Tuesday, September 30, 2008

UNC's Sexton never gave up hope

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina quarterback Cameron Sexton said he’s received “a couple hundred” text messages since he threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns to lead the Tar Heels to a 28-24 victory at Miami.

One example: “I sent him a text after the game that said, 'Well, son, you surprised a lot of people today, I'm not one of them,’’’ said Mark Barnes, who coached Sexton at Scotland County (Laurinburg) High.

Sexton didn’t surprise himself, either.

Despite being demoted to back-up last year, and third-string to begin this season, the redshirt junior said he never lost confidence that he’d get another chance to play — and prove that he was better than in 2006, when he went 1-4 as a starter.

He pondered transferring on several occasions, but opted to remain a Tar Heel, he said, because “I love this place. I love my teammates and I really, really love my coaches. … I've got a lot of great friends here and I've thoroughly enjoyed my time here — not always on the field until now, but I've really enjoyed playing here. … I felt like at this point in my career I wanted to stay and fight instead of maybe going somewhere else.”

Sexton will start against No. 24 Connecticut on Saturday. Coach Butch Davis said that Mike Paulus will also play, but that Sexton would get at least 60 percent of the snaps with the first team in practice.

“Sometimes — and we've talked about it as a coaching staff — sometimes you have to be very, very careful about labeling any indiviudal early in their career,’’ Davis said. “If people would've labeled Troy Aikman after the 1-15 season they might not have ever dreamed he might have gone to the Hall of Fame.

“Maybe with Cam being the starting quarterback a couple of years ago, you look at the situation in which he was trying to operate under and now obviously he's grown and matured. He's got a supporting cast that's probably somewhat a little bit better and it's a little healthier environment right now.”

And that’s confident Sexton can lead them to victory, again.

“Just seeing him in the game, all the fun he was having – he was just walking up and down the sideline, [saying] ‘Just keep giving me the ball,’ talking like that,’’ said senior safety Trimane Goddard. “It was fun to see that out of him, after what he went through.”

-- Robbi Pickeral

Heels' comeback against Miami was historic

After beating the Hurricanes 28-24 on Saturday, North Carolina coach Butch Davis stressed the difficulty of beating Miami in Miami.

Especially, it seems, when teams are trying to come back.

According to the Associated Press, Miami had won 111 straight games at home when leading by double figures entering the fourth quarter — that is, before UNC quarterback Cam Sexton threw two fourth quarter touchdowns and safety Trimane Goddard stole a game-winning interception to seal it.

In all, Miami had gone 225-13 since the start of the 1985 season when leading at any point after the third quarter, according to AP. The last team to erase a 10-point, fourth-quarter deficit against Miami at any location was East Carolina in 1999, when the Pirates rallied in Raleigh.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Edwards says he'll be ready for The Citadel

Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards, who rolled his left ankle in Saturday's victory over Presbyterian, says the sprain is healing nicely and he expects to be ready for Saturday's Southern Conference opener with The Citadel in Boone.

"It's doing pretty good; we're just going day-to-day right now," he said on a morning conference call. "I'm expecting to play on Saturday."

Edwards, who didn't practice on Monday, said "hopefully tomorrow," when asked when he expected to practice again.

Asked about the play on which he suffered the injury, Edwards said, "I got tackled from behind. He fell before me and I stepped on his foot and rolled it."

The conference opener is a game he's determined to play in.

"It's just like the playoffs start this week for us," he said. "It's either win or go home. It's a different season; we consider the four games we just played preseason. Right now the real season begins."

Edwards puts it that way because Appalachian is 2-2 after four non- conference games, and any more losses could hurt the team's chances of making the playoffs after three straight national titles.

--Stan Olson

Monday, September 29, 2008

Duke in bowl game in Charlotte?

The Meineke Car Care Bowl is holding its first team selection committee meeting tonight (Monday).

One of the teams likely to get mentioned is Duke. The Blue Devils (3-1) haven't played in a bowl since the Hall of Fame Bowl on Jan. 2, 1995, but are halfway to the number of wins they need to get bowl eligible.

"I think Duke would be intriguing," said bowl executive director Will Webb. "I think their fans would show up. They're on our radar."

In Charlotte, the Meineke Bowl has a growing track record of success filling the stands of the Carolina Panthers' home stadium with local draws. Duke doesn't have as many football fans in North Carolina as UNC or N.C. State, but might be able to draw a huge percentage of its local supporters after a long bowl drought.

That's if the Blue Devils can win at least three more games, of course. But after breaking a 25-game ACC losing streak, the idea that first-year coach David Cutcliffe even has Duke on the bowl radar is an accomplishment.

– Ken Tysiac

Appalachian ran crazy against Presbyterian

Musings on Appalachian's 48-14 blowout of Presbyterian Saturday night in Boone:

*ASU rushed for 349 yards -- in the second half. The school doesn't keep records of such things, but I have to believe that 349 in a half (their game total was a non-record 409) has got to be the most-ever for the team. And they keep turning up remarkable running backs. When starter Devon Moore was lost to injury at James Madison, Robert Welton ably replaced him. He was sharing time with Devin Radford, though, and Radford wound up getting most of the work because the Blue Hose couldn't seem to catch him. He finished with 179 rushing yards on 17 carries, and also caught a 72-yard TD pass. And there's more where he came from; freshman Cedric Baker is highly thought-of as well.

*Presbyterian has a decent offense sparked by a savvy QB in Tim Webb, and trailed by just 17-14 at the half. Appalachian, though, wore the less-talented Blue Hose down. Webb eventually completed 31 of 57 passes but threw four interceptions, three in the second half.
"I was like, 'wow,' I didn't they were going to throw that many times," said ASU cornerback Cortez Gilbert, who had two of the picks.
"But it was pretty cool."
Then he laughed. "Pretty cool for us, because we got four interceptions."

*Appalachian has now won 37 of its past 38 home games. Things will get tougher this weekend, when The Citadel comes to town to open the Southern Conference season. By the way, the Mountaineers haven't lost two games in a row anywhere since the first two games of the 2003 season, when they fell to Hawaii and Eastern Kentucky. They've played
69 games since then.

-- Stan Olson

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Armanti Edwards' injury doesn't appear serious

Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards turned an ankle in the second half of Saturday night's 48-14 victory over Presbyterian in Boone, but it appears that the injury is not serious. Edwards received normal treatment today, according to school spokesman Mike Flynn. No X- rays or other tests were deemed necessary.
Edwards, who passed for 220 yards in the first half prior to the injury, is considered day-to-day.
Defensive end Quavian Lewis is recovering quickly from a bruised knee, and his status as questionable for next Saturday's game with The Citadel could be upgraded later in the week. --Stan Olson

Friday, September 26, 2008

Beck remembers his Big Red moment

Earlier this week, N.C. State quarterback Harrison Beck reminisced about his "Welcome to College Football" moment.

It happened at Nebraska, where Beck played before transferring to N.C. State. Starting quarterback Zac Taylor couldn't find anybody open and decided to tuck it an run. Taylor was not the fastest quarterback Nebraska's ever had.

"He gets destroyed by a linebacker from Kansas State, and he's knocked out," Beck said.

Enter Beck, an 18-year-old freshman.

"This is Nebraska now, and 88,000 people are screaming," Beck said. "It's a different situation from now. Everybody wanted to see me play. I was a freshman and I was actually going to play."

Coach Bill Callahan called a play called Trey Right 72, a go route. Callahan said he didn't care if the receiver was open. He just wanted Beck to throw it as far as he could.

"I think it went into the stands," Beck said.

Now a junior, Beck will be asked to throw more accurately Saturday as N.C. State's starter against South Florida. One thing that hasn't changed much is that the fans still would like to see the freshman. Only this time it's Russell Wilson, who led the Wolfpack to a win over East Carolina last week but is listed as doubtful with an injury.

Beck also is playing for a coach, Tom O'Brien, who probably isn't his best friend forever.

