Beg Notre Dame? Bring in Howard Schnellenberger and Florida Atlantic? Punt?

2) Troy beats Arkansas State.

If Troy wins, the PapaJohns will have an at-large opening.

Troy (7-4) wins the SBC, and the New Orleans Bowl bid, by beating Arkansas State at home. If Troy loses, Arkansas State wins the SBC and Troy would be guaranteed the PapaJohns spot at 7-5.

State wants to play in Birmingham because it would be against a BCS conference opponent (either UConn or West Virginia from the Big East) and on the latest possible date (Dec. 29), which allows for more practice time.

• • • •

Rutgers' win also tidies up the Big East pecking order. The Scarlet Knights (7-5) are expected to take the Sun Bowl berth and push Notre Dame — while technically an Independent but has weaseled its way into the Big East's bowl order — to the Texas Bowl.

That means the Meineke Car Care Bowl will have its choice of Pittsburgh (8-3) or West Virginia (7-4). As we reported on Tuesday, Pittsburgh is the favorite to face UNC in Charlotte on Dec. 27.

• • • •

With Notre Dame likely going to the Texas Bowl that leaves the extra MAC team in Shreveport, La., Birmingham or Hawaii.

The MAC doesn't want to send its directional Michigan team to Hawaii but it might not have a choice.

The Independence has already invited in-state WAC school Louisiana Tech (7-5) and would like to add Louisiana-Lafayette, which won on Wednesday to reach bowl eligibility.

The Motor City won't take another MAC team.

Geographically, San Jose State would be the closest at-large team to the Hawaii Bowl, but host Hawaii (7-5) is already lined up. Hawaii and San Jose State are both from the WAC and SJSU already won at Hawaii on Sept. 28.

There is no NCAA rule preventing conference teams from meeting in a bowl, so technically there could be a SJSU-Hawaii rematch but only if the directional Michigan found another home.

Technically, Hawaii is in play for the Wolfpack but that would take an unusual set of circumstances (Boise State to the BCS, Arkansas State wins and the directional Michigan to the Independence).

• • • •

As for the completion of the ACC order, Steve Hogan, head of the Champs Bowl said out of respect for the ACC's bowl process, they will wait until after the ACC title game to select their ACC participant.

Multiple media outlets, including us, have reported it will be Florida State (8-4), but the ACC wasn't pleased with the Chick-fil-A and Gator for making bowl announcements out of turn, so Orlando will wait until Sunday.

Given the ticket sales to the ACC title game in another central Florida city — Virginia Tech and Boston College have combined to sell 5,000 to Tampa — the chances are beyond remote that the Champs Bowl selects a team other than Florida State.

That leaves the conference title game loser in Nashville (per conference rules) and UNC in Charlotte.

The bottom three slots are technically waiting for the dominoes to fall in front of them, but expect Miami to go to the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, Maryland to the Humanitarian in Boise — to play Nevada, not Boise State — and Wake Forest to get a second chance at Navy in the new EagleBank Bowl, which will be played at RFK Stadium, not FedEx Field.

• • • •

Bowl schedule with projections (RED teams have accepted invitiations)

• Dec. 20, EagleBank Bowl @ Washington, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Navy vs. Wake Forest (ACC)

• Dec. 20, New Mexico Bowl, 2:30 (ESPN)
Fresno State (WAC) vs. Colorado State (Mountain West)

• Dec. 20, St. Petersburg Bowl, 6:30 (ESPN2)
South Florida (Big East) vs. Memphis (C-USA)

• Dec. 20, Las Vegas Bowl, 8 (ESPN)
BYU (Mountain West) vs. Arizona (Pac-10)

• Dec. 21, New Orleans Bowl, 8 (ESPN)
Southern Miss (C-USA) vs. Troy (Sun Belt)

• Dec. 23, Poinsettia Bowl @ San Diego, 8 (ESPN)
TCU (Mountain West) vs. Boise State (WAC)

• Dec. 24, Hawaii Bowl, 8 (ESPN)
Hawaii (WAC) vs. Western Michigan (at-large)

• Dec. 26, Motor City Bowl @ Detroit, 7:30 (ESPN)
Ball State (MAC) vs. N.C. State (at-large)

• Dec. 27, Meineke Car Care Bowl @ Charlotte, 1 (ESPN)
UNC (ACC) vs. Pittsburgh (Big East)

• Dec. 27, Champs Bowl @ Orlando, Fla., 4:30 (ESPN)
Florida State (ACC) vs. Wisconsin (Big Ten)

• Dec. 27, Emerald Bowl @ San Francisco, 8 (ESPN)
Cal (Pac-10) vs. Miami (ACC)

• Dec. 28, Independence Bowl @ Shreveport, La. 8 (ESPN)
Louisiana Tech (WAC) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (at-large)

• Dec. 29, PapaJohns Bowl @ Birmingham, Ala. 3 (ESPN)
West Virginia (Big East) vs. Arkansas State (Sun Belt)

• Dec. 29, Alamo Bowl @ San Antonio, 8 (ESPN)
Northwestern (Big Ten) vs. Missouri (Big 12)

• Dec. 30, Humanitarian Bowl @ Boise, Idaho, 4:30 (ESPN)
Nevada (WAC) vs. Maryland (ACC)

• Dec. 30, Holiday Bowl @ San Diego, 8 (ESPN)
Oregon (Pac-10) vs. Oklahoma State (Big 12)

• Dec. 30, Texas Bowl @ Houston, 8 (NFL)
Rice (C-USA) vs. Notre Dame (at-large)

• Dec. 31, Armed Forces Bowl @ Fort Worth, noon (ESPN)
Air Force (Mountain West) vs. Houston (C-USA)

• Dec. 31, Sun Bowl @ El Paso, Texas, 2 (CBS)
Rutgers (Big East) vs. Oregon State (Pac-10)

• Dec. 31, Music City Bowl @ Nashville, 3:30 (ESPN)
BC/VT loser (ACC) vs. Vanderbilt (SEC)

