NC State Must Stay Disciplined Against Tricky Triple-Option
(Note: This article first ran in the September 19th edition of The Sanford Herald.)
NC State (2-1) head coach Tom O’Brien is a former Marine, and he doesn’t much care for lapses in discipline. The Wolfpack was cruising to a 31-0 shutout win over South Alabama, but a few defensive fourth-quarter lapses led to a late touchdown for the Jaguars against NC State’s fist team defense.
It’s not the end of the world by any means, but on the last two South Alabama drives, the NC State defense surrendered 102 yards on eight plays and a touchdown. Prior to that, they had given up 212 yards on 51 plays and no points. “All you’ve got to do is pay attention and stay focused in what you’re doing and not be out there drifting around and give up a big play like we gave (up),” O’Brien said. “A thousand ‘atta boys’ are wiped away by one ‘Aw, blank’.”
NC State’s defense hadn’t surrendered a play of 20 or more yards to the Jaguars before allowing five such plays in the second half, including three in the fourth quarter (all pass plays, and most against NC State’s first-string defense). It’s just a few plays, sure. But a few big plays have haunted the Wolfpack defense already this season: Tennessee’s first three touchdowns were 41 yards, 72 yards and 67 yards. Connecticut had a 43-yard pass play that led to its only touchdown and represented nearly a quarter of its total passing yards.
This week’s opponent, the Citadel (3-0), will capitalize on any mistake or missed assignment. The Citadel went to Appalachian State and thumped the Mountaineers 52-28, something that doesn’t happen very often. The Wolfpack will have to play assignment football against the Citadel and stay disciplined against the triple-option attack.
“What they’re saying is, ‘If we do this 30 times, you’re not good enough or tough enough physically or mentally to do your job 30 times and we’re going to pop it on you.’ That’s the whole predication of how they do things: you’re not going to be mentally tough enough to do what you have to do, and then we’re going to pop someone on you, and that’s how that offense works,” O’Brien said.
The Wolfpack has had some success against Georgia Tech’s triple option in the past, but linebacker Rickey Dowdy knows that all it takes is one defensive lapse for that offense to make you pay for it. “It’s just a quick second, being in the wrong place at the wrong time or not taking the right step,” Dowdy said. “You can stop them on first and second down and then third down, they can break a 30-yard run, maybe a touchdown. We just have to play assignment football.”
And the discipline extends to the offensive side of the ball as well. A physically inferior South Alabama team managed to sack quarterback Mike Glennon three times (in addition to sacking his backup Manny Stocker once). Left tackle Rob Crisp is expected to miss this week’s game as well, and his backup Tyson Chandler had NC State’s two offensive penalties against South Alabama with a false start and a holding penalty.
Not only is the Wolfpack last in the league in sacks allowed, but they are also averaging fewer yards per rush than any team in the league except for Wake Forest. NC State is going to have to keep the ball as much as it can against the Citadel because of the way the triple option can eat up clock.
But the NC State offense moved the ball well early on South Alabama, and Glennon thinks the offense can build on that success. He started the game 11-of-12 passing for 127 yards and two touchdowns on the Wolfpack’s first two possessions.
“I would just like to get in a rhythm. I think getting in a rhythm helps wear down the defense a little bit and gets our offense going,” Glennon said. “If it’s throwing quick or whatever it is, I think getting in a rhythm really helps the offense, it helps me and I feel like anytime we hit a few passes, it gets our offense going and it wears the defense down.”
Mascot facts: Citadel adopted the Bulldog nickname in 1909, and they started using a live bulldog mascot in 1928. Perhaps its most famous mascot was Colonel Ruff. Eventually nicknamed Killer for allegedly eating a few poodles, he was killed by an alligator before the start of the 1990 season when he supposedly got between said gator and a little girl.
Prediction: NC State, 41-17. The Wolfpack got rolling early against South Alabama, and the good start was probably a good omen for the offense. The defense was almost perfect, and they’ll need to do that again. In the end, their superior athleticism should win out. The Citadel is no joke, though. The Bulldogs pounded Charleston Southern 49-14, then edged Georgia Southern 23-21 and went to Appalachian State for a stunning 52-28 blowout win.