Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wofford can throw the ball, too

Wofford's longtime option attack under coach Mike Ayers is known as a keep-it-on-the-ground offense, but Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore says there's more to it than that. The Mountaineers, of course, meet the Terriers in a Southern Conference battle of league unbeatens at 8 p.m. in Boone Friday night.

As usual, Wofford does lead the conference in rushing by a huge margin, with 348.9 yards a game. And the Terriers still don't throw it much; they have less than half as many attempts (82) as any other team in the league. But look closer, and you notice that they've completed
68.3 percent of those passes, the best mark in the SC.

Moore said Wofford's air attack is "Very effective. I remember when we started playing Wofford; they'd throw it five, six, seven times a game, and you'd look up and they'd completed six or seven of them.

"They throw it more now than they used to and I think that's one of the big improvements that they've got. You've got to defend the throw; their offense is a little bit more wide open; to me it's always been that way."

Since Wofford still averages fewer than 12 throws a game, its offense gets that run-first-and-run-always label.

"The option teams are fun to watch play," Moore said. "I grew up coaching at Nebraska, and Oklahoma was the probably THE option team in the country then. We always had to defend those guys , and for some reason option teams kind of got labeled; that they were a 'three yards and a cloud of dust' kind of deal. That's the furthest thing from the truth; the biggest losses we had up there were on option plays that went 60 or 70 yards sometimes." -- Stan Olson

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Halloween treat: Wofford at Appalachian

How big is Appalachian State's trick-or-treat showdown with Wofford in Boone Friday night?

The Halloween showdown will mark the first time two teams undefeated in Southern Conference play (both 4-0) have met this late in the season since Nov. 9, 1996, when Marshall blasted East Tennessee State 34-10. Neither of those teams is in the Southern Conference today.

Wofford (6-1 overall) and ASU (6-2) certainly are; you can't miss 'em, because both are usually in the hunt for the league title. A lot of people will be paying attention; in addition to a sellout crowd of 30,000 or so in Kidd Brewer Stadium, the game will be available on ESPN2.

Both teams, as usual, are highly ranked in the Football Championship Subdivision; the Mountaineers are No. 2 in both polls while Wofford is No. 3 in the Sports Network poll and ranked 5th by the coaches.

The teams have split their last six meetings, with the home team winning four. Wofford won last season in Spartanburg, 42-31.

*In other SC news, Western Carolina redshirt freshman Quan Warley was the league's freshman of the week after gaining 102 rushing yards against Georgia Southern. The Eagles, though, rallied from 28 points down to a 38-31 win in OT. It was Georgia Southern's biggest comeback ever.

--Stan Olson

Monday, October 27, 2008

ACC kickoff times for Nov. 6-8

GREENSBORO -- The Atlantic Coast Conference announced Monday that ESPN/ABC has declared a six-day option for the games of Saturday, Nov. 8, holding two ACC games—Georgia Tech at North Carolina and Clemson at Florida State. The decision on game times and networks will be decided no later than 12 noon this Sunday, Nov. 2.

The six-day option will also affect the game time and network for the Virginia at Wake Forest game which will be either televised either by Raycom Sports at 12 noon or on ESPNU at 3:30 pm.

Two Saturday game times are set: Notre Dame at Boston College will be played at 8 p.m., but the network decision (either ABC or ESPN) will be made on Sunday; and NC State at Duke will be played at 3:30 pm, with either ESPNU televising the game, or the contest will be available via video streaming by ESPN 360.

The Maryland at Virginia Tech game had been previously announced to be televised by ESPN at 7:30 pm on Thursday, Nov. 6.

Thursday, Nov. 6 (Previously Announced)

Maryland at Virginia Tech, ESPN, 7:30 pm

Saturday, Nov. 8

NC State at Duke, ESPNU or ESPN 360#*, 3:30 pm

Notre Dame at Boston College, ABC or ESPN*, 8 pm

Virginia at Wake Forest, Raycom at 12 noon or ESPNU at 3:30 pm*

Clemson at Florida State, Six-day option, TBD*

Georgia Tech at North Carolina Six-day option, TBD*

* Decision on Networks and Gametimes to be announced no later than 12 noon on Sunday, Nov. 2

# ESPN 360 is ESPN's video streaming platform

Western Carolina's latest loss a crusher

On the first play of the fourth quarter Saturday in Cullowhee, Western Carolina scored to push its lead over longtime Southern Conference power Georgia Southern to 31-3. Suddenly, the Catamounts' rebuilding schedule under first-year coach Dennis Wagner seemed way ahead of schedule.

But turning around a beaten-down program is almost never quick and easy.

Georgia Southern, which may have started flat after losing a thriller to Appalachian State last week, finally got rolling, scoring 35 straight points to take a 38-31 victory. During the rally, the Eagles piled up 367 total yards to WCU's 48.

It was Western's 20th straight Southern Conference loss.

Despite the stunning collapse, called "very disappointing" by Wagner, you have to remember that Western had to build that big lead in the first place. That means the Catamounts are at least making progress toward their goal.

Keep in mind that WCU is only starting four seniors, and Saturday's quarterback (Zack Jaynes) and top running back (Quan Warley) were redshirt freshmen. As the Catamounts add experience, they should continue to get better.

If they can forget about Saturday.

--Stan Olson

Friday, October 24, 2008

Injury report: N.C. State-Maryland

N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving, offensive tackle Julian Williams and wide receiver Geron James are scheduled to miss Saturday's game at Maryland, the school announced Thursday.

Irving and James have ankle injuries. Williams will miss his third straight game with a shoulder injury.

-- Ken Tysiac

Injury report: Duke-Vanderbilt

Duke will be down two receivers against Vanderbilt on Saturday but receiver Johnny Williams is expected to return.

Williams missed the Miami game with a dental abscess. Duke will need freshman because Raphael Chestnut and Austin Kelly are out. Williams and freshman Donovan Varner will start in their stead.

Chestnut's real value was on special teams as Duke's gunner on punt returns. He'll be missed as Duke tries to stop Vandy's big return threat in D.J. Moore.

Out: RB Re'quan Boyette (leg), C Marcus Lind (shoulder), WR Raphael Chestnut (leg),
WR Austin Kelly (leg)

Questionable: DE Wesley Oglesby (leg)

Probable: CB Leon Wright (leg)

-- Luciana Chavez

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pack's Irving out after reinjuring ankle

N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving (left) won’t play Saturday at Maryland after reinjuring his ankle last week against Florida State, coach Tom O’Brien said Wednesday.

“He’s out this week and probably future weeks,” O’Brien said on the ACC’s weekly telephone conference.

