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October 11, 2013

Game breakdown: Syracuse

Keys To The Game

Cut down on penalties: NC State should be mad about last week's loss to Wake Forest, but the players will need to make sure that their emotions stay under control in front of the home crowd against Syracuse on Saturday afternoon. That means cutting out the preventable 15-yard penalties and playing with discipline, while using the home crowd to the team's advantage.

The Wolfpack has been the most penalized team in each of its first five games, and that obviously needs to change. The Pack stands 107th out of 123 teams in the nation for penalties this season, with 38 flags for 306 yards. Twelve of those penalties have given opponents a new set of downs. Only one team in the ACC averages more than State's 61.2 penalty yards per game, and the common thread in the team's two losses and disappointing performance against Richmond was being flagged at least eight times in each contest.

Stop the Syracuse run game: The Orange has four players with at least 19 rushing attempts and an average of better than 4.4 yards per carry. The lone exception out of the team's top five ball carriers is Prince-Tyson Gulley, who is the second-leading rusher on the team with 48 carries for 184 yards (3.83-yard average) and three touchdowns.

Redshirt junior Jerome Smith is the leading rusher with 342 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground, to go along with a receiving touchdown. The 6-0, 226-pounder is a load to bring down, and redshirt freshmen running backs Devante McFarlane and George Morris II, who have both totaled at least 114 rushing yards this year, also check in north of 200 pounds.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt, who checks in at 6-3 and 219 pounds, is another threat on the ground. He has totaled 148 rushing yards and two scores on just 25 carries, good for an average of 5.9 yards per attempt.

Keep Marquis Spruill and Jay Bromley out of the backfield: NC State did not win the battle up front last week, and Wake Forest nose tackle Nikita Whitlock and defensive end Zach Thompson wrecked havoc in the trenches. The two combined for 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, while Wake racked up seven stops behind the line of scrimmage and four quarterback takedowns.

Syracuse will bring two outstanding defenders who have tallied several game-changing plays so far this year with them in linebacker Marquis Spruill, who ranks second on the team with 27 stops, including five behind the line of scrimmage and two sacks, and defensive tackle Jay Bromley, who has recorded eight tackles for loss, five sacks and two forced fumbles this year. The two seniors have combined for 301 tackles, 50.5 tackles for loss and 18 sacks in their careers.

Move the chains on third down: The key really could be to stay in manageable third downs, but Syracuse comes into the game ranked 13th nationally in third-down conversion defense with opponents succeeding only 28.4 percent of the time. NC State enters the game ranked 67th nationally in third-down conversion percentage at 40.5 percent, but after converting on exactly 50 percent in the first two games, that percentage has dipped to 34 percent in the last three contests.

In a game between two offenses that want to run the ball, winning the time-of-possession battle could be huge, and State's only chance at that will be to move the chains on third down.

Game outlook: It all depends on which NC State team shows up. If the team that barely survived a scare at home against Richmond or the one that laid an egg at Wake Forest shows up, this one could be a dogfight. However, if the focused and motivated Pack squad that went toe-to-toe with Clemson for much of that game is in Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday, NC State should be able to overwhelm the Orange.

Five Syracuse Players To Watch

Senior defensive tackle Jay Bromley — The 6-4, 285-pounder has started 26 of the 41 games he has played in. He has 18 tackles, eight tackles for loss, five sacks and two forced fumbles this season. The team captain had two sacks apiece against Clemson and Wagner. Bromley has tallied 97 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and nine sacks in his Syracuse career.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt — The 6-3, 219-pounder hails from Christ the King High in Queens, N.Y., which is famous for its basketball program, but he's sparked the Orange offense this season after taking over in the third game. The dual-threat signal-caller has completed 41 of 67 passes for 520 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions in essentially three full games. He also has rushed for 148 yards and two scores on 25 carries.

Senior center Macky MacPherson — The grandson of former Syracuse head coach Dick MacPherson, the 6-2, 290-pounder is a three-year starter and earned a spot on the 2013 Dave Rimington Award Watch List for the nation's top center. He also earned Big East all-academic team honors the last two years. He has started 30 straight games, and was a team captain a year ago. Syracuse has produced 1,000-yard backs the last three years in Jerome Smith, Antwon Bailey and Delone Carter.

Junior running back Jerome Smith — The 6-0, 217-pounder combines power with breakaway speed, which was evidenced on his 66-yard touchdown run against Clemson last week. Smith has rushed for 342 yards and seven touchdowns on 69 carries this season, and he had a season-best 125 yards on 18 carries against the Tigers. He rushed for more than 116 yards in five of the last seven games last year en route to 1,171 yards and seven scores on 227 carries. He isn't much of a factor in the passing game, however, with 12 career receptions.

Senior middle linebacker Marquis Spruill — The 6-1, 224-pounder has started 41 of the 43 games he has played in at Syracuse, which is more than any other current Orange player. He has 27 tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss and two sacks this season, and made a season-high nine stops against Clemson last week. The team captain has 204 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and nine sacks in his Syracuse career.

