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Virginia (2-6) at NC State (5-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 3, 12:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583) -- Raleigh, North Carolina. Television: ACC Network. Home Record: Virginia 2-3, NC State 3-0. Away Record: Virginia 0-3, NC State 2-2. Neutral Record: Virginia 0-0, NC State 0-1. Conference Record: Virginia 0-4, NC State 2-2. Series Record: NC State leads 34-21-1. .
GAME NOTES: The NC State Wolfpack will return home to Carter-Finley Stadium as it licks its wounds after a tough loss to rival North Carolina and prepares to take on Virginia in an Atlantic Coast Conference clash.
After a 2-0 start, optimism about this season started to grow for the Cavaliers. Six games and six losses later and that optimism is nowhere to be found. After a 16-10 loss at home to Wake Forest, the second straight at home for the Cavaliers, Virginia is now 0-4 in conference play and 2-6 overall. Playing on the road is an unlikely cure for those ills as the Cavaliers have lost all three games on the road this season and those contests haven't been that close. Virginia has been outscored 125-44 away from Charlottesville.
A 74-yard punt return for a touchdown with 13 seconds left in regulation by North Carolina's Giovani Bernard, doomed NC State in a 43-35 game that was filled with offense. The two teams combined for 1,104 yards of total offense with 39 of the combined points coming in the first quarter. The loss ended a relatively strong stretch of football from the Wolfpack which had won five of their six previous games. NC State is 5-3 overall and still has an outside shot in the conference title chase.
Last season NC State ended a five-game road losing streak in the all-time series with Virginia with a 28-14 win in Charlottesville. The win pushed the Wolfpack's advantage in the all-time series to 34-21-1.
Phillip Sims has seemingly taken over the starting quarterback job at Virginia. Sims has started in three straight games and is coming off an effort against Wake Forest in which Michael Rocco, who began the season as the starter, did not throw a pass for the first time this season. Sims has completed only 54.2 percent of his passes for an even 1,000 yards, but has kept the turnovers down with four interceptions to seven touchdown passes. Rocco had eight interceptions prior to being replaced.
The uncertainty at quarterback has meant some inconsistency in total offensive production for Virginia, which is scoring 21.5 points and picking up 407.9 yards per game.
No one pass catcher has really established themselves as the go-to receiver. Darius Jennings does have a team lead in receptions (29) and yards (407) but he has only 88 yards in the last three weeks. Four other receivers have at least 20 receptions, with E.J. Scott having the second most receiving yards with 351. Jake McGee has been the more dangerous player in terms of scoring with a team-high four touchdowns.
Kevin Parks and Perry Jones have formed a tandem at running back that has accounted for 825 of the team's 1,025 rushing yards this season. Parks has started in only one game, but is the leader in attempts (103) and yards (503). Jones has picked up 322 yards but has been much less productive down to down with a 3.5 yards per carry average.
Virginia's defense has been the third best in the conference in terms of yards allowed (356.9 ypg) but that hasn't stopped teams from hanging up points on the Cavaliers. Virginia is the third worst team in scoring defense this season allowing 30.9 points per game.
Steve Greer has been a tackling machine racking up 76 on the season. He has also totaled 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, which are also team highs. Demetrious Nicholson hasn't been as disruptive in the backfield, but has been so in the passing game, breaking up 10 passes this season. Eli Harold and Henry Coley each have five tackles for loss for the Cavs.
The quarterback situation at NC State has been decidedly less rocky. Mike Glennon has thrown for 2,455 yards this season and 19 touchdowns, while completing passes at a 57.9 percent clip. He has been picked off nine times but enters play as the conference leader in passing yards per game (306.9) and just a touchdown shy of the league lead.
Glennon has relied heavily on the production of Quintin Payton and Bryan Underwood. Payton has been the most productive in terms of catching passes and picking up yards with team-highs of 34 receptions for 603 yards. Underwood on the other hand has been uncanny in his ability to find the end zone with 10 receiving touchdowns this season.
In the running game, Tony Creecy and Shadrach Thornton have been the two main backs. Thornton has fewer yards total (298) but is averaging more yards per game (59.6). Creecy has more carries (95) and yards (385) but is averaging fewer yards on average per game (55.0).
NC State is not in the upper echelon of the conference in stopping opposing teams from picking up yards, giving up the eighth most yards per game (416.1). However, the Wolfpack have been very strong in keeping teams from turning those yardage totals into points, ranking fourth in the conference in scoring defense (23.0 ppg). NC State has allowed teams to score on 76 percent of their red zone attempts, which is the third best success rate in the conference.
In terms of individual production, the defense has been led almost exclusively out of the secondary. Safeties Brandan Bishop (68) and Earl Wolff (63) are the team leaders in tackles, while All-American cornerback David Amerson has snagged four interceptions and has accumulated 36 tackles. Rickey Dowdy leads the linebacking corps with 55 tackles, including a team-high 9.0 tackles for loss. Darryl Cato-Bishop is the team's best pass rusher with 4.5 sacks.
Even though Virginia has figured out its quarterback situation there are still a number of troubling issues that the Cavaliers have yet to show improvement in this season. NC State has been very strong at home with a 3-0 mark at Carter-Finley Stadium. That mark should remain unblemished after this contest.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: NC State 31, Virginia 17
10/31 10:43:56 ET