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November 9, 2012

Five keys: Wake at NC State

Wake Forest at NC State
Location: Raleigh, NC
Venue: Carter-Finley Stadium
Kickoff: Saturday at 3:00 PM EST
TV: RSN
Current records:
Wake Forest: 5-4, 3-4 ACC (Beat Boston College 28-14)
NC State: 5-4, 2-3 ACC (Lost to Virginia 33-6)

Series history: The Wolfpack has an all-time series lead of 62-37-6. However, the Demon Deacons have won six of the last 10, including a 34-27 decision at BB&T Field in 2011.

What is on the line? Both teams are still playing for bowl-eligibility.

Quotes of the week

"Certainly within the state of North Carolina it used to be the Big Four. Now we only get to play the big three I think, because of the way the structure is set up right now, but probably when they were just up the road here a little bit back in the old days it might have meant even more, because you could almost walk to both schools to play the game, but certainly it's an important game. We're on the same side of the bracket in the conference, which is always important that you play those games and for us it's a home game." - NC State head coach Tom O'Brien

"We got to get ready to play Saturday. We know we're going to play against a motivated North Carolina State team, a very talented team, a very well-coached team. We were fortunate this past weekend to get a win against Boston College. I thought the Boston College kids played really, really hard. We felt fortunate to get a win. We're going to have to step up to another level this week. We've not played particularly well at NC State, and so we know it's going to take great effort on our part and we know we're going to have to play really, really well to have a shot to win." - Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe

Keys to the game

1) Turnovers

Wake Forest cannot afford to have them, but would benefit greatly to force some. NC State has turned the ball over 19 times in its four losses, and has dropped 19 passes in its last two games.

The Demon Deacons have protected the ball well thus far, turning it over only 10 times this season.

"One way to help you more than any other way is to force some turnovers on defense," Grobe said. "We had a couple of fourth-down stops that were big for us. A fourth-down stop is really a turnover for all intents and purposes. I think in the games that we've won and in the games we've played well defensively we've been able to hunt up some turnovers."

"I think that would be important Saturday, but I know after last week I know the Wolfpack turned it over a few times against Virginia and that got them in trouble, so I know their emphasis this week is taking care of the football and I think when you play good defensively you find some turnovers."

2) Running game

When given the room to make plays Josh Harris is very capable of burning the opposition. Ask his most recent victim the Boston College, which he gashed for a 23-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

Wake will need him and DeAndre Martin to alleviate pressure from the aerial attack to produce against a strong NC State pass-rush.

"It makes it so much easier if you've got a little bit of a running game, because it gives you a chance to be a little more confident to try to throw the football when they're not expecting it and run it when they're not expecting it," Grobe said. "If you're not getting much out of your running game it puts you in long yardage situations too much, so I think especially if you're able to run the ball successfully on first and second down it makes the throw game so much easier, but you just never know going in."

"Every week we go in to a game we're trying to run the football. It's just a matter of whether we're capable of doing it or not. Your throw game's going to be so much better if you can balance it out with a little running success."

Wake Forest averages a ho-hum 112.3 yards rushing per game, while the Wolfpack give up 150.2 yards per game on the ground to give an appearance of vulnerability in this category.

3) What's in a name?

David Amerson entered 2012 under the highest of expectations for an encore after setting the ACC single-season record for interceptions last season with 13. However, Amerson was exposed in losses to Tennessee and Miami (Fla.).

To make matters worse NC State's secondary as a whole has been deplorable. The Pack rank at the bottom of the ACC in pass-defense (269.2 yards allowed per game).

Wake appears to be making strides in the passing game after Tanner Price completed 39-57 passes for 293 yards, two touchdowns to an interception. Michael Campanaro was the primary recipient of Price's distribution with an eye-popping 16 receptions for 123 yards and three touchdowns, which opened opportunities up for Tommy Bohanon, Terence Davis, Sherman Ragland and others.

The Deacs can only hope for continued success in this category.

4) Getting to Glennon

If given time to go through his progressions and make his reads Mike Glennon can be lethal for the opposition's defense. The 6-foot-6 and 232-pound redshirt senior from Centreville, Va. has twice eclipsed the 400-yard passing mark this season.

Not to mention the Commonwealth quarterback has a plethora of big-time targets with Quintin Payton, Bryan Underwood, Tobais Palmer and Rashard Smith leading the way.

Wake Forest has improved its pass-rush vastly from a year ago, recording 21 sacks to a meager 12 last season. The Demon Deacons must sustain this positive trend to keep along with strong coverage to keep Glennon from carving up them up through the air.

5) Special teams

To put it bluntly Wake's return units have been flat out abysmal (16.2 yards per kickoff return and 10.1 yards per punt return). This is an area the Deacs could use a shot in the arm for … i.e. another 60-yard punt return for a touchdown by Lovell Jackson.

Field-goal-kicking has improved dramatically since Chad Hedlund took the starting job from Jimmy Newman, while Alexander Kinal has been a steady weapon all year (40.2 yards per punt), pinning opponents inside their own 20-yard-line 22 times this season.

State has been relatively similar to Wake Forest in special team production (19.4 yards per kickoff return, 9.2 yards per punt return and 7-11 field goals), which may facet of the game even more critical Saturday. A blocked kick or punt, long return and a make or a miss on a field goal could be a difference-maker.


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