Three Matchups To Watch

1. Syracuse is going to ride its power running game as much as possible offensively. The Orange has rushed for 962 yards on 211 carries for an average of 192.4 yards per game. The one-two punch of tailbacks Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley gets results, plus redshirt sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt doesn't hesitate to take off and run and brings a physical presence to the position.

Smith brings good size at 6-0 and 226 pounds, and can handle a heavy workload. He has rushed for 352 yards and seven touchdowns on 69 carries this season. Gulley, who is a senior, is a little smaller at 5-10 and 190 pounds, but he is quick and has 11 receptions for 47 yards and a score in the passing game. Gulley has rushed for 184 yards and three touchdowns on 48 attempts.

The NC State defensive line has been challenged this week, and junior defensive tackles T.Y. McGill and Thomas Teal will set the tempo. Defensive ends such as redshirt junior Art Norman, redshirt sophomore Mike Rose and fifth-year senior Forrest West will need to know when Hunt is ready to take off and run. He has 148 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries in essentially three games of action.

2. Continuing the theme that this game will be decided in the trenches, the Syracuse defensive line has 38 tackles for loss and 14 sacks through five games this season. The Orange has played explosive offenses such as Clemson last week and Northwestern in the second contest, and gave up a combined 97 points.

Senior defensive tackle Jay Bromley sets the tone, but the Orange has an experienced group. Three juniors join Bromley on the defensive line, and the back seven includes four seniors and two juniors. Sophomore strong safety Durell Eskridge, who leads the team in tackles, is the only non-junior or senior in the starting lineup.

The defensive ends have been inconsistent. Junior Micah Robinson has only four tackles and zero sacks, while junior Robert Welsh is a little better at 15 tackles, one sack and one interception this season.

3. NC State's secondary took a hit when fifth-year senior free safety Jarvis Byrd suffered an injury at Wake Forest. If he can't play or is limited against Syracuse, sophomore Josh Stanley and freshman Jack Tocho will get an increase in snaps, whether in the base or the nickel defense.

They will need to be on high alert for trick plays. Syracuse successfully ran a fake punt to the up back for a nice run and first down against Clemson, and wide receiver Ashton Broyld has attempted a pair of passes this season, including one against the Tigers. He played quarterback in high school.
Syracuse also had quarterback Terrel Hunt throw a lateral pass, only to have Broyld throw it right back to him. Syracuse doesn't have anything to lose, and might try anything.

Three Questions With Syracuse Head Coach Scott Shafer

What do you make of the Wolfpack this season?
"First off, a really good football staff and great people. I've worked with a lot of them. [NCSU head coach] Dave [Doeren] did a great job at Northern Illinois, and we had a lot of pride in that program. [NCSU offensive coordinator] Matt Canada is one of my best friends and one of the better offensive coordinators in the country.

"They have an excellent staff and they'll be prepared. It will be an excellent game-day environment down there."

Do you have a theme for the game?
"I don't think you can set a theme other than understanding how important it will be to continue to target the small things that will give us a chance to win. It's like beating a drum. The key is to stay true to what you know is the formula to win.

"We have to do a better job on first down. We didn't do a good job on first down [against Clemson last Saturday]. We were only 20 percent effective offensively.

"We got to get back on turnover ratio. We are even for the season, but we want to fight to get to plus-two number."

What do you expect from your good friend Matt Canada offensively?

"They've had a lot of success with their jet sweep families. I think they're averaging about nine, 10 yards a play on that particular play with different people running the ball. And then they do a great job with their power, both quarterback power and running back powers, and they run counters.

"There's a lot of misdirection football, there's a lot of misdirection formational sets. You really have to be on task with making sure you're getting lined up correctly and putting your eyes in the right place."

Three Questions With NC State Head Coach Dave Doeren

What will be the challenge against Syracuse?

"[Syracuse head coach] Scott Shafer is a good friend of mine and a well-respected coach. I like Scott a lot. I think his guys are playing hard and physical football. I can see his personality on their team.

"They have very good tailbacks and they use them giving the ball to them a lot. Their quarterback situation was unsettled at the beginning of the year, and we see that they settled on [Terrel] Hunt and he is getting better."

What are your impressions of Syracuse's defense?

"Defensively, they have some NFL guys on their defense. I think their linebacker, No. 11 Marquis Spruill, is a really good football player. He is fun to watch — makes a ton of plays sideline to sideline. The other linebacker, [Dyshawn] Davis, No. 35, is an active player who plays well in space.

"Their defensive tackle, No. 96 Jay Bromley, played in Clemson's backfield a lot and leads them in sacks. They have a safety who is very long. Their corners are both over 6-0 tall and they play a lot of press. They blitz 50 percent or more."

How has redshirt sophomore quarterback Terrel Hunt evolved since moving into the lineup the last three games for the Orange?

"He runs pretty good. … He doesn't have a ton of playing experience and he was really accurate in the Tulane game.

"Clemson, they look like a team that is on a mission and they played really good coverage in that game at Syracuse. They forced a bunch of interceptions and he [Hunt] didn't look as good, obviously against that defense. He has a strong arm and an agile guy and he looks like he has some leadership ability."

N.C. State NEWS


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