Irving returned against Florida State after missing the previous two games with an injured right ankle. He reinjured the ankle when a Florida State player hit him with a low block.
O’Brien said the block was a clean hit.

– Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

ASU to open 2009 season at ECU

Appalachian State will open its 2009 college football season against East Carolina, according to Mountaineers spokesman Mike Flynn.

The game between the former Southern Conference rivals will be played in Greenville, N.C.

- David Scott

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

Elzy out 6 weeks for Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina fullback Anthony Elzy (above) fractured his shoulder blade during Saturday’s loss at Virginia and is sidelined for at least six weeks, coach Butch Davis said Monday.

He is the third offensive starter the Tar Heels have lost for significant time, joining quarterback T.J. Yates (broken ankle, out for at least two more weeks) and wide receiver Brandon Tate (torn knee ligaments, out for the season).

Junior Bobby Rome will take over for Elzy, a sophomore, at fullback.
Against the Cavaliers, junior Melvin Williams stepped into Elzy’s special teams role.

“Every time we’ve lost somebody, it’s become an issue, because somebody else now has to step up,’’ coach Butch Davis said.

Elzy had caught seven passes for 86 yards this season -- including two receptions for 25 yards against the Cavaliers. He played tailback as a freshman in 2007, recording 350 yards and five touchdowns.

In other injury news, linebacker Bruce Carter has a sprained right ankle, “but the expectations are he should be fine,” Davis said.

Carter, who has five special teams blocks this season, finished the game.

-- Robbi Pickeral

ACC kickoff times for Nov. 1

Miami @ Virginia, noon (Raycom)
Clemson @ Boston College, 3:30 (ESPNU)
Duke @ Wake Forest, 3:30
Florida State @ Georgia Tech, 3:30 (ABC)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Swank might miss game vs. Terps

Wake Forest senior kicker Sam Swank could miss his second consecutive game on Saturday when the 21st-ranked Demon Deacons face Maryland in College Park.

Swank, the Deacs' all-time leading scorer, strained his right quadriceps during practice three days before his team hosted Clemson on Oct. 9. He's listed as questionable for Saturday's noon kickoff.

Muscle soreness prevented him from kicking in that game and could hold him out this weekend. He did not practice this week, though he dressed out a couple of days. Mostly, he watched as redshirt freshman backup Shane Popham prepared for his likely second career start.

Prior to the Clemson contest, Swank had kicked in 42-consecutive games since he took over as a redshirt freshman.

Swank, who punts and kicks, has made 10 field goals this season, helping the Deacs score as they've struggled to get in the end zone.

He has 326 career points and is currently tied with Florida State's Scott Bentley for fourth among the ACC's all-time scoring leaders. Former Maryland kicker Nick Novak sits atop that list with 393 points.

Swank, who is leading the ACC and the nation with 2.5 field goals per game, has made 70 career field goals, which makes him the NCAA's active career leader.

-- Edward G. Robinson III

Postgame notes, quotes from FSU-N.C. State

Postgame notes and quotes after N.C. State's 26-17 loss to Florida State at Carter-Finley Stadium.

- Florida State had the ball for 38 minutes, 16 seconds, the most for an N.C. State opponent this season. Each of the Wolfpack's last three opponents has had the ball for at least 35 minutes.

- N.C. State didn't have a turnover for the second straight game. It's the first time the Wolfpack has gone two straight games without a turnover since 2002.

- Freshman T.J. Graham set an N.C. State record for kickoff return yards in a season. Graham has 736 kickoff return yards. He broke the previous mark of 721 yards by Bobby Hall in 1968.

- N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson threw touchdown passes of 20 yards to Anthony Hill and 67 yards to Owen Spencer. Wilson has six touchdown passes and just one interception in 115 attempts.

- "The past three, four, five years, we've lost this kind of game. We've made too many mistakes in the past. It's especially difficult here at North Carolina State with a packed crowd and a loud crowd. I think our guys were all caught up watching that, and then we finally woke up and put things together." - Florida State coach Bobby Bowden

- "(Florida State) is a good team, but I feel we should have won that game." - N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson

- Ken Tysiac

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Pianalto out for Tar Heels vs. Virginia

North Carolina tight end Zach Pianalto will not play at Virginia this weekend because of a sprained right ankle, according to the injury report released Thursday. Pianalto was hurt during UNC's win over Notre Dame all Saturday, and has been day-to-day in practice all week. The full injury report:

PROBABLE: DL Quinton Coples (foot); DL Darrius Massenburg (knee); DL Tydreke Powell (chest)

QUESTIONABLE: OL Bryan Bishop (back); DL Greg Elleby (ankle); LB Linwan Euwell (thigh); WR Rashad Mason (thigh)

OUT: TE Zach Pianalto (ankle); QB T.J. Yates (ankle); DB Richie Rich (thigh); TE Randy White (back); WR Brandon Tate (knee)

No rallying cry this time for Pack

N.C. State went 4-2 in the second half of the 2007 season.

After a 1-5 start, coach Tom O'Brien (above, in headset) used the final six games as a "new season," a rallying cry to motivate his team.

The wipe-the-slate-clean approach worked, to a certain extent, for O'Brien in 2007 but he won't be going back to it this season.

Even though the situations are similar: State's 2-4 and, like last year, is coming off a bye before the start of the second half of the season.

"We're 3 minutes away from being a 3-3 football team," O'Brien said.

Last season, O'Brien was able to use the bye week to bench some players on defense and inject new life into the lineup, given the number of injuries and available scholarship players (46), O'Brien said there is no opportunity for a shakeup.

He'll skip the second-half slogans, too.

"Our rallying cry is to get better each and every week," he said.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wolfpack's Irving probable for FSU game

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien said Wednesday that he doesn’t know how much linebacker Nate Irving will play Thursday night against Florida State.

Irving, who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury, is listed as probable, which means he has a 75 percent chance of playing against the Seminoles.

“I think he can play some, but we’ll have to wait and see as he heals here in the next 24 hours and as the game goes on Thursday night,” O’Brien said Wednesday morning during the ACC’s weekly coaches’ teleconference.

Defensive tackle Alan-Michael Cash, who is returning from a three-game absence because of knee surgery, has practiced a whole week and will return Thursday.

O’Brien called Cash the team’s best defensive lineman and Irving the best defensive player.

