NC State Seeking Three-Pronged Offensive Solution

NC State quarterback Mike Glennon was sacked six times by the Connecticut defense. (Photo from The Hartford Courant)

NC State (1-1) vs. South Alabama, 6:00 PM, ESPN3

NC State got back on track defensively against UConn, holding the Huskies to just seven points and 239 yards. Connecticut crossed the 50-yard line just three times and entered the red zone just once (on a touchdown drive). The Wolfpack defense forced four turnovers and held Connecticut outside of the NC State 35-yard line on all but the aforementioned touchdown drive.

Now the concern shifts to the offense, which put up just 10 points and 258 total yards last week (including 54 rushing yards on 41 attempts). While the Wolfpack has had arguably the toughest first two games of any ACC team, they are 11th in the league total offense (332.5 yards per game) and tenth in rushing offense (86.5 yards per game).

The running game has been a rotation of Mustafa Greene, Tony Creecy and James Washington. Greene has the most carries (28) and yards (101) but Creecy has 16 for 62 (3.9 a carry) and Washington has 14 for 32 (2.3 per carry). Greene looks like the most explosive of the trio, but he hasn’t sustained it. NC State head coach Tom O’Brien is looking for one of them to separate.

“There’s glimpses of each one of them doing things that you want to do, but there’s not the consistency doing it all the time that you have to have to be the guy,” O’Brien said. “They have to make that decision for us, not us making the decision saying, ‘You’re the guy’.”

The offensive line, despite returning a lot of experience, has become an issue. NC State is last in the league in sacks allowed (seven). But six of those were by Connecticut, and O’Brien attributed that at least in part to an injury to starting left tackle Rob Crisp. His backup Tyson Chandler, a redshirt sophomore who had played just 26 career snaps (mostly on special teams), struggled at times against Connecticut defensive end Trevardo Williams, who had 2.5 sacks.

“(Williams) was after poor Tyson early and often, and he hung in there for awhile but like anybody else, he’ll be much better this week. That was his first extended time to play in a really, really tough situation,” O’Brien said.

“More than anything, it’s the psychological factor that you’re finally playing. It’s a big game. You’re on the road. You’re going against a guy that’s probably going to be an NFL guy next year. You’re not easing into anything. He hung in there and gave us four quarters worth, and now we’ve got a chance to work and get better this week because he’s probably going to have to play there.”

The statistics bear out the impact of Crisp’s absence – Tennessee sacked Mike Glennon just once and had 5.0 tackles for loss while UConn racked up six sacks and 11.0 tackles for loss. The injury to Crisp meant that NC State was starting a second new offensive line in two games, and it has affected continuity. But O’Brien, known for developing offensive linemen, isn’t worried.

“The biggest thing on the offensive line is continuity and playing to the guy next to you. We had the right guys in the right spots, but now we start the (Connecticut) game with a new guy at left tackle, which is a premiere spot in what we have to do protecting the quarterback,” O’Brien said. “Is it a position of strength today? No. Can it be? Yes, absolutely.”

Crisp’s injury is a week-to-week situation, and it’s unknown how long he will be out. But Chandler should be able to get a lot of meaningful reps at arguably the most important position on the field, since the left tackle protects quarterback Mike Glennon’s blind side.

Glennon has had his own issues: through two games, he already has four interceptions (a third of his total last year) and has completed just 55.3% of his passes. But the offensive line has been a factor, and he’s dealing with a relatively inexperienced crop of wide receivers who are still struggling to get separation against college defensive backs.

NC State will face South Alabama at home at 6:00 this Saturday before a home matchup with Citadel on Sept. 22, and those games should give the Wolfpack a chance to fine-tune their offense. But O’Brien knows that multiple things have to get fixed.

“It’s three-pronged. It starts with the protection, it goes to the route running and being in the right spot at the right time, and then it goes to him and decision-making and what he has to do. All three of those aspects have to get better if we’re going to get better throwing the football,” O’Brien said. “It’s a combination of everything, and it’s something that we have to solve and we have to make it work this week.”

Mascot facts: A jaguar is an awesome mascot, and only one other school uses it. (How is this possible with all of the Wildcats and Tigers?) South Alabama picked the jaguar in 1965. Three years later, someone donated a live South American jaguar to the school. By 1971, someone on campus in charge of such things thought to himself, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” Probably not long after the time Mischka the Jaguar got out and “decided to take a tour of campus.”

Maybe while they’re in Raleigh, South Paw and Miss Pawla will double date with Mr. and Ms. Wuf. But since the Wufs got married, they never do anything fun anymore.

Prediction: NC State, 44-7. The Wolfpack really needs to get the offense going this week, and South Alabama shouldn’t offer too much resistance. South Alabama lost 33-31 at Texas-San Antonio in Week 1 but beat Nicholls State 9-3 last week. This will be the Jaguars’ first road game.

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