Thursday, December 30, 2010

Former Pack standout lineman Colmer dies

Chris Colmer, who was a standout offensive lineman for N.C. State from 2000 to 2004, has died, his agent said today. He was 30.

Colmer's agent, Jonathan Feinsod, said Colmer's family is grieving, and he declined to provide further details. Colmer had been teaching and coaching at the high school level on Long Island.

"It's just a tragedy," Feinsod said.

Colmer, who was from Port Jefferson, N.Y., was a third-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, selected No. 91 overall, in 2005. After spending the 2006 season on the reserve non-football injury list, he was released on June 6, 2007.

At N.C. State, Colmer started 46 of the 47 games in which he played over four seasons. He was a co-winner of the team's Jim Ritcher Award, giving annually to the Wolfpack's best offensive lineman, as a junior in 2002.

He missed the 2003 season with Parsonage Turner Syndrome, a rare viral disorder that caused numbness and discomfort in his neck and shoulder. But he was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA for 2004, and responded with a solid season that resulted in the draft selection and his brief NFL career.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bowl notes: Pack's Irving touts adidas

ORLANDO – N.C. State senior linebacker Nate Irving ended his career with a little trash talk.

The Wolfpack defeated No. 22-ranked West Virginia 23-7 in the Champs Sports Bowl. Given an opportunity to speak on the podium after the game in front of N.C. State’s fans, Irving talked about the team’s jerseys.

That’s right, the jerseys.

“I don’t think that’s bad for a school that’s sponsored by adidas,” he said, smiling.

The comment was a response to a comment one of West Virginia’s players made Monday. After an N.C. State performance at a talent show at the bowl luncheon, a West Virginia player remarked that it was a good effort for somebody from a team that wears adidas jerseys.

West Virginia wears Nike attire, and N.C. State’s players apparently took exception to the jab at their garb.


The fake field goal that N.C. State botched in the first half was similar to one Boston College and coach Tom O’Brien used in a defeat of North Carolina in the 2004 Continental Tire Bowl.

In that game, holder Matt Ryan delivered the ball to Ryan Ohliger for a 21-yard touchdown run for the Eagles. On Tuesday, holder Corey Tedder tried to flip the ball over his shoulder toward Josh Czajkowski.

Although Czajkowski was open for a big gain, the ball never got to him. Czajkowski said N.C. State didn’t watch film of the Ohliger play, but said he was open for a big gain on the botched play Tuesday.

“It was open, and we’d worked on it,” Czajkowski said. “. . .I saw open grass and said, ‘Oh.’ ”


Tuesday’s win was Tom O’Brien’s 100th as a head coach.

He is 100-70 overall in his 14-year career, including 25-25 in four seasons at N.C. State.

O’Brien has taken 10 of his 14 teams to bowl games and has won seven of his last eight bowl games.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pack's Wallace to miss Champs Bowl

ORLANDO - N.C. State starting left offensive guard Andrew Wallace won't play against West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl this evening because of an injury, school sports information director Annabelle Myers said.

Wallace started all 12 games during the regular season, logging 773 snaps. He will be replaced by Duran Christophe, who has played 146 snaps as a reserve.

Ken Tysiac

Tudor's Take: Can N.C. State's Wilson stand tall in NFL?

The most interesting game within the game at tonight's Champs Sports Bowl relates to the future of N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson.

A redshirt junior and one of the most popular football players in Wolfpack history, the 6:30 p.m. (ESPN) game against West Virginia (9-3) could be Wilson's last at the school.

A professional baseball player in the Colorado Rockies farm system, the 5-foot-11 Wilson is widely expected to walk away from football when the game ends.

He went through Senior Day ceremonies on Nov. 13 against Wake Forest, and promply led the Pack to a 38-3 win.

Even so, Wilson didn't completely rule out a return for more football, nor has he done so during the month or so of bowl preparations.

Wilson steadfastly has stated his desire to one day play in the NFL. Technically, he could even be selected in the April NFL Draft.

According to Wolfpack offensive coordinator Dana Bible, Wilson has the arm and intellect to become an NFL quarterback.

The obvious downside is his lack of height by today's NFL standards.

Prototypical NFL quarterbacks for the past 10-15 years have been tall pocket passers. Scouts look for college quarterbacks with at least 6-foot-3 heights, long arms, big hands and decent foot quickness.

But there are exceptions, most notably Drew Brees (6-0, 205) of the New Orleans Saints and Michael Vick (6-0, 215) of the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Size is what you want to make of it," Wilson said four days before he led the Pack to a 29-25 win at North Carolina. "It can stop [you] or you can overcome it. It all comes down to what you can produce on the field."

On current NFL rosters, there are more than a dozen players shorter than 6-2, and several are or have been fruitful players.

Included in that group is former ECU star David Garrard (6-1, 220) of the Jacksonville Jaguars in addition to Brees and Vick.

Another is Cleveland rookie Colt McCoy (6-1, 215), who was playing well until suffering an ankle injury in mid November.

The smallest quarterback currently listed is Seneca Wallace (5-11, 207) of Cleveland, who played at Iowa State and made the Seattle roster as a fourth-round draft pick in 2003.

"I don't think much about my height," Wallace said after signing with the Browns at the end of 2009. "Why worry about something you can't do anything about? Just go out there and play, and show 'em what you can do."

In leading State to an 8-4 record and near misses in each of the losses, Wilson has established that he can do a lot at the college level.

But after tonight, Wilson soon will have to determine if football is worth putting his baseball career in some risk.

-- Caulton Tudor

3 keys for N.C. State in Champs Bowl

ORLANDO - N.C. State (8-4) has a big opportunity against No. 22-ranked West Virginia (9-3) in a couple of hours in today’s 6:30 p.m. Champs Sports Bowl.

Here’s what the Wolfpack needs to do to post a win that would tie the 2010 team for the second-highest victory total for a season in school history:

1. Get to the quarterback. Maryland and coach Ralph Friedgen neutralized N.C. State’s blitz packages with maximum protection schemes.

West Virginia, which plays a lot of two-back sets, has the potential to do that as well. N.C. State’s blitzing linebackers need to find ways to get break through the blocking schemes to sack quarterback Geno Smith and keep him from making plays with his feet.

And the defensive backs need to make tackles in space against the screen game to prevent short passes from turning into long gains.

2. Make big plays with the pass. West Virginia’s starting cornerbacks, Brandon Hogan and Keith Tandy, are both extremely talented.

But they’re also just 5-foot-10. N.C. State wide receiver starters Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer are 6-4 and 6-3, respectively.

The Wolfpack needs to take advantage of that height disparity for at least one long gain on a deep ball against a stingy defense.

3. Have a difference-making play on special teams. N.C. State has made a lot of them this season.

The Wolfpack blocked three punts early in the season. T.J. Graham returned a punt for a touchdown against North Carolina, and the Wolfpack recovered an onside kick against Maryland.

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart seems concerned about Graham, and N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien would like nothing better than to see Graham get up to full speed in the open field.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 27, 2010

WVU changes bring awkward feeling at Champs Bowl

ORLANDO - The Champs Sports Bowl news conference of West Virginia coach Bill Stewart today had an awkward feeling to it, as if everybody was walking on eggshells.

Stewart has coached West Virginia to a 9-3 record this season heading into Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. bowl game against N.C. State. He is 28-11 after three full seasons with the Mountaineers, but his time with the team will end after the 2011 season.

Dana Holgorsen is leaving Oklahoma State to be Stewart’s offensive coordinator in 2011, and then will replace Stewart as head coach in 2012. Other staffing changes also are coming for 2011.

Stewart was asked if he had any thoughts about having some of his assistants at his side for the final time.

“That’s a personal matter,” Stewart said. “I appreciate you asking and I don’t want to dodge the question, but that’s in my heart.”

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien was similarly mum when asked about Stewart’s situation. O’Brien and Stewart have a friendship that dates back more than 20 years.

Stewart and O’Brien got to know each other while coaching rival offensive lines at North Carolina and Virginia, respectively, in the 1980s. O’Brien was asked what he thought of the coaching changes at West Virginia.

“I think I’d better keep that to myself,” he said.

Ken Tysiac

Pack mixes business, pleasure at Champs Bowl

ORLANDO - When coach Tom O'Brien learned N.C. State was headed for the Champs Sports Bowl, he turned to a former staff member for advice on how to handle the week.

The Wolfpack (8-4) will meet No. 22 West Virginia (9-3) in the bowl game at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. Three years ago, Boston College edged Michigan State 24-21 in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Frank Spaziani, who's now Boston College's head coach, coordinated the Eagles' defense for Jeff Jagodzinski in that game and previously was O'Brien's defensive coordinator at Boston College. Spaziani advised O'Brien to have his players take their amusement park trips early in the week because the walking the players do at the parks can take a toll on their legs.

So N.C. State visited Universal Studios on Dec. 23 after arriving in Orlando, and took a trip to Disney World on Dec. 24 after practicing in the morning.

"They got to experience a lot of the theme parks and had fun that way," O'Brien said this morning at the final news conference before the bowl game. "I think they’ve done a good job focusing when we’ve been in meetings and when we’ve been on the practice field on the task at hand. This team has been pretty businesslike all year. I think they’ve appreciated the opportunity to have some fun, but at the same time understand that this is a very important football game."

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Surgery sidelines UNC's Carter, Pelc for bowl

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina will be short another two players for its Dec. 30 Music City Bowl matchup against Tennessee because of season-ending surgeries.

Tar Heels linebacker Bruce Carter and Tar Heels senior offensive guard Alan Pelc are both out because of injuries, according to a news release issued Tuesday by UNC's sports information department.

Carter, who injured his left knee playing against N.C. State on Nov. 20, underwent ACL reconstruction surgery on his left knee Tuesday morning at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, the release said.

Pelc underwent surgery Monday afternoon to repair his left shoulder, also at UNC Hospitals. The Houston native is expected to begin rehabilitation immediately, but like Carter, will not be able to play in UNC's bowl game.

"Bruce and Alan have meant so much to this program," UNC coach Butch Davis said in a statement released by the university. "They have been great kids, great leaders and, most importantly, they will graduate Sunday with a degree from the University of North Carolina. Obviously, we are disappointed for them that they will not be able to play in the bowl game. However, our main concern is their health and preparing for the future."

Carter started 43 games at North Carolina, including 10 this season. He was twice named second-team All-ACC (2009 & 2010) and was a 2010 finalist for the Butkus Award, which is presented to the nation's top linebacker. Carter blocked seven kicks in his career and scored twice on interception returns.