So it’s important for us to get the two of them back in there and get them playing,” O’Brien said. “But what we have to do is be careful. Neither one of them has played in over a month and have been in game action. Their playing time will be limited somewhat because we still have five games after this one to play.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Duke's Riley plays through thumb injury

DURHAM — Duke wideout Eron Riley is playing through a thumb ligament injury in his right hand. The hand was slightly swollen during Tuesday's regular press conference at the Yoh Football Center but Riley said, nearly two weeks after it happened, it's less swollen than before
and he's feeling much better.

Riley said he tore a ligament in his right thumb the Thursday before Duke played at Georgia Tech but it is something he can play through. Riley has not missed any practices or game time because of it.

-- Luciana Chavez

Heels must slow Cedric Peerman

CHAPEL HILL — If No. 18 North Carolina is to halt its 13-game losing streak at Virginia this weekend, it needs to slow an all-too-familiar foe — Cavaliers tailback Cedric Peerman (above).

The senior ran for 173 yards and two touchdowns against East Carolina last Saturday, and the Tar Heels (5-1) are no stranger to his style.

“That Peerman kid, it seems like he’s been there forever – five, six years, it seems like,’’ UNC linebacker Mark Paschal said.

Actually, it’s five (he redshirted in 2004). But it’s not surprising that it may seem like longer for the Tar Heels.

Last year, he shredded UNC’s defense for 186 yards and a touchdown in Virginia’s 22-20 win. In 2006, he had five carries for 32 yards as a reserve during the Tar Heels' 23-0 loss. He also carried 11 times as a freshman, but only for 4 yards. UNC won that game 7-5.

“ He’s a really good running back, he’s one of the tougher runners that we play,’’ Paschal said. “Not one person is going to bring that guy down; he does a lot of things really well, he catches the ball well. But yards after contact is what I’ve really seen on film from that guy; he’s a tough competitor and he’s somebody we’re going to have to take a good look at this week.”

The Tar Heels are giving up 132.5 rushing yards per game this season.

Peerman is averaging 75.8 rushing yards per game, and has scored four rushing touchdowns.

-- Robbi Pickeral

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NCAA president stops at N.C. State

RALEIGH -- When NCAA President Myles Brand was a boy, he’d take the subway to Ebbets Field to watch one of his heroes, Jackie Robinson, play for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

Robinson was major league baseball’s first African American player.
“The persistence of the man to break through the color barrier was startling,” Brand said Monday night at the Stewart Theater on N.C. State’s campus.

Brand spoke as part of N.C. State’s Millennium Lecture series. The former Indiana University president is the first NCAA president with a background in academia rather than athletics administration.
His passion is strengthening the coupling of academics and athletics at U.S. educational institutions and beyond. Next week he will meet with the minister of education in China to explain how athletics can complement athletics as the Chinese seek to enhance their global status after hosting the Summer Olympics.

Brand told the N.C. State audience that athletics teaches life skills, engages the community on campus and beyond, and encourages social justice – as Robinson did before integration took place on a large scale in the United States.

“While sports didn’t do that alone, sports is an important part of social justice – and it ought to be,” Brand said.

Brand hit hot-button topics such as:

Rapidly rising coaches’ salaries. He said antitrust laws prevent the NCAA from capping salaries, but he is concerned. “I think universities have to ask some hard questions. At what point is it appropriate in higher education for certain salary levels?”

A football playoff. “What counts the most (in football) is the regular season. . . .Why would anyone what to put that at rest and turn football into a tournament sport?”

Stagnant hiring rates for females in athletics director positions. “That’s a very serious challenge. What the NCAA can do is provide professional development activities for women.”

Afterward, Brand met members of a crowd that included an estimated 400 N.C. State varsity athletes.

“It’s something that today they may not realize,” said N.C. State athletics director Lee Fowler, “but somewhere down the road it will be important that they had the head of the NCAA come speak to them.”

-- Ken Tysiac

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Independence's Smith starring for App

Before the season, one Appalachian State coach predicted that linebacker D.J. Smith, even though he was only going to be a sophomore, would end up as the Southern Conference's top defender. Smith, who is from Charlotte and starred at Independence High, spent Saturday adding a nice page to the resume he can submit when that honor is decided, collecting a game-high 16 tackles (12 solo) in ASU's 35-24 victory at Samford.

The performance tied a career high and gave Smith the Southern Conference's Defensive Player of the Week award. It was the eighth time Smith had reached double figures in 15 games.

The Mountaineers also won the offensive award, with QB Armanti Edwards selected for the second straight week. Edwards had 370 total yards, throwing for three TDs and running for another. He completed 22 of 29 passes for 307 yards.

*Western Carolina QB Zack Jaynes was picked as the SC Freshman of the Week in his first start. Although the Catamounts lost at Furman, Jaynes completed 33 of 48 passes for 302 yards and two scores. He also scored Western's other TD on a 4-yard run, and totaled 36 rushing yards.

--Stan Olson

Bowden, a good guy, will be missed

Less than 11 months ago, I ran into Clemson athletics director Terry Don Phillips in the hallway of the ACC headquarters hotel before the conference football championship game in Jacksonville, Fla.

Phillips seemed excited about the direction of Clemson’s football program under Tommy Bowden, who was about to get a contract extension. Phillips said recruiting was going well and was pleased that the Tigers seemed to have two excellent quarterbacks in their program in Cullen Harper and Willy Korn.

But when Clemson flopped this season, Phillips was left with little choice on what to do with Bowden. It’s his 10th season, and the Tigers still haven’t won an ACC title under Bowden.

Despite Bowden’s recruiting success, a 7-2 record against rival South Carolina and significant facilities improvements, Clemson hasn’t come close to challenging for a national championship. And the specter of the 1981 national championship season loomed heavier over Bowden with each passing year.

In many respects, it’s a shame. I found Bowden to be a decent guy when I was covering the team for The State Newspaper in Columbia from 1999 to 2003.

We had disagreements, most notably when he threatened to stop taking my calls after I wrote something he didn’t like in the 2000 preseason. But he also took the time to call and congratulate me following the births of both my children after teasing me for missing post-practice interviews to attend Lamaze class with my wife.

During one remarkable week, he gave me access to his pre-game meeting with then-offensive coordinator Brad Scott as they prepared to play Louisiana Tech. They laid out their entire game plan, right down to which hash mark they wanted to start their first play from on offense, so I could write about how much their play calling resembled their script.

There aren’t many coaches who would bother to do that with members of the media, but Bowden understood the importance of openness in getting information on his team to the public.

Bowden, of course, is set for life financially because of his buyout and the handsome compensation he commanded over 10 years at Clemson. In this troubled economy, we should save our sympathy for the unemployed who can’t put food on the table and retirees whose investments have tanked.