"I think it’s fine," O'Brien said Thursday when asked to describe their relationship. "It’s professional, I would say. I would guess. . . .It’s a player-coach relationship. We have talks. We have discussions. I talk. And he listens."

In fairness, O'Brien was looking out for Beck's best interests by offering to help him transfer when he was one of the odd men out of the quarterback race during the preseason.

But it's not often you see a quarterback start for a team that offered him a chance to leave.

"I have a good foundation here in Raleigh," he said. "I’m fixing to be engaged soon (to an N.C. State student). I’m about to graduate. I have good relationships with (teammates) Dan and Andrew Evans, and I want to continue to keep building, more importantly, for years down the road. That’s what’s going to be important. Not whatever happened here."

– Ken Tysiac

App injury list suddenly lengthy

Appalachian State, which got through its first two games virtually unscathed, heads into tomorrow 7 p.m. game with Presbyterian in Boone with a suddenly lengthy injury list.

The Mountaineers will be missing both their starting DEs--Tony Robertson injured a foot last week at James Madison and is expected to miss at least six weeks, and Quavian Lewis (bruised knee) is questionable for the contest and almost certain not to start. That means freshman Lanston Tanyi should start for Lewis and sophomore Jabari Fletcher is likely to play in place of Robertson.

Freshman starting CB Dominique McDuffie suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice and will almost certainly be redshirted. He will be replaced in the lineup at right corner by sophomore Jared Reine.

Another freshman, Ed Gainey, will back up at both cornerback positions.

Finally, senior WR James Hill, not a starter but perhaps the team's fastest player, injured an ankle in practice and will miss the game.

His availability for future games has not yet been determined.

-- Stan Olson

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ryan Houston still in mix for Tar Heels?

CHAPEL HILL — Where is North Carolina tailback Ryan Houston?

A year ago, the UNC bruiser from Butler High played in seven games, rushing for 145 yards and a touchdown on 44 attempts. Entering Saturday's game at Miami, the sophomore has carried six times for 20 yards.

Despite Carolina's ground inconsistencies — while averaging 141 rushing yards, only 97.7 per game are coming from the running backs — Houston remains third in the tailback rotation, although coach Butch Davis said fans eventually may see more of him.

"I will tell you that I think he is a better football player today than he was a year ago,'' Davis said Wednesday. "I think the running back picture got a little more crowded because of the emergence of Shaun Draughn, and how that plays out, we'll see. ... I think he has a future in this program, he has a future as a running back. I love that he cut the weight to increase his speed and quickness. ... As in the case of everybody, he's going to get his day to show what he can do."

Greg Little, UNC's starter, is averaging 59.7 yards rushing. Draughn is chipping in 28 yards per game.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Carolinas schools sweep Southern awards

Carolinas schools took all four Southern Conference Player of the Week awards, led by Western Carolina RB Quan Warley (Freshman of the Week). Warley, a redshirt freshman, rushed for a league-best 200 yards on 29 carries as the Catamounts rallied to beat Presbyterian, 23-21. He also had three receptions for 17 yards.

Elon WR Terrell Hudgins was chosen Offensive Player of the Week after catching 13 passes for 199 yards in the Phoenix's 22-20 victory over Georgia Southern. He set a league record for receptions with 226 with his effort.

Elon also had the week's top special teams player in kicker Andrew Wilcox. He made all five of his field goal attempts, the last of those winning the game with 6 seconds remaining.

Top defender honors went to Citadel LB Reggie Rice, who totaled 11 tackles, three quarterback hurries, a tackle for loss and a sack in a 37-24 win over Princeton. He also returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the third quarter.

-- Stan Olson

O'Brien's words burn South Florida coordinator

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien apparently touched a nerve at South Florida with comments he made last week about the Bulls’ defense.

After practice on Sept. 18, O’Brien was asked if any N.C. State staffers had visited South Florida during their offseason quest to study ways to stop the spread offense.

South Florida’s staff had caught the attention of some defensive assistants after the Bulls’ success in 2006 and 2007 against West Virginia’s spread option attack under Rich Rodriguez.
O’Brien mentioned South Florida’s blowout loss to Oregon (56-21) in last year’s Sun Bowl. He said Oregon ran the spread, so if South Florida’s coaches were the gurus, N.C. State was better off looking elsewhere for advice.

The St. Petersburg Times published South Florida defensive coordinator Wally Burnham’s reply Wednesday.

"He's right. We're not gurus," Burnham said. "On the other hand, we try to handle things professionally and not say anything … with class, not say anything about anyone else's coaching staff. He can say what he wants to. The other thing, I forget what bowl game they were in. That's all I've got to say."

During O’Brien’s weekly news conference earlier this week, he was more careful to praise the Bulls’ offense and defense.

He called South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe the most versatile quarterback in the country.
“He’s done it all,” O’Brien said. “The defense is even better.”

Ironically, N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson’s shoulder injury may prevent South Florida from showing how it defends the spread option. Harrison Beck, who’s scheduled to start Saturday, is more of a pocket passer than Wilson.

– Ken Tysiac

Interview with UNC's John Shoop (Part 2)

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina offensive coordinator John Shoop answered questions from three news organizations on Tuesday about the loss of quarterback T.J. Yates, and how back-ups Mike Paulus and Camerson Sexton will respond. Here is Part Two of the interview:

Q: How do you get a quarterback who hasn’t been in the regular rotation mentally prepared for what he’s going to face on Saturday?

A: Hopefully, we try to get these guys mentally prepared every week. Whether you (are) one, two, three — and we emphasize — you should be preparing like you’re starting. And we try to emphasize, 2 1/2 quarters into it, you might be in the game. So we try to make everybody, in meetings or on the practice field, leave your comfort zone, that’s for sure. ... And there’s no way to re-create that, whether you’re in a meeting room or on the practice field. There’s something to be said for the experiences you have on the field, and hopefully the time Mike (Paulus) did have, he’ll learn from that as well, and we’ll move forward. But we do our best for every quarterback that sits in the meeting room or every quarterback that takes a rep in practice, to leave their comfort zone. There’s nothing easy in our practice, that’s for sure.

Q: How much does your playbook change, if at all, with T.J. out?

A: We have the same players on the rest of the squad and we still have to get the ball in the hands of people that can score some points for us. We need more production at the tailback spot running the ball, we know that. And I don’t think it changes that much. Obviously, we’ll try to accentuate things that guys do well, but these guys fit what we were doing, both of them do. And I don’t think there will be anything out of the ordinary.

Q: How did they respond to the opportunity?

A: They’re competitive guys, and they’re both anxious for a chance to play. The quarterback position might be different than any other position in football, because we spend an inordinate amount of time together. We probably meet longer than anyone else. We’ve got feelings invested in one another. And you’ve got to take a few moments to grieve at little bit. I was hurt, T.J. was hurt, and I think all the guys were hurt. But at the same time, we’re playing this week, and T.J. is the first one in the meeting room, getting these guys going, and he’s been watching film with them. It’s a fact of life in a football season; it keeps going.

Q: Last year, because of T.J.’s inexperience, you wanted to be on the sideline to look him in the eye. Do you think you’ll move back to the sideline this weekend?

A: I don’t want to. I think I’m better in the press box and I don’t want to. It’s not my plan to, but we’re all allowed to change our minds, and we’ll see by the end of the week.

Q: Will you use T.J. as a coach on the sideline; can he be a help?

A: He’ll be a tremendous help. I think it’s important to remember that coaches coach and player’s play, but it takes a village to make this work. When T.J.’s been out there playing, Cam’s had on the headset; we all watch the same tape, we all sit in the same meetings. And someone sees something, I always say, ‘Don’t tell me on Sunday. If you see it, tell me.’ We have a pretty good rapport, if T.J. sees something and he can help, he’ll help. And I do think all of our guys know, there’s also some nuances to that – when to step in, when to step back and let a guy figure it out for himself. They all kind of get that, but T.J. is going to be a great resource for these guys and me, no doubt.

Q: What do you think of Miami’s defense?

