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September 21, 2009

Monday morning quarterbacking: Gardner-Webb

For the second straight week, NC State did what a good team does and that's take care of business against an inferior opponent. The Pack jumped out to a 21-0 first quarter lead and never looked back in a 45-14 rout of Gardner-Webb Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium. Now it's time for some Monday morning quarterbacking.

Key moment of the game:

It's really hard to identify a key moment of the game, so we'll go with the first drive. For the first time in what seems like forever, NC State actually lost the coin toss, so the Pack received first. On its opening drive, State converted on a pair of third down plays and scored on an 11-yard run from fifth-year senior running back Toney Baker. That started the Pack off on its rout.

Three things that worked:

1. Russell Wilson
The redshirt sophomore quarterback may have had his finest throwing performance of his career for NC State. There were a few errant throws here and there, but overall he played very well in the passing game, and the numbers show. He completed 26 of 36 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns.

2. Third downs
On both sides of the ball, NC State was dominant on third downs. The Pack converted an impressive 6 of 11 third downs while holding Gardner-Webb to just 1 of 13. On two of the third downs NC State did not convert, they got a first down by going for it on fourth down. Unfortunately for State, so did Gardner-Webb.

3. Defense
For the most part the defense did fairly well, though not near as dominant as they had been against Murray State the week before. Gardner-Webb's first touchdown was on a 78-yard drive that was aided by two NC State personal foul penalties for 30 yards. One of the 15-yard penalties came when redshirt freshman Earl Wolff spun the receiver to the ground after he was out of bounds, negating what was a five-yard loss on a 3rd and 5 play. The other touchdown drive was set up by redshirt freshman quarterback Mike Glennon's fumble at the NC State 46-yard line, and Gardner-Webb converted two fourth downs on the drive.

Three things that did not work:

1. Staying healthy
You would hope to come out of the Murray State and Gardner-Webb games as healthy as possible, but State lost senior safety Clem Johnson against Murray State with a leg injury and then freshman corner Rashard Smith and junior receiver Owen Spencer got hurt against Gardner-Webb. Johnson sat out the Gardner-Webb game, and word will come Thursday if any of the three key players will be able to return for the Pittsburgh game next Saturday.

2. Quarterback pressure
Officially NC State did not record a single quarterback hurry in the game, and one of the two sacks they had came when quarterback Stan Doolitte tried to scramble and redshirt sophomore linebacker Audie Cole ran him down by the sideline. State will need to get more pressure on the quarterback against Pittsburgh.

3. Pass protection
It's not a good sign that NC State gave up four sacks in this game, including one hit on Glennon that caused a fumble. Gardner-Webb also recorded three quarterback hurries. Part of that is due to State dropping back to throw over 40 times.

Breaking down the position battles:

NC State's OL vs. Gardner-Webb's front seven
Overall a win for NC State as you would expect, but not to the degree that they dominated Murray State a week before. State's run blocking was good, but pass protection could have been better.

NC State's front seven vs. Gardner-Webb's OL
The front seven recorded just two sacks and three tackles for losses overall. They probably should have been more dominant than they were against a team like Gardner-Webb.

NC State's WR vs. Gardner-Webb's DB
The Pack's wide outs had a great game, getting open and making themselves good targets for Wilson and Glennon. In particular, sophomore T.J. Graham and redshirt junior Darrell Davis had two of their better games for NC State.

NC State's DB vs. Gardner-Webb's WR
Gardner-Webb had some success passing, but NC State kept everything Gardner-Webb gained to a minimum. The Runnin' Bulldogs were limited to just eight yards per pass completion.

Quarterbacks
Doolittle actually did an admirable job for Gardner-Webb, completing 14 of 22 passes for 112 yards and protecting the football well, but Wilson stole the show on this night.

Running backs
NC State's trio of Baker, freshman James Washington and redshirt freshman Brandon Barnes all ran well, rushing a combined 22 times for 123 yards, or 5.6 yards per run. That was more effective than what Gardner-Webb got from its running backs.

Tight Ends
Redshirt sohomore George Bryan may have had his best night catching the ball, making six receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns. He was a huge target for Wilson on this night.

Special teams
Redshirt junior Josh Czajkowski continues to have a good year, connecting on all six extra points and making a 41-yard field goal, his second over 40 yards already this year. He made just one over 40 yards all of last season. Redshirt junior Jeff Ruiz punted well enough, averaging 38.0 yards on his two boots, but give Gardner-Webb punter Graham Purvis credit for averaging 40.9 yards per punt.


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