But Tommy Bowden will be missed, even though the time was right for him to part ways with Clemson.

-- Ken Tysiac

UNC's Tate out for season with ACL injury

If North Carolina is going to catch Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division, the Tar Heels are going to have to do it without Brandon Tate.

The senior playmaker will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee, UNC announced Monday.

"This is certainly tough for our football team," UNC coach Butch Davis said. "It's tough on him, he's such a great kid, and valuable, integral part of this football team.

"We don't have another Brandon Tate to pull off the shelf and plug in the game."

Tate injured his knee when he was tackled on a punt return (pictured above) in the first quarter of UNC's 29-24 win over Notre Dame on Saturday. Mike Anello's tackle, a head-on collision with Tate's right knee, tore the ACL and MCL in Tate's knee, according to statement released by UNC.

Tate led the ACC, and ranked third in the NCAA, in all-purpose yardage (163.7 yards per game) heading into Saturday's game. He finishes the season with 376 receiving yards, 305 kickoff return yards, 158 punt return yards, 143 rushing yards and five total touchdowns. For his career, Tate is the NCAA's all-time leader in combined kick return yards with 3,523.

This is the second major loss to injury for the 18th-ranked Tar Heels. Quarterback T.J. Yates fractured a bone in his left ankle in the third game of the season and has missed the past three games. Yates was originally diagnosed to miss six weeks, or five games.

The strong play of quarterback Cam Sexton, 38-of-67 for 567 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, has offset the loss of Yates. The Heels are 3-0 under Sexton.

The loss of Tate could be more damaging. The team's top playmaker carried the offense over the first three games with his kick returns and ability to not only catch the ball but run it.

Without Tate, Hakeem Nicks, Johnny White and Kendric Burney will likely handle kick-returning duties. Burney returned punts against Notre Dame while White and receiver Hakeem Nicks handled kickoffs.

On offense, senior Brooks Foster moves into Tate's receiving slot and receiver-turned-running back Greg Little could move back to receiver with the emergence of Shaun Draughn at running back.

"It will put us in a situation to look for expanded roles for different guys on the team there are going to be some guys we ask more out of," Davis said.

-- J.P. Giglio

App's Edwards impresses with passing

The more you watch Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards (right), the more you appreciate him. He has a reputation for being quick and elusive, but he may actually be a better passer than a runner. His combination of arm strength and accuracy is unusual at any college level, he's adept at picking out open receivers and able to throw on the run. Edwards gave the Mountaineers control of what would be a 35-24 victory at Samford Saturday by completing 18 of 20 passes -- in the first half.

Along the way, Edwards became just the seventh NCAA Division I quarterback to reach 5,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards in a career, and he's only about halfway through his junior year. The first six players to reach these figures, according to ASU stat guru Mike Flynn, were Louisiana-Lafayette's Brian Mitchell (1986-89), Morehead State's David Dinkins (1997-2000), Indiana's Antwaan Randle El (1998-01), Texas' Vince Young (2003-05), Missouri's Brad Smith (2002-05) and Joshua
Cribbs (Kent State - 2001-04).

*While Appalachian improved to 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the Southern Conference, the Mountaineers and everyone else in the SC is looking up at Elon. The Phoenix is 4-0 in the league (6-1 overall) after edging The Citadel Saturday in Charleston, S.C., 27-23. ASU is tied for second with Wofford, which pounded Chattanooga 56-7. The Terriers scored the game's final 49 points on the way to 564 total yards.

*And keep an eye on Western Carolina. The Catamounts made things interesting against Furman, rallying from a 21-0 deficit before losing 28-21 under new coach Dennis Wagner. WCU is 0-3 and has lost 18 straight SC games, but appears to be considerably improved over recent editions.
--Stan Olson

Sunday, October 12, 2008

ACC: Both calls in UNC game correct

After further review, both calls from the replay booth in the final minutes of North Carolina’s 29-24 victory over Notre Dame were right, the ACC’s coordinator of football officials said Sunday morning.
“They were both close, but there was irrefutable video evidence to support the reversals as correct,'' Doug Rhoads said in a phone interview.
There were actually four reviews in the game, but the final two — in the final 2 minutes, 2 seconds — were the most controversial.

-- With Carolina leading by five points, wide receiver Brooks Foster appeared to grab a 29-yard pass from Cameron Sexton on the sideline on third down. As Foster's elbow hit the ground, the ball was jarred loose. The play was originally called a completion, but it was overturned on instant replay, Rhoads said, based on guidelines set by the College Football Officials Association.
So Carolina had to punt.
“If a player is airborne and catches the ball, with or without contact, when the player comes to the ground, he must maintain possession of the ball,’’ Rhoads said, citing the CFO’s rules. “If he immediately loses it, it’s incomplete.”

-- Then, with about 11 seconds left, Notre Dame quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw to wide receiver Michael Floyd, who caught it around the 7-yard line. UNC cornerback Jordan Hemby tackled him, the ball popped loose, and Tar Heel safety Trimane Goddard dove on it at the 19. Officials on the field originally ruled Floyd down by contact, Notre Dame tried to spike the ball with 1 second left — and as both teams started running onto the field, officials started waving them back to their respective sidelines.

Rhoads said that Joe Rider — the replay official in the booth who officiated for the ACC on the field for two decades — did buzz the official on the field before Clausen snapped the ball, but there was a delay in announcing the review because of all of the hubbub.
Upon replay in the booth, Rider judged that Floyd fumbled as he rolled over another player’s back, and that 3 seconds should be put back on the game clock.
The review took so long — 4 minutes, 7 seconds — Rhoads said, because the official in the booth had trouble communicating immediately with the official on the field. (It may have been caused by an equipment malfunction, or just so much noise that the field official couldn't hear.)
Big East officials were on the field, and an ACC replay official was in the box, Rhoads said, because unless it is otherwise stated in the contract, the home team’s league provides the replay official and the visiting team provides the officials on the field. He added that the same communications problem could have happened had the all be from the ACC, or from the Big East.
The most important thing, Rhoads said, was that in the end, the correct calls were made.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Chuck Amato says ...

In a wide-ranging teleconference with reporters Friday morning, former N.C. State coach Chuck Amato (right) touted the program’s accomplishments during his tenure. Amato, 49-37 over seven years before he was fired at the end of the 2006 season, will visit N.C. State on Thursday night as a top assistant to Florida State’s Bobby Bowden.

-“When you’re building a program, your won-loss record, we won an average of 49 games over seven years. That’s an average of seven wins a season. That’s a lot of wins now.”