A: Well, they have a new defensive coordinator. ... These guys can be, on third down this year, as complicated as anybody. This is going to be a real challenge. I think this could be as good a defense as we’ve faced since I’ve been here, no doubt – as talented and well-coached. They’re on top of it. And we really have to work our tails off to meet this challenge, and everybody thinks we can.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

UNC coach undecided on starting QB

North Carolina coach Butch Davis indicated Tuesday that he still hasn’t made a decision about whether redshirt freshman Mike Paulus or junior Cameron Sexton will start at Miami on Saturday.

“I’ll tell you when I know,’’ he said after practice.

Former starter T.J. Yates — who is out at least six weeks with a fractured left ankle — watched from the sideline on crutches as his two understudies competed for the starting gig. At one point, the sophomore even sat on a cooler, foot in a walking boot, whipping passes to wide receiver Dwight Jones. But later, his attention was focused on the players who must now lead the offense until at least early November.

“We’re playing this week, and T.J. is the first one in the meeting room, getting these guys going, and he’s been watching film with them,’’ offensive coordinator John Shoop said earlier in the day. “It’s a fact of life in a football season; it keeps going.”

Davis said Paulus and Sexton “responded good” to the situation and split reps with the first team during practice; when Yates was healthy he took about 75 percent of the snaps with the first team.

“We did everything we would have done in any given week,’’ Davis said. “We didn't add any more plays. We ran the exact same number of plays in the things that we did.”

Asked if he would name a starter before Saturday, or keep people guessing, he said: “It really isn't about guessing. When you think about there's mystery and intrigue as to who the starting quarterback is going to be, if one of these guys was Michael Vick and one was a classic drop-back passer … [then] there'd be an advantage. Whoever starts, we're going to run the same offense. It really doesn't make any difference.”

Paulus is 3-for-9 this season with two interceptions. Sexton went 1-4 as a starter in 2006, but hasn’t played in a game since last year’s opener against James Madison.

- Robbi Pickeral, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Source: Shoulder injury will sideline Pack QB

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson injured his right (throwing) shoulder during the first half of last week’s 30-24 overtime win against East Carolina, a source close to the program said

Coach Tom O’Brien announced Monday that Wilson will miss Saturday’s game against South Florida, but would not disclose the nature of the injury. Wilson previously suffered a Grade 3 concussion in the Aug. 28 opener at South Carolina and returned to the starting lineup 16 days later at Clemson.

The source said the current injury has nothing to do with the concussion. O’Brien said Wilson is out indefinitely.

Wilson, a redshirt freshman, turned in his best performance of the season against East Carolina. He completed 21 of 31 passes for 210 yards with three touchdown passes and no interceptions.

Despite the first-half injury, Wilson was 11-for-15 for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the second half against the Pirates.

Junior Harrison Beck, who will make his fifth career start, will replace Wilson on Saturday.

– Ken Tysiac

Interview with UNC's John Shoop (Part 1)

CHAPEL HILL — A day after North Carolina lost quarterback T.J. Yates for at least six weeks because of a fractured ankle, offensive coordinator John Shoop answered questions from three news organizations about losing the starting quarterback, the competition between the back-ups Mike Paulus and Cameron Sexton, and whether the offense might change against Miami.

Q: What have the last two days been like for you?

A: Well, the thing about football seasons is they keep going, right? I’m really excited about the opportunity that Cam and Mike have in front of them. They had a lot of great work this past spring, they had a lot of great work through training camp and we’re expecting them to do really well. We’re not slowing anything down; those guys are keeping up with it, and have kept up with it. And I think getting a good week of practice under their belsts is really going to help them, as well.

Q: Can you assess the strengths of both?

A: Cam has really worked hard on the mental aspect of the game, and I think he’s becoming a pretty cerebral guy. He also runs pretty fast; that’s something to remember – he can get outside the pocket and make some plays with his feet. Mike has a big arm, has probably the most velocity of any of the quarterbacks on our team. He can really fit the ball in some windows that the other guys can’t. Like all of us, your greatest strength can be your greatest weakness as well – figuring out when to, and not do, do that. And that’s really what he’s been working hard on, is trying to assess the risks vs. the rewards, and make those decisions instantaneously.

Q: Is this an all-out competition this week, or have you guys made up your minds about who will start at this point?

A: Coach Davis is the one to talk to, really, about the quarterback competition. I think we have an idea of how it will go, but those are best questions for him, I think.

Q: What’s your assessment of Mike in Saturday’s game?

A: We need to have better production from a lot of spots. I felt great about the offense going in. I’m really proud of those guys. We built up a 17-3 lead on the champions of our division, but it’s really disappointing when you have two fumbles like that that lead directly to scores and an interception when you’re inside the 20-yard line like that. That’s not winning football, and it’s not just the quarterback spot. All the good things you do are erased when you turn the ball over. Great running backs don’t fumble it, and great quarterbacks don’t throw interceptions. We can talk all we want about things that T.J. has done or hasn’t done, but the best thing T.J. was doing was he wasn’t turning the ball over. That’s the best thing. I don’t care about big plays, yards; our goal is to kick the ball to end every drive, and we didn’t meet that goal this week.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Injuries continue to rock Wolfpack

N.C. State running back Jamelle Eugene said something after Saturday’s defeat of East Carolina that seems cruelly ironic now.

Eugene had just played for the first time after missing three games with an ankle injury. He said that as other players return from injuries, the Wolfpack would improve.

“We’re only going to get better each week,” Eugene said. “Probably every week we’ll have somebody coming back, or every two weeks. So probably at the end of the season we will be our strongest.”

Two days later, coach Tom O’Brien delivered the latest shocking injury news. Quarterback Russell Wilson and leading tackler Nate Irving will miss Saturday’s game with South Florida because of injuries.

“It’s a great credit to the coaching staff and a great credit to the kids that are hanging in there that are healthy enough to play for us,” O’Brien said soberly. “Certainly we don’t want to be in our fifth game of the year with our third different starting quarterback, but that’s where we are.”

- Ken Tysiac

App redshirts will depend on situation

Both running back Devon Moore (ankle injury) and defensive end Tony Robertson (foot) will probably be red-shirted, Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore said on his weekly conference call this morning. Both players were hurt in the Mountaineers' 35-32 loss at James Madison Saturday night. Each is expected to be sidelined for about six weeks.

"A lot of it depends on how we're doing when they're ready to come back, what the circumstances are," said Moore.

He believes Appalachian has good depth at both positions. Moore will be replaced at RB by Robert Welton, who is averaging 9.1 yards a carry. Robertson, a defensive end, will be replaced by some combination of sophomore Jabari Fletcher and freshman Lanston Tanyi.

Also, junior Quavian Lewis is almost ready to return from a bruised knee, although he'll likely miss Saturday's game with visiting Presbyterian, Moore said.

-- The Mountaineers lost their No.1 ranking in the Football Championship Subdivision polls following the loss. ASU is now No. 3 in The Sports Network media poll, and fourth in the American Football Coaches Association poll. JMU, by the way, is now No. 1 in the coaches'
poll and No. 2 in the other.

--Stan Olson

Monday, September 22, 2008

Wilson, Irving out for Wolfpack vs. USF

Starting quarterback Russell Wilson and leading tackler Nate Irving will not play Saturday for N.C. State against South Florida because of injuries, coach Tom O'Brien said Monday during his weekly news conference.

O'Brien said both players are out indefinitely but declined to elaborate on Wilson’s specific injury. Wilson suffered a Grade 3 concussion in the Aug. 28 season opener against South Carolina and returned to play at quarterback 16 days later at Clemson.

On Saturday, Wilson, a redshirt freshman, had the best game of his career in a 30-24 overtime win over East Carolina, passing for 210 yards and three touchdowns.

Irving suffered an injury to his right lower leg on Saturday. He leads N.C. State with 34 tackles, including six tackles for loss, and three interceptions.

Harrison Beck is listed as N.C. State's starter, with Daniel Evans as the backup.

Beck is 25-for-44 for 353 yards this season with two touchdown passes and three interceptions. He passed for 246 yards in a little more than two quarters to lead N.C. State to a win over William & Mary on Sept. 6.