• Dec. 31, Insight Bowl @ Phoenix, 6 (NFL)
Minnesota (Big Ten) vs. Kansas (Big 12)

• Dec. 31, Chick-fil-A Bowl @ Atlanta, 7:30 (ESPN)
Georgia Tech (ACC) vs. LSU (SEC)

• Jan. 1, Outback Bowl @ Tampa, Fla., 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Iowa (Big Ten) vs. South Carolina (SEC)

• Jan. 1, Gator Bowl @ Jacksonville, Fla., 1 (CBS)
Clemson (ACC) vs. Nebraska (Big 12)

• Jan. 1, Capital One Bowl @ Orlando, Fla., 1 (ABC)
Georgia (SEC) vs. Michigan State (Big Ten)

• Jan. 1, Rose Bowl @ Pasadena, Cal., 5 (ABC)
Penn State (Big Ten) vs. USC (Pac-10)

• Jan. 1, Orange Bowl @ Miami, 8 (FOX)
Cincinnati (Big East) vs. BC/VT winner (ACC)

• Jan. 2, Cotton Bowl @ Dallas, 2 (FOX)
Texas Tech (Big 12) vs. Ole Miss (SEC)

• Jan. 2, Liberty Bowl @ Memphis, 5 (ESPN)
Kentucky (SEC) vs. Tulsa/ECU winner (C-USA)

• Jan. 2, Sugar Bowl @ New Orleans, 8 (FOX)
Ala/Fla loser (at-large) vs. Utah (at-large)

• Jan. 3, International Bowl @ Toronto, noon (ESPN2)
Buffalo (MAC) vs. UConn (Big East)

• Jan. 5, Fiesta Bowl @ Glendale, Ariz., 8 (FOX)
Texas (at-large) vs. Ohio State (at-large)

• Jan. 6, GMAC Bowl @ Mobile, Ala., 8 (ESPN)
Tulsa/ECU loser (C-USA) vs. Central Michigan (MAC)

• Jan. 8, BCS Championship Game @ Miami, 8 (FOX)
Ala/Fla winner (SEC) vs. Oklahoma (Big 12)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Edwards a finalist for FCS version of Heisman

The Walter Payton Award has become the Heisman Trophy of the Football Championship Subdivision. Three finalists have been named, and one is Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards.

He's competing with RB Herb Donaldson of Western Illinois and QB Rodney Landers of James Madison.

Asked this week about his quarterback's candidacy, Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore said, "He's very deserving of that. At our level, he's one of the best athletes in the country, not only athletically but (in) productivity.

"He's been the quarterback of two national championship teams and he -- well, his team -- has got us in the playoffs again. I think most people that have seen him play like what he does."

Edwards, though, is focusing on the playoffs -- App plays Richmond Saturday in Boone in the quarterfinals.

"I haven't even thought about it," he said of the Payton award. "(Being a finalist) is a great accomplishment and a great feeling. Without the team I wouldn't be in it, and at the same time you have to put the award in the back seat to the playoffs."

The winner will be named on Dec. 18 in Chattanooga.

-- Stan Olson

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Practice before bowl key for Wolfpack

Many N.C. State fans were frustrated Monday when they learned N.C. State wouldn’t be able to be considered for any of the ACC’s bowl slots.

That rules the Wolfpack out of the EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C., which would have been an easy destination for fans to reach.

But coach Tom O’Brien didn’t seem the least bit flustered during his weekly radio show or afterward, even though the EagleBank Bowl would have matched him against his alma mater, Navy.

O’Brien didn’t come out and say this, but there is one significant reason the Wolfpack would be better off if they can secure an at-large bowl bid elsewhere. The EagleBank Bowl, though it would be convenient for fans, is scheduled for Dec. 20.

There isn’t enough time on the calendar for N.C. State to hold its full allotment of 15 pre-bowl practices before that Dec. 20 game. O’Brien considers those pre-bowl practices vital.

He said Saturday that the extra practice associated with eight straight bowl appearances while he coached Boston College were pivotal in building his program.

“That all adds up and accumulates over the years,” O’Brien said.

N.C. State’s postseason possibilities are the Hawaii (Dec. 24), Motor City (Dec. 26), Independence (Dec. 28), (Dec. 29) and Texas (Dec. 30) bowls. None would be as convenient for fans’ travel plans as the EagleBank Bowl. But all would provide the Wolfpack with more opportunities to practice.

– Ken Tysiac

All-American Bowl has ACC flavor

North Carolina has two recruiting commitments who have been invited to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl high school football all-star game, set for Jan.3 in San Antonio.

Future Tar Heels' defensive end Donte Moss of Jacksonville (N.C.) Northside High and wide receiver Joshua Adams of Cheshire (Conn.) Academy have been selected to play in the game.

Clemson commitment Malliciah Goodman, a DE from West Florence (S.C.) High, will also play.

Other ACC schools with invitees include Miami (two), Virginia Tech and Florida State (one each).

Notre Dame and Texas had the most future players invited, with six apiece, followed Southern Cal with five and Alabama and Ohio State with four.

Also invited is Xavier Nixon of Fayetteville Jack Britt High, the state's best offensive lineman. He remains undecided on a school, but may announce his choice during the game.

--Stan Olson

App moves practice indoors

It's snowing again in Boone this morning, a dusting that is adding to the several inches the town received Sunday night. No problem for Appalachian State's football team, which now has an indoor practice facility, something that even the Panthers don't have.

Appalachian's big aluminum building was completed in October of 2007 as part of a $50 million athletics upgrade, built on the site of the former baseball field. It includes an 80-yard long, FieldTurf articificial surface. When it rains or snows -- like today -- the Mountaineers slip inside and get their work done. They are preparing for their FCS second-round playoff game with Richmond Saturday at noon in Kidd Brewer Stadium. In relative comfort.

-- Stan Olson

Monday, December 1, 2008

Best QB in Carolinas is in Boone

N.C. State's Russell Wilson may indeed be the best quarterback in the ACC, as my colleague Luke DeCock wrote Sunday. But he's not the best quarterback in the Carolinas.