Pelc started 34 games in his career, including 11 this season. He graded out over 75 percent in 2010 while playing offensive guard and center.

-- Ken Tysiac

N.C. State bowl sales top 8,500

Eight days after the announcement that N.C. State would play in the Champs Sports Bowl, the school’s ticket office had sold more than 8,500 tickets for the game, senior associate athletic director Chris Kingston said Monday.

The game is Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla., where the Wolfpack (8-4) will meet No. 22-ranked West Virginia (9-3). Kingston said N.C. State currently is averaging 500 ticket sales a day.

“I think we’re doing really well,” Kingston said. “The sales have been strong.”

N.C. State’s ticket allotment for the game is 13,500.

Kingston said 37 percent of the tickets sold directly through the bowl or Ticketmaster have been sold to North Carolina addresses. He said that has given North Carolina the largest percentage of sales through those venues of any state.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, December 13, 2010

ECU's Dominique Davis 'ready to go' for Military Bowl

GREENVILLE - East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill doesn't appear too worried about quarterback Dominique Davis' sore left shoulder.

"He's ready to go," McNeill said during a news conference on Monday.

Davis, a junior transfer this season, injured his non-throwing arm and participated in two games to close out the regular season, playing despite the obvious pain he experienced as he was sacked twice in a loss to SMU.

"He's one tough hombre," McNeill said at the time.

East Carolina (6-6,5-3 C-USA) accepted an invitation to play Maryland (8-4, 5-3 ACC) in the Military Bowl at RFK Stadium on Dec. 29, giving their starting quarterback more than a month to heal since his last game on Nov. 26.

A healthy Davis offers the Pirates their best chance to defeat the Terrapins, considering all that he accomplished on the way to earning the conference's most valuable player honor.

Davis is the nation's top point producer with 36 passing touchdowns and nine rushing. He accounts for an average of 22.7 points per game.

The Pirates average 319 yards and 38.2 points per game - seventh and 12th in the nation, respectively. The Pirates seek their first bowl game victory since a 41-38 victory over Boise State in 2007 in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

-- Edward G. Robinson III

Appeals of UNC players to be heard this week

North Carolina’s appeal on behalf of two football players declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA will be heard by the NCAA this week, team spokesman Kevin Best said today.

Defensive end Michael McAdoo’s appeal is scheduled for Tuesday, and fullback Devon Ramsay’s appeal is set for Thursday.

UNC announced on Nov. 15 that both players had been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA in its investigation of academic misconduct and impermissible benefits provided by agents and others.

Dick Baddour, UNC’s athletic director, has said the facts in both cases do not support permanent ineligibility.

Ramsay’s mother, Sharon Lee, has said her son was banned solely on the basis of changes that a tutor then employed by the university provided on one three-page written assignment in 2008. In a story published Nov. 27 by The Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer, Lee said her son’s situation wasn’t considered serious enough to be forwarded to UNC’s honor court system for possible sanctions, so she was shocked when Ramsay received a harsh penalty from the NCAA.

Lee said the NCAA’s penalty was excessive and cruel. She declined to comment when contacted by telephone Monday.

Ramsay played in the first four games of the season before UNC discovered his correspondence with the tutor. He was withheld from the Tar Heels’ remaining games, and UNC has said the NCAA has ruled it won’t penalize the team for using an ineligible player in the first four games.

McAdoo missed all 12 games this season.

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Prospects for Wilson's return to Pack sound shaky

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien didn’t sound confident Sunday about the prospects of quarterback Russell Wilson returning for his senior season.

Wilson, a junior, returned to the Wolfpack after playing pro baseball last summer in the Colorado Rockies organization. But O’Brien said next season will be a different situation.

“When he left the last time he spent the whole spring here and was, the whole time, around us,” O’Brien said. “And he wasn’t being paid [last spring]. He’s being paid now. And they have money. And what do I have to offer? So who knows what’s going to happen.”

Wilson has said many times that his goal is to be a professional in both baseball and football. If he has decided whether he will play quarterback for N.C. State in 2011, he hasn’t tipped his hand.

O’Brien said after Sunday’s practice for the Champs Sports Bowl (Dec. 28 vs. West Virginia in Orlando, Fla.) that he hasn’t spoken with Wilson about his upcoming decision and won’t discuss the issue for a while.

“We’ll figure it all out when the time is right,” O’Brien said.

Wilson was a first-team All-ACC quarterback as a redshirt freshman in 2008 and has led the ACC in touchdown passes in 2009 and 2010.

Aside from Wilson, O’Brien said he isn’t aware of any underclassman on the team who’s contemplating leaving early for the pros.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 10, 2010

White, Pianalto unlikely to play in bowl for Tar Heels

CHAPEL HILL -- As much as North Carolina's T.J. Yates would like to play his final college game with Johnny White and Zack Pianalto, Yates doesn't expect any sudden returns from either injured senior.

UNC's Music City Bowl date with Tennessee is Dec. 30, which is in the range of a return for White, from a broken collarbone, or Pianalto, from a broken leg.

"That would be nice, but I don't want them to take that risk," Yates said.

White, a senior, led the team in rushing (720 yards) before his injury at Florida State on Nov. 6. Pianalto, a senior, led the team in receiving (30 catches, 311 yards) before his injury at Virginia on Oct. 16.

UNC coach Butch Davis said White was closer to a return than Pianalto but that would depend on if White could be cleared for contact.

"There's a window of opportunity for him to heal would be between six to eight weeks and this timeline kind of falls into that," Davis said.

Davis didn't sound optimistic that either senior would be able to return for the Tar Heels' finale against Tennessee (6-6).

J.P. Giglio

Tar Heels' All-ACC DT undecided about future

CHAPEL HILL -- Quinton Coples made All-ACC as a junior, his first at defensive tackle, and led UNC with 8.5 sacks.

He said Friday he hasn't made a decision about next season, whether to return to UNC or enter the NFL draft early. He said he is focused on the Music City Bowl and Tennessee.

"It's a decision that I have to think about after the bowl game," Coples said.

At 6-6 and 275 pounds, Coples has the size to play in the NFL and the added value of versatility. He has played both end and tackle in college, switching in August to tackle to replace the suspended Marvin Austin.

Coples finished the 2010 season with more tackles (53) than Austin (42) or end Robert Quinn (52) had last season.

UNC coach Butch Davis said he doesn't expect to lose any juniors to the NFL draft. He said Friday he would submit Coples, or any junior's name for evaluation, but doesn't recommend players to leave early unless they are going to be a first-round pick.

"Unless you can go in the first round, you probably can't make enough money to be able to not have to work significantly for the rest of your life," Davis said.

-- J.P. Giglio

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Former UNC player named coach at Indiana

Update: Hoosiers give new coach 7-year contract

Oklahoma offensive coordinator and former North Carolina player Kevin Wilson will be the new head coach Indiana, according to ESPN and various news outlets in Oklahoma and Indiana.

The 49-year-old Maiden, N.C., native had some support for the UNC job when Butch Davis was hired in 2006.

Wilson, a lineman and linebacker, played for the Tar Heels during the early 1980s under Dick Crum. He began as a walk-on after a standout prep career at Fred T. Foard High.

Previously, Wilson worked on the staffs at Miami of Ohio, Northwestern, N.C. A&T and Winston-Salem State.

The Hoosiers fired former coach Bill Lynch after his team finished 5-7 overall and 1-7 in the Big Ten. Lynch was 19-30 overall, 6-26 in Big Ten games in four seasons.

Wilson joined the Oklahoma staff in 2002 as the offensive line coach. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2006.

-- Caulton Tudor

Monday, December 6, 2010

Bowl notes: Goal in sight for N.C. State

Coach Tom O’Brien is pushing hard to advance the idea that N.C. State has an opportunity to hit a significant season win milestone when it plays in the Champs Sports Bowl.
The Wolfpack is 8-4 heading into the Dec. 28 bowl game with No. 22 West Virginia (9-3) in Orlando, Fla.

At Sunday night’s bowl news conference, O’Brien mentioned that N.C. State has an opportunity to equal the second-highest win total in school history.

Led by Philip Rivers, the 2002 team set the school record with 11 wins. N.C. State has never had a 10-win season, but has had eight nine-win seasons, most recently in 1994.

O’Brien wants his team to add to that total.

“We’re looking to have a good time, but looking to win a football game,” O’Brien said. “The ultimate prize for this team is to win the ninth game, set themselves apart in the history of N.C. State football. So it’s a great opportunity.”

His players seem to be buying into the importance of that feat.

“We’re going to make sure we end the season 9-4, and make sure it’s a good game for everybody to see,” said senior wide receiver Jarvis Williams.

N.C. State is taking the week off from practice for final exams.

The Wolfpack opened its postseason practice Saturday and Sunday, and will return to the practice field on Saturday, Dec. 11.

O’Brien isn’t sure of the exact itinerary yet, but said the team will spend Christmas in Orlando as part of a normal practice week.

He plans to get the redshirting players as much work in practice as the starters as he takes advantage of the extra practice to build for the future of the program.

N.C. State will open a practice to the fans at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 19 at Carter-Finley Stadium. The Wolfpack men’s basketball team plays host to Arizona later that afternoon, at 4:45 p.m. at the RBC Center.

Two years after the fact, O’Brien and quarterback Russell Wilson smiled Sunday night as they recalled Wilson’s situation from the team’s last bowl appearance, in the Bowl.

Wilson suffered a knee injury late in the first half, and N.C. State went into halftime leading 17-6 behind 186 passing yards and 46 rushing yards by Wilson. Wilson wanted to play in the second half, but the team doctor said he couldn’t play, so O’Brien benched him.

“You were mad,” O’Brien said to Wilson, who was sitting next to him.

“I was mad,” Wilson admitted. “I wanted to play that game. That’s why I ran back out there. I remember I ran back out at halftime because I wanted to play the second half.”

After dominating the first half, N.C. State collapsed without Wilson and lost 29-23. Even though it cost him a chance at a winning season, as N.C. State finished 6-7, O’Brien doesn’t regret holding Wilson out of the game.

“I wasn’t going to let him play, because obviously he has a bright future in a lot of things,” O’Brien said, “and to play in the second half of a bowl game just so we could win a football game [wasn’t worth it]."

Ken Tysiac

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Pack players eager for Champs Bowl trip

Senior linebacker Nate Irving waited until the end of the news conference announcing N.C. State’s bowl destination, then said what was on his mind.

“We’re going to Disney World,” he said, smiling.

The Champs Sports Bowl announced Sunday night that N.C. State (8-4) will meet No. 22-ranked West Virginia (9-3) in the game in Orlando, Fla. – the home of Disney World. The game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 28 at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium and will be televised by ESPN.