-“I was talking bringing a national championship, and why not? That’s the way it should be. That’s where excitement comes in. It doesn’t happen overnight. If Duke had fired Mike Krzyzewski after the third or fourth year? What a crime.”

-“There were games that came down to the last play that we could have won (in 2006, when N.C. State finished 3-9 with seven losses by eight or fewer points). And had we won that Wake Forest game (a 25-23 loss), we may have been the team to represent our division in the conference championship.”

-“I knew what was wrong. And it would have been fixed. But I’m not one that was going to fix things in the middle of the season. Because I’m not that way. I’ve been around Bobby Bowden too long and being the professional that he is and how he operates, and Lou Holtz, there’s right ways and wrong ways.”

-“I don’t hold grudges, because I love that university and I always will, and I’m just not that kind of a person.”

-“That’s my goal. I will be a head coach (again). And I feel like there’s going to be a team out there who wants a head coach to lead their program that has been through the wars and has got head coaching experience, has been to bowl games and has averaged seven wins a season in a very difficult league and raised excitement and energy.”
– Ken Tysiac

For more on this story, read Saturday’s Charlotte Observer

Clemson in Top 10? Wrong, wrong, wrong

After Thursday's truly craptacular performance in the national spotlight, the second this season for Clemson and coach Tommy Bowden (right), it's fairly obvious Bowden hates the media.

Why else would the Tigers coach go to such great lengths to make us look so bad? Very clever, Tommy, sacrificing your own career to show the rest of the world just to show how dense we really are. Brilliant. You got us.

And at this point, I'm coming clean. I owe every reader an apology. I'm sorry. I picked Clemson to win the ACC and ranked the Tigers in the top 10 (No. 7) of my preseason AP Top 25.

I couldn't have been more wrong. That was painfully clear by the middle of the second quarter of Thursday's 12-7 loss to Wake Forest when the Tigers had negative rushing yardage and zero first downs. This, an offense, that features two future NFL running backs.

The only solace in my folly is I have company. Fifty other ACC writers picked the Tigers to win their first conference title since 1991 and the AP sent Clemson off as the No. 9 team in the country.

A bad pick is my problem, I'll live with it. Tommy's are much bigger, at least until December.

It's not that Clemson lost, give Wake Forest credit for being a good football team. The Deacs aren't great, certainly not on offense or even special teams on Thursday, but the Deacs are well-coached and have an exceptional defense.

As Bowden said in the postmortem of the latest demoralizing loss in a long line of demoralizing losses in his 10-year tenure: "We tried everything."

Maybe but Bowden's ultimate failure is not only Xs and Os, and there were plenty of examples of that particular deficiency on Thursday, but in motivation and game management.

The former has to be the most disconcerting to the ever-so-patient IPTAYers. After the season-opening embarrassment against Alabama, albeit a performance softened by the Tide's subsequent climb in the national polls, Clemson was given a second chance on Thursday to show the world at-large they were a good football team.

Bowden, who presumably inherited the gift to motivate from his father — because he sure hasn't won 72 games at Clemson with his tactical brilliance — should have had the Tigers frothing at the mouth on Thursday.

Instead, the Tigers were indifferent. ESPN, so what? A ranked opponent? Eh. A chance to get back in the ACC race? Yawn.

And that's why coaches get fired. Not because you go on a message board and rant, or because I think Clemson should win the ACC and it won't, but because the players tune out the message. You could hear the radio silence in Tiger Town from Winston-Salem.

Even a wild-banshee of an effort on Thursday may not have compensated up for Bowden's circus of errors and multiple violations of Coaching 101.

To wit:

• Clemson's first drive of the second half started on its own 17-yard line and with a holding penalty, which is forgivable. First down is replayed and a pass to Jacoby Ford goes for 10 yards.

Except, Ford loses his shoe on the play. Instead of coming off the field, Clemson calls timeout. What?

Four minutes into the second half, with the ball deep in their own territory, there's no reason to call a timeout. Ever.

Then, coming out of the timeout, Clemson's flagged for a false start. That's not forgiveable, not after you burned a timeout to save a 5-yard penalty for delay of game.

These are game mismanagement mistakes you would expect at Duke, not at a football school like Clemson's.

Those timeouts, or lack thereof — Clemson called its second with 2:38 left in the third quarter — turned into a big problem when the Tigers got the ball back with 5:28 left in the game, down by five points and with no timeouts.

The Tigers ended up going for it on fourth down, twice from their own end of the field — and actually converting on fourth-and-17 from the 20 — but Bowden gambled correctly (for once), with no way to stop the clock, there wasn't enough time to punt, play field position and get the ball back.

• With 9 seconds left in the first half, and the ball on Wake's 39-yard line, Bowden calls timeout on fourth down.

You call timeout with 12 seconds left, and hope to convert the fourth down and get a field goal, or second shot at the end zone, or you call timeout with 1 second left and take one heave to the end zone.

What you don't do is call timeout with 9 seconds left, which Bowden did.

Cullen Harper threw an incomplete pass and gave Wake the ball back with 4 seconds left. Wake took a knee on the next play, so it ultimately didn't matter, but it's the principle.

The good news for Tommy is Arkansas' willingness to throw money at any ACC coach with a pulse last December, netted him a $4 million buyout. That parachute is reduced by $500,000 come this December, when he'll finally be shown the door.

He'll even probably find another job, maybe on TV like his brother, where he'll find out what it's like to have a coach make you play the fool.

-- J.P. Giglio

UNC-Penn State series? Not a deal yet

On his weekly radio show, Penn State coach Joe Paterno referenced playing North Carolina in football in the future, according to the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.

But UNC associate athletics director Larry Gallo said Friday morning nothing has been scheduled yet.

"We have been talking over the years, and trying to work out something,'' Gallo said. "Certainly, if something like that could be consummated, it could be a very good series."

In the meantime, Gallo continues to look for an opponent to fill out UNC's schedule for next season. That has been tricky, he said, because the Tar Heels would rather play a home game, don't want to schedule a second I-AA team in one season, and would prefer a "one-shot deal" instead of scheduling a home-and-home, especially considering they don't have another open slot to fill until 2012. At this point, he added Tuesday, they haven't rule out playing another road game next season.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Thursday, October 9, 2008

N.C. State's Clem Johnson almost ready to play

There aren't many N.C. State players who can use an open date more than Clem Johnson. During preseason practice, Johnson quickly distinguished himself as a likely starter at the boundary safety position. But then he suffered a broken jaw in a preseason scrimmage.

Coach Tom O'Brien initially feared he would be out all season. Johnson returned after about six weeks, but now is behind schedule in terms of learning how to fit into the scheme of the defense. He's a junior college transfer in his first season with the team.

