In exchange, we answered some questions for Backing The Pack on BC.
BC Interruption: The Pack has given up 820 yards and 79 points in their last two games against Wake Forest and Duke, and a lot of the blame falls on the Wolfpack's secondary. What is up with NC State's pass defense? Who are your starting four in the secondary? What (if anything) can be done to improve NC State's passing defense?
Backing The Pack: Coming into the season it was pretty clear that this was the thinnest and least experienced group on the team; it didn't help that a couple of would-be contributors here left the program during the off-season. There are five underclassmen on the secondary's two-deep, many of whom are talented but are still very much learning on the job. Between South Carolina, which had no interest in opening things up, and the two I-AA teams, which obviously don't have I-A athletes, the secondary wasn't challenged until the fourth game of the season, so I think the problems have been there from the start. It just wasn't until recently that we ran into teams interested and capable of exploiting those problems.
I think the defensive scheme has been a little too conservative the last couple of weeks--we've played some very soft zone coverages and the safeties have played perhaps too deep at times, all in an effort to keep everything in front of them. Which would be okay if any of them could tackle and limit our opponents' underneath throws. That's the main thing we need to see from this group against Boston College; they've got to tackle better. A lot better.
Aside from improved tackling, I'm not sure what can be done to improve the pass defense at this point. Duke was able to neutralize NC State's defensive strength--the d-line--with a lot of quick throws. Wide receiver screens and other lateral throws took full advantage of the cushion the defense was giving their receivers, and those plays worked for easy gains all day. Boston College will have that same kind of success if our coaches don't mix in more press man-to-man.
BCI: After lighting it up and throwing 12 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in non-conference play, Russell Wilson - at least statistically - hasn't had nearly as much success after the first two games in ACC play. Is this truly the case? Have you seen anything the last two weeks that you haven't liked from Wilson, or was this just a case of Wilson having career days against teams with bad pass defenses? Finally, what do you expect from Wilson on Saturday?
BTP: It's true he hasn't had as much success, but I haven't seen anything different with regards to his approach or decision-making that would be cause for worry. He went so long without an interception that now that he's thrown a few it almost seems like something has to be wrong, but there he's a victim of his own success. He's no more prone to bad decisions now than he has been in the past.
I expect a typical Wilson performance on Saturday, say another 200-yard passing game with 30-40 yards on the ground.
BCI: Much was made last season about how NC State was the self-proclaimed best program in the state of North Carolina. The same can't be said this season with early losses to Wake Forest and Duke. How bad is it to lose to Duke? Do you think this team can recover from these back-to-back losses to in-state rivals?
BTP: It is awful, thanks for asking. The last time Duke beat State in Raleigh, I was one. So this is a new sensation. They can recover from this, sure, and they've improved down the stretch in each of Tom O'Brien's first two seasons. Whether or not I think they can turn it around this time, though ... I'll tell you after Saturday.
BCI: Have you been happy with Tom O'Brien's performance so far in Raleigh? Do you think his job is in jeopardy at season's end if the Pack can't turn things around and get to a bowl?
BTP: A lot of folks voiced frustration after the Duke debacle, which is understandable, but Tom O'Brien's track record will continue to do his reputation favors so long as this season doesn't become a complete disaster. We still have faith that he can repeat the success he had at Boston College. If NC State ends up missing out on post-season play, I think defensive coordinator Mike Archer will be the scapegoat.
BCI: Can NC State win four of their last six and make it to a bowl this year? Handicap the chances that NC State makes the postseason.
BTP: This being the ACC, every game is winnable. If the Pack can win the rest of its home games and steal one on the road, that'll get them to 7-5. Based on what I've seen so far, though, I'm thinking that 6-6 is more likely. If we can't find a way to tighten the screws defensively, a 4-2 finish is just a pipe dream.
BCI: Last one, what are you expecting for this Saturday's game? Make a prediction. Who you got? What's the final score?
BTP: I suppose it would be foolish to expect Bad Dave Shinskie to show up against the NC State secondary. I'll say Boston College 27, NC State 21.
BCI: Wow. We aren't used to bloggers that don't expect their team to win every game around here. Your prediction will be music to our readers' ears. Or are you trying to lull us into complacency? Hmm.
Thanks for joining us!
For more information on the NC State Wolfpack, be sure to check out Backing The Pack.