It's the most high-profile bowl trip for the Wolfpack since its Jan. 1, 2003 win over Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl. N.C. State administrators pushed hard for it, sending senior associate athletic director Chris Kingston to Orlando to hand-deliver the school’s marketing plan.

“Our fans are just known to travel well,” said athletic director Debbie Yow.

N.C. State’s ticket allotment for the bowl is 13,500. Tickets are $65 each and are available at and the N.C. State ticket office at 919-865-1510.

The Champs Sports Bowl has the third pick from the ACC. Virginia Tech (11-2), which defeated Florida State 44-33 in the ACC title game Saturday night in Charlotte, will meet Stanford in the Orange Bowl.

Florida State (9-4) will play South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which announced last week that it would select the loser of the ACC title game. The Champs Sports Bowl picked next and settled on N.C. State.

In other games involving ACC teams, North Carolina plays border state foe Tennessee in the Music City Bowl; Miami renews its rivalry with Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl; Maryland meets East Carolina in the Military Bowl; Boston College plays Nevada in the Fight Hunger Bowl, and Georgia Tech meets Air Force in the Independence Bowl.

Steve Hogan, the CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, which runs the Champs Sports Bowl, said he was impressed with N.C. State’s record and wins over Florida State and Conference USA champ Central Florida.

“We just want to reward a team that deserves to be here,” Hogan said, “and they definitely deserve to be here.”

Hogan also considered Maryland, whose overall and ACC record (5-3) was identical to N.C. State’s. The Terrapins also defeated the Wolfpack 38-31 in the final game of the regular season on Nov. 27.

But the Terrapins already had played West Virginia, and Hogan didn’t want to schedule a rematch, so that was another factor that helped secure a bowl trip quarterback Russell Wilson was eager to make.

Before the team boarded the plane to leave Maryland after the loss that kept the Wolfpack out of the ACC title game, Wilson asked Yow what had to be done to get N.C. State to the Champs Sports Bowl.

“After Plan A falls apart, you’ve got to go to Plan B,” Wilson said. “I think the Champs Sports Bowl is a great situation for us. It’s a great game, and we know West Virginia is a great team.”

Ken Tysiac

Clemson, South Florida to meet in Meineke Bowl

Updated: Bowl makes formal announcement

Clemson (6-6) will make its first appearance in Charlotte’s Meineke Car Care Bowl, playing South Florida (7-5).

The game is scheduled for noon on Dec. 31 at Bank of America Stadium and will be televised by ESPN.

Securing Clemson gives the Meineke Bowl another strong local draw with potential to add to the game’s history of turning Charlotte’s location in close proximity to many ACC schools into a large crowd.

"Both teams have played extremely hard this year with every game being very competitive," bowl executive director Will Webb said in a statement. "We feel that the Tigers and Bulls will be a very entertaining and compelling matchup on the field for everyone watching."

Over the past eight years, the bowl has averaged 60,000 fans, according to its web site, with three sellouts. Although Clemson failed to live up to expectations this season, finishing fourth in the ACC Atlantic Division after being picked for second place in the preseason media poll, the school's location means the bowl will count on the Tigers heavily to deliver fan support.

Clemson is about a two-hour drive from Charlotte and has a strong alumni base in the city.

"It’s a great situation for our fans," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement released by the bowl. "One of the main reasons we were selected for this bowl is because of our great fan support and the passion of our fans."

South Florida also appeared in the bowl game in Charlotte in 2005, losing 14-0 to N.C. State. The bowl will mark the return to North Carolina of Skip Holtz, the popular and successful former East Carolina coach who left after last season to coach South Florida.

The Bulls got their seventh win with an overtime decision over Miami on Nov. 27. South Florida athletic director Doug Woolard said in a statement that the program is riding "a wave of momentum" under Holtz.

"I think people around the country recognize that and it was reflected in our selection by the Meineke Car Care Bowl," Woolard said. "Coach Holtz has done a magnificent job with this football team and program in just a short time. He has provided outstanding leadership from day one and built a very competitive product on the field."
Ken Tysiac

Ken Tysiac

Pack expected to get Champs Bowl invite

Orlando, Fla., appears to be the holiday destination for N.C. State, as the Champs Sports Bowl is expected this evening to formally invite the Wolfpack to the Dec. 28 game.

N.C. State has sent the media information on how to participate in the bowl's team announcement teleconference at 8:45 tonight. That information is not meant to be construed as confirmation that the Wolfpack has accepted an invitation to play in the game, but the school nonetheless is expected to receive - and accept - that invitation.

The game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 28 at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium and will be televised by ESPN.

West Virginia (9-3) will be the Wolfpack's opponent in the most high-profile bowl trip for N.C. State (8-4) since its Jan. 1, 2003 win over Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl.

The Champs Sports Bowl has the third pick from the ACC. Virginia Tech (11-2) captured the ACC's Orange Bowl bid by virtue of its 44-33 defeat of Florida State in the ACC championship game Saturday night in Charlotte.

Florida State (9-4) will play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, which announced last week that it would select the loser of the ACC title game. With those two teams unavailable, the Champs Bowl apparently has settled on N.C. State, which finished tied for second place in the ACC Atlantic Division with Maryland.

This will be N.C. State's second bowl trip in four seasons under coach Tom O'Brien. The Wolfpack lost to Rutgers in the 2008 Bowl in Birmingham, Ala.

N.C. State is 12-11-1 overall in bowl games in its history.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, December 3, 2010

NFLPA suspends agent Wichard for contact with UNC's Austin

The NFL Players Association has suspended sports agent Gary Wichard's contract adviser certification for nine months, NFLPA director of communications Carl Francis confirmed today.

Wichard's name surfaced in connection with the NCAA's investigation of impermissible benefits received by University of North Carolina football players. He was suspended for having impermissible communication with UNC defensive tackle Marvin Austin at a time Austin was not eligible for the NFL draft, according to an NFLPA news release.

The NFLPA release stated that Wichard has agreed to the suspension and has waived his right to appeal.

Wichard also has been connected to the UNC case through John Blake, who resigned as UNC's associate head coach on Sept. 5. Wichard, who is based in California, provided funds to Blake that Blake's lawyers describes as gifts or loans.

Ken Tysiac

Read more:

Former UNC WR Little signs with Octagon

Former North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little, who was declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA for taking impermissible benefits, has chosen Octagon Sports as his agency for contract representation.

Octagon director of communications Scott Horner confirmed Little's signing in an e-mail message today.

According to an NCAA news release, Little accepted $4,952 in impermissible benefits. The joint investigation by the NCAA and the school found that he accepted diamond earrings and travel accommodations to the Bahamas, Washington, D.C., and on two trips to Miami, among other benefits.

UNC also concluded that he was not truthful during interviews with the NCAA and UNC. Little was found to be involation of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules.

He is rated the No. 92 prospect in the 2011 NFL draft and projected as a fourth-round selection by

Little was North Carolina's leading receiver in 2009, catching 62 passes for 724 yards and and five touchdowns.

Ken Tysiac

N.C. State's Irving, BC's Herzlich share ACC's Piccolo Award

Senior linebackers Nate Irving of N.C. State and Mark Herzlich of Boston College, who bounced back from life-threatening situations to lead their respective teams’ defenses, will receive the ACC’s Brian Piccolo Award, the conference announced today.

The award has been given annually since 1972 in memory of the late Wake Forest and Chicago Bears running back whose fight with a cancer inspired the entire football community.

Irving was severely injured in a car crash on June 28, 2009 and missed the entire 2009 season after suffering a compound fracture of his leg, a broken rib, a punctured lung and a separated shoulder. He returned this season to spark the N.C. State defense at middle linebacker and ranks fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision with 19 tackles for loss.

“One of the most rewarding things I've experienced as a coach has been seeing Nate Irving come back so strong and enjoy so much success,” N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien said in a statement. “He has been a tremendous leader for our team this year with his play on the field and his attitude off the field and is one of the reasons the 2010 team will always be a special one for me.”

Herzlich was diagnosed in May of 2009 with Ewing’s Sarcoma, an aggressive cancer that attacks soft tissue and bone. He underwent extensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments and had a titanium rod inserted in his left leg to stabilize the bone.

He suffered a fracture in his right foot as a result of his rehabilitation, and broke a bone in his left hand. He played wearing a cast for the rest of the fall, but still has recorded 54 tackles and four interceptions.

Irving is N.C. State’s fourth Piccolo Award honoree, joining Toney Baker (2009), Scott Adell (1991) and Ralph Stringer (1977). Herzlich is the first Boston College player to receive the Piccolo Award.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chick-fil-A Bowl no longer a possibility for N.C. State

Cross Atlanta off the list of N.C. State’s possible postseason destinations.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl, held Dec. 31 in Atlanta, announced Thursday that its ACC selection will be the loser of Saturday’s conference championship game between Virginia Tech (10-2) and Florida State (9-3). The conference title game will kick off at 7:45 p.m. at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

That leaves the Champs Sports Bowl, held Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla., with the next pick from the ACC and a possible selection of N.C. State. Steve Hogan, the CEO of Florida Citrus Sports, which runs the bowl, said earlier in the week that he is considering Maryland (8-4), Miami (7-5), North Carolina (7-5) and N.C. State (8-4) as the bowl’s ACC representative.

The Champs will match an ACC team with Notre Dame (7-5), West Virginia (8-3) or South Florida (7-4). The Champs is waiting for the Rutgers at West Virginia and Connecticut at South Florida games to be played Saturday before making a decision.

“I think they’re in a holding pattern until then,” ACC associate commissioner Michael Kelly said Thursday evening. “They’re kind of waiting for that.”

After the Champs Sports Bowl, the Sun (Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas), Meineke Car Care (Dec. 31 in Charlotte) and Music City (Dec. 30 in Nashville, Tenn.) bowls, in order, have the next selections from the ACC.

Hogan said earlier in the week that N.C. State is attractive because it’s a much-improved team with strong fan support that has a signature win over Florida State. But N.C. State lost to Maryland, which holds an identical record, in the final game of the regular season.

North Carolina has fewer wins than N.C. State or Maryland and lost to the Wolfpack, but also has a win over Florida State. Hogan said the Tar Heels would be attractive because they haven’t been to the Champs Sports Bowl and are probably better than their record indicates.

Because North Carolina has played the last two years in the Meineke Bowl, the Music City Bowl and a possible meeting with border state Tennessee has been widely discussed as a possible destination for the Tar Heels.

Ken Tysiac

Did clash of sponsors sink Wake-Notre Dame game in Charlotte?