But on Saturday, he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by East Carolina's Van Eskridge and lost a fumble in the closing seconds of the second quarter.

Freshman Dwayne Maddox will replace Irving in the starting lineup.

– Ken Tysiac

Role reversal for Yates, Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL — For the last 15 games, North Carolina back-up quarterbacks Cameron Sexton and Mike Paulus have greeted T.J. Yates on the sideline after almost every series — offering suggestions, comments and help.

Starting Saturday, the roles will be reversed.

Yates, who will be out for at least six weeks with a fractured ankle, said he will still contribute to his team — even if it is only by watching tape in the film room, or offering suggestions during possessions.

“When I come off the field sometimes, I don’t see everything out there,’’ Yates, wearing a walking boot and on crutches, said Monday. “So sometimes Cam or Mike will tell me what blitz came, or what coverage or what stance the corner was in. So I’m going to do that as much as possible, and let them know what I see out there, and try to help as much as possible.”

Coach Butch Davis said he has not decided which back-up quarterback will start against the Hurricanes, but Yates said he is confident in both.

“Cam’s been here for a while, he knows what he’s doing, he’s a smart player,’’ he said of Sexton, a redshirt junior who started five games in 2006. “He knows where to go with the ball, he’s played against Vriginia Tech, he’s played against Miami. He’s been there.

“Mike’s got a world of potential,’’ Yates said of the redshirt freshman who played the final 1 1/2 quarters against the Hokies. “He’s got a big arm, a big body and everything like that. He’s just got to get a little more experience. It’s one thing you can’t teach, really, just being in the game, experience. I think they both have amazing qualities they can bring to this team, and I’m completely comfortable with whoever plays.”

Yates, who set the school record for passing yards in a season last year, has not marked a date on his calendar for his return. But UNC’s bye week falls on Nov. 1, meaning he may only have to miss five games if he heals fast.

“I’m going to try everything in my power to get in the rehab room, get in the training room,’’ he said. “Just try to do everything they tell me to do and just drink as much milk as possible.”
And in the meantime, try to help — even from the sidelines.

O'Brien knows big game when he sees it

Here's an example of how football coach Tom O'Brien understands his environment at N.C. State where former basketball coach Herb Sendek never did.

It's been said occasionally that O'Brien and Sendek have similar personalities, and that's true. Both are disciplined coaches with absolute belief in their systems who don't feel the urge to clown in front of the TV cameras.

But when O'Brien was asked about defeating East Carolina on Saturday he said that game was extra important because the Pirates are a rival.

"There’s 12 games you play, but certainly the hype around certain games is larger than others," O'Brien said. "So it is a bigger game than it was against Clemson or William & Mary. . . .It certainly is a big, big deal for our football team and our school that we win this game."

Sendek didn't see it that way. After N.C. State's disastrous, 95-71 loss at home to North Carolina on Feb. 22, 2006, I asked Sendek if it hurt to lose six in a row to the rival Tar Heels.

"Sure," he said. "It would frustrate us to lose six in a row to anybody."

That was the wrong answer for fans at N.C. State, and Sendek was off to Arizona State a couple of months later. N.C. State fans needed to be sure that losing to a rival hurt Sendek as much as it hurt them. Losing six in a row to North Carolina annoys Wolfpackers far more than six straight losses to Georgia Tech or Maryland.

O'Brien seems to understand that. Even if he doesn't post as high an ACC winning percentage as Sendek, O'Brien connects with N.C. State fans on this important point, and that will serve him well.

– Ken Tysiac

UNC's Yates out 6 weeks with broken ankle

Quarterback T.J. Yates is out for at least six weeks with a broken bone in his left ankle, UNC coach Butch Davis announced today.

Yates suffered the injury in the second quarter of UNC's 20-17 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday. The sophomore completed 40 of 66 passes for 623 yards in the first two and a half games. He has six touchdowns, including one on Saturday, and one interception.

Davis said either Mike Paulus or Cam Sexton would start against Miami on Saturday but that decision has not been made yet.

"We'll prepare both Mike Paulus and Cam Sexton," Davis said. "This will be an opportunity for them to step up."

Paulus, a redshirt freshman, relieved Yates on Saturday after the injury. UNC led 10-3 when Yates was hurt on a sack by Virginia Tech defensive end Orion Martin.

According to UNC's injury update, Yates sustained a small non-displaced fracture in his ankle. The injury will not require surgery and his status will be evaluated after six weeks of rehabilitation.

The Heels (2-1) have nine games remaining in the regular season. They play five games in the next six weeks with a bye falling on Yates' possible return date, Nov. 1.

"We feel bad for T.J. but they're not going to cancel the season because our quarterback is hurt," Davis said.

Paulus, the younger brother of Duke point guard Greg Paulus, was just 3 of 8 with two interceptions in his first significant college action against Virginia Tech.

Sexton, a junior, started five games in 2006 for former coach John Bunting. He has yet to take a snap this season.

"I don't think we'll deviate from our offense," Davis said. "We are who we are. We want the quarterback to be efficient but we need him to make some plays. We have confidence that both of those guys can handle that."

– Joe Giglio

Appalachian may redshirt injured RB Moore

The loss of Appalachian State starting running back Devon Moore to an ankle injury (it could be one of those nagging high ankle sprains or even a fracture, Mountaineers officials aren't saying for privacy reasons) for at least six weeks means that Moore, a junior, will likely be given a medical redshirt season. That's unfortunate for Moore, who was off to a solid start with 22 carries for 133 yards, a 5.6 average. But don't expect the ASU running game to miss a beat.

That's because Appalachian has a sophomore RB named Robert Welton. He scored the team's only TD at LSU, then rushed for 161 yards against Jacksonville, but folks brushed that off because the Dolphins don't give scholarships and were overpowered on the line in that game.

Saturday, though, was different. After Moore's departure in what would prove to be a 35-32 loss at James Madison, Welton took over and, running through much smaller holes, gained 92 yards on 17 carries. And perhaps 50 of those yards came after he was first hit by JMU.

While he did lose a critical fumble late, it was after an 11-yard gain in which he broke several tackles, and the ball was poked out from behind.

Welton, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound sophomore, has more power than Moore, but it's becoming clear that he is at least as fast as well.

Now, after three games, he has 28 carries for 256 yards, a 9.1 average.

And I think we have seen the beginnings of the next great Appalachian running back.

-- The foot injury suffered by 6-2, 250-pound DE Tony Robertson could cost him six weeks or so and will likely hurt more. Robertson, a junior, was a force in the defensive line. He will be replaced by someone with less experience, probably either sophomore Jabari Fletcher or freshman Lanston Tanyi. Robertson could also be redshirted.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

N.C. State coach enjoys results of hard work

News & Observer photographer Ethan Hyman e-mailed an image Saturday showing N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien, flanked by his players, grinning.

“Ever seen O’Brien like this?” Hyman’s message asked.

Not recently.

O’Brien’s dour expressions for most of the first month of this season have been easy to explain. N.C. State had been picked to finish last in the ACC’s Atlantic Division even before a devastating group of injuries decimated its roster.

But N.C. State’s 30-24 win in overtime against 15th-ranked East Carolina on Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium demonstrated that the season is far from lost for the Wolfpack. The struggles of other ACC teams demonstrate that there are beatable opponents on the schedule.

Unlike some of those teams, N.C. State is getting better.

The most obvious improvement is at quarterback, where redshirt freshman Russell Wilson seems to be discovering what he’s capable of. O’Brien is still learning about Wilson, too, and said Wilson plays much better in games than in practice.

Wilson is learning to use his speed to evade the rush, then making big plays down the field on the run and the pass once he breaks containment. After some difficult moments in his first two starts, he was 21-for-31 for 210 yards with three touchdown passes Saturday.

Running back Andre Brown, who scored the winning touchdown, is playing the best football of his life as a senior. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry Saturday, caught four passes for 35 yards and carried the offense on his shoulders with two mighty runs in overtime.

