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November 7, 2013

Execution in red zone key for NC State




NC State has gone 10 of 25 in scoring touchdowns in the red zone for 40 percent, while opponents have cashed in at 84 percent.

NC State coach Dave Doeren half-joked that his talented junior kicker Niklas Sade has made too many field goals this season, connecting on 17 of 19. Sade is second in the country in field goals made and fifth in attempts.

Offensive coordinator Matt Canada has emphasized this week red zone execution leading up to Saturday's game at 6-2 Duke.

"We can't beat ourselves and have to make plays when the opportunities are there. I have to continue to find ways to put us in position to make plays. It falls on me. Our lack of production in scoring points is totally on me. I have to do a better job."

Canada and Doeren have also evaluated quarterbacks Brandon Mitchell and Pete Thomas," Canada said. "Mitchell has started the last two games, but Thomas came in during the fourth quarter to try and spark the Wolfpack in last week's 27-19 loss to North Carolina.

"We have to take care of the ball and manage the game," Canada said. "We have to play better than we played."

Mitchell forced a few too many passes to the coaches liking, and had a pair of interceptions in the second half leading to Thomas to try and rally the Wolfpack.

"He has to stay in the confines of the offense, run our offense and take care of the football," Canada said. "He has to manage the game and play within the limits they give you. I haven't done a good enough job of coaching him to do that."

NC State rushed for 212 yards on 48 carries, with sophomore running back Shadrach Thornton leading the way against UNC. Thornton rumbled for 90 yards on 22 carries, to follow up on his 173-yard effort against Florida State. NC State also only allowed one sack.

"We've run the ball well the last two weeks and Shad has run well," Canada said. "I think our O-Line has gotten better the last two weeks. We've rushed the ball for over 200 yards. We've stayed healthy for a couple of weeks now, and that is how you get some cohesiveness. They've done a better job [on the line]."

NC State has become thinner at wide receiver, but eight games into the season, the younger players have the experience to start making plays. Fifth-year seniors Rashard Smith and Quintin Payton, are joined by three freshmen and one sophomore on the depth chart.

"We have talented guys out there and we have to find ways to get it going and score points," Canada said.

Duke intercepted Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas four times in its last contest Oct. 26. The Blue Devils' 4-2-5 scheme held the Hokies to 10 points and 387 total yards.

"What they are is a really sound defense that gives up things here and there down the field, but are awfully good in the red zone," Canada said. "We've been very poor [in the red zone]. They get stouter when you get closer. They've won six football games, so they are a really good defense."

Duke allowed 58 points to Pittsburgh, 38 to Georgia Tech and 31 against Troy in a three-game stretch in September, so improvements have been made.

"They have gotten better every week, and are playing with a lot of passion," Canada said. "They are an unbelievably well-coached team. They are good."



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