That would be Armanti Edwards, the Appalachian State junior who just might lead the Mountaineers to a fourth straight FCS national championship.

Edwards' statistics are amazing; he's the school and Southern Conference record holder for total offense, with a current career mark of 10,457 yards. And that's with at least one more playoff game and another year to go.

Despite his mind-boggling totals, you can't sum him up with numbers.

Edwards, recruited out of Greenwood High by a number of schools to play defensive back, wanted to play quarterback. Almost everyone thought that at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, he was too small. Appalachian gave him a chance.

Edwards has grown, he's now a legitimate 6 feet and 185 pounds. Wilson, for comparison, is 5-11 and 191, and no one says he's too small.

Edwards was, if you've forgotten, the guy who led Appalachian to its historic win at Michigan last year, throwing for three touchdowns and running for another and totaling 289 yards in Ann Arbor. He was also the guy at the controls for ASU's last two national titles.

Casual onlookers tend to think he's a running quarterback who can pass a little. Actually Edwards is brilliant in both areas; he has a strong arm and remarkable instincts—before the first of his two interceptions Saturday, he had thrown 176 passes without a pick.

And he rallied from Saturday's mistakes to throw for an Appalachian-record 433 yards in one game.

Again though, it wasn't the numbers. There was a third-and-12 play at the ASU 23, with the Mountaineers clinging to a three-point lead and their momentum dieing. Just before he was sacked, Edwards threw the ball—somehow—to receiver T.J. Courman, who caught it and wriggled to the 36 for a first down that eventually led to a score.

I've seen most of his games—either live or on TV—this season, and Edwards seems to make a similar play in just about every narrow Appalachian victory.

You think South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who could have had him, would have taken him Saturday against Clemson?
Don't be too hard on Spurrier; the other six Carolinas' BCS schools missed too.

They put him into that cornerback box, if they thought of him at all.

And I promise you, they lost a shot at the best quarterback in the Carolinas.

At any level.

- Stan Olson

Pack's Wilson All-ACC QB as a freshman

Russell Wilson (16), the All-ACC first-team quarterback, knew after a recruiting visit he wanted to play in an atmosphere like the one at N.C. State. "I love it here so far," he says now.

After being honored as the first freshman first-team All-ACC quarterback in history on Monday, N.C. State’s Russell Wilson smiled as he thought back to his first visit to Carter-Finley Stadium.

In 2004, he watched from the visitors’ section as his brother Harrison played wide receiver for Richmond against defensive end Mario Lawson and the Wolfpack’s ferocious defense.

He said he realized that day that he wanted to play college football in that kind of atmosphere.

On Monday, he said it has exceeded his expectations.

“I love it here so far,” Wilson said during a conference with reporters.

Wilson overcame a lot in his redshirt freshman season to earn honors as the ACC’s top quarterback. While he was in a five-player race for the starting spot in the preseason, his father suffered a stroke.

In the season opener against South Carolina, Wilson suffered a serious concussion that knocked him out of the next game. He returned against East Carolina only to have a shoulder injury keep him out of another game.

He bounced back to lead the ACC in passing efficiency, total offense and touchdown passes, and threw just one interception all season. At season’s end, he has a school-record 226 passes without an interception as N.C. State (6-6, 4-4 ACC) awaits a possible bowl selection this week.
Wilson is proudest of sparking a four-game winning streak that allowed a team that started 2-6 to get bowl eligible.

“To win those games that we’ve won, when you’re down in the dumps and it looks like you have no light at the end of the tunnel, our team realized we could persevere and kept pushing and won some games at the end,” Wilson said.

For his first season, at least, it was better than Wilson had even imagined when he first set foot in Carter-Finley. His father has been well enough to attend Russell’s last two home games.

And Wilson has established himself as the ACC’s premier quarterback.

- Ken Tysiac

App through Round 1 of long fight

If there is a single point of emphasis to Appalachian State's current stay in the FCS playoffs, it's to take this one game at a time. That may be the biggest cliche in sports, but it's a cliche because it's true; if you don't do so, you get beat.

The Mountaineers beat S.C. State in the first round 37-21 Saturday, but clung to a three-point lead in the fourth quarter, and could have lost but for a couple of clutch plays. Now they wait for Richmond, which plays ASU in Boone at noon next Saturday in the second round.

And, despite three straight national titles, you can't get coaches or players to look any farther ahead than the Spiders.

"It's a stepladder, and like I was telling the guys during (Saturday's) warmups, this is Round One," said wide receiver T.J. Courman, a senior who would love a fourth ring but who can't let himself think about it. "This is a four-round heavyweight bout and we've got to get through all of them. We conquered our first obstacle, and we'll bring 'em on next week."

The win over the Bulldogs was interesting, because S.C. State tried to take the run away and Appalachian said, "Fine, we'll throw." And QB Armanti Edwards passed for a school-record 433 yards.

"I'm not apologetic about throwing," ASU coach Jerry Moore said. "We've got good receivers, we've got quarterbacks who are good at throwing the ball. If they're going to dictate that to you, we (don't have) an ego about running the ball. We like to run the ball; that's our first choice. But if you let us throw, we'll do it."

-- Stan Olson

Saturday, November 29, 2008

S.C. State strategy against ASU backfires

You may have noticed that Appalachian State’s last touchdown in its 37-21 NCAA playoff victory against S.C. State today in Boone came with 4.7 seconds to play. Were the Mountaineers running up the score?
Not exactly.

Appalachian, with a safe 10-point lead, was trying to run the clock out with less than a minute left. But S.C. State called timeouts with 18 and 12 seconds remaining.

The Mountaineers, with the game won, were irritated. You want to keep playing, we’ll keep playing.

So quarterback Armanti Edwards threw deep, hitting receiver Brian Quick. The latter made a fine catch in the end zone, good for a 33-yard touchdown.

“It was kind of bone-headed on my part,” S.C. State coach Buddy Pough said of the timeouts. “He (Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore) taught me a lesson. It serves me right.”

