Monday, October 20, 2008

Struggles on third down haunt Pack

Imagine spending a rare day off analyzing one of the most frustrating elements of your job.

That’s what N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien did Saturday after the Wolfpack lost 26-17 to Florida State on Thursday night at Carter-Finley Stadium.

O’Brien spent part of the day reviewing N.C. State’s third-down plays on offense and defense over the past month. It wasn’t a pretty sight.

Over the last three games, N.C. State opponents have converted 53.2 percent (25 of 47) third-down opportunities. During the same period, N.C. State is 9-for-34 (26.5 percent) on third down on offense.

“We’ve got to make a few more throws,” said quarterback Russell Wilson. “Players have to make a few more catches. We’ve got to run the ball a little bit better. And we’ll get first downs. It’s as simple as that.”

N.C. State (2-5, 0-3 ACC), which visits Maryland at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, hasn’t made third down look simple on either side of the football. On one second-quarter drive, Florida State converted a third-and-14 and a third-and-21 en route to a field goal.

Those failures exaggerate the effect that fatigue has on an injury-riddled team. Each of the last three opponents has run at least 80 snaps against N.C. State’s defense.

N.C. State’s offense hasn’t run more than 59 plays in any of those games.

“It’s kind of heartbreaking when you get them down in that situation, to see that happening, and you have to run back on the field for another set of downs,” said defensive tackle Keith Willis. “It just takes the air out of you.”

Only a few other struggling teams nationally have third-down problems as serious as N.C. State’s. The Wolfpack ranks 94th out of 119 Bowl Subdivision teams in third-down defense, with opponents converting 43.4 percent for the season.

On offense, N.C. State’s 28.1 percent third-down conversion rate ranks 111th in the Bowl Subdivision. Syracuse, San Diego State and Utah State are the only other teams to rank 94th or worse in both categories.

Every Wednesday during practice, O’Brien scrimmages his first-team offense against the first-team defense in a variety of third-down scenarios in hopes that both will become more effective in those situations.

So far, the results of that work haven’t been evident on game days, which is why O’Brien’s day off included a grim look at film of recent third downs.

“There are things that we certainly can coach better,” O’Brien said, “and there are things that we can play a lot better.”

NOTES: Defensive end Willie Young’s 3.5 tackles for loss, including two sacks, against Florida State didn’t propel him back into the starting lineup. O’Brien has listed Jeff Rieskamp as the starter for the second straight week and said Rieskamp is doing a better job of what the coaches are asking. . . .DeAndre Morgan is back as the starter at field cornerback after relinquishing his starting role to Koyal George against Florida State.

-- Ken Tysiac


Anonymous said...

NC State continues to underperform the likes of UNC, WFU, and the ECU Pirates.

What a great coach Skip Holtz has turned out to be.


Anonymous said...

NC State - 30
EZU - 24