As we prepare for another rough weekend of football, D. Medlin from Cardiac Pack was nice enough to virtually sit down with us and exchange some Qs and As.
1. What's the problem with NC St.'s defense right now? Is it talent, coaching, or a combination of the two?
Where do I even start with N.C. State's defense? A lot of the complaining I've heard from fans and stuff I've read seems to want to blame defensive coordinator Mike Archer for the problems but I'm not completely sold on it being solely his fault. The cubbard is more than a little thin. With injuries and an extreme lack of experience in several defensive positions there has been a ton of "learning on the fly," which obviously hasn't gone very well. In its first eight games the Wolfpack have used seven different starting lineups in the defensive secondary in an attempt to find the best four guys. It hasn't happened yet. I don't think the talent is terrible, but it's definitely not where it needs to be to make the defense formidable. There were signs of life last week against Florida State, however. The Pack held do-everything QB Christian Ponder to 277 passing yards and hauled in two interceptions. I am aware that the defense still gave up 45 points, but with the way things have been going it's the little things right now.
2. On that topic, what type of defense do you guys run? Maryland can't seem to hold off attacking defenses. Does Mike Archer dial up a lot of blitzes, or is it more of a sit back and wait affair?
N.C. State has tried different things defensively throughout the year but the base scheme is most certainly zone. Mike Archer's -- and Tom O'Brien's -- calling card is zone. With all the injuries and inconsistency in the starting lineup it's been extremely difficult for the Wolfpack to have any continuity in its defense. Much like a quick passing attack, zone defense has to have a lot of rhythm. Players dropping into pass coverage have to know where their teammates are and trust that they will do their job on each and every play. With so many different lineups there have been several instances where the defense has looked lost, most notably against Duke. The coaching staff has tried to simplify the defense during the four game losing streak N.C. State and its fans are enjoying. That being said, the defense can definitely bring pressure. Defensive end Willie Young, arguably the best player on the defensive side of the ball, has gotten pressure on opposing quarterbacks throughout the year. Maryland fans should expect to see a fairly base zone defense from State Saturday with zone blitzes mixed in quite a bit. I feel like they may blitz someone like Chris Turner less because they feel like he may not chew up a zone like Thaddeus Lewis, but that is just a gut feeling. I could be horribly wrong.
3. It's pretty clear NC St's offense is electric. Since the opening snoozer against SC, the lowest point total is 20, which Maryland would die for right now. How'd BC manage to shut down an offense that's so electric, and how can Maryland learn from that?
Boston College most certainly did a great job shutting down the N.C. State attack, doing exactly what Tom O'Brien and Mike Archer are hoping to do with the Wolfpack defense. The zone defense that is "under construction" in Raleigh is a well-oiled machine in Chestnut Hill. Boston College gave up yards (315 passing) but stiffened in the red zones and forced two field goals in the first half after impressive N.C. State marches. Those stands were crucial later in the game once the Boston College rushing attack started chewing up yardage.
If there is one thing Maryland can take away from Boston College, it's don't be afraid to sit back and play some zone. N.C. State will move the ball and score some points, but the offense seems most dynamic when teams try to play man. Russell Wilson has a ton to do with that. When teams try to play man and Russell Wilson breaks contain, linebackers and corners are out there with their backs to the play and Wilson has a field day. Boston College let Wilson get his yards but got stops in the red zone and held Wilson to 35 yards on 11 carries.
4. To me, it seems difficult to believe that a defense can be so bad to completely throw away the advantage of having one of the highest-octane offenses in the country without a little help from special teams. Does N.C. State tend to lose the field position battle thanks to a not-so-special special teams unit?
Man I'm so glad you asked about N.C. State special teams so I'd have a chance to get up on my soap box a little bit. Here goes: Special teams and field position is the one area all year that has driven me absolutely crazy about this team. I had a feeling the defense would be less than stellar so I'm not surprised by what I've seen but I expected more out of the "special" teams. Kicker Josh Czajkowsi is serviceable as a field goal kicker but is absolutely awful as a kickoff specialist. Add in the fact that for some reason N.C. State can't cover kicks and opposing teams always seem to have amazing field position. And on the flip side, the Wolfpack has had trouble getting good return yardage on kickoff returns despite having TJ Graham, probably one of the fastest guys in the whole conference, returning kicks. Let me just give you an example number one of how bad special teams has hurt N.C. State. In the Duke game the Pack turned the ball over on two occasions trying to return punts. The last of these Duke recovered in the end zone to put the icing on the cake of its 49-28 beat down of the Wolfpack.
5. It's prediction time. Bonus points if you pick a Maryland victory (even though you'll probably be wrong).
I've been terribly off on my predictions the last few weeks so I don't really know what to think about this one. The subjective person in me thinks N.C. State could win by a couple touchdowns, but I should know better. If nothing else the game should be entertaining. Chris Turner will more than likely have a career day against the Wolfpack defense and throw for 300+. The key in this one will be turnovers. I think whoever can force more will win.
I was told I'd get bonus points for picking a Maryland victory but I wasn't sure what the points would be good for, so I'll say...