Next season's Wake Forest-Notre Dame football game, which will be played in Winston-Salem, nearly came to Charlotte.

As Ron Green Jr. reported in Tuesday's Observer, Deacons athletics director Ron Wellman said it would be unfair to Deacons fans for the game to be moved out of Winston-Salem.

But a source close to the negotiations to bring the game to Charlotte said there was another reason. "Sponsorship issues," the source said.

Could be that Winston-Salem-based BB&T -- one of Wake Forest's biggest corporate sponsors which has its name on the Deacons' stadium -- wasn't thrilled to have such a high-profile game played at Bank of America Stadium. -- David Scott

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Hokies' Taylor named ACC player of the year

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who led Virginia Tech to an 8-0 conference record and a Coastal Division title, has been named ACC player of the year in media voting.
Taylor received 27 votes. N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson was the runner-up in the balloting with 19 votes. Da'Quan Bowers, the Clemson defensive end who led the ACC in sacks, received eight votes, and Boston College running back Montel Harris received three votes.

Taylor also was selected as the ACC offensive player of the year. Bowers was the defensive player of the year.

Here are the vote totals for offensive and defensive player of the year:

Offensive: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech (31); Russell Wilson, QB, N.C. State (23); Montel Harris, RB, Boston College (4); T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina (1); Danny O'Brien, QB, Maryland (1); Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami (1).

Defensive: Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson (36); Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College (14); Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech (3); Nate Irving, LB, NC State (2).

Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 29, 2010

All-ACC team announced

N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving and tight end George Bryan joined North Carolina defensive tackle Quinton Coples as the only players from North Carolina schools to earn first-team All-ACC honors in media voting announced today.
Clemson and Maryland led the conference with four first-team selections each. Duke kicker Will Snyderwine, named a first-team All-American today by the American Football Coaches Association, was a second-team All-ACC selection behind Virginia Tech’s Chris Hazley.

Here is the complete All-ACC list, with votes in parentheses:


QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (77); RB Montel Harris, Boston College (122); RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech (108); WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami (118); WR Torrey Smith, Maryland (96); TE George Bryan, NC State (92); OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (79); OT Chris Hairston, Clemson (69); OG Rodney Hudson, Florida State (116); OG Brandon Washington, Miami (50); C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech (91); K Chris Hazley, Virginia Tech (100); Spc. Tony Logan, Maryland (69)


DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson (120); DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (101); DT Quinton Coples, North Carolina (101); DT Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson (63); LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College (112); LB Nate Irving, N.C. State (105); LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland (78); CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (112); CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia (57); S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson (99); S Kenny Tate, Maryland (78); P Matt Bosher, Miami.


QB Russell Wilson, NC State (75); RB Damien Berry, Miami (37); RB Keith Payne, Virginia (30); WR Conner Vernon, Duke (70); WR Owen Spencer, NC State (41); TE Dwayne Allen, Clemson (31); OT Orlando Franklin, Miami (65); OT Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech (39); OG Jaymes Brooks, Virginia Tech (41); OG Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech (35); OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (35); C Ryan McMahon, Florida State (47); K Will Snyderwine, Duke (38); Spc.David Wilson, Virginia Tech (61).


DE Allen Bailey, Miami (51); DE Steven Friday, Virginia Tech (42); DT John Graves, Virginia Tech (46); DT Joe Vellano, Maryland (33); LB Bruce Carter, North Carolina (43); LB Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech (41); LB Sean Spence, Miami (37); CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State (49); CB Brandon Harris, Miami (45); S Davon Morgan, Virginia Tech (48); S Ray-Ray Armstrong, Miami (25); P Brian Saunders, Virginia Tech (48).


WR Dwight Jones, North Carolina (20); OT Jake Vermiglio, NC State (34); Paul Pinegar, Maryland (27). OG Thomas Claiborne, Boston College (34). C Beau Warren, Virginia Tech (22). TE Cooper Helfet, Duke (24); Andre Smith, Virginia Tech (23); RB Johnny White, North Carolina (22). QB T.J. Yates, North Carolina (21). PK Casey Barth, North Carolina (20). SP Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson (24).


DT J.R. Sweezy, NC State (26). LB Colin McCarthy, Miami (34); Abraham Kromah, Duke (30). CB Greg Reid, Florida State (20).

Read more:

ACC refs' boss says Pack call handled correctly

ACC officiating coordinator Doug Rhoads said today that Ron Cherry's officiating crew handled the spot of the ball correctly on a key fourth-down play during the final minute of Maryland's 38-31 defeat of N.C. State on Saturday.

The play has caused controversy because the N.C. State defense appeared to stop running back D.J. Adams short of the first-down marker on a rush on a fourth-and-1 at the N.C. State 32-yard line.

But the officials gave Adams what appeared to be a generous spot of the ball, and coach Tom O'Brien was visibly frustrated when the officials' measurement showed Adams gained the first down that clinched the win for Maryland with 48 seconds left.

"The play is handled correctly as well as can be done by human beings," Rhoads said this morning in a telephone interview.

Rhoads said the line judge and head linesman ran in hard like they're supposed to after the play to mark the spot of the ball when Adams was stopped. He said on short-yardage plays where many large bodies are present, it's difficult to determine the spot of the ball.

The officials estimated as accurately as possible where the forward-most point of the ball was, according to Rhoads. He said the TV replay official did review the spot, and the first governing principle of replay reviews is the presumption that the call on the field is correct.
"The standard to overturn or reverse that is very high," Rhoads said. "That’s irrefutable video evidence. And I personally looked at the video of that, and you cannot ascertain the forward-most point of the ball, and it’s obscured because of all the bodies in there."
Had Adams been ruled short of the first down, N.C. State would have taken possession at its own 32-yard line with 48 seconds remaining, trailing by seven points. Although the Wolfpack didn't have any timeouts remaining, there would have been time to attempt to work quickly to get the ball down the field for a tying touchdown.

O'Brien declined to comment this morning about the call. Immediately after the game, he refrained from second guessing the officials.
"It sure looked like [we stopped them] from where we were and we were right on the chains," O'Brien said Saturday night. ". . .[The call] was confirmed, so I guess it wasn't a stop. We thought we had him stopped, but my opinion doesn't count."

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Pack LB Cureton out for season

N.C. State has lost reserve linebacker Asante Cureton for the remainder of the season with a knee injury, according to the team injury report released today.
Cureton has played 71 snaps on defense and made 18 tackles this season. He was hurt during last week's 29-25 defeat of North Carolina.
The Wolfpack (8-3, 5-2 ACC) will visit Maryland (7-4, 4-3) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Charlotte's ACC title game nearing sell-out

The ACC's football championship game in Charlotte appears to be nearing a sell-out.

More than 65,000 tickets have been sold by Wednesday morning for the Dec. 4 game in 72,778-seat Bank of America Stadium. And that's with just one of the participating schools -- Virginia Tech -- known. The other team will be either N.C. State or Florida State. If the Wolfpack beats Maryland on Saturday, it will go.

The championship game has sold out just once in six seasons, the inaugural game in 2005 between Virginia Tech and Florida State in Jacksonville, Fla.

“We couldn’t be happier to be where we are in ticket sales at this point,” said Will Webb, the Charlotte organizing committee's executive director in a statement. “We are striving for a sellout, which is what we always believed the ACC deserves. The fact that we are almost there, given we don’t know the final matchup, is a testament to the game and the conference.”

The game has struggled at the gate in its other four years in Jacksonville and Tampa, Fla.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fewer than 12,000 tickets remain for ACC title game

Tickets sales for the ACC championship game Dec. 4 at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium have passed the 60,000 mark, according to Will Webb, executive director of the local organizing committee.

Sales have picked up since Virginia Tech clinched its spot in the game on Saturday. The Hokies will play either N.C. State or Florida State for the title. -- David Scott

No ACC suspensions for UNC's Reddick, N.C. State's Williams in scuffle

No suspensions will be assessed to North Carolina's Kevin Reddick or N.C. State's Jarvis Williams for their roles in an end-zone scuffle Saturday, ACC associate commissioner Michael Kelly said Monday.

Both players were given personal fouls and ejected from the 29-25 N.C. State win, but referee Brad Allen's report categorized them as flagrant fouls, not fighting fouls. The latter would have warranted one-game suspensions.

Asked Monday if there would be any follow-up punishment for Reddick, North Carolina coach Butch Davis said, "He got thrown out of the game," and left it at that. N.C. State's Tom O'Brien, meanwhile, said he expected Williams to be available when the Wolfpack takes on Maryland on Saturday.

The ejections occurred in the third quarter after N.C. State wide receiver Owen Spencer grabbed a tipped ball in the end zone for a pivotal touchdown on a fourth-and-goal play. Williams pushed Reddick in the chest with two hands and Reddick responded by throwing a punch at Williams.

O'Brien credited his team with again displaying good discipline against the Tar Heels in a contentious rivalry game and praised the work of Allen's officiating crew.

"I think the officials did a great job," he said. "They've got control of the game. What I'm really pleased is, the last two years we've been punched (by UNC players). And our kids haven't retaliated. ...

"I can only coach my football team. You get into that situation and their first reaction is to retaliate but we haven't done it, which shows the discipline we now enjoy and the character we have in our program. ...

"We took (tight end) George Bryan out of the game Saturday because he was on the verge of an incident. But I'm proud of the way our kids have handled that situation after being punched two years in a row."

Through a team spokesman, Davis declined to respond Monday.

After last year's game in Raleigh, North Carolina's Donte Paige-Moss took a swing at State's Sterling Lucas. Moss was suspended for one game and missed North Carolina's appearance in the Meineke Car Car Bowl in Charlotte.

Davis said last year that Moss pushed away a player who was "kind of taunting him and in his face" on the field after the Wolfpack's 28-27 win.

O'Brien then took issue with Davis' comments, replying that "in no way, shape or form did I see any of our players exhibit inappropriate behavior."

-- Luke DeCock

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Duke freshman Kelby Brown will miss season finale

Duke coach David Cutcliffe announced on Sunday that freshman Kelby Brown suffered a season-ending knee injury at Georgia Tech and will miss the team's season finale against North Carolina on Saturday.

Brown, a linebacker from Charlotte, tore his anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in the Blue Devils' 30-20 loss to Georgia Tech. Brown will undergo surgery at a date to be announced.

"It is unfortunate that Kelby's fine freshman season ends prematurely," Cutcliffe said. "It is really tough for a freshman to arrive on campus in June and start seven games at middle linebacker, and he did just that. We know he is in great hands with our medical staff - it is the best in the country - and we're confident Kelby will overcome this obstacle and be back as soon as possible."