Jamelle Eugene’s return from an ankle injury Saturday gives N.C. State a good complement to Brown – a smaller, quicker back who also can catch the ball out of the backfield.

Finally, some guys who aren’t used to having their numbers called are making big plays on defense. J.C. Neal made a stop on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Shea McKeen stripped Patrick Pinkney and ended East Carolina’s possession in overtime.It was enough to make a coach smile.

“We’re playing hard, and we’re learning how to play hard,” O’Brien said. “And if we continue to do that, we’re going to have chances to win some football games. It’s the only way we can win them right now with all the injuries and lack of personnel.”

– Ken Tysiac

Friday, September 19, 2008

Is Appalachian-JMU a rivalry in the making?

While No. 1-ranked Appalachian State's game at No. 5 James Madison appears to be the next step in what is turning into a huge rivalry in the Football Championship Subdivision, Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore doesn't quite see it that way. He is a longtime friend of JMU coach Mickey Matthews, but it goes beyond that.

When the Dukes won the national championship in 2004, Moore actually attended all of JMU's playoff games.

"I followed them," he said this week. "I've sat with some of the administrators, I've sat with (Mickey's wife) Kay Matthews some. I've known Mickey a long, long time. I've been pretty involved with some of their fans. They've got great support."

The teams used to play regularly, meeting first in 1980 at JMU in what was the Duke's first Division I-AA season. Then James Madison joined the Yankee Conference and the series lapsed. JMU's league evolved into the Colonial Athletic Association. The schools have met
15 times with Appalachian winning 12, and the Mountaineers are 5-1 in Harrisonburg.

Appalachian hasn't played in Harrisonburg since 1992, but both coaches would like to resume the series on a fairly regular basis again.

--Stan Olson

Thursday, September 18, 2008

N.C. State defensive coordinator on ECU

N.C. State defensive coordinator Mike Archer breaks down the East Carolina game:

Q: What impresses you about East Carolina quarterback Patrick Pinkney?

We saw him in our game last year two series. We saw him in the first half of our game and they fumbled the first snap. He came in the second half and I think they threw three incompletions. And we didn’t see him again. But in looking at him in the offseason and what I see in the three games this year is he is really playing at a high level of confidence. Their whole offense is.

Q: How much do you throw out from last year because it’s a different quarterback?
You throw it all out. The game of football is up here (points to head). The guy is really sharp. . . . Guys are covered. (Defenders) are in drops. And he throws it in there with confidence. The throw he makes against Tulane to put them ahead, it’s a double move, but he throws it right between two defenders.

Q: How is the tackle position coming around with Alan-Michael Cash out? I thought (Leroy) Burgess had played pretty well.

Luckily, we’ve played a lot of people. It’s an opportunity. (Burgess) steps up and he will start alongside Antoine (Holmes). Keith Willis will be in there (as a backup), and we’ll move Wayne Crawford up.

Q: You mentioned Pinkney being able to throw it in there when guys are covered. A: I thought you ran into some (problems) with that last week at Clemson where they made catches over the middle. . .

We had them covered.

Q: They just have to make a play on the ball?

That’s part of it. And that’s confidence. We just played a team that had three guys in (C.J.) Spiller, Jacoby Ford and (Aaron) Kelly, those three guys accounted for 290 yards on 12 plays. And we had three or four of them defended well. On the first reverse, Willie Young is out there to make the play, and he can’t touch him. The long pass down the middle to Kelly, DeAndre Morgan is right there. He doesn’t make a play. The touchdown to Spiller. J.C. Neal is right there and doesn’t make the play. It’s confidence. We have to get them confident that they can make those plays.

- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wolfpack's Brown praised for tough running

During Sunday’s team meeting, N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien singled out senior running back Andre Brown for some encouragement.

Brown led N.C. State with 64 rushing yards and four catches for 51 yards in last week’s loss at Clemson. More importantly, he avoided the temptation to bounce out to the perimeter after contact, which has plagued him in the past.

“He was running tough inside,” O’Brien said. “He was getting tough yards. He was going forward. He caught the ball and got hit and made yards after contact. So he was a much more complete back as far as I was concerned Saturday than at any time since I’ve seen him here.”

Brown has been productive throughout his career at N.C. State. He entered the season with 1,772 rushing yards and four games of 100 rushing yards or more.

But last season, he was reluctant to lower his shoulder and get the tough yards O’Brien wanted. To use baseball as an analogy, Brown was swinging for the fences too often and striking out a lot.
O’Brien likes his backs to swing for singles and doubles in the gap.

“Instead of dancing around and trying to get to the boundary as fast as you can, you go forward, take what you can get and keep the chains moving,” O’Brien said. “Because a lot of times in this league, if you can’t outrun guys bouncing to the boundary, you end up losing yards.”

Now, instead of losing yards, Brown is gaining his coach’s praise.

– Ken Tysiac

Moore: ASU knows a little about hostile crowds

- After a week off, top-ranked Appalachian State is preparing to play at No.5 James Madison Saturday. On this morning's Southern Conference football coaches' conference call, a Virginia writer asked Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore if he thought his team was prepared for the hostile environment it would face at JMU, which is in Harrisonburg, Va.

"Have you ever been to Baton Rouge," Moore replied with a chuckle.

ASU opened its season at LSU and lost 41-13 in front of a less-than-inviting crowd that was listed at more than 91,000. James Madison's Bridgeforth Stadium seats 15,500. Moore wasn't belittling fifth-ranked JMU, just pointing out that his players have played in front of tough road crowds before. Like that 109,000 last year at Michigan.

- Moore also said he has had talks with James Madison coach Mickey Matthews about playing the opening game in the rebuilt Kidd Brewer Stadium next season. He added that a regular-season series between the teams is a possibility.

-Western Carolina junior linebacker Quintin Phillips earned Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors after piling up 16 tackles in a 19-16 loss to Football Championship Subdivision power Liberty Saturday. Phillips, who had four solo tackles, helped slow a Liberty offense that entered the game averaging 46.5 points a game.

-Also, Coastal Carolina quarterback Zack MacDowell was the Big South's Offensive Player of the Week. MacDowell, starting for just the second time, completed 17 of 26 passes for 233 yards and a touchdown in a victory over Monmouth. He also rushed for 29 yards on seven tries.

-Stan Olson

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pack DE Cash out with knee injury

Add starting defensive tackle Alan-Michael Cash to N.C. State's already lengthy injured list.
Cash needs knee surgery and is out indefinitely after being injured in Saturday's loss at Clemson, N.C. State announced Monday before coach Tom O'Brien's weekly news conference.

-- Ken Tysiac

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Georgia-USC leftovers: Bright future for Cook

Serving leftovers from South Carolina's 14-7 loss to Georgia Saturday in Williams-Brice Stadium:

* Gamecocks tight end Jared Cook ought to have an NFL career waiting when he finishes up in Columbia. Cook, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound junior with speed and great hands (he had a remarkable lunging catch Saturday). He had three catches for 68 yards after grabbing eight balls against Vanderbilt.

* Many South Carolina fans think the future should be now for quarterback-of-the-future Stephen Garcia, a highly recruited redshirt freshman. While Garcia was in the game for three plays, sophomore Chris Smelley played when it mattered, and actually looked pretty good in the second half, when USC piled up 208 total yards.

Garcia basically looked inexperienced, which he is. After a 7-yard first-half run, he entered again in the fourth quarter on second-down and 3 at the Georgia 49. Garcia ad-libbed on the play, eventually throwing the ball away.

"He got all lost out there," coach Steve Spurrier said. "He's used to running around. In high school he'd just take off running and juke a few guys. But unfortunately you can't do that here. Hopefully he'll learn a little bit."

Garcia was back for one more shot on the next drive, held the ball too long and took a sack. The game was Smelley's from there. While Spurrier said that Garcia, who has been suspended twice for legal problems in his brief career, would get future work, don't expect too much, too soon.