"We'll take advantage of the week we have off," he said. Johnson said the pain of the broken jaw can't match the agony of being unable to eat with a jaw that's wired shut. His stomach would hurt when he went to the cafeteria and saw other students eating. His own diet was limited to liquids, especially milkshakes. Even when he got the braces off, he was disappointed.

"Before I got the wires off, I'm thinking, I'm going to have steak, chicken," Johnson said. "But my mouth wasn't ready for all the hard, solid foods. So I pretty much had to eat the tender foods."

Johnson said he isn't shying away from contact because his doctor told him that when healed, his jaw would be at least as strong as it was before. He recorded his first career interception last week in the fourth quarter against Boston College. And he is trying to take advantage of the extra practice and put himself in a more prominent role. – Ken Tysiac

Davis wants more Tar Heels-Irish matchups

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina's game against Notre Dame on Saturday completes a home-and-home agreement that was signed in the late 1990s.

But UNC coach Butch Davis said he would like to try to schedule another series with the Fighting Irish sometime in the future.

"Notre Dame obviously brings a lot of mystique, and the history of the program, the tradition ... it's rare,'' Davis said. "I would like to think that maybe sometime we could schedule another home-and-home with Notre Dame. You don't play them every year, but maybe over a 10-year period of time you get to play them twice."

Larry Gallo, the Tar Heels' senior associate athletics director, said he plans to talk to Notre Dame about the possibility of scheduling another series. But it may not be easy. Traditionally, the Irish like to play seven or eight home games in South Bend, Ind., each year.

"And they're going to play a couple of service academies on the road," Davis said, "and they have the historical game with Southern Cal that every other year, it's going to be in Los Angeles. So there are not a lot of opportunities to get a chance to get on the schedule with them, but certainly it's a cool thing certainly for this area."

UNC lost at Notre Dame 45-26 in 2006. The No. 22 Tar Heels and unranked Irish are both 4-1.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Wake's Swank only 50-50 to play tonight

Wake Forest senior kicker Sam Swank injured his right quadriceps in a practice this week and there's only a 50-50 chance he'll play for the Demon Deacons' home game against Clemson on Thursday.

Wake coach Jim Grobe said on the ACC's teleconference Wednesday that redshirt freshman Shane Popham might have to replace Swank in the lineup for kicking and punting duties.

Swank, the nation's leader in field goals, injured himself kicking near the end of practice on Monday.

On Wednesday, the Deacons held a walk-through practice in the rain and school officials said Swank did not participate. Wake officials said trainers are tending to his injury with a 50-50 chance that he may be ready for Thursday night's 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

"He did it on Monday night," Grobe said. "So by [Thursday] night, who knows? He could be ready to go."

The Deacs certainly hope so.

Swank (above, against Florida State) leads the nation with 10 field goals this season and is tops among active ACC players with 70 career field goals made. His career total ties him for second place in ACC history with Nelson Welch of Clemson.

He has made 70 of 89 career field goal attempts and converted a perfect 116-for-116 PATs.

Grobe said Swank's possible absence is a "big concern," though he expressed faith in Popham, a native of Crestview Hills, Ky., who was placed on scholarship in January.

Grobe said his backup, who joined the team as a walk-on in 2007, has a strong leg but no experience. Swank has done all the kicking for the Deacs this season.

"I'm sure he'll be a little bit nervous," Grobe said of Popham. "The ability is there, it's just a matter of keeping him calm."

-- Edward G. Robinson III

Wofford's Terriers more than pesky so far

Wofford's ninth-ranked football team is off to a strong start; the Terriers are 3-1 and in their only loss played South Carolina tough before falling 23-13. But coach Mike Ayers thinks they can be a whole lot better.

Asked about the performance of his offense, which is averaging 36.5 points a game, Ayers said, "Not as good as we'd like; I don't think we've been as consistent as we need to be. We've had three football games where we should have put the game away early and didn't."

Ayers may have a point when discussing Wofford's first two games, a 38-21 win over Presbyterian and a 41-23 decision over Charleston Southern, but it's hard to find fault with the Terriers' last outing.

They went to Georgia Southern, a place where almost no one but Georgia Southern ever wins, and knocked off the Eagles 38-37. Then they took last week off, preparing for Saturday's game at undermanned Chattanooga (1-5, 0-2 Southern Conference).

Coaches, though, have to stress things their teams need to improve on. Wofford is good but young, and Ayers is trying to keep his team's attention.

"On a scale of F to A, we're probably a C+," he said of his squad. "And we have to be a lot better than that to compete in the conference."

Still, Wofford's ground game has been fearsome so far. The Terriers are averaging a league-leading 329.5 yards per game and claim two of the SC's top three rushers, senior Dane Romero (86-yard average) and freshman Mitch Allen (72.7). (That's Romero above, taking the ball from quarterback Ben Widmyer.)

"We're still a work in progress," Ayers said. "The league is really strong and we have to improve a great deal in order to be successful."

--Stan Olson

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Playing Notre Dame is always a rush

Lou Holtz said it didn't matter whether Notre Dame was 11-0 or 0-11.

(Notre Dame actually has never been 0-11 in football, but Holtz was trying to make a point).

Regardless of the record, former Notre Dame coach Holtz said opposing teams and fans always were highly motivated when the Irish played a road game. Notre Dame plays at North Carolina on Saturday against a Tar Heel team ranked No. 22 in the nation.

Both teams are 4-1.

"North Carolina has really impressed me this year," said Holtz, who now works as an ESPN analyst. "I think Butch Davis has done an excellent job. They're playing very physical. Despite losing their quarterback, to lose T.J. Yates (hurt), but they have (Cameron) Sexton playing so well. It should be a fine game."

Holtz said that Notre Dame eventually will return to elite status in college football after going 3-9 last season. But Holtz said the current team is good, but not great. That won't stop North Carolina from considering this a marquee win if it manages to defeat the Irish.

But Holtz predicted that Notre Dame will be motivated, too.

"As motivating as it is to play against Notre Dame, I found it was even more motivating to play for Notre Dame," he said.
-- Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Heels' Sexton has something up his sleeve

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina quarterback Cameron Sexton has a new look since he last started in 2006 (besides his poised demeanor on the field, that is).

The redshirt junior is sporting an elbow-to-bicep sleeve on his throwing arm, a la Allen Iverson. Like the NBA star, Sexton first donned the stretchy white fabric for function, but he keeps wearing it for form.