In nine games, Brown, at 6 foot 2 and 215 pounds, made an impact for the Devils in his first season.

He leads the nation in fumble recoveries and his 7.3 tackles per game are ranked second in the ACC. His four recoveries are a single-season freshman record and the most for the Devils since 2002.

-- Edward G. Robinson III

ACC bowl projections

Orange (Miami): Virginia Tech

The Hokies (9-2) have won nine straight and with the return of running back Ryan Williams, who ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns against Miami this week, they don't have the look of a team that's going to lose in any of its final three games.

The Hokies' opponent in the BCS bowl game will either be Texas Christian or the Big 12 title game loser, either Nebraska or Oklahoma State.

Chick-fil-A (Atlanta): N.C. State

At 8-3, N.C. State's one win away from the Atlantic Division title and a return to Atlanta for the first time since the 1994 season.

State has made seven trips to the Peach Bowl, as it was known pre-corporate sponsor, with a 4-3 record. Its last trip was a 28-24 win over Mississippi State on Jan. 1, 1995.

The Bulldogs (7-4) would likely be the SEC pick, since South Carolina (8-3) is going to Atlanta for the SEC title game on Dec. 4.

Florida State (8-3) would jump the Wolfpack with a win over Florida and an N.C. State loss to Maryland.

Champs (Orlando, Fla.): Florida State

The Seminoles haven't left the state of Florida for a bowl game in three years but the Orlando game can line up Notre Dame (6-5) on one side and the Noles on the other and win at the box office and television ratings.

This would likely be N.C. State if the Pack loses to Maryland and FSU beats Florida but Clemson, with a win over South Carolina, is also a possibility.

Sun (El Paso, Texas): Miami

Miami (7-4) is a colossal disappointment and it has no traveling fan base -- or one that shows up for its home games -- but the Canes can still draw a television number and that's all the Sun Bowl cares about.

Oregon State (5-5), Cal (5-6), Washington (4-6) are the possible Pac-10 opponents but have yet to qualify. The wild card is Notre Dame.

Obviously, CBS would renew the Catholics vs. Convicts series in a heartbeat but Notre Dame (6-5) has to finish 7-5 to qualify for the Pac-10's spot.

The Irish play at USC (7-4), which is banned from the postseason, on Saturday.

Meineke (Charlotte): Clemson

Technically, Charlotte picks before the Music City and has the ability to select UNC, which beat Clemson, but the Tar Heels have been to Charlotte two years in a row and Clemson (6-5) hasn't been yet.

The Tigers, who close with South Carolina, would sell more tickets with a win over the Gamecocks, but a matchup with West Virginia (7-3) would continue bowl executive Will Webb's string of unbelievable luck in finding compelling matchups.

Music City (Nashville): UNC

The Tar Heels (6-5) would be jumped by Maryland (7-4) if UNC loses to Duke and the Terps beat N.C. State. That would trigger the "BC rule" -- which doesn't allow a team with two or more losses to jump ahead in the bowl order.

That also requires UNC losing to Duke, which has happened once in the past 20 years.

On the SEC side, Tennessee (5-6) -- oh the irony, the team that backed out of a regular-season series in 2011 and 2012 with UNC because it was scared to lose -- is closing strong but needs to beat Kentucky (6-5) to qualify.

Georgia (5-6), which has to beat Georgia Tech, is another possibility.

If neither the Vols nor Dawgs qualify, Kentucky would go back to Nashville for the fourth time in five years.

Independence (Shreveport, La.): Georgia Tech

I think they've already started printing tickets for this game between Georgia Tech (6-5) and Air Force (8-4).

They should call it the Time Machine Bowl -- with both teams playing the option, it will look like the 1960s.

Military (Washington): Maryland

The Terps (7-4) need help from Duke to get out of this game at RFK Stadium in D.C.

Short of finishing two games ahead of UNC, the Terps will be relegated to this game against a Conference USA opponent, likely East Carolina (6-5), which given the Pirates' fan base, offense -- and defense -- could be a fun bowl game.

Kraft Fight Hunger (San Francisco): Boston College

The Eagles (6-5) became bowl eligible with Saturday's win over Virginia and will likely fill the Pac-10's spot in this game.

The WAC will fill its side of the equation and probably with Nevada (10-1), although there's a possibility this could be Boise State (10-0).

-- J.P. Giglio

ACC title game tickets pass 55,000 mark

Ticket sales for the ACC championship game Dec. 4 at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium have surpassed the 55,000 mark, thanks in large part to a buying surge this weekend after Virginia Tech clinched a spot in the game.

Hokies fans have bought more than 5,500 tickets overnight and today after their team's victory Saturday against Miami, according to Will Webb, the game's executive director.

Webb says he's concerned that fans of the Hokies' opposition -- either N.C. State or Florida State -- will have a limited chance to buy tickets because of the pace of sales the game has experienced all season. -- David Scott

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Czajkowski to kick for N.C. State

CHAPEL HILL - Senior Josh Czajkowski, who had been ruled out for the rest of the regular season with a hamstring injury, will kick field goals and extra points for N.C. State in today's game at North Carolina, which kicks off shortly after noon.

Freshman Chris Hawthorne, who subbed for Czajkowski last week, will continue handling kickoffs today.

Czajkowski is tied for fourth in career field goals in N.C. State history with 40.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pack's Czajkowski may kick vs. UNC

Josh Czajkowski may be able to kick for N.C. State this season after all.

Czajkowski previously was ruled out for the rest of the regular season with a hamstring injury suffered Nov. 6 at Clemson. But on N.C. State's weekly injury report, which was released today, Czajkowski was listed as questionable for Saturday's game at North Carolina, which begins at noon.

A "questionable" designation for a game indicates that a player has a 50 percent chance of participating. Czajkowski was in uniform for practice Thursday.

Freshman Chris Hawthorne took Czajkowski's place last week in a 38-3 win over Wake Forest and will kick against the Tar Heels if Czajkowski is unable to play.

Hawthorne made his lone field goal attempt, a 25-yarder, and made all five of his extra point attempts against Wake Forest.

Czajkowski, a senior, has made 14 of his 18 field goal attempts this season. He ranks fourth in school history in career field goal percentage (.866) and is tied for fourth in field goals made with 40.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 15, 2010

O'Brien talks about UNC, NCAA and the rivalry

With his team getting ready to visit North Carolina on Saturday, N.C. State football coach Tom O'Brien was asked about the ongoing NCAA investigation taking place at UNC.

"First off, I don’t think you ever want to see anybody in our conference in that situation," O'Brien said Monday at his weekly news conference, "because I believe we pride ourselves [on NCAA compliance] in the ACC, and I don’t know what the outcome is, other than there seems to be something over there going on."

"Second of all, anytime you have an agent thing, I think, certainly you have to evaluate what you’re doing and look at what your program is doing, if you’re doing the right things as far as protecting your players and educating them and making sure that you’re doing the best you can. Because certainly no one in college football lives in a glass house. It could happen a lot of different places."

An NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits provided by agents and academic misconduct at North Carolina has resulted in 14 players missing at least one game this season. Six players are out for the season; six have returned to the lineup and the status of two others has yet to be announced.

"The constant struggle we have as coaches and - I’m not going to speak for [N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow] here - but as administrators is to make sure you’re doing the right things and we’re abiding by the rules and regulations not only of North Carolina State but of the NCAA," O'Brien said.

N.C. State (7-3, 4-2 ACC) needs to win at noon Saturday at UNC and on Nov. 27 at Maryland to be assured of an appearance in the Dec. 4 ACC championship game in Charlotte.

O'Brien said the implications for the ACC title game are important Saturday, but they don't make the rivalry game more significant.

"That’s the carrot to win the game, to get to the ACC championship," O'Brien said. "As I said Saturday, the road to Charlotte goes through Chapel Hill. You have to get through Chapel Hill. Well, if you’re at N.C. State and you’re part of this football program, you have to win in Chapel Hill anyway.

"It’s something that is part of the culture here. We accept that fact and our kids have really risen to the occasion, have played well anytime we’ve played against North Carolina since I’ve been here."

O'Brien is 3-0 against North Carolina as N.C. State's coach.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pack holds slim lead over Wake Forest at halftime

RALEIGH - Thanks to a big drive from Russell Wilson and Jarvis Williams and a second-quarter goal-line stand, N.C. State led Wake Forest 10-3 today at halftime at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Wilson hit Williams for a 50-yard pass to get the Wolfpack into scoring position for the half's only touchdown. Three plays later, Williams caught a 4-yard touchdown pass on a flanker screen to stretch N.C. State's lead to 10-3.

Wake Forest responded with a 13-play drive, but N.C. State stopped the Deacons on fourth-and-goal from the 2. David Akinniyi and Brandan Bishop teamed to tackle Michael Campanero for a 1-yard loss with 58.2 seconds remaining in the half.

Freshman walk-on Chris Hawthorne made a 25-yard field goal in the first quarter to open the scoring. Hawthorne won a competition with Ellis Flint this week to replace Josh Czajkowski, who's out for the rest of the regular season with a hamstring injury suffered last week at Clemson.

Jimmy Newman tied the score with a 19-yard field goal for Wake Forest with 12:35 remaining in the second quarter.

Ken Tysiac

Hawthorne, Washington to start for N.C. State

Freshman walk-on Chris Hawthorne will start at place-kicker and James Washington will start at running back for N.C. State in today's home game against Wake Forest, which begins at 2 p.m.

Hawthorne, a former Raleigh Leesville Road High player, replaces senior Josh Czajkowski, who suffered a hamstring injury last week at Clemson that will keep him out the rest of the regular season. Hawthorne beat out former Hofstra kicker Ellis Flint in a weeklong competition this week for Czajkowski's spot.

Washington is one of three running backs who have been in N.C. State's rotation, along with Mustafa Greene and Dean Haynes. Haynes suffered a head injury Oct. 28 against Florida State. He didn't play against Clemson, although he had been medically cleared for that game and is cleared for today's game, too.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, November 11, 2010

UNC severs ties with former football tutor

The University of North Carolina has sent a disassociation letter severing ties with Jennifer Wiley, the former tutor associated with the school and NCAA's investigation into possible academic misconduct within the Tar Heels football program.

In the letter, dated Nov. 5 and signed by athletic director Dick Baddour, states that Wiley provided impermissible academic assistance to some of the school’s student-athletes in 2009 and 2010.

The letter also states that Wiley provided impermissible financial assistance in excess of $2,000 in connection with travel and transportation issues. The university released the letters to the media this afternoon as the result of public records requests.