Had it not happened that way, Edwards would not have broken Richie Williams’ school record of 413 passing yards in a game. Edwards was finished with 400 until the last-second touchdown throw. That gave him the new mark of 433.

The Mountaineers, by the way, will face Richmond in Kidd Brewer Stadium next week, in the second round of the FCS playoffs.

—Stan Olson

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wolfpack to practice through Thanksgiving

A year ago, coach Tom O’Brien altered N.C. State’s practice schedule a bit during Thanksgiving week.

He held practice early so players who live nearby could have Thanksgiving dinner with their families. After the Wolfpack was hammered 37-0 by Maryland two days later with bowl eligibility at stake, O’Brien concluded that he might have given the team too much freedom.

“It wasn’t the best result,” he said.

This year, N.C. State (5-6, 3-4 ACC) will stick with its normal practice routine with bowl eligibility at stake again in Saturday’s noon finale against Miami (7-4, 4-3) at Carter-Finley Stadium.

But don’t feel too sorry for the players. They will be eating Thanksgiving dinner as a team at The Angus Barn restaurant.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Clemson's Swinney coaching for his job?

Interim coach Dabo Swinney and the Clemson Tigers must beat South Carolina to be bowl eligible.

The first question to Clemson's interim football coach Dabo Swinney during his Tuesday press conference got right to the point:

Asked if he was coaching Saturday to keep his job as the Tigers head coach and remove the interim tag, Swinney said, "I have no idea.

"I think you have to try to win every game to do what's best for this program. It's not about me keeping the job. It's about getting this team ready to play."

Swinney is 3-2 since replacing Tommy Bowden as the Tigers' head coach and a victory over South Carolina Saturday in Death Valley would make Clemson bowl eligible. That's a far cry from where the Tigers were in August when they were ranked ninth in the Associated Press pre-season poll but it would salvage something from a seemingly lost season.

Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips has said Swinney is a serious candidate for the job but it hasn't stopped him from interviewing Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, former Oakland Raiders coach Lane Kiffin and Oklahoma defensive coordinator Brent Venables, or evaluating other potential candidates.

"I think (Phillips) takes me seriously," Swinney said. "He gave me the opportunity to be the interim head coach. He put me in this position.

"Whether he feels I'm the guy to lead this program is totally his decision."
-- Ron Green Jr.

Appalachian dominates SoCon honors

Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards has been named the Southern Conference's Offensive Player of the Year, and Mountaineers linebacker Jacque Roman earned top defensive player honors.

Not enough? ASU coach Jerry Moore won his sixth league coach of the year award.

All that hardware is headed for Boone after a vote by the SC's coaches.

They also named Samford QB Dustin Taliaferro as SC Freshman of the Year, and Furman senior offensive tackle Joel Bell was awarded the Jacobs Blocking Award, presented annually to the league's top blocker.

But this was the Mountaineers' show; 10 Appalachian players were named to the SC's first team.

Edwards had another remarkable season as a junior, totaling 3,036 yards in total offense while passing for 25 TDs and running for nine more. Roman led ASU's defense with 107 tackles--six for losses--plus three recovered fumbles, three sacks and two interceptions.

--Stan Olson

The coaches selections:
First Team Offense
QB Armanti Edwards, Jr., Appalachian State
RB Chris Evans, So., Samford
RB Dane Romero, Sr., Wofford
OL Jon Bieschke, Sr., Appalachian State
OL Brad Coley, Sr., Appalachian State
OL David Harrison, Jr., Elon
OL Joel Bell, Sr., Furman
OL Derek Wooten, Sr., Wofford
OL Dan DeHaven, Jr., The Citadel
TE Ben Jorden, Fr., Appalachian State
WR Andre Roberts, Jr., The Citadel
WR Terrell Hudgins, Jr., Elon
First Team Defense
DL Dakota Walker, Sr., Georgia Southern
DL Mitch Clark, Jr., Wofford
DL Jabari Fletcher, So., Appalachian State
DL Terrence Reese, Jr., The Citadel
LB Jacque Roman, Jr., Appalachian State
LB Chris Covington, Sr., Georgia Southern
LB Pierre Banks, Sr., Appalachian State
DB Cortez Gilbert, Jr., Appalachian State
DB Mark LeGree, So., Appalachian State
DB William Middleton, Sr., Furman
DB Thomas Twitty, Sr., Furman
DB Max Lerner, So., Furman

First Team Specialists
PK Andrew Wilcox, Sr., Elon
P Neil Young, Sr., Appalachian State
RS Andre Roberts, Jr., The Citadel

Tar Heels still in running for Atlanta

Chick-fil-A Bowl officials haven’t eliminated North Carolina from consideration for the game’s coveted ACC slot.

But bowl president Gary Stokan didn’t sound encouraging Tuesday as he talked about the Tar Heels’ prospects after their 41-10 loss last week to N.C. State.

“The Tar Heels certainly didn’t improve their chances with us with the loss to the Wolfpack on Saturday,” Stokan said.

Before consecutive losses the last two weeks to Maryland and the Wolfpack, North Carolina was high on the Chick-fil-A wish list. But now the Tar Heels need to win at Duke on Saturday to finish 8-4 overall and 4-4 in the ACC to have a slight chance at a Chick-fil-A Bowl bid.

Even then, their chances don’t sound good. Stokan said he is seeking the most competitive team possible to meet an SEC opponent in the Dec. 31 game in Atlanta.

He said bowl officials would be more inclined to pick a team that’s 5-3 in the ACC. Florida State and Georgia Tech are 5-3. The Boston College-Maryland winner also will be 5-3. Miami can get to 5-3 with a win Saturday at N.C. State, and Virginia Tech will be 5-3 if it defeats Virginia.
“Certainly we like teams that are ranked,” Stokan said. “We like teams that are playing their best football.”

The Chick-fil-A bid is highly sought because the bowl picks first from available ACC teams after the conference champion gets selected by the Orange Bowl.

North Carolina remains one of eight teams under consideration for the ACC’s slot in the Gator Bowl, which chooses after the Chick-fil-A.