* The South Carolina defense is for real--quick and hard-hitting. The Gamecocks held Georgia to 83 total yards and six first downs in the second half. With any kind of consistent offense, SC would have improved its 1-30 record against top five-ranked teams. -- STAN OLSON

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another reason to appreciate Pack's Irving

N.C. State fans know a lot of the reasons that you want Nate Irving on your football team.

The sophomore linebacker is tied for the ACC lead with 11.5 tackles per game. He has two interceptions and one fumble recovery in two games.

He’s the best player on a defense that might be the Wolfpack’s best hope to challenge for a bowl bid after a rough start.

They might not know another reason you want Irving on your football team.

Before every game, he writes teammate Javon Walker’s name on his glove. Walker played well late last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury at Miami.

He’s out for the duration of this season, too.

“I know how bad he wanted to play,” Irving said. “I just, it hurt me when I found out he couldn’t play. I almost felt his pain.”

Irving’s teammates are important to him.

“Once you’ve got guys that care about each other, it’s more of a family, like you watch my back and I’ll watch your back,” he said.

That’s a guy you want on your team regardless of the tackles he makes or the turnovers he causes.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

'Money games' mix good with bad

The smaller schools call them “money games,” and essentially what they amount to is taking a beating from a larger program in return for checks that reach $400,000 and higher.

Appalachian State, which stunned the football world by winning one of those at Michigan last year, opened its season with another at LSU and was clobbered, restoring the natural order of things. Mountaineers coach Jerry Moore said he wouldn’t play more than one “money game” annually, because losing two can hurt your chances for the playoffs.

Southern Conference teams have two scheduled for this weekend—Chattanooga is at Florida State and Samford at Mississippi. Chattanooga will be playing its second money game of the season; the Mocs have already lost 57-2 at Oklahoma.

“We did that with Kansas and LSU in ’05. You’re looking at the possibility of two losses, now what’s that going to do to you? Now you’ve got to win the championship (to get in the playoffs). That’s the only thing I think you’ve got to guard against.”

The guarantees, though, help keep the smaller programs going. Close to half a million dollars can make a huge difference at schools that don’t regularly draw 50,000 to 100,000 fans.

— Stan Olson

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

UNC: Thursday night games at Kenan doubtful

North Carolina coach Butch Davis has said he'd like to see Kenan Stadium host a Thursday night football game someday. But whether that will happen remains in doubt.

The Tar Heels, who travel to Rutgers for a Thursday night game on ESPN, have never hosted a mid-week football contest in Chapel Hill since ESPN began televising Thursday night games in the mid-1990s.

Senior associate athletics director Larry Gallo said that because of the on-campus location of the stadium, the hospital nearby and night classes in session, it has become an "accepted practice" not to host because the traffic and parking flow would be disruptive to campus.

"It would be exciting to have a game here ... but we do have some limitations,'' he said. "A lot of people say 'What's the big difference with basketball and football?' Well, 20,000 vs. 60,000. So, 40 (thousand)."

Davis said Tuesday he didn't know if upcoming expansions to Kenan Stadium will change the chances of holding a Thursday night kickoff.

But it would certainly help the program's reach and recruiting.

"There are programs in the country that have done phenomenal jobs on capitalizing on national exposure opportunities,'' Davis said Monday. "… Any time you get the chance to expose the country to what you’re trying to do, what you’re trying to build, the players who are playing, the type of schemes that you run, it attracts kids. So certainly part of that scenario is getting a chance to play on Thursday night."

North Carolina has played on Thursday five times since ESPN began televising the broadcast, going 3-2.

-Robbi Pickeral, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Cornerback White off UNC's injury report

Reserve cornerback Johnny White, who missed North Carolina's opener against McNeese State with a thigh injury, was not on the Tar Heels' latest injury report, which was released Tuesday.

That means he should be available to play when the Tar Heels face Rutgers on Thursday in New Jersey.

Here's the full injury report:

Cooter Arnold WR Ankle Questionable
Charles Brown DB Ankle Probable
Linwan Euwell LB Knee Questionable
T.Moore Evins OL Illness Questionable
LeCount Fantroy DB Hand Probable
Darius Massenburg DL Knee Out
Bobby Rome RB Ankle Questionable
E.J. Wilson DL Hip Probable

-Robbie Pickeral, (Raleigh) News & Observer

Bright spot for Wolfpack? Forced turnovers

Two games into the season, the most encouraging statistic for N.C. State might be the number of turnovers the Wolfpack has forced.

You'll recall that in 2007, its first season under defensive coordinator Mike Archer, the Wolfpack forced an ACC-low 16 turnovers. With eight turnovers forced in two games, N.C. State already is halfway to that total from last season.

With six interceptions, the Wolfpack already has 60 percent of last year's total. Coach Tom O'Brien said one reason is that the players understand their zone concepts much better than a year ago.

"We’re seeing the ball thrown," O'Brien said. "We’re in much better position in our drops and in our coverages to make plays on the ball, and the kids are making plays and we’re catching balls this year. Some of them we knocked down last year."

The defensive line is playing an important role, too. In particular, juniors Willie Young at end and Alan-Michael Cash at tackle are getting pressure on the quarterback.

If N.C. State doesn't have to blitz much to bother the passer, more players can drop back into coverage.

"The more guys we can sit back in coverage - it's excellent," said cornerback DeAndre Morgan.
So are N.C. State's early results forcing turnovers.

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, September 8, 2008

It's a reunion for UNC's Davis, Rutgers' Schiano

CHAPEL HILL North Carolina coach Butch Davis will see a familiar face across the field on Thursday night — but not a familiar foe.

UNC’s matchup at Rutgers marks the first time Davis will coach against Greg Schiano, a former assistant coach when both were with the Miami Hurricanes.

Davis knows it will be a test.

“His program, they are detailed, meticulous and organized,’’ Davis said. “They are a byproduct of his personality. … You’re not going to trick them, you’re not going to fool them, they are not going to be unprepared. He’s been there for eight years, so his kids have pretty much seen it all.”

Schiano was Davis’ defensive coordinator for two seasons during which the Hurricanes went 20-5. Schiano credits him for teaching him some of the details of having the top job.

“Butch really helped me prepare to be a head coach,’’ Schiano said. “Because there are certain things you don’t do as an assistant – whether it’s fundraising or drug testing or recruiting in the big picture, and not just your recruiting area. Butch allowed me to take part in that stuff, and it really gave me some valuable experience.”

The two have stayed friends since they left Miami; Davis even visited Schiano at Rutgers during the two years he was out of coaching. Schiano always figured his mentor would return to the coaching ranks, and is glad he is back on the college level — even though it means facing him for the first time.

“I’m happy for Butch that he’s in a place that he really likes,’’ Schiano said. “But for 3 1/2 hours, we’ve got to go coach our teams and go against one another."

Injuries to TEs could limit Wolfpack

N.C. State’s newest injury problem could limit some things coach Tom O’Brien likes to do on offense.

O’Brien said Monday that the Wolfpack won’t have its top two tight ends for Saturday’s game at Clemson. Starter Anthony Hill also missed last week’s win over William & Mary with an injured chest muscle. Backup Matt Kushner suffered a right knee injury against William & Mary.

Tailbacks Jamelle Eugene [ankle] and Toney Baker [knee] also are out for Saturday.

Redshirt freshman George Bryan is scheduled to start at tight end, and sophomore walk-on Eric Weaver is his backup. Tight ends traditionally have been a big part of O’Brien’s pro-style offense.

“We [were] a big tight end offense,” O’Brien said. “Now we’re not a big tight end offense.”

Bryan showed promise against William & Mary with five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown, and caught the winning touchdown pass in N.C. State’s spring game. O’Brien would have preferred to bring him along slowly behind experienced players, but must count on him immediately.

As O’Brien announced Saturday night, quarterback Russell Wilson will return to the starting lineup this week after suffering a Grade 3 concussion on Aug. 28 at South Carolina. Wilson was cleared to play against William & Mary, but O’Brien limited his participation to one snap holding for an extra point attempt.