In a statement sent to the media by her lawyer, Joseph B Cheshire V of Raleigh, Wiley acknowledged her role in the investigation. The statement said the providing of funds mentioned in the letter she received from UNC related to allowing one individual to use her credit card where a credit card was required. According to the statement, bank deposit would show she was immediately repaid for the cost applied to her card, and she did not realize such a transaction was impermissible.

"She did not intend for her work to 'provide impermissible academic assistance' and to the extent it did, she is deeply saddened, particularly as it has affected the young men she cared so much about," the statement read.

Through Cheshire, Wiley requested privacy and said she would have no further comments at this time.

"Disassociation" from the program means that the school will not accept any assistance from Wiley or permit prospective or enrolled athletes to have contact with her, among other things.

Wiley is the third person whose disassociation letter has been released to the media in connection with the investigation. Former UNC player Chris Hawkins, who’s been labeled an agent by the NCAA, and Miami jeweler A.J. Machado are the others who have been disassociated.

UNC also released a document providing additional details of the investigation.

Reinstatement requests sent by the university to the NCAA indicate that impermissible gifts, including cash, jewelry and travel and entertainment expenses were provided to football players by:

•Former UNC player Hakeem Nicks ($3,300).

•Former UNC player Omar Brown ($1,865).

•Former UNC player Mahlon Carey ($140).

•Vernon Davis ($20).

•A person from Miami whose full name is not known to the university
Some of the benefits provided were repaid by the UNC players before they or their hosts knew that receipt of the benefits violated NCAA rules, according to UNC.

J. Andrew Curliss and Ken Tysiac

N.C. State LB Lucas questionable for Wake Forest

Backup middle linebacker Sterling Lucas is listed as questionable for N.C. State's game with Wake Forest, which is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Lucas has a knee injury.

N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said after practice today that he had not decided yet how the place-kicking duties will be assigned for the game. After losing senior starter Josh Czajkowski to a hamstring injury, the Wolfpack has auditioned sopohomore Ellis Flint and freshman Chris Hawthorne this week.

O'Brien said the players' teammates spent time during practice trying to distract the kickers to prepare them for game conditions.

"It's been a good competition," O'Brien said. "The kids have put a lot of pressure on them and had a lot of fun with it, and we'll see how it goes on Saturday."

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

No decision on UNC's Houston

North Carolina running back Ryan Houston might play against Virginia Tech. Then again, he might not.

Tar Heels coach Butch Davis said the decision to use Houston against the Hokies, or maintain his redshirt, will likely be made on Saturday.

"We haven't decided any of those right now," Davis said Wednesday on the weekly ACC coaches' teleconference, in answering a question about options at running back.

Houston, the team's leading rusher in 2009, has not played this season. He missed the first five games because of the NCAA investigation and has been held out of the past four games with the intent of redshirting.

With a season-ending injury to running back Johnny White in last Saturday's 37-35 win at Florida State, UNC's depth at running back has taken a hit.

"I've had conversations with Ryan," Davis said. "That will probably be a potential game-time decision."

Davis also played coy with the health of Shaun Draughn, who suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter of the Florida State win. Davis said UNC would release an injury report on Thursday with an update of Draughn's health.

Draughn was held out of the first game because of the NCAA investigation and lost the starting job to White. Draughn has rushed for 386 yards and four touchdowns but has 82 carries, compared to 130 for White (team-best 720 yards).

Senior Anthony Elzy, who is technically a fullback, and sophomore Hunter Furr are the other options at running back.

-- J.P. Giglio

Pack's Wilson says he's undecided about football in 2011

N.C. State junior quarterback Russell Wilson said this morning that he is looking forward to taking part in senior day festivites Saturday, but hasn't decided whether he will return for his senior season.

Wilson already has his bachelor's degree in communications and played professional baseball last summer in the Colorado Rockies organization. He has a year of football eligibility remaining after this season.

"I'm not sure yet [about 2011]," Wilson said. "I'm focused on Wake Forest. I'll follow what the Lord takes me to, wherever that is. If it's here, awesome. If it's somewhere else, awesome. It's going to be a great situation for me no matter what. But I'm focused on winning against Wake Forest. That's the most important thing."

He said he hasn't talked with the Rockies about his plans for the future or what they expect from him. Coach Tom O'Brien said earlier this week that he doesn't expect to talk to Wilson about the future until the season is over.

Wilson and N.C. State's seniors will be honored before the Wolfpack plays host to N.C. State at 2 p.m. Saturday. O'Brien has said he is honoring Wilson because this may be his last home game with the Wolfpack.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, November 8, 2010

Junior QB Wilson to be honored with Pack seniors

N.C. State junior quarterback Russell Wilson will be honored with the Wolfpack seniors on senior day before Saturday's 2 p.m. game with Wake Forest at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Coach Tom O'Brien said Monday that he doesn't have any information on whether Wilson, who played pro baseball last summer in the Colorado Rockies organization, will return for more football in 2011.

Wilson already has his bachelor's degree in communications and is taking graduate school classes this semester. O'Brien said he hasn't discussed 2011 with Wilson and doesn't plan to discuss it until after this season is over.

"There are too many things for us to play for right now to be worried about next year," O'Brien said.

Wilson has declined on numerous occasions to discuss what he plans to do after the 2010 season ends.

O'Brien's decision to honor Wilson on Saturday partly is a result of missing an opportunity to honor running back Toney Baker after the 2009 season. Baker was cleared to return for a sixth season and had told O'Brien he planned to return for 2010.

But Baker changed his mind after the season and didn't get honored.

"Russell is going to go out, and this could very well be his last game," O'Brien said. "If it is, we're going to honor him with everybody else who's going to play their last game."

-- Ken Tysiac

UNC's Houston might return against Virginia Tech

It's possible that running back Ryan Houston might play against Virginia Tech on Saturday, UNC coach Butch Davis said today.

Houston, the team's leading rusher in 2009, has not played this season, missing the first five games because of the NCAA investigation. Houston had planned to redshirt the season before starter Johnny White was injured against Florida State last Saturday.

White broke his right collarbone and will miss the final three games of the regular season. UNC, at 3-2 in the ACC, can still win the Coastal Division but must beat Virginia Tech, 5-0 in the ACC, on Saturday.

Davis said Houston told him he would have played against FSU if he had made the trip to Tallahassee. White and running back Shaun Draughn (ankle) did not finish the 37-35 win for the Heels.

Sophomore Hunter Furr ran three times for 27 yards on the final drive. Davis said Furr, who had been the scout team running back, will play a significant role against the Hokies. Draughn is listed as the starter but his injury status is unknown.

Houston ran for 713 yards and nine touchdowns last season.

-- J.P. Giglio

Pack kicker Czajkowski out with hamstring injury

N.C. State senior place-kicker Josh Czajkowski will miss at least the remainder of the regular season because of a leg injury, Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien announced today at his weekly news conference.

Czajkowski injured his hamstring on the Wolfpack's final kickoff in Saturday's 14-13 loss to Clemson. It's unclear whether he will be able to return for N.C. State's bowl game.

Sophomore Ellis Flint and freshman Chris Hawthorne will compete for the starting position in practice this week. Flint is a former Hofstra player who transferred after that school dropped its football program at the end of last season.

Czajkowski had attended kicking camp with him and brought it to the N.C. State coaching staff's attention that Flint needed to find a place to play.

Hawthorne is a freshman from Leesville Road High who has impressed O'Brien with his strong leg and improvement this season. O'Brien said it's possible that one of the kickers will kick field goals and extra points, and the other will handle kickoffs in Czajkowski's absence.

Czajkowski was injured on a 76-yard kickoff return by Clemson in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game. He was 12-for-16 on field goal attempts this season. He ranks fourth in school history in field goal percentage (.866) and is tied for fourth in career field goals (40).

Ken Tysiac

N.C. State at UNC will kick off at noon Nov. 20

The annual N.C. State vs. North Carolina football rivalry game will kick off at noon on Nov. 20 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill and will be televised on the ACC Network, the ACC announced today.

N.C. State (6-3, 3-2 ACC) and North Carolina (6-3, 3-2) both will be bowl eligible heading into the game.

In other Nov. 20 games, Duke will visit Georgia Tech at 1:30 p.m. and Clemson will play at Wake Forest at 2 p.m. Both of those games are scheduled for Internet-only broadcasts.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pack leads 7-0 at half

CLEMSON, S.C. - In a game filled with mistakes and a stadium full of boos No. 23 N.C. State leads Clemson 7-0 this afternoon at Death Valley.

N.C. State delivered the only score of the first half on its first drive on a 3-yard pass from Russell Wilson to Mustafa Greene. The drive was kept alive by a controversial third-down pass interference penalty against Corico Hawkins.

Both teams botched numerous opportunities to score after that. Clemson’s Richard Jackson missed a 37-yard field goal attempt, and Tigers quarterback Kyle Parker threw an interception deep in N.C. State territory.

Terrell Manning returned that interception for an apparent touchdown, but the score was called back because of a block-in-the-back penalty. Clemson’s Jarvis Jenkins blocked a 30-yard Josh Czajkowski field goal attempt, and Wilson was intercepted in the end zone by DeAndre McDaniel after the Wolfpack recovered a fumble at the Clemson 7.

The Tigers had a chance to score in the final minute of the first half when they, too, had a touchdown called back because of a penalty. After the holding penalty took away the Clemson's score, J.R. Sweezy and Jeff Rieskamp sacked Kyle Parker on consecutive plays.

Clemson was unable to kick a field goal on fourth down because the clock ran out.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More on team building from Pack's O'Brien

A comment N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien made in a story in Wednesday’s editions of the Charlotte Observer and News & Observer was jarring enough that other media have followed up seeking further details.

In a story describing team building exercises the Wolfpack did in July, O’Brien said that his first three N.C. State teams might not have benefited from similar exercises because of their lack of character.

Asked about that comment, O’Brien expanded Wednesday on the ACC’s weekly coaches’ teleconference:

“I didn’t paint the whole football team as a character issue, but there were enough guys that, it was all about, ‘Me.’ It wasn’t about team. Nothing was going to change in their mind. That was who they were, and 31 guys, 32 guys aren’t here because they didn’t want to conform to the team concept with what we’re trying to get accomplished here.

“We had great kids when we got here. The Evans twins. I can go down the list of great kids. But there weren’t enough of them. They couldn’t overcome some of the ‘me’ and the ego problems that we had when we got there. If you have an ego, you have no chance to be a teammate. You have to forgo a lot of those ‘I’ and ‘me’ situations if you’re going to be a true teammate. We’ve made great strides in that area with these kids playing for each other instead of playing for themselves.