Other bowls with ACC ties, in order of selection, are the Champs Sports, Music City, Meineke Car Care, Emerald, Humanitarian and EagleBank bowls.

– Ken Tysiac

App's Edwards expects to play Saturday

Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards expects to be ready for the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Edwards missed ASU's final regular season game at Western Carolina with a hip pointer, but said this morning that he could have played if the Mountaineers had needed to beat the Catamounts to reach the playoffs.

Instead, he watched from the sidelines as backup DeAndre Presley led the team to a 35-10 victory.

Edwards returned to practice Monday.

He said the hip was coming along well, and he expects to be ready for South Carolina State in Saturday's first-round playoff game in Boone.

Appalachian is the 16-team field's second-seeded team, while S.C. State is in the playoffs for the first time since 1982.

--Stan Olson

Monday, November 24, 2008

N.C. State safety to miss Miami game

N.C. State starting boundary safety Clem Johnson will miss Saturday's regular-season finale against Miami because of an ankle injury, coach Tom O'Brien said Monday.

O'Brien said Johnson had been playing his best football of the season against North Carolina when he was injured. Johnson had missed the first four games with a broken jaw and finally was playing the way O'Brien hoped.

"We were getting play out of that spot at safety that we wanted to get in week one but didn't get until week eleven," O'Brien said. "That will be a huge loss for us."

Redshirt freshmen Justin Byers and former walk-on Bobby Floyd both will play in Johnson's place.

-- Ken Tysiac

Order of selection for ACC bowls

Here's the order in which the ACC's nine bowls with conference tie-ins make their selections-x:

Rank Bowl City Opponent

1. BCS/Orange Miami, Fla. At-large

2. Chick-fil-A Atlanta SEC

3. Gator Jacksonville, Fla. Big East/Big 12/Notre Dame

4. Champs Sports Orlando Big Ten

5-y. Music City Nashville, Tenn. SEC

6-y. Meineke Car Care Charlotte Big East

7-y. Emerald San Francisco Pac-10

8. Humanitarian Boise, Idaho WAC

9. Congressional Washington, D.C. Navy

x- If a bowl does not select a team with the best available ACC record, it must choose a team that’s within one conference win of that record.

y- After Champs Sports selects, the Music City, Meineke and Emerald submit their preferences. If all can be accommodated, then those selections stand. If not, they select in the order above.

Friday, November 21, 2008

App, WCU hope to swig from Jug on Saturday.

Appalachian State at Western Carolina Saturday at 3 p.m. is more than just a college football game -- it's a battle for the Old Mountain Jug.

The winner gets the jug for a year, along with rivalry bragging rights. They've been passing the jug around since 1976, although it stays in Boone most of the time. The Mountaineers have won it 25 times to WCU's seven.

As far as ASU coach Jerry Moore is concerned, the jug is an impressive prize.

"It’s a real jug to begin with; it’s not something they went down and bought at a tourist place," Moore said. "I didn’t know what the Jug was when I first got here 20 years ago. But it’s got a real cork in it and everything and we were real curious to get that cork out of there and see it was real. It’s a great battle and a great tradition. It’s one of those things that everyone points toward whether you are an Appalachian person or from Western.”

Still, it has to be won again each fall, and the Catamounts under new coach Dennis Wagner are considerably improved over last year's edition. But with a 3-8 overall record to compare with Appalachian's 9-2, Wagner is worrying less about the jug than the status of his young team.

“This is the biggest game of our season because it’s the game this week and it’s the last game of the season," he said. "It’s a huge game for us in that aspect. It’s a building block to go into next season. They are going to the playoffs and they won the conference. We want to get to where they are at and we’re going to get there."

-- Stan Olson

GT win scrambles Coastal Division again

Ye Olde Dominion needed a Georgia Tech win to stay alive in the Coastal Division race. The Hokies and Hoos got it. The Yellow Jackets beat Miami 41-23 to keep five teams alive in the Coastal Division race.

Georgia Tech rushed for 472 yards, 128 by Jonathan Dwyer on just 10 carries, in the first half.

Defensive end Michael Johnson returned an intercpetion 26 yards for GT's first touchdown, a highlight that is guaranteed to be played 4 million times when the NFL Draft rolls around in April.

It all means if the Hokies win out, they win the Coastal for the third time in four years.

UNC still needs a loss by VT or UVa on Saturday just to stay alive.

Georgia Tech's 5-3 in the ACC but 2-3 in the division. The Jackets would lose any multi-team tie-breaker. They can only win the division if they are tied with only Miami or finish one game in front of the rest of the division.

If Virginia Tech wins out (Duke and UVa), the Hokies would control the most tie-breakers. They would win:

• A head-to-head with GT (beat GT)
• A three-way tie with GT and Miami (superior division record)
• A three-way tie with GT and UNC (2-0 group record)
• A four-way tie with Miami, GT, UNC (superior group record to GT and Miami, same group record as UNC, beat UNC)

If Virginia wins out (Clemson and at VT), the Cavaliers would win:

• A head-to-head with GT (beat GT)
• A four-way tie with GT, Miami and UNC (superior group record to Miami and GT, same group record as UNC, beat UNC)

If UNC wins out (State and at Duke), the Tar Heels would win:

• A head-to-head with GT (beat GT)
• A three-way tie with Miami and GT (2-0 group record)

If VT and UVA win on Saturday, UNC is eliminated.

If Miami beats N.C. State, the Canes would win:

• A three-way tie with UVa and GT (same division record as UVa, beat UVa)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Q&A: N.C. State's Mike Archer

Q&A with N.C. State defensive coordinator Mike Archer:

Q: Aside from getting Nate Irving back, what has been the difference with the defense the last two weeks?

A: Getting Irving and Alan-Michael Cash back has made a big difference. They’ve played a lot and they’re both leaders. When those two guys were hurt, we didn’t have a lot of people in the huddle that when things were getting kind of hairy, would say, “Hey guys, let’s start playing.” Those guys do that. They do it in practice, and I think the biggest thing we missed was their leadership.

Q: How much of a concern is (North Carolina wide receiver) Hakeem Nicks to your defense?