"I started wearing it last year when I was feeling some soreness in my elbow, and I kind of threw it on,'' Sexton said. "I actually liked it a lot, and kind of stuck with it, and now it's sort of become my niche, I guess. I like it, so I'm sticking with it."

He's gotten a lot of good-natured grief for the style, though, particularly from his offensive linemen. During Sunday's walk-through, he said, center Aaron Stahl walked onto the field wearing Sexton's No. 11 jersey — and his arm-sleeve. The imitation earned a good laugh, especially from Sexton, who has thrown for 359 yards and three touchdowns in his last two games.

"The other guys wear it for more need reasons that I do, so it's not catching on, no,'' Sexton said, grinning.

However, "I still think it keeps my arm warm, and I'm throwing well with it, so it's not coming off now."

-- Robbi Pickeral

Tar Heels' Little faces team he snubbed

In February of 2007, Durham Hillside's Greg Little delighted North Carolina fans on signing day by reneging on a commitment to Notre Dame and signing with the Tar Heels as a member of coach Butch Davis' first recruiting class.

Now Little gets a chance to face the team he snubbed when North Carolina plays host to Notre Dame on Saturday.

Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis said during his weekly news conference Tuesday that he harbors no hard feelings toward Little, who plays running back for the Tar Heels.

"Anytime you're involved in recruiting, the toughest thing to do is get a guy to leave his home state," Weis said. "At the end of the day, he felt more comfortable staying home. Do I like that happening? No, but who can really fault a guy who stays home?"

Weis plans to continue recruiting in North Carolina. He said Davis and the Tar Heels are often a factor when Notre Dame pursues players in the Atlantic Coast region, but has three key defensive players from North Carolina on his roster in Bunn's Kerry Neal, Davie County High alumnus Raeshon McNeil and Matthews Butler High alum Robert Blanton.

"We don't go after every kid in the state," Weis said. "But every year we'll go into North Carolina and go after a handful of guys and try to come out with a couple."

– Ken Tysiac

Practice will determine QB at WCU

As first-year Western Carolina coach Dennis Wagner tries to jump-start the rebuilding process in Cullowhee, he's still trying to come up with a steady option at quarterback.

He has a veteran in senior Andy Horn and a newcomer in freshman Zack Jaynes, and said today that practice this week would decide who would start Saturday against Furman.

Horn has completed 93 of 160 passes for 6 touchdowns and just one interception, but has also struggled with some minor injuries. Jaynes has completed 25 of 42 passes for a score and a pick.

“We told them both that they were going to compete this week in practice," Wagner said. "We are going in with the thought that if they are even, then the senior (Andy Horn) is the guy that plays because he has gotten us to this point thus far. Andy’s had a few injuries and he’s been banged up and not performed to his ability and that opened the door for Zack (Jaynes) to come in and play.

"He got a chance to go in for a couple drives in The Citadel game, took us down for a touchdown. He got into the Samford game and moved the ball, but didn’t get us into the end zone. He made a couple mistakes that young guys do – and we’re willing to live with that.

"We are going to need both of these guys through this whole process. We still have six teams left to play and they are all very fine football teams. So, we are going to compete this week and make a decision. If it’s close, the senior will start, but the freshman will play.”

- Stan Olson

App's Edwards says ankle is fine

A sprained left ankle was supposed to prevent Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards from playing last Saturday, but he recovered quickly and starred in the Mountaineers' 47-21 victory over The Citadel in Boone.

Edwards, whose team plays at new Southern Conference member Samford on Saturday, was asked this morning how the ankle feels now.

"It's pretty good and getting better," he said. "(After the game) it was pretty sore, just like after a workout when you haven't worked out for awhile. Your body's sore; my ankle was feeling just like that."

He added that the ankle is no problem; he's doing everything in practice.

-- Also, two Appalachian players, Edwards and CB Cortez Gilbert, have been named Southern Conference players of the week for their work in the Citadel game.

Edwards shook off the ankle injury to win the offensive award with 305 yards of total offense (225 passing, 80 rushing). He threw for four TDs while completing 14 of 18 passes, and ran for two more. Along the way, he became the 12th player in NCAA Division I history to amass 3,000 passing yards and 3,000 rushing yards in a career.

Gilbert, the SC's Defensive Player of the Week, registered a game-high-tying 11 tackles and broke up two passes while helping hold the Bulldogs' offense to 14 points and 170 yards below its season averages in the Mountaineers' win. He was a key to stopping Citadel all-American WR Andre Roberts, helping limit Roberts to 52 receiving yards.

-- Stan Olson

At UNC, let there be light ... without mishaps

CHAPEL HILL — A UNC spokesman said a failed breaker was responsible for the outage in the northeast bank of lights over Kenan Stadium on Saturday. The breaker has been replaced.

The darkness caused a 22-minute delay in the third quarter during the Tar Heels' 38-12 victory over then-No. 24 UConn. The school also turned off the northwest bank of lights during the delay because it thought it would be faster to power both up at the same time.

The breakers are tested before each season, spokesman Steve Kirschner said.

Saturday's delay was just the latest mishap that has plagued the stadium during night games this year. During the season-opener against McNeese State, weather delayed the game for more than an hour, a lightning strike caused a small fire to the P.A. system, an elevator to the press box broke down, a small piece of concrete fell into one of the sections, and the game ball was inadvertantly delivered via parachutists to Duke's Wallace Wade Stadium instead of Kenan.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

UNC notes: Big-play Austin no speedster

After watching 300-pound Marvin Austin’s interception return for a touchdown Saturday night, coach Butch Davis told the defensive lineman that they were going to “start timing guys with hour glasses.”

“That was the longest 7-yard run I’ve ever seen in my life,’’ Davis said, laughing.

Actually, it was 23 yards, but you get the point.

Austin said that when he saw E.J. Wilson pressuring UConn quarterback Zach Frazer, and the ball coming toward him, “I’d been dreaming about that for years — scooping it up, taking it in.

“But it came, I bent down, I caught it. I almost fell twice, actually, but I just got to the end zone. But it was all E.J.'s fault, he just got in there and got that pressure. We just go out and play hard, like they tell us, and things will come to you.It marked one of three Tar Heel interceptions during their 38-12 win over the No. 24 Huskies. They now have 12 picks for the season – one more than all of last year.

NO QB SHUFFLE: Junior quarterback Cameron Sexton made his first start since 2006, and redshirt freshman Mike Paulus — who Davis said would play — never made it into the game. Sexton, who led the Tar Heels to a fourth-quarter comeback last week, finished 9-for-16 with one interception and one touchdown.