“[This team], they want to do the right things. They want to be good. They want to do whatever it takes to win within the rules and regulations of the game and the campus and everything else. There was that want-to feeling from a majority of guys. It can’t be just three, four, five guys. You can’t have 25 guys committed to want-to, and 75 not. Now when those numbers change over time, which we’ve had to change by attrition, whatever, and you get that number high enough, then you can absorb all those guys that maybe aren’t the want-to guys. The guys that really want to do it and be leaders, they will lead the rest of the Pack.”

It’s been argued that O’Brien disrespected the players on his first three teams who did have high character because of his initial statement. Nothing could be further from the truth.

O’Brien obviously wasn’t ever saying everybody on his first three teams was a “me-first” guy. Current team leaders such as Russell Wilson, Jarvis Williams and Nate Irving were on those teams, too, and O’Brien clearly appreciates their character.

His initial comment was jarring enough, though, that I asked him if he was comfortable with it during the exclusive interview that led to the story. He said he was.

“We had some bad guys,” O’Brien explained. “I’ll say this. There’s a lot of things we could have done and it wouldn’t have made any difference with them. They weren’t going to listen, and they had no intent on being a team player. They were nothing but ‘me’ kind of guys, and most of them, there’s even more that aren’t in the program because of it.”

O’Brien has said a more team-first attitude is one reason that N.C. State (6-2, 3-1 ACC heading into Saturday’s game at Clemson) is off to its best start in years. And he’s sticking to that story as the Wolfpack seeks its first berth in the ACC championship game.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Duke's Renfree learns from mistakes

DURHAM -- Duke quarterback Sean Renfree received more palatable questions this week after leading the Blue Devils to a 34-31 victory over Navy on Saturday.

This time reporters at Duke's weekly news conference on Tuesday asked about his precision and accuracy as he completed 28 of 30 pass attempts for 314 yards and a touchdown against the Midshipmen, starting the game by tying a school-record 16 consecutive completions and finding his target 93 percent of the time.

During the previous four weeks, the questions have centered on Renfree's troubles in the pocket as he committed turnovers - including 11 of his 15 interceptions this season.

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound redshirt sophomore walked off the field at Nay-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium without a passing glitch and now looks to duplicate that poise as Duke (2-6, 0-4) hosts Virginia (4-4, 1-3) on Saturday.

"Making smarter decisions," he said of what was learned. "When it's not clearly there, throw it away, run or do something else with it instead of force throws and force interceptions."

"His decision making was much better," said Duke coach David Cutcliffe, whose staff simplified the game-plan to relieve some pressure on Renfree, who had struggled.

The Devils scripted passing plays to running backs and tight ends to help Renfree find his rhythm. He made more swing passes when things weren't open downfield.

Renfree impressed his Cutcliffe on several occasions when he looked off seemingly open receivers, explaining later that he wasn't completely comfortable with the choice. That equated to progress.

"You can't throw it when you think something," Cutcliffe said. "You have to know something to let that ball out of your hand. When he didn't have that information, he either went somewhere else with the ball or pulled it down."

Renfree said the passing game was simplified, but explained what helped most was making better decisions.

"Not forcing things," he said. "There were a couple times where I could have hit guys, but I couldn't see them perfectly. And I wasn't going to throw something over the middle that I couldn't see completely well and I ended up just running it."

He also used his his legs - rushing for 28 yards and two touchdowns.

Renfree said it's been a learning process for him. He now understand that throwing an incompletion or rushing for one yard is not a negative.

Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon said Renfree was in full command of his skills on Saturday. The quarterback called an audible late in the third quarter that resulted in them connecting on a 29-yard touchdown pass.

Over the past few days, he's watched Renfree's confidence swell.

"That was exactly what he needed," Vernon said.


Cutliffe walked to the podium on Tuesday and started with remarks that spoke to Duke's relief at snapping a six-game losing streak.

"It feels much better to stand up here after a win," he said.

Others were feeling that way, too.

Despite the start to their season, Duke players are looking at the opportunity of finishing out the season 6-6. They are still seeking their first ACC victory, but hope to run the table during their next four games - Virginia, Boston College, Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

So the Devils still have something to play for this season?

"Most definitely," Duke sophomore running back Desmond Scott. "We're going to take them one game at a time. The outcome of these four games will determine our future."

Throughout the season, despite the disappointment with losses, the Devils have remained in high spirits, something Cutcliffe called one of the most "amazing" things he's seen in his coaching career.

He showed his lighter side during Tuesday press conference when a toilet flush interrupted him at the Brooks Football Building.

"That's kind of appropriate," he said. "That should have been here the last six weeks. ... That was a six-game losing streak being flushed."

-- Edward G. Robinson III

Monday, November 1, 2010

UNC cornerback done for season with ACL injury

North Carolina got cornerback Kendric Burney back for Saturday's game against William & Mary, but the 21-17 win over the Tribe cost them another defensive back.

Tar Heels cornerback Terry Shankle tore the ACL in his left knee Saturday, the university's sports information department announced Monday.

Shankle, a redshirt freshman from Norwood, N.C., will have surgery to repair his ACL in the next few weeks and is done for the season, according to the university release.

Shankle had eight tackles and one pass break up this year.

-- Lorenzo Perez

N.C. State's Wilson among ACC Players of the Week

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson and Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly headlined a list of seven players honored today as the Atlantic Coast Conference Football Players of the Week.

Wilson was responsible for all four of the Wolfpack’s touchdowns, including a career-high three rushing TDs, as N.C. State rallied Thursday night from a 14-point deficit to defeat Florida State, 28-24. It's the third time this season that Wilson has been named the ACC's offensive back of the week.

A pair of Duke players, tight end Cooper Helfet and place kicker Will Snyderwine also drew top league honors this week.

The complete list:

OFFENSIVE BACK – Russell Wilson, NC State, QB, r-Jr.

Wilson completed 18 of 28 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown, and rushed 17 times for 69 yards and three touchdowns. Wilson's three rushing touchdowns were the most by an NC State quarterback since Preston Poag rushed for three scores against Western Carolina on Sept. 3, 1988.

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN – Cooper Helfet, Duke, TE, Jr.

In Duke’s 34-31 win, Helfet caught a season-best and team-high seven passes for a season-high 69 yards. Four of his seven receptions produced 1st downs. He also recovered a Navy onsides kick attempt at the 2:34 mark of the fourth quarter to help preserve the victory.

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN – Luke Kuechly, Boston College, MLB, So.

Kuechly recorded 14 tackles and extended his nation-leading streak to 17 games with 10 or more tackles, while also contributing a late-game interception, as Boston College topped Clemson, 16-10.

CO-DEFENSIVE BACK – Chase Minnifield, Virginia, CB, Jr.

Minnifield had two interceptions and four tackles in UVa's 24-19 upset of Miami at Scott Stadium. He teamed with safety Corey Mosley to help the Cavaliers tie the school record with five interceptions during the game.

CO-DEFENSIVE BACK – Corey Mosley, Virginia, S, Jr.

Mosley tallied two interceptions and recorded four tackles as UVa upset Miami, 24-19.

SPECIALIST – Will Snyderwine, Duke, K, r-Jr.

Snyderwine scored 10 points on two field goals and four PATs as Duke defeated Navy, 34-31. He was 2-of-2 on field goals (30 & 40 yards) and 4-of-4 on PATs. His 40-yard field goal at the 8:34 mark of the 4th period proved to be the winning margin in the three-point victory, and he has now made 11 consecutive field goals.

ROOKIE – Danny O’Brien, Maryland, QB, r-Fr.,

O’Brien passed for a career-high four touchdown passes in Maryland’s 62-14 win over the Wake Forest. The redshirt freshman from Kernersville, N.C., has seven touchdowns and no interceptions over the last two games.

His 4.33-to-1 TD to interception ratio is tops in the FBS among freshmen, and despite not starting the first three games of the season, his 13 TD passes are tied for second in the country among freshmen.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Clemson's Ellington out; N.C. State ranked

Clemson running back Andre Ellington will miss at least the next two games with a toe injury suffered in a loss 16-10 Saturday at Boston College, coach Dabo Swinney announced Sunday.

The injury means that N.C. State (6-2, 3-1 ACC) will not have to face the most productive player on the Tigers' offense when it visits Clemson on Saturday. The ACC announced Sunday that the game will kick off at noon at Clemson's Memorial Stadium.

Ellington leads Clemson with 686 rushing yards and leads the ACC in all-purpose yards with 128.9 per game.

N.C. State, meanwhile, crept back into the rankings in both The Associated Press' and USA Today polls on Sunday after edging Florida State 28-24 on Thursday night. The Wolfpack is No. 23 in the AP poll and No. 25 in the USA Today poll.

The AP also ranked N.C. State No. 23 after the Wolfpack improved to 4-0 with a Thursday night win over Cincinnati on Sept. 25. N.C. State dropped out of the rankings after losing 41-30 to Virginia Tech on Oct.. 2.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pack notes: Wolff holds on

RALEGH - The scene of N.C. State sophomore safety Earl Wolff hanging on desperately to the back of wide receiver Taiwan Easterling's jersey late in the fourth quarter Thursday night must have brought back some unpleasant memories for Wolfpack fans.

Last year, Wolff held on in a similar fashion at Virginia Tech as running back Ryan Williams dragged him 10 yards into the end zone during a Hokie win. This time, though, Wolff kept Easterling from breaking loose and brought him down after a 29-yard gain.

Five plays later, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder lost a fumble that was recovered by Nate Irving, and the Wolfpack held on to win 28-24 at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Wolff had one of the best games of his career. He led N.C. State with nine tackles unofficially, had a half-tackle for loss and broke up one pass.

"Earl Wolff seemed to be in a lot of places, made a lot of tackles and showed up a lot," coach Tom O'Brien said. "Hopefully he's grown up and taken another step forward."

- N.C. State established a season high for rushing yards with 189 against Florida State, but has yet to have anybody rush for 100 yards in a game this season.

Freshman running back Mustafa Greene led the Wolfpack with 76 rushing yards, and quarterback Russell Wilson added a season-high 69 yards. The highest single-game rushing total for an N.C. State player this season belongs to Greene, who carried 10 times for 91 yards against Virginia Tech.

The Wolfpack has been splitting carries between Greene and Dean Haynes for much of the season, and has added James Washington into the mix at running back.

- The prolific N.C. State attack has accomplished at least one historical first.

The Wolfpack has scored at least 27 points in each of its first eight games. That's something no N.C. State team has accomplished, even during Philip Rivers' time at quarterback.

