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October 5, 2011
NC State fans have obviously been discouraged about the Pack's 2-3 start to the 2011 campaign. However, in last Saturday's showdown with Georgia Tech and the Yellow Jackets' top-ranked offense, the Wolfpack made clear strides, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
It was far from a flawless performance but Tech entered the game with nearly a 70 percent success rate (.680) on third-downs while the Pack defense has struggled to get off the field. However, that was not the case on Saturday as the Red and White limited the visitors to four conversions on 12 third-down attempts. The Pack also held Georgia Tech to about 215 yards less than their average of total offense and helped the offense hold an advantage in time of possession.
"I felt like we came out a little bit flat at first," junior defensive end McKay Frandsen said about the Pack falling behind 21-0 to open the contest. "I felt like in the second and third quarter, we were all fired up. In the third quarter, I thought in my head, 'we're going to win this game.' The score was 21-14 and we had the momentum, we stopped them on the goal-line and I think the defense made some big strides in the game. We got some enthusiasm going in the game.
"On a couple of series, we stopped them on the goal-line. I think there was seven plays inside the 10-yard line [when the Pack stopped Georgia Tech] on one drive. I think that's definitely a positive. We just have to build off that and do that consistently, that's what we're focused on."
The biggest disappointment for the Pack was three offsides penalties on fourth-downs. Two of those miscues resulted in first downs for their opponents. The fact that NC State has been forced to play so many youngsters along the defensive line likely contributed to those yellow flags, but Frandsen was not interested in making excuses.
"You definitely have to be on your toes, especially near the goal-line," he said. "They're trying to get a touchdown so you're really on edge, you're ready to fight off the ball and try to get a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. The offense knows that, so they gave a hard count and, every once in a while, they'll get you."
Frandsen is one of just seven defensive linemen to appear in every game this year. Although that may sound like a lot, the players on the line have been anything but consistent due to injuries, and the Pack likes to rotate their big men up front. The two-deep along the front four has not been the same for two weeks in a row this season and five of those seven defenders are seeing the playing field at NC State for the first time.
Things have gotten so dire that a walk-on, Jacob Kahut, who has been practicing mostly at offensive line, was plugged in for a few plays against Georgia Tech and fullback Taylor Gentry also moonlighted as a defensive tackle.
"Guys have been up and down, there's been a lot of injuries, unfortunately," Frandsen said. "But I think it's been a good opportunity for a lot of guys, myself included, to contribute, to play hard and to really buckle down, work extra hard and try to pull out some wins.
"I think everyone is doing their job as best they can and everyone is working hard. Some of the freshmen, like T.Y. McGill, have really stepped up big and that's been a great opportunity for him."
While most of the defensive linemen are adjusting to playing for the first time due to their youth, Frandsen is a different story. The former junior college All-American at Snow College in Ephraim, Utah is at his third different college (he was a walk-on linebacker at BYU in 2009) and also spent two years on a Mormon mission in Alaska before ever going to college, so he's a little older than most of his teammates and new to life on the east coast. However, he and his wife are settling into Raleigh nicely.
"My wife and I actually love it here," he said. "It took us a few months to adjust to life down here, but we've adjusted and we love it here."
Frandsen has some goals he is hoping to meet this upcoming weekend when the Pack hosts Central Michigan at Carter-Finley Stadium.
"I think we just need to make a statement," he said. "We have to go out and show we have a good defense. We have a good defense; there's been times where we haven't played as good as we should. I think this game is our chance to put four quarters together; to be consistent on the defensive front and on defense as a whole for four quarters."
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