A: I’ve looked at all 10 games, and I think he has 55 catches officially. They’ve thrown 92 passes to him. That includes penalties and everything else. Obviously that’s a guy we have to be very well aware of. It hurts not having (Brandon) Tate, because when Tate was there (for the Tar Heels), it was very difficult to say we’re going to double Nicks when you had Brandon Tate on the other side. They still have good receivers. Foster and (Cooter Arnold) are both still good players. But obviously (Cameron) Sexton and (T.J.) Yates, and whoever the quarterback is, they know who they want to throw it to. They want to throw it to Nicks. He’s very strong. He has very strong hands. When you press him, he can push and he’s strong enough to get off press coverage. The guy is very talented, and the thing that’s most impressive is, after he catches the ball, what he does with it. He can take it to the house.

Q: Whichever quarterback starts for North Carolina, does it make a difference in what they do?

A: No. We played against T.J. last year. We know he’s a good football player. Their offense is their offense. It’s what they believe in. I’m sure there will be something subtle that they did with Cameron that they thought he could do better. Maybe they ran more bootlegs to get him on the edge. I don’t know. But they’re going to run their offense because they believe in it. They’re a good football team. And good football teams, they do what they do because they believe in it, and they put the next guy into it.

- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

ESPN a mixed blessing for BCS

Fox’s withdrawal from the bidding to broadcast the BCS bowl games from 2011 through 2014 was a mixed blessing for college football fans.

The production quality of the Fox broadcasts was low. During the most recent BCS championship game, Thom Brennaman twice shouted “Touchdown” for Ohio State when none had been scored against LSU, and there was never any explanation of a critical LSU personal foul after a fourth-quarter fumble return.

Problem is, the network that appears to be outbidding Fox is ESPN. Make no mistake, ESPN has much more experience with college football broadcasts. ESPN’s production quality would be much better than Fox’s, though we’d have to stomach the endless promotion of ESPN’s personalities and platforms.

But ESPN isn’t one of the major broadcast networks, and having the BCS games carried live over “free TV” is a goal to which the BCS executives should aspire. Watching Cleveland at Buffalo (yawn) on current ESPN and former ABC property Monday Night Football was evidence of that.
Ironically, being on cable and satellite networks and not conventional, over-the-air television may help ESPN in the bidding process.

Fox spokesman Lou D’Ermilio told the Raleigh News & Observer that over-the-air networks can only bid what their advertising revenue will support. ESPN’s bids are supported by advertising revenue and the money it receives from cable and satellite TV providers – which ultimately comes from subscriber fees.

The dual revenue stream also helped ESPN outbid Charlotte-based Raycom Sports for SEC broadcast rights earlier this year, according to Raycom Sports president and CEO Ken Haines.
So even though ESPN’s broadcasts probably won’t reach as many homes, ESPN is delivering more cash to sports entities than “free TV.”

“Broadcast will probably always have an advantage over cable or satellite (in viewership),” Haines said, “just because broadcast is available everywhere, where there are restrictions to where cable is physically able to be and go, and where satellite is physically able to be and go. Plus the fact that cable and satellite will be more expensive to the consumer than just free, over-the-air television.

“. . .So there is very definitely a tradeoff. These sports leagues and conferences right now are looking, and understandably so, more at the money than they are at the depth and width of the distribution.”

In the case of the BCS , that means high production values and more cash, but potentially a smaller audience.

– Ken Tysiac

Q&A with Tom O'Brien

Q&A excerpted from N.C. State football coach Tom O'Brien's news conference Monday:

Q: You have a guy (quarterback Russell Wilson) that's playing statistically at the top of the conference.

A: I think you have to give a lot of credit to Dana Bible and what he's done. The whole thing about coaching quarterbacks is you want to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses.

We changed the offensive scheme, we went to more spread stuff. In the spring we did it, number one, so our defense could practice against it because so many people do it.

Number two was the thought that if Russell ended up being the quarterback it suited his skills a lot better than the things we did with, say, a Matt Ryan.

We went back to some of the stuff we did with Paul Peterson at Boston College. And then you have to give Russell a lot of credit.

Q: What was your impression of Nate Irving when you first saw him?

A: He was a lost kid. He didn't know what he was... I mean, he wasn't ready to play when we first got here, our first experience with him. But he's a guy that's worked hard. I don't know, I still don't know what Nate is.

He's still only started 10 games for us. He's got a lot of good football ahead of him and certainly there's a lot more than he can learn.

Q: Do the improved tackling fundamentals continue to show up on defense?

A: First time in history (for this team) that we didn't have a safety miss a tackle was last week.

Q: Really?
A: Bellwether day. We set records. We were missing five a game, I think.

Q: Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of your opinion of (North) Carolina offensively?

A: It's a pro-style offense. They're multiple in what they do. A lot of shifts. A lot of motions. A lot of guys moving around. And they run power football up front. Run the power like we do. Run the gut play inside.

A lot of reverses. I think the last three games they've run 13, 14 reverses. They're getting the ball to their skill players who can make plays with it.

And then they go deep. They've got those good wideouts that can go deep.

-- Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 17, 2008

Pack DE McKeen out for season

N.C. State starting defensive end Shea McKeen is out for the season after suffering a broken ankle Saturday against Wake Forest.

McKeen is the fifth player on the team to suffer a season-ending injury. Three of those players have been starters.

“It’s a tough blow for our defense,” said N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien. “Shea has done a great job for us. It’s unfortunate. I think that’s going to bring the total to 70 games lost to starters this year.”
McKeen has made 29 tackles, including five behind the line of scrimmage. He will be replaced by sophomore Markus Kuhn.

– Ken Tysiac

Pack's McKeen out for season

N.C. State starting defensive end Shea McKeen is out for the season after suffering a broken ankle Saturday against Wake Forest.

McKeen is the fifth player on the team to suffer a season-ending injury. Three of those players have been starters. -- Ken Tysiac

Tar Heels open QB competition again

CHAPEL HILL — After discussing the situation with his staff Sunday night, North Carolina coach Butch Davis said today he is not going to name a starting quarterback for Saturday's game against N.C. State right now.

