Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NC State Looks to Knock Off Rival For Second Year in a Row

Saturday’s final regular season game will mark the 105th meeting in the series between the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels. The rivalry, which began in 1894, is the Wolfpack’s oldest among ACC teams and the fourth-most played series in the ACC.

When the series began, the two teams actually played twice a year for several years (1894, 1899 and 1901). The series moved to an annual basis for 1919 through 1943 and then after a three-year hiatus, the Wolfpack and the Tar Heels have played every year since 1947 with one exception. In 1952, the game between the two teams was cancelled because of a polio outbreak on UNC’s campus.

Although the Tar Heels hold a 65-33-6 overall mark over the Wolfpack, NC State has won six of the last eight meetings between the two squads.

NC State will honor a small, but very important group of seniors during pregame ceremonies on Saturday. The Wolfpack’s 10 seniors have combined to play in 358 career contests, starting 222. On offense, three starters from the line - G Alex Barr, C Quinton Schooley and G/T Joe Thuney - will be playing in their last regular season game, as well as the Wolfpack’s starting quarterback, Jacoby Brissett.
There are only three total seniors on the Wolfpack defense, but all three are huge contributors for the Wolfpack: DE Mike Rose, FS Hakim Jones and CB Juston Burris.

UNC will be the third top 20 team the Wolfpack has faced in 2015. The last time the Wolfpack faced that many teams ranked in the top 20 was in 2006.

The Wolfpack first six ACC games this season were against some of the nation’s top defenses. In fact, NC State’s first six ACC opponents all ranked in the top 25 nationally in total defense last week. Six of the seven teams in the Atlantic Division of the ACC were ranked in the top 25 nationally in total defense on Nov. 15 (including NC State at 16th) and the one Coastal Division team that ranked in the top 25 happens to be on the Wolfpack’s schedule: Virginia Tech. This week, some of those teams have fallen out of the top 25 in the FBS total defense rankings, although the Wolfpack has moved up to 13th.

Senior offensive lineman extraordinaire Joe Thuney has seen it all during his Wolfpack career - or at least he’s seen every position on the offensive line. This season, one thing he hasn’t seen is a defender getting by him for a quarterback sack. In 494 snaps versus ACC opponents, he has not allowed a single sack in 2015. He has played every single snap versus ACC teams this season (except for a take-a-knee snap at the end of the Wake Forest contest). This season is the first of his career that Thuney has been a starter in every game and has started at the same position, as he has gotten the nod at left tackle in all 11 games. Last season, Thuney lined up at right guard in nine games, but missed four games at midseason with mono. In 2013, his first campaign as a starter, he started at right tackle, right guard and left tackle. He didn’t start any games as a redshirt freshman in 2012, but played in eight contests at center - in fact, his favorite memory of playing for the Wolfpack was snapping the ball for the winning touchdown against No. 3 Florida State that season.

The Wolfpack could set a school record for fewest turnovers this season. Entering game 12, NC State has turned the ball over just 10 times in 11 games (3 interceptions and 7 fumbles). That mark ties with FSU for the ACC lead and ranks 4th in the FBS.

State leads the league and ranks 2nd nationally in fewest interceptions. The school record for fewest INTs in a season was five in 1962 (a 10-game season).