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September 17, 2011
NC State gave up four sacks against Liberty in the season opener Sