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Saturday, September 27th, 7:30 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 13th-ranked South Florida Bulls will wrap up their non- conference schedule this weekend, as they tussle with the NC State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh.
Following a pair of dramatic wins, USF participated in a little more comfortable game this past weekend, although a 17-9 decision over Florida International is hardly anything to brag about. Still, the Bulls controlled the game and were coming off late wins against UCF (31-24) in overtime and Kansas (37-34). With those victories and a 56-7 triumph over Tennessee-Martin in the opener, USF is now off to a 4-0 start for the second straight season and third time in program history.
As for NC State, it is coming off its biggest win of the season, a 30-24 overtime upset of then 15th-ranked East Carolina last weekend. It was the highest ranked opponent that the Wolfpack have defeated since upending ninth- ranked Florida State in 2005. With the win, the team improved to 2-2 overall and that includes a 2-0 mark at home.
NC State and USF have met just one time previously on the gridiron, with the Wolfpack capturing a 14-0 victory in the 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl.
The Bulls didn't put together a great performance on the offensive side of the ball in last weekend's win over FIU, as they gained just 320 total yards, which is well below their season average of 450.5 ypg. The offense did manage 184 yards on the ground, but head coach Jim Leavitt still wasn't pleased with the effort by the offense.
"The frustrating thing for me was I didn't think we played as well offensively as what I would expect."
Quarterback Matt Grothe didn't have his best game either, as he threw for just 136 yards and ran for 48 in the victory. The dual threat gunslinger though, is among the best in the nation and for the season he has thrown for 916 yards, with seven touchdowns and just two picks. He is also dangerous with his legs, ranking third on the team with 151 rushing yards. Jamar Taylor paces the ground game with 178 yards for the year, while Taurus Johnson leads the receiving corps with 16 catches, 231 yards and two scores. Neither player was a big factor in last weekend's win and that is going to have to change against a much tougher opponent in NC State.
USF's defense held FIU without a point until the closing moments of the game, so this unit certainly did its job. The Bulls, who are giving up just 238.5 total ypg on the year, limited FIU to a mere 189 yards, including only 72 on the ground.
"I felt our defense played well," said coach Leavitt. "We gave up the one pass play that was frustrating, other than that I felt our defense played pretty well."
The Bulls and their defense have been strong all season, especially against the run, allowing just 67.0 ypg on the ground. The unit though, could stand to make a few more big plays, as USF has forced just three turnovers and recorded only four sacks thus far.
Tyrone McKenzie leads the team with 26 stops and five TFLs, while George Selvie tops the roster with a pair of sacks. Last weekend, McKenzie logged seven stops and Selvie had two TFLs and a sack.
Russell Wilson threw a five-yard touchdown pass to George Bryan with 1:12 remaining in the fourth quarter to tie the game and Andre Brown ran 10 yards for a score in overtime, lifting NC State to a dramatic 30-24 upset of ECU last weekend. Wilson, a redshirt freshman, threw for 210 yards and his first three scores, providing NC State with a much needed spark. Unfortunately, Wilson was injured in the game and will not participate in this weekend's bout. Harrison Beck, who came off the bench to lead the team to a 38-28 win over William & Mary in the home opener, will get the start this weekend. He has thrown for 353 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions this season. He is the team's third starting quarterback in five games.
Whoever is under center will surely be handing the ball off to Andre Brown, who leads the team with 281 rushing yards and is coming off his best effort of the season. In last weekend's win, Brown not only led the team with 73 rushing yards and a score on 12 carries, but he also caught four passes for 35 yards and another touchdown. He is averaging just 16 carries per game, but he could shoulder a bigger load this weekend with the change of quarterbacks.
NC State has surrendered at least 24 points in each game this season, so the defense hasn't exactly been suffocating. The unit though, has been able to compensate for some of those yards by forcing 12 turnovers, including eight by way of interception. Last weekend, the Wolfpack surrendered 383 total yards to ECU, but the defense forced two turnovers, one of which came in overtime. Shea McKeen sacked ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney in overtime and stripped the ball which was recovered by teammate Willie Young. That play helped NC State win the game on its offensive possession. McKeen has now recorded 2.5 of the team's nine sacks this season. On the year, Nathaniel Irving tops the club with 33 stops and three interceptions, but he was injured last game and has been ruled out for this one.
The Wolfpack is coming off a big win, but the team will be without two of its top players and that certainly bodes well for USF. The Bulls are sound on both sides of the ball and they should be able to come out on top with a solid effort from Grothe and company.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Florida 27, NC State 17
09/24 10:38:09 ET