NC State preseason scrimmage No. 2 went into the books Friday night. According to head coach Tom O'Brien, the team came out a bit slow as the offense opened up the playbook a little more.
After throwing just 20 passes in the first scrimmage, NC State quarterbacks completed 34 of 54 throws for 422 yards and a touchdown with three interceptions.
"I think they started off a little tired, but they got into it as we got going into the scrimmage," O'Brien said. "Certainly we changed the venue on how we did things, opened it up a little more and gave the quarterbacks an opportunity to throw but for all the yardage it's still not a lot of scoring, but made them go a long way all the time."
NC State ran 69 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns, partly due to redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson's scrambling. The defense was credited with 10 tackles for losses and six sacks despite playing without star fifth-year senior middle linebacker Nate Irving for a second consecutive scrimmage. O'Brien was more concerned about the tackles for losses than the 2.2 yards per carry.
"The offensive line really isn't going to be figured out until we get [redshirt sophomore offensive lineman R.J.] Mattes back until probably somewhere in the middle of September," O'Brien said. "He's still the key on how this offensive line is going to be. If he was out there now it would be a lot easier to put it together. I know that."
Until the line gels and the rushing game develop, expect NC State to rely on the passing attack.
"The strength is still the wide receiver and the passing game," O'Brien stated. "We have to continue to work on defense to get better. That strength will help make our secondary better. Russell had a good day. Some of those rushing yardage was him scrambling around. That causes some problem for the defense, too. It pushes them back on their heels a little which they have to learn not to do, but then again Nate wasn't in there and I think he makes a difference in a lot of this."
Kicking wise fifth-year senior Josh Czajkowski made 2 of 3 attempts and his classmate, punter Jeff Ruiz, kicked four times for an average of 42 yards per kick. Walk-on junior punter Andy Leffler averaged 54 yards per his four punts, but outkicked his coverage on once helping junior wide out T.J. Graham return the kick for a score.
O'Brien said there is no punting competition right now between Ruiz and Leffler.
"[Leffler]'s backing up," O'Brien noted. "As I said he kicked the ball too far. He's got to get it up in the air and time and not let people run it back and spread the field on us."
O'Brien was happy with the fact that only once did an upperclassmen jump offside during the 100-plus play scrimmage, and Graham's fumble on a punt return was the only time the ball touched the ground.
Friday's scrimmage was termed a midterm exam by O'Brien. The Pack has completed 12 of their 24 preseason practices before the start of the Western Carolina game-week preparations.
"We have to go back and study the tape," O'Brien said. "Some guys may move up. Some guys may move down. We have to go figure that out before we go back on field Sunday.
"We're tired right now and we got to continue to fight through. There are still some things we have to work through that I don't know if we are better at them or not."