O’Brien said there is some concern about how Wilson, a redshirt freshman, will react after taking a hard hit that caused a frightening injury.

“But the only way we’re going to find out is to put him in there and play (him),” O’Brien said.

-- Ken Tysiac

ASU's Welton named conference player of the week

Appalachian State sophomore RB Robert Welton has been named Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Week.

Welton earned the honor on just ten carries in ASU's 56-7 win over Jacksonville Saturday, turning them into 161 rushing yards and three touchdowns.

Welton also scored a TD the week before at LSU, giving him four in the Mountaineers' first two games.

He laughed at that following Saturday's game, saying that he only had
six as a senior at Jones County High in Gray, Ga.

While Devon Moore is Appalachian's current starter at RB, look for Welton, who doesn't appear to be quite as fast as the incumbent but is more powerful, to get a decent share of the carries going forward, with the Mountaineers developing what amounts to a two-back ground attack. --Stan Olson

Friday, September 5, 2008

Flawed injury reporting system a real gamble

The ACC's new injury policy is doing exactly what it was designed to do. That is why it's failing.

N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien was a big proponent of the new policy, which was implemented to standardize injury information and keep schools from gaining a competitive advantage.

On Mondays, schools must report which players are having surgery or out for the season. On Thursdays, schools must list injured players as out, doubtful, questionable or probable for Saturday's game.

Problem is, many injuries don't fit into the Monday categories. Take a cracked rib, for example. In the past, a school might have announced a player had a cracked rib and was expected to miss a certain number of weeks.

Now that injury doesn't get reported Monday if the rib didn't require surgery. On Thursday, the school would report the player as out for Saturday's game with a rib injury. The whole disinformation charade would continue each week until the player is ready to return.

With schools limiting information, reporters now are pestering players about their injuries, and that's dangerous. One day this week, Clemson defensive end Ricky Sapp told reporters the knee injury that will keep him out Saturday against The Citadel would require an MRI.

The next day, reporters gathered to ask the results of the MRI. But there was no MRI. Apparently there never was going to be an MRI. But don't blame Sapp. He's just 19 years old and might have misunderstood something he was told.

The adults who run a school's athletics program should be responsible for giving the correct information. And if reporters are pressing players for information, gamblers won't be far behind.

Because of medical privacy laws, publicizing injuries is a difficult job for school officials. Players sign waivers allowing injuries to be disclosed, but school officials are understandably squeamish about doing so.

Nonetheless, the coaches' primary motivation behind the policy seems to be preventing opponents from getting extra injury information that will create a competitive advantage.

But the real advantage coaches need to avoid is the one a gambler gains by giving $500 to the injured quarterback's roommate for information that will lead to a winning bet placed before Thursday's injury report comes out.

That's a problem no coach wants to have, and that's why this policy needs to be changed.

– Ken Tysiac

Gamecocks' loss reflects poorly on Pack

Thursday night's college football offering had to be almost as disturbing for N.C. State fans as the previous week's season-opening, ESPN event.

On Aug. 28, N.C. State suffered a 34-0 humiliation at the hands of South Carolina while Erin Andrews prowled the sideline. A week later, that same South Carolina team fell 24-17 at Vanderbilt.

Yes, Vanderbilt. The team that hadn't won at home over a nationally ranked foe in 16 years. The team that hasn't been to a bowl since 1982. The team Gamecock safety Emmanuel Cook said was the "sorriest" in the SEC after Vanderbilt upset South Carolina last season.

The same South Carolina defense that held N.C. State to 138 yards of total offense allowed three second-half touchdowns to Vanderbilt. That's not good news for the Wolfpack.

On Saturday, N.C. State meets a William & Mary team that's from a lower division and is disadvantaged because it hasn't played its season opener yet. For those reasons, the Wolfpack should be OK this week.

But the Wolfpack's season-opening embarrassment in Columbia doesn't bode well for the rest of the season, especially now that we've got some idea of how good the Gamecocks really are.

– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, September 4, 2008

N.C. State's Eugene in; Wilson not ruled out

Starting running back Jamelle Eugene will miss his second straight game with an ankle injury Saturday when N.C. State plays host to William & Mary, but quarterback Russell Wilson has not been ruled out of the game.

Wilson, who suffered a Grade 3 concussion in the Aug. 28 opener at South Carolina, is listed as questionable in the injury report released to the media Thursday about an hour after the end of practice.

A player listed as questionable typically is considered to have a 50 percent chance of playing. In his only media availability Thursday, coach Tom O’Brien said before the injury report was released that Daniel Evans will start at quarterback.

“And then we’ll see where we go from there,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien didn’t specifically address Wilson’s status and declined to discuss injuries, saying the information would be released later. Wilson returned to practice in a limited capacity earlier in the week.

In what could be a significant loss for the Wolfpack, defensive end Willie Young is questionable with an ankle injury. Young led N.C. State in tackles for loss last season.As expected, tight end Anthony Hill is out with a strained chest muscle. Ken Tysiac

Tudor's take: It's up to Wake

Unless you’re banking on Miami winning at Florida, which few folks are, what little remains of ACC pride and hope rides with Wake Forest in this test against SEC middleweight Ole Miss.

This will probably be one tough Houston Nutt team to crack, too. The Rebels piled up 41 points on a decent Memphis defense last week Quarterback Shay Hodge and running back Dexter McCluster had the kind of production long associated with Nutt’s primary yardage providers at Arkansas.

If the Deacons can’t make it happen, there’s a strong chance next week’s national polls will be completely void of an ACC influence. Something somewhere is bound to go right for the ACC. Wake 30-24.

-- Caulton Tudor, Raleigh News and Observer

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Did Appalachian learn from 'good thrashing?'

As Appalachian prepares for its home opener with Jacksonville Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Kidd Brewer Stadium, coach Jerry Moore is hoping the Mountaineers absorbed the lessons available in their 41-13 season-opening loss at LSU, which he called "a good thrashing." But he still believes some good can come from the defeat.

"If we are smart as coaches and our players buy into it, we can take as much out of a loss to these guys as we can from a win at Michigan," Moore said. "We could have beaten these guys just as we did Michigan; it would have gotten a lot of notoriety and stuff, but it wouldn't have meant a thing to our conference.

"Our goal is to prepare to win the Southern Conference championship. I think we wasted four hours (playing LSU) if we don't come out thinking we can be a better football team."

Asked how the Mountaineers can guard against a letdown against Jacksonville, Moore said, "You would hope that your players realize that you're playing a football game, and the same thing can happen to us that can happen with anybody else...We've got great respect for them. They're building a program, their kids are playing hard, they're well-coached and I'm sure they're excited about playing us just like we were excited about playing LSU."

Jacksonville has been playing football since 1999, and joined the Pioneer League in 2001. The Dolphins were 3-8 last season.--STAN OLSON

QB's the talk of ACC conference call

It's all quarterbacks, all the time in Week 2 of the slowest 120 minutes in football.

• With a lack of playmakers at running back and receiver, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer had no choice but to burn Tyrod Taylor's redshirt. The sophomore will share snaps with Sean Glennon this week for the Hokies against Furman.

"You've got a chance when he's in the ball game for a big play," Beamer said. "Run or the pass, he presents a threat."

Before and during the ECU game, Beamer didn't envision Taylor playing this season. Even as the Hokies' struggled with 243 yards of offense in the 27-22 loss.

"We had our plan, it never entered my mind to be quite honest," Beamer said of playing Taylor against ECU.

Glennon threw two picks against the Pirates without a touchdown and was 14 of 23 for 139 yards.

Does Beamer regret keeping Taylor on the shelf vs. ECU?

"Sometimes it takes time to make the right decision," Beamer said.

• "Everything has been positive" with Russell Wilson, N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said. Still no timetable for the freshman's return from a concussion.

TOB reiterated freshman Mike Glennon will remain redshirted.

• Chris Turner will start for Maryland at Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Jordan Steffy, who started the 14-7 win over Delaware but was less than impressive, is out at least three weeks with a thumb injury.

