I’m finally not locked out of my account anymore!
This week I got to sit down with Steven Muma aka @akulawolf on the twitter machine and one of the great writers over at Backing The Pack. Thanks to Steven for answering these and you can go check out my answers to his questions righhhhhhhht here.
Let’s dive right in shall we?
BSD: I have to start with this: how is life without Finley?
BTP: Pretty unpleasant so far. We all expected some drop off offensively after he left but if this hasn’t been the worst-case scenario, it’s pretty darn close. The last thing we wanted to see was the team struggle with uncertainty at quarterback, and that’s exactly what’s happened.
BSD: What’s been the biggest difference from week 1 to now besides QB3?
BTP: The injuries have been steadily mounting to a point where NC State is struggling with depth in key areas. The biggest problem spot has been cornerback, which wasn’t a deep group to begin with. Nick McCloud is the most experienced corner on the roster and hasn’t been on the field since Week 1. Chris Ingram, who is the starter on the opposite side, got hurt against Syracuse. Reserves have also been banged up, leading to a less-than-ideal situation.
NC State is also missing a pair of offensive tackles, senior defensive end James Smith-Williams has been limited all year, and the Pack’s best run-blocking tight end has been out for a while.
BSD: Who do you look for to make an impact in this game on each side of the ball?
BTP: Setting the obvious aside (quarterback), NC State needs more from Emeka Emezie at wide receiver. Emezie has had a solid year as the leader of that group but has been plagued with some bad drops this season. State needs him to be more consistent to help out its quarterbacks.
Defensively, Larrell Murchison has had a huge year at defensive tackle and he needs to be a visible factor every week for NC State to have success.
BSD: What’s been the most concerning part on both ends of the ball?
BTP: Run blocking has been inconsistent this season but obviously the passing attack has been a more significant problem. Not only has the offense been inefficient through the air, it also has had problems generating chunk plays, and it’s a lot harder to score consistently when all your drives have to be of the methodical variety.
And as you may have guessed by now, NC State’s secondary hasn’t been so hot this year. In some of State’s games, the defensive line has been good enough to mask some of the issues, but when opposing quarterbacks have time to throw, usually bad things happen. With all the injuries, there’s just not much the Wolfpack can do about it.
BSD: What realistic expectations did the NC State faithful have coming into this year, and how do you think they finish?
BTP: Seven or eight wins seemed a reasonable expectation going in, given the schedule and what the Pack returned on the defensive side. At this point I’d say eight wins is out of the question, and if they get to seven I’d consider that an accomplishment. More likely, they’ll end up around six wins.
BSD: How big does the base/yourself think this game is relative to the rest of the schedule
BTP: I think all of the in-state games take on more importance than the others, in general. It depends sometimes on the circumstances elsewhere. But I’m always a bit more invested in these in-state matchups since it can have some bearing on recruiting, if nothing else. I wouldn’t say there’s any real dislike for Wake Forest on our end though. Wake and State fans have a lot of common ground when it comes to dealing with those big lamers in Durham and Chapel Hill, after all.
BSD: State wins if they come out and do what?
BTP: The only route to a win this weekend comes via a jolt of offense. NC State has been dreadful on that side in league play and ain’t about to beat the Deacs if the Pack can’t even manage 20 points. Am I optimistic on this front? Well, no, no I can’t say I am. The defense can create some problems for Wake but if the offense can’t move the ball consistently, it isn’t going to matter.
BSD: on the other hand what can they not do if they want to win this game?
BTP: They’ve got to do a better job of helping themselves. That means executing and maybe even forcing a turnover or two. Both of those areas have been huge issues since we got to conference play, and they’ve been magnified on the road. NC State needs to weather the first quarter with Devin Leary--quickly falling behind a couple of scores is probably guaranteeing a long afternoon.
BSD: Who scares you the most on the Wake Forest team?
BTP: Everything! Well, most things, but mostly Jamie Newman and Sage Surratt. There is nobody on this NC State defense that can check Surratt one-on-one, I can promise you that much. I expect he’ll have a good day--NC State needs to keep him from having a huge one.
BTP: When you combine the facts that NC State struggles in Winston-Salem and that Wake Forest has the better team this year, um, there’s not a lot of room for optimism. I’d be feeling pessimistic even if State were the favorite this week.
I don’t see NC State mustering enough offense to win, and the defense will be put in too many disadvantageous spots once again. The Deacs pull away in the second half and cover, 34-20.