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September 20, 2011Cincinnati has essentially the same team back from the one that NC State dismantled last year 30-19 on Sept. 16.
One key component that didn't play more than a few plays a year ago is star senior running back Isaiah Pead of the Bearcats.
NFLDraftScout.com ranks Pead the No. 2 senior running back for the 2012 draft, lists his 40-yard dash average as 4.42 seconds. The 5-foot-10, 200-pounder suffered knee swelling prior to UC's games against Indiana State and NC State last year. Pead's replacements — Darrin Williams and John Goebel — combined to rush for 43 yards on nine carries, and caught one pass for five yards against the Wolfpack.
Pead returned the next week after missing the NC State contest to rush for 167 yards on 21 carries against Oklahoma, and that started a streak of rushing for at least 142 yards in three straight games. He later rushed for 204 yards and four touchdowns on 31 carries, plus caught two passes for 36 yards and a score in a 69-38 win over Rutgers Nov. 20.
Pead finished his junior year with 995 rushing yards on 157 carries and six touchdowns, to go along with 26 passes for 190 yards and a score.
Pead has picked up where he left off during the first three games of the season. He has rushed for 254 yards on 27 carries and four touchdowns, and has caught three passes for 25. He scored on the first play of the game against both Austin Peay Sept. 3 and at Tennessee Sept. 10. He finished with an impressive 154 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown against the Volunteers.
"He's really good and he was the leading ground gainer in the Big East last year," O'Brien said. "He's leading it again this year. He's an explosive, powerful guy. We'll have to tackle him."
Wolfpack practicing well in short week: O'Brien hasn't been concerned about the energy of his team during the shortened week of practice.
"They've been fine, and for a short week and what we've asked of them these two days, they've responded well," O'Brien said. "We are getting the guys to prepare that are lined up to play, for what we think we will see Thursday night. It's a quick turnaround, and they present different problems offensively and defensively. We are trying to solve those problems these two days and tomorrow in our practice/walk-through."
Wake Forest used an up-tempo offense and liked to use the short passing game during its 34-27 win over NC State Sept. 10. Cincinnati will likely do the same, but O'Brien doesn't see many similarities between the two offenses.
"Not really," O'Brien said. "It's the same system and offense that we saw last year."
Cincinnati has added some new wrinkles: NC State hasn't face the Wildcat formation this season, but the Bearcats have dabbled with the formation. Backup quarterback Jordan Luallen often comes in to run the football and has nine carries for 53 yards and a touchdown.
Starting quarterback Zach Collaros is a gifted scrambler himself, but by having Luallen run the Wildcat, the Bearcats are giving Collaros a chance to stay fresher later in games.
"There is always a challenge with the Wildcat," O'Brien said. "In a lot of cases, it's not an extensive package, but you have to understand what they do out of it, and why they do it."
NC State knows it is coming: O'Brien and the NC State players won't be able to hear the ESPN announcers Thursday night, but have a pretty good idea what one of the dominant themes will be from play-by-play announcer Rece Davis, who is joined by analysts Jesse Palmer and Craig James, and sideline reporter Jenn Brown.
Former Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson has gone 50 of 6 for 791 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception, while rushing for 101 yards on 11 carries and a score for the 3-0 Badgers.
NC State redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon has almost identical numbers, except for running with the ball. Glennon has gone 59 of 92 for 745 yards, eight scores and one pick for the 2-1 Wolfpack.
"We wish Russell well and he's in a good situation for him, and we are in a good situation with Mike Glennon," O'Brien said.
N.C. State NEWS