“I thought Camer on did an outstanding job of just managing the game,’’ Davis said. “There were lot of emotional ups and downs. It was kind of hard offensively to get into a rhythm, because you would score a in a couple of plays of the defensie would get an interception or block a punt, and it was kind of a bizarre game. I thought he managed the game well.”

RUNNING AWAY WITH IT: Sophomore Shaun Draughn became the first tailback this year to rush for over 100 yards in a game (wide receiver Brandon Tate also went over 100 earlier this season).

Draughn carried 19 times for 109 yards. Starter Greg Little had three carries for six yards.

“I guess I got the ball more than I usually get,’’ Draughn said. “The O-line is getting better, getting smarter in the things we do. It’s nothing different that what we’ve been doing from Week One, we’re just getting better at it.”

DARK DELAY: The game was delayed 22 minutes in the third quarter after two banks of lights went out. But Davis said the team handled the halt much better than during the season opener, when its game against McNeese State was delayed for more than an hour.

“We kind of circled everybody up and we said, ‘Look, sometimes you get tested in life … and if you don’t handle it very good, you’re going to get it again,’’’ Davis said. “The first time, we didn’t handle it very well, so we got it again. So I told everybody, ‘Don’t look at the stands, don’t look at the video Jumbotron, don’t be looking at the cheerleaders and the band. We’ve got to stay focused and come out of this break – whether it’s five minutes or 20 minutes – we’ve got to come out and start fast.”

And they did.

-Robbi Pickeral, The (Raleigh) News & Observer

Friday, October 3, 2008

Northside Christian DE picks N.C. State

Northside Christian Academy defensive end Sylvester Crawford, who committed to N.C. State this week, doesn’t immediately stand out as a freakishly talented athlete.

But according to Northside Christian coach Brentson Buckner, college coaches were excited when they turned on the film and saw what he could do on the field.

“You see him do things that a lot of high school football players can’t do as far as technique,” Buckner said.

Crawford, who is 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, chose N.C. State over Clemson and West Virginia, Buckner said. Through four games, Crawford has 41 tackles, including 10 sacks, three caused fumbles and two fumble recoveries, according to Buckner.

N.C. State also has received commitments this week from Ohio prospects Bryan Underwood of Cleveland Heights High and Anthony Talbert of Winton Woods High in Cincinnati.

Underwood is a 5-10, 165-pound wide receiver who was heavily recruited by some Big Ten schools, Texas Tech and West Virginia. Talbert is a 6-5, 230-pound tight end who has dead lifted an incredible 705 pounds and is a ferocious blocker for an offense that relies almost exclusively on the running game. He also was recruited by several Mid-American Conference schools and Cincinnati.

– Ken Tysiac

Appalachian looks for special homecoming

A key to Appalachian's homecoming game with The Citadel -- also the Mountaineers' Southern Conference opener -- will be the play of its special teams. The Citadel comes to Boone with one of the best punt returners in the Football Championship Subdivision, all-American wide receiver Andre Roberts. Roberts is tops in the conference with a 20.8 return average on punts, and third in the FCS.

Meanwhile, ASU has stumbled in that area, allowing an average of 14.1 yards per punt return and 25.8 yards on kickoffs. The Mountaineers allowed a 60-yard punt return for a TD against non-scholarship Jacksonville. Then they yielded a 99-yard kickoff return to James Madison following halftime, shifting momentum in a game that wound up a loss. And last week, even though they blew out overmatched Presbyterian, they allowed the Blue Hose to return a punt 56 yards.

Appalachian's special teams -- like their starting units -- are young and learning. They'll have to learn quickly against The Citadel, which is off to a 3-1 start.

*ASU linebacker Pierre Banks has been named a semifinalist for the 2008 Draddy Award, presented annually to the nation's premier football scholar-athlete by the National Football Foundation. He is one of 164 players so honored. Banks has a 3.91 grade-point average in graduate studies for a master's degree in educational media, which he expects to receive in December. He earned a bachelor's degree in communication — electronic media/broadcasting in three years and should receive his master's in a year-and-a-half.

-- Stan Olson

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

ASU's Edwards returns to practice

Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards was back on the field Wednesday for the first time since injuring his left ankle in Saturday's win over Presbyterian.

Edwards took part in about three-quarters of the practice activities and reported only minor discomfort in the sprained joint, according to a school spokesman. Barring any setbacks, he is expected to practice again on Thursday and likely will start against The Citadel Saturday in Boone. The game, the conference opener for the Mountaineers, is sold out.

Also, DE Quavian Lewis, who missed last week's game with a bruised knee, has been upgraded from questionable to probable for Saturday's game. --STAN OLSON

ASU's Edwards to test sprained ankle

Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards is expected to practice this afternoon for the first time since spraining his left ankle in the Presbyterian game Saturday night.

Should he do so with no recurrence of the problem, he’s virtually certain to start Saturday in the team’s Southern Conference opener with The Citadel in Boone.
Edwards was actually recruited by Citadel coach Kevin Higgins, who visited both his Greenwood, S.C., high school and his home.

“It was in my top group. I didn’t have many offers at the time, so I had to consider them, even if I didn’t want to,” Edwards said this week. “But you know, it’s a great program. I just wasn’t that sure that I wanted to go to the military school.”

- Stan Olson

Wolfpack's Irving doubtful against BC

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien doesn’t sound as though he is counting on linebacker Nate Irving returning to the lineup Saturday against Boston College.
O’Brien said Irving, who has an injured right ankle, has yet to get out of the training room and onto the practice field. During the ACC coaches’ teleconference Wednesday, O’Brien was asked whether Irving will play Saturday.

“I don’t believe so, no,” O’Brien said.

Quarterback Russell Wilson has made more progress than Irving after both players missed last week’s loss to South Florida with injuries. Wilson practiced Tuesday with a green jersey designating him for limited duty, and O’Brien expects him to practice more today.

“We’ll make a decision at the end of Thursday’s practice whether he’ll be ready to play or not,” O’Brien said.

Two days earlier, O’Brien said N.C. State will practice this week as if backup Harrison Beck will start.

O’Brien said safety Clem Johnson, who returned from a broken jaw last week, has regained all of the weight he lost while his jaw was braced to allow for recovery. Johnson lost between 10 and 15 pounds, and regained eight pounds within a day after the braces were removed.

Johnson played a limited role against South Florida, and O’Brien said as a junior college transfer he will ease back into the lineup slowly as he learns the system.

“We’re starting all over with him,” O’Brien said. “He played a little bit on last Saturday, and hopefully we’ll be able to play him a little bit more this Saturday.”

– Ken Tysiac