Steffy has a ligament tear in his right thumb. The senior has been injury prone in his career. He started the first five games in 2007 but missed most of the final eight games after suffering a concussion against Rutgers in the fifth game.

Steffy beat out Turner and Josh Portis in the preseason but was ineffective against I-AA Delaware, completing 10 of 18 passes for just 115 yards with two interceptions.

Turner, who started seven games in 2007, played sparingly in the opener, completing 1 of 3 passes for 11 yards.

"It was close," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said of the preseason competition. "It was a very tough decision. I have a lot of confidence in Chris."

• Jimbo Fisher told Bobby Bowden who'll start at quarterback — Drew Weatherford, D'Vontrey Richardson or Christian Ponder —against Western Carolina but allegedly not the candidates, so no announcement today.

Bowden did say: "D'Vontrey and Ponder are good football players and we think we can win with them."

• Al Groh Moment of Zen:

"[USC] is as good as anything that I've personally put my eyes on. Certainly every bit the equal of the Miami and Florida State teams from the '90s."

-- J.P. Giglio

O'Brien: Glennon will stay on redshirt list

Coach Tom O’Brien said Wednesday that it would have taken a career-ending or long-term injury to Russell Wilson for N.C. State to seriously consider removing freshman quarterback Mike Glennon from the redshirt list.

Wilson, who suffered a Grade 3 concussion in Thursday’s loss at South Carolina, already has returned to limited duty in practice.

“After the evaluation and [Wilson’s] release after that evening back here, it doesn’t look like it’s a career-ending injury for Russell, so we have no intention of un-redshirting Mike Glennon,” O’Brien said Wednesday on the weekly ACC coaches’ teleconference.

O’Brien said he hasn’t thought about whether Wilson will return to the starting position when he is cleared to play. Senior Daniel Evans has taken Wilson’s place and will start Saturday against William & Mary.

“I’m just worried about getting him back and healthy,” O’Brien said.

Other O’Brien nuggets from the teleconference:

-- There has not been talk of moving Saturday’s game from its 6 p.m. start despite Tropical Storm Hanna’s expected trek through the area. “Hopefully it will be out of here (by Saturday night),” O’Brien said.

-- O’Brien said reserve offensive guard Curtis Crouch’s playing time will be based on the commitment he shows to the team. “He’s back and practicing now, and you earn your way on the football field sometimes by doing what you’re supposed to be doing off the field,” O’Brien said. Crouch did not travel with the team to South Carolina, serving what turned out to be a one-game suspension.

-- Returning All-Colonial Athletic Association quarterback Jake Phillips might be O’Brien’s biggest concern with William & Mary coming to town. “He’s an excellent decision maker,” O’Brien said. “He doesn’t turn the football over, which is what you want, and he gets his team in the end zone.”

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

ASU's Roman is player of week

Appalachian State junior MLB Jacque Roman was named the Southern Conference Player of the Week despite LSU's 41-13 victory over the Mountaineers in Baton Rouge Saturday.

While ASU couldn't stop the bigger and faster Tigers, Roman certainly did his share, piling up a game-high 12 tackles. He also had his first career interception, which he returned 13 yards to set up an Appalachian field goal.

* Despite a dismal first half that left them trailing 31-0, the Mountaineers regrouped and played LSU tough after the break, even outscoring the Tigers, 13-10. That was enough to keep Appalachian ranked No.1 in the Sports Network Poll, which rates the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), formerly the NCAA's Division I-AA.

ASU's lead in the poll was trimmed, though. The preseason version saw the Mountaineers collect 97 of 101 first-place votes. This week, they received 62 of 110. No. 2 North Dakota State got 42 votes for the top spot. Appalachian is second behind NDSU in the American Football Coaches Association FCS poll.

* The Mountaineers' home opener with Jacksonville is set for 3:30 p.m.
Saturday in Kidd Brewer Stadium. The team will raise its national championship flag from last year before the kickoff. It's also Lettermen's Day, and more than 200 former payers are expected to attend. The current team will wear throwback uniforms of the style the school was using in 1989, coach Jerry Moore's first year on the job.

- Stan Olson

ECU-VT gives Raycom reason to believe

When the divided crowd at Bank of America Stadium cheered heartily just for the public service announcements for Virginia Tech and East Carolina on Saturday, Ken Haines knew he'd put together a winner.

Haines, the president and CEO of Raycom Sports, convinced the schools to play in Charlotte for what became one of the most memorable games of the opening week of college football. The crowd was announced at 72,169, and the blocked punt East Carolina used to score the winning touchdown in a 27-22 victory was one of the most replayed clips on the highlight shows.

Inside the stadium, two fan bases excited about football made it a hit.

"It had a bowl-like atmosphere," Haines said.

It left Haines wanting more college football in Charlotte. The city already has the Meineke Car Care Bowl each year plus the ACC Championship Game coming in 2010 and 2011. Haines also has East Carolina vs. South Carolina contracted for Charlotte in 2011 and 2014.

But he would like to put one regular season game each year in Charlotte. He would love to get North Carolina to play South Carolina at Bank of America Stadium, and would be happy to have Virginia Tech, N.C. State and Clemson, too.

Problem is, those schools all have been asking their fans for huge donations for facilities upgrades at their home stadiums. That makes them reluctant to take big games elsewhere.

"Charlotte's tried to get us to play somebody in Charlotte for a while, but we really try to protect our suite holders," said N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler. "It’s really tougher and tougher for athletic directors to take a neutral site like that."

But Haines said he will keep trying after Virginia Tech and East Carolina gave him a great ending to an otherwise frustrating August. Charlotte-based Raycom had hoped to retain the SEC TV syndication rights it holds until the end of this season but was outbid by CBS and ESPN for fees Haines called "staggering."

Raycom still holds the ACC's broadcast rights and may try to secure the rights of non-BCS conferences in the future. In the meantime, Haines believes Virginia Tech and East Carolina helped his pitch for regular-season college football games in Charlotte.

"This was truly successful," Haines said. "This will look good on the resume."

– Ken Tysiac

Monday, September 1, 2008

Evans to start at QB for N.C. State Saturday

Senior Daniel Evans will start at quarterback for N.C. State on Saturday against William & Mary, coach Tom O'Brien said Monday.

Russell Wilson, the redshirt freshman who won the starting job during the preseason, suffered a Grade 3 concussion in the second quarter of the Aug. 28 opener against South Carolina. He is back on campus and attending class, but O'Brien said the staff doesn't know what Wilson's status is and is proceeding with Evans as the starter and Beck as the backup.

Evans replaced Wilson late in the second quarter and was 4-for-12 passing for 37 yards with two interceptions as the Wolfpack lost 34-0. Evans will make his 18th career start and will be backed up by junior Harrison Beck.

Though Evans and Beck struggled against the Gamecocks, O'Brien still plans to redshirt highly regarded freshman Mike Glennon.

O'Brien also said tight end Anthony Hill is out for Saturday's game with a chest injury. -- KEN TYSIAC

Kenan Stadium renovations update

Phase I of Kenan Stadium renovations are scheduled to begin after this season, and after Saturday’s victory over McNeese State, they can’t start fast enough.
Not only did a lightning strike short out a circuit board in the PA announcer’s box (the school had a spare), interfere with cable and wireless connections in the press box and delay the game in the second quarter for almost two hours — but a chunk of concrete fell into the stands around section 220, spokesman Steve Kirschner confirmed Saturday.
It landed in an area were there were no people, so no one was hurt.
And the school is still looking into what caused it. But it will be fixed before UNC’s next home game, against Virginia Tech on Sept. 28, Associate Athletics Director for Media Relations Steve Kirschner said.
"An aging facility and a bad storm are not a good combination, to say the least,’’ Kirschner said.
It was just another strange occurance during a night of many. Before the game, an arial team that was supposed to parachute into Kenan with the game ball instead landed at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium.
Then after the game, the lone beat reporter covering McNeese State got stuck in the press box elevator for about two hours. He was eventually freed around 1 a.m.
Just another thing to fix at Kenan.