Out-of-town Q&A: N.C. State

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Anyone who is an ACC fan should have done this long ago, but here’s some simple instructions.

Go to the Raleigh News & Observer’s ACC Now blog and bookmark it. Now. Or 10 seconds ago.

All of the beat writers at the N&O contribute to this, but J.P. Giglio is what you could call the primary blogger in the enterprise.

He’s also seen plenty of N.C. State, which makes him well qualified to talk about the Wolfpack.

So here’s five questions with Giglio, who graciously lent his time to make this four straight conference games with an out-of-town Q&A here.

1. N.C. State pushed both Boston College and Florida State in its last two games. Is this team a bit closer to being a .500ish bunch than a reeling 2-5 squad?

JG: The answer to No. 1 is really the answer to No. 2. With a healthy Russell Wilson, he has missed one game with a concussion and another with a shoulder injury, the Wolfpack has a competent offense.

In the past two games, the 38-31 loss to BC and 26-17 to FSU, Wilson has completed 32 of 58 passes for 399 yards with five total touchdowns (in the air and on the ground) and zero turnovers.

The reason State’s 2-5 is the defense, which got pressure against Florida State’s sad offensive line but other than that has been unable to even slow down an opponent’s passing game.

An ankle injury to linebacker Nate Irving has hurt the team more than any injury on the other side of the ball, and there have been plenty of injuries (Wilson, WR Donald Bowen, TE Anthony Hill, DT Alan-Michael Cash, RB Toney Baker, etc.)

2. How much more dangerous is the Wolfpack with redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson healthy and under center?

JG: Seeing as how both Daniel Evans, the 2006 and ‘07 starter, and Harrison Beck are incompetent and the offensive line isn’t very good, a lot more dangerous.

3. It’s more than a season and a half into Tom O’Brien’s tenure at State. What things has he managed to reverse from the tail end of the Chuck Amato years in that time, and is there optimism about the program’s direction despite the current record?

JG: There’s optimism that O’Brien will ultimately succeed when he has enough healthy bodies to build momentum. So far, he hasn’t had the chance.

And it’s not just injuries, it’s the fact that the team was so short on talent to begin with. Between program departures, injuries, redshirts and academic casualties, State has less than 50 available scholarship players on the roster. That’s thin.

But what O’Brien has done is cut down on the mindless penalties and turnovers.

A hallmark of O’Brien’s BC teams was they did not beat themselves. You can say the same about State this year - they’ve cut down on turnovers tremendously, they ranked 116th in turnover margin in 2007 - it’s just that the defense has been that bad that other teams are just beating them.

4. Everyone left the Wolfpack for dead last year and they produced a four-game winning streak. Is this year’s version capable of doing the same, or are the injuries too great an obstacle?

JG: The schedule is the real obstacle. State won five games in 2007 and I said before the season they might be better this season but the record might not show it.

Given the progress of Wilson, when healthy, that statement is on target. But playing South Florida and South Carolina didn’t help their cause, neither has the injuries.

State closes with @ Maryland, @ Duke, Wake, @ UNC and Miami. Realistically, the fan base would take two wins out of that group - a 4-8 season - and then move on to 2009.

5. This is a Tobacco Road school, after all, so it’s worth asking this question: Have State fans already moved on to basketball season?

JG: No. You’re in the wrong corner of the Triangle. Duke’s in basketball mode and UNC’s just about there but State’s hoops season promises to be as ugly as the football campaign.

Again, much thanks to J.P. Giglio for taking the time to offer his take on the Wolfpack.

Patrick Stevens

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