With Rivers at the controls in 2002, N.C. State scored at least 32 points in its first seven games, but scored 24 against Duke in the eighth game of the season.

Ken Tysiac

Win gives Pack headstart in Atlantic Division

RALEIGH -- When Christian Ponder’s fumble turned an all-but-certain touchdown into a 28-24 comeback win for N.C. State, that chain of events turned the ACC’s Atlantic Division on its ear.

A win by the Seminoles would have made them 5-0 in the ACC and given them a huge head start on Maryland, the division’s other one-loss team. Instead, the Wolfpack wiggled its way into prime position as one of three teams with one loss (with Clemson lurking at 2-2) and the head-to-head tiebreaker over Florida State.

Assuming Maryland isn’t in it to win it -- and while that may be a foolhardy assumption, that big loss to Clemson and the lack of a marquee ACC win bolsters it for now -- the division title is likely to come down to two games: N.C. State at Clemson on Nov. 6 and Clemson at Florida State on Nov. 13.

It’s more than possible, after Thursday’s game, that a two-loss team represents the Atlantic in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 4. That’s what Clemson is hoping at this point, anyway. The Wolfpack has a simpler equation: Win out.

That would require three tough road wins -- at Clemson, at North Carolina and at Maryland -- but after Thursday’s win, N.C. State controls its own destiny on the road to Charlotte.

Here are the standings and remaining ACC schedule for the Atlantic Division teams:

Florida State 4-1
N.C. State 3-1
Maryland 2-1
Clemson 2-2
Wake Forest 1-3
Boston College 0-4

Oct. 30

Clemson at Boston College
Wake Forest at Maryland

Nov. 6

N.C. State at Clemson
Maryland at Miami
Boston College at Wake Forest
North Carolina at Florida State

Nov. 13

Boston College at Duke
Clemson at Florida State
Maryland at Virginia
Wake Forest at N.C. State

Nov. 20

Virginia at Boston College
Clemson at Wake Forest
Florida State at Maryland
N.C. State at North Carolina

Nov. 27

N.C. State at Maryland

-- Luke DeCock

Thursday, October 28, 2010

FSU-N.C. State Observations

* Thursday night was a huge opportunity for N.C. State to make a statement as a program on national television, and the school was up to the task in terms of atmosphere.

The crowd packed the stands and was louder than it’s been at any time during coach Tom O’Brien’s tenure. The school ratcheted up the intensity, too, but honoring David Thompson during a second-quarter timeout in recognition of his upcoming induction into the Naismith College Basketball Hall of Fame.

* The big question entering the game was whether Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder had recovered from a ruptured bursa sac in his right (throwing) elbow.

Ponder quickly demonstrated plenty of arm strength on a deep pass that was broken up by C.J. Wilson and another that should have been intercepted by Wilson but ricocheted off his chest and incomplete.

* N.C. State starting running back Dean Haynes had a difficult night.

His second-quarter fumble at the Wolfpack 18-yard line led to a Florida State go-ahead touchdown. Nigel Bradham caused the fumble by putting his helmet on the ball, and Florida State scored five plays later.

Later in the quarter, it was announced that Haynes was out for the remainder of the game with a suspected concussion.

* It wasn’t the same this week watching Florida State play without Bobby Bowden.

Bowden, who was ousted after last season, wasn’t just one of the best football coaches in the nation for more than a generation. He was a master communicator with a great sense of humor who made covering Florida State fun.

His successor, Jimbo Fisher, is off to a good start. But nobody can match Bowden in terms of personality.

- Ken Tysiac

Pack trails FSU at halftime

RALEIGH - A disastrous second quarter this evening left N.C. State trailing 16th-ranked Florida State 21-7 at halftime at Carter-Finley Stadium in a key game in the ACC Atlantic Division standings.

After scoring on a 1-yard Russell Wilson run on its opening drive, N.C. State was shut out for the rest of the half. Florida State's offense started slowly, but quarterback Christian Ponder ran for two touchdowns and passed for another in the second quarter as Florida State outscored the Wolfpack 21-0.

Florida State outgained N.C. State 167 yards to 14 in the second quarter and capitalized on a Dean Haynes fumble at the Wolfpack 18 to score the go-ahead touchdown.

Wilson was just 6-for-14 passing for 49 yards in the first half.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Burney cleared to play for UNC

UNC senior cornerback Kendric Burney has been cleared to play this Saturday against William & Mary, the university announced Tuesday afternoon.

A first-team All-ACC performer last season, Burney has yet to play this season for the Tar Heels. He was suspended six games for violations of NCAA agent benefits and preferential treatment rules and was scheduled to return in time for Saturday's game against Miami.

But Burney was held out of the game, a 33-10 loss to the Hurricanes, while UNC worked with the NCAA to determine his eligibility status.

-- Lorenzo Perez

Tudor's Take: ECU's Harris pays price for success

While running up one of the most prolific statistical seasons in ECU football history, Pirate receiver Dwayne Harris also is among the team leaders in hits absorbed.

A 6-foot, 205-pound senior with NFL potential, Harris leads Conference USA in receiving with 54 catches for 604 yards and five touchdown through the team's 5-2 overall, 4-0 league start.

In all-purpose yardage, Harris rates No. 2 in the league with an average of 160 per game. He's also thrown a touchdown pass of 39 yards to fellow wide-out Joe Womack.

But in the process, Harris is taking a beating and sat out several plays in last week's win over Marshall after a hit to his helmet on a punt return created some concern on the sidelines and a great deal more among fans in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

At his news conference on Monday in Greenville, Pirate coch Ruffin McNeill said Harris will be ready for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game at Central Florida (5-2, 3-0). But McNeill also has gone through some tense moments watching the hits.

"I was worried Saturday. The football part I love, but I wasn't worried about football with him. I was just hoping he was alright," McNeill said.

"He is as beat up as anybody after the game but finds a way to get ready. He does not miss practice or reps. We have to hold him back.

McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley have compared Harris to Michael Crabtree, the former Texas Tech star and No. 10 overall draft pick in 2009 by San Francisco.
"Down for down, I'd be shocked if there's a better receiver in the country," Riley said. "I don't know if you'll ever see a much better blocker for a guy who does all the things Dwayne does in catching the ball and kick returns."

Central Florida coach George O'Leary emphasized stopping Harris only minutes after his team's win over Rice last weekend.

"No. 17 has given us fits in the past - [Dwayne] Harris. You know, I think as good a receiver he is, I think he's a better return guy," O'Leary said.

-- Caulton Tudor

Sunday, October 17, 2010

UNC RB Houston could redshirt

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Senior tailback Ryan Houston was back in uniform Saturday after sitting out UNC’s first five games as part of the NCAA’s investigation into agent benefits and possible academic misconduct. But he did not play during the Tar Heels' 44-10 victory, leaving open the possibility that he might redshirt, and return next season.

“We’re going to talk with Ryan. There was a discussion about the possibility – might he redshirt and come back and play next year? [With the] health to this football team, who knows?” coach Butch Davis said. “It’s hard to project.

“… We obviously didn’t find out [about his return] until late Thursday night, and he had missed all the week’s preparation. Bombs would have had to go off, and he could have gone in, and he could have played a little bit at running back, but he hadn’t had any contact, he hadn’t been hit in six or seven weeks. … This just came totally out of left field, and kind of caught us all off-guard and unprepared. I want to talk to his mom and dad, and probably him, Monday, and find out [about redshirting]. As I told him today, ‘Be ready, be focused, be prepared to come in, and maybe potentially help us if we need it. Hopefully, a disaster won’t come off, and we can have a calm discussion about it.’

“But if that had happened, there’s no question in my mind that he would have run out there, and we’d have started handing the ball to 32 and pounding.”

-- Robbi Pickeral

UNC's Pianalto fractures fibula

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. –  It looked as if senior Zack Pianalto’s touchdown jinx might be over Saturday night when the North Carolina tight end managed to haul in a 1-yard touchdown reception, celebrate, and leave the end zone with nary a limp.

Until about 4 minutes later, when he hobbled to the sideline with a fractured right fibula.

With 2:35 left in the second quarter, Pianalto caught a 7-yard pass from quarterback T.J. Yates, then was tackled by two Cavaliers. The pop by cornerback Chase Minnifield earned a 15-yard personal foul penalty for Virginia, and Pianalto hopped off the field – and then to the locker room -- on one leg.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Saturday, October 16, 2010

UNC's Euwell cleared; Burney has new issues

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- UNC will get one more player back, reserve defensive end Linwan Euwell, but the school announced this afternoon that All-ACC cornerback Kendric Burney has an "unresolved issue" related to the ongoing NCAA investigation.

Burney was suspended six games by the NCAA for receiving agent-related benefits. He was supposed to return next week but UNC announced that Burney has an "unresolved issues related to the ongoing review and his status for the Miami game is undetermined at this point."

"There have been multiple issues [with Burney]," UNC athletic director Dick Baddour said Saturday at Scott Stadium. "We've been working on them for some time. We had hoped that all of those issues would be resolved by this time but that hasn't happened unfortunately.

"It is possible that it will be resolved by the Miami game. It's possible that it will be resolved favorably, and it's possible that it will not be resolved favorably."

Euwell, who has sat out the first five games, has been cleared. Reserve safety Brian Gupton, who also has sat out the first five games, will not play this season.

UNC did not specify the details for either Euwell or Gupton. The school, with the NCAA, is investigating cases of academic misconduct and several players have been scheduled for the school's honor court. Due to privacy laws, UNC is not allowed to comment on specific academic issues.

UNC had 13 players suspended or withheld from the season-opener on Sept. 4 and a 14th player, fullback Devon Ramsay, was added to the list last Saturday. Five players have been ruled out for the seaosn, either by UNC or the NCAA, five players have been cleared and four players, including Burney, are still in limbo.

Running back Ryan Houston was cleared on Thursday and is expected to play today.

The players involved in the investigation to date:

OUT (5)
*DT Marvin Austin
*WR Greg Little
*DE Robert Quinn
S Jonathan Smith
S Brian Gupton

Cleared (5)
RB Ryan Houston (five games)
DE Linwan Euwell (five games)
*S Deunta Williams (four games)
S Da'Norris Searcy (three games)
RB Shaun Draughn (one game)

Limbo (4)
DE Michael McAdoo
CB Charles Brown
FB Devon Ramsay
*CB Kendric Burney (serving six-game agent-related suspension)

Note: * - agent-related suspensions or dismissals. Due to privacy laws, UNC cannot comment on the specifics of the academic-related investigation.