Instead, he said he's going to tell both Cameron Sexton and T.J. Yates that they "need to be prepared to play," and that whoever gives the team the best chance to win wil start.

Sexton admitted he played his worst game of the season during UNC's 17-15 loss at Maryland. Yates, who fractured his left ankle in September, has played in only one series since.

- Robbi Pickeral

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Meet Elon WR Terrell Hudgins

You may have never heard of Elon wide receiver Terrell Hudgins, but Hudgins, a 6-foot-3, 235-pound junior from Rocky Mount, is worth hearing about.

He’s having another outstanding year, and in less than three full seasons has pretty much filled up the Southern Conference record book.

Going into Saturday’s showdown at Appalachian, Hudgins has 262 career receptions for 3,544 yards and 35 TDs, all Southern Conference records.

And he’s still getting better.

“He’s always had great hands, very good hand-eye coordination,” Phoenix coach Pete Lembo said this week. “He’s a big target, has some basketball-like skills and can go up and get the ball. He’s become a more complete football player, doing more things without the ball that you like.
“I think he’s tried to improve his change of direction and his cutting, which wasn’t one of his strengths. Getting off the ball, his releases, those kinds of things. And I think he’s doing a better job blocking as well.

“He’s just playing with more effort, practicing with more effort and consistency. And he’s beginning to become more of a leader in our program. I think he’s becoming respected for that work ethic and that effort, and not just because he has a lot of ability.”

—Stan Olson

N.C. State, Wake share many similarities

When coaches Tom O’Brien and Jim Grobe look across the field to the opposite sideline on Saturday, in some respects it will be like looking in the mirror.

Yes, O’Brien is a lot taller than Grobe.

And Grobe’s Wake Forest program is much more established than O’Brien’s in his second season at N.C. State.

But the similarities between the programs are obvious.

Start with recruiting. Both coaches gravitate toward tough-minded, high-character, high-GPA types who might not be at the absolute top of the recruiting rankings.

Both coaches redshirt most of their freshmen. Both like to play bruising, physical football that lacks razzle dazzle but is reliably, consistently efficient.

“That would be a real compliment to me if people felt like our program was similar to the way Tom runs his,” Grobe said. “We’ve admired what he’s done certainly at Boston College, and I know what he’s doing at N.C. State is going to pay dividends.”

Grobe listed some traits of O’Brien’s teams. Grobe said they’re disciplined, play hard every snap and don’t beat themselves.

He was told it sounded like he had just described a Wake Forest team, too.

“That’s the goal,” Grobe said, laughing. “I wish I could say we do that all the time. The goal is certainly to be able to go out and have kids play hard and hopefully look like they’ve been coached.”

Scheme-wise, there are significant differences between Grobe and O’Brien, although Wake Forest’s new emphasis on downhill running makes the Deacons look a bit more like an O’Brien team than in the past.

Grobe also is more open with the media in terms of allowing reporters to attend practice and talk to players. But these differences are minor.

Bottom line, perennial ACC title contender Grobe and O’Brien are speaking the same language. As N.C. State struggles to improve on a 3-6 start this season, that’s a comforting thing for restless Wolfpack fans hoping things will get better in the future.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

QB Sexton will remain Tar Heels' starter

CHAPEL HILL — Quarterback T.J. Yates played in North Carolina's final offensive series against Georgia Tech last weekend, but junior Cameron Sexton will remain the Tar Heels' starter when they play at Maryland on Saturday.

"There's no question. He's going to continue to be the starting quarterback,'' coach Butch Davis said Wednesday. "And we still don't know to any stretch of the imagination right now, on T.J, how fully healthy that he is. Although he's played in a game, he hasn't had to scramble for his life, he hasn't had to take a sack, he hasn't gotten hit and had to uncover himself under a big pile of people.

"So [we have] guarded optimism; it's good to have him back, and it's great to have both of them out there throwing and being a part [of things]. The team knows that there are two guys that they believe would help us win games."

Yates, a sophomore, had missed the previous five games with a fractured left ankle, and completed one of his three pass attempts against the Yellow Jackets. His return pushes redshirt freshman Mike Paulus to third on the depth chart, but Davis said Paulus' mindset is fine.

"I think that he recognizes what T.J. did last year, what T.J. was doing throughout training camp and at the start of the season,''
Davis said. "And he certainly has recognized what Cam has done this year. I think he's watched that, and I think he recognizes how well both of those guys have played."

POWELL DISMISSED: Defensive end Darius Powell has been dismissed from the team for violating team rules, a UNC spokesman confirmed.
The sophomore reserve from Waldorf, Md., had recorded four tackles this season.

- Robbi Pickeral

UNC's Davis: 'No interest whatsoever' in Vols job

CHAPEL HILL — Asked again Wednesday about the open head coaching job at Tennessee, North Carolina coach Butch Davis gave his most definitive answer yet:

"I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in the University of Tennessee job," Davis said during the ACC teleconference. "It's a great job, but I have no interest in it. As I've said for the last couple of weeks, I love being here, my family loves being at Carolina.
We’re building with the administration everything we can every single day to build a championship football program here."

Davis also said Tennessee had not contacted his agent.

Tennessee athletics director Mike Hamilton said Tuesday night that "we haven't had any conversations with any candidates at this point."

— Robbi Pickeral

Playoff scenarios for Southern Conference

You might have figured we had heard the last of Wofford in the Southern Conference race after the Terriers were blown out at Appalachian State on Halloween. Not so fast.

Should Wofford win at Samford Saturday, it will be 6-1 in the Southern Conference. If that's in conjunction with an Elon victory against the Mountaineers, all three teams would be tied for first place in the league.

Even that might not be enough for one of the trio; there's no guarantee that the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision selection committee will select more than two Southern Conference teams for the playoffs, although a strong case could be made for each. The Terriers' only other loss was a competitive 23-13 decision at South Carolina.

