Redshirt junior linebacker Terrell Manning was one of the few NC State defensive players who played a solid game at Florida State. Manning made seven tackles, five of them solo and two, including a sack, behind the line of scrimmage. He also intercepted his second pass of the season.
Manning knows though that the defense has to play better against UNC than the 444 yards of total offense they gave up the Seminoles. He takes some solace in the fact that the Pack has had some success stopping the Heels' attack in the past.
"We had a very, very poor defensive effort against Florida State, but at the same time last year we had a pretty good defensive game plan against Carolina," Manning noted. "I think this year it's the same thing, we got to look to put pressure on the quarterback, stop the run."
Manning ended last year's UNC contest with a safety. He has yet to experience a loss to the Heels, but he also has been on the other end of a rivalry. He played for Scotland County High in Laurinburg, N.C., and they have a spirited battle every year with neighboring Richmond County.
Manning never experienced the taste of victory against Richmond.
"It was rough," Manning admitted. "One year we held them to 70 yards of total offense and they still managed to beat us. There's some freaky stuff that goes on with that game."
The Raiders had won 17 straight games over the Scots until last Friday, when Scotland County routed them 41-7 to snap the skid.
"I was happy," Manning said. "Like I told them boys before the game, they got a chance to go down as one of the best, best Scotland teams that had ever been through there. That's very important to me. I got a lot of kids that I know playing on that team, my brother is playing on that team. It was a big game for me."
The UNC game is also a big one for Manning. During the recruiting process he began to transform into a diehard NC State fan, he said. He turned down UNC, and many others, to pick the Wolfpack.
Now he will be leading a defense against a stiff challenge versus UNC. Tar Heels freshman running back Giovani Bernard is second in the conference in total rushing yards and will be looking to break 1,000 yards for the year Saturday.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Bryn Renner tops the league in passing efficiency, and he has one of the top weapons in the league in senior receiver Dwight Jones. Renner has impressed Manning.
"I like him," Manning said. "He can throw the deep ball."
NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer noted that UNC's schemes are not that unfamiliar to the Pack. They have seen similar style offenses against Virginia and Central Michigan. Manning hopes those game experiences will pay off Saturday.
"It becomes repetitive," Manning said. "Anytime you see something more than once, and you keep doing it and doing it, you kind of get the gist of it. It's a lot easier playing it because it's nothing new."
One problem that Manning is hopeful State will not face on defense is a lack of focus, especially coming off the FSU performance.
"Our season is on the line right now," Manning said. "If we don't refocus our defense then we are going to have problems."