"The one thing I know for sure is you can't guess what they're going to do as far as picking those teams," Wofford coach Mike Ayers said.

"I can remember in 2002 we were 9-3, and two of the teams that went to the playoffs, we beat head to head."

The hunt for the league's automatic bid breaks down like this:

- It will be clinched by Appalachian State if it beats Elon because of tie- breakers, even with a game with Western Carolina remaining.

- Appalachian State can also get it if it loses to Elon by 30 points or less and beats Western, while Wofford loses to Furman Nov. 22.

- If Elon wins Saturday and Wofford loses at Samford, the Phoenix would get the berth.

- If Elon beats Appalachian State by 31 or more and Wofford loses to Furman, the Phoenix get the berth even if the Mountaineers beat Western.

- Wofford would get that berth if it should beat Samford and Furman while Appalachian State loses its last two games.

Got all that?

- Stan Olson

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nicks focused on present, not future

CHAPEL HILL - North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks said recently he hasn't decided yet whether he will jump to the NFL next year because he wants to concentrate on this season.

Meanwhile, coach Butch Davis doesn't plan to talk to him about it until after UNC plays its final game of the year.

"Hakeem and I have had discussions prior to the start of the season, and after we had those discussions, it's 'play as great at you can, don't worry about that.' When the season is overwith, he and I will sit down with his family, we'll take a look [at it] realistically,'' Davis said.

"I've had ongoing conversations with a high percentage of the NFL teams already - GMs, coaches and scouts - about this year's seniors, so I can give good advice to Brandon [Tate], to Brooks [Foster] and Trimane [Goddard]. ... When the season is over with, we'll make the same calls as it would relate to Hakeem."

Davis, who has made similar calls for juniors in his past coaching jobs, said there are a lot of factors that should be considered when an underclassman is deciding whether to leave school early: Is he physically ready? Career-wise, is he ready? What is the marketplace - meaning how many players at his position are also in the draft?

"What if Kentwan [Balmer] had gone out a year before, where would he have been?" Davis asked, referring to UNC's star defensive lineman last season. "Maybe not drafted, maybe in the sixth or seventh round. He stayed for one more year, and ended up going in the first round. So it made him a fortune."

Nicks last weekend became UNC's career leader in receiving yards. When he was asked last month whether he had made a decision about the NFL, he said: "I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't cross my mind. But I'm at the point right now where I know I'm out here putting up numbers, and it's definitely catching their eye. But I don't want to focus on that; I want to focus on the remainder of the season we've got, and winning out this season and doing great things for this university. And I'm still happy to be here at the moment."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Elon gets its shot at Appalachian

Now it's Elon's turn.

Appalachian State has knocked off one Southern Conference challenger after another this season, and now the Phoenix gets its shot Saturday in Boone. Should Elon win, the teams would be tied at 6-1 in the league race. And a win for either squad would assure that program of at least a tie for the conference title. Wofford, already battered by the Mountaineers, could make it a trio temprorarily at the top with a win over Samford.

Comparative scores -- Wofford beat Elon 55-20, ASU beat Wofford 70-24 -- might suggest difficulties for the Phoenix in Kidd Brewer Stadium. But keep in mind that on better days, Elon has beaten Georgia Southern, Samford, Furman and The Citadel this season, just has Appalachian has done.

"They probably have the best rushing defensive line that we're going to see in the Southern Conference," Appalachian QB Armanti Edwards said today. "They go hard, they like to blitz alot, so we have to get the ball out quick and keep our heads up and be ready."

Both teams are 8-2 overall.

The Phoenix is third in the league in total defense, allowing 315.7 yards a game, 133.2 of that on the ground.

That makes it interesting, since ASU averages 262.1 yards on the ground.

Offensively, Elon QB Scott Riddle leads the league in passing yards (247.1) and loves to get the ball to wide receiver Terrell Hudgins, who now leads the SC in career receptions (262), TDs (35) and receiving yards (3,544).

--Stan Olson

'Drawn,' or 'Drone'? Heels' Draughn clears it up

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina tailback Shaun Draughn can't really blame people for pronouncing his name incorrectly for the first two-thirds of the season.

After all, the sophomore was a reserve safety last year — meaning his name wasn't exactly announced on television all that often — and even he knows his name has more of a ring to it if you pronounce it as a rhyme.

But for the record, it's pronounced "Drone," not "Drawn."

"Everybody always says, 'That's a great name; it rhymes and it sounds cool,'" the Draughn said, laughing. "But no, it's DRONE."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Wolfpack's focus on tackling pays off

During N.C. State’s open date last week, coach Tom O’Brien focused the defense almost exclusively on the fundamentals of tackling.

“That’s all we did,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien was particularly frustrated as Maryland rushed for 203 yards in a 27-24 defeat of the Wolfpack on Oct. 25 before the open date. O’Brien said missed tackles turned 3-, 4- and 5-yard gains into 10- and 15-yard gains.

With fewer missed tackles in the return from the open date at Duke on Saturday, N.C. State gave up a season-low 94 rushing yards and won 27-17. Defensive coordinator Mike Archer loaded up the box to prevent the Blue Devils from running in the middle of the field.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe countered with passes to the flats to challenge N.C. State cornerbacks Jeremy Gray and DeAndre Morgan. Gray made 16 tackles and Morgan added 15.

And in the middle of the field, linebacker Nate Irving finished tackles that others might not have made when he was out with a sprained ankle.

“Nate has a lot of shock and power to him,” O’Brien said. “When he hits you, you go down. A lot of the extra yards that we have been giving up. . . .didn’t happen on Saturday. And still against some pretty good backs who have run through and over people in the past.

“He’s not close to where he was before he got hurt in the East Carolina game but if he continues to stay healthy and continues to play, he has a couple games to get back there.”

N.C. State’s rushing defense will have to be even better against Wake Forest, which has used the power-I and smash-mouth football for three straight wins. The teams meet at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Raleigh.

The Deacons are hot and have an Atlantic Division title in their sights, but they will have to penetrate an improved N.C. State rush defense to extend their winning streak to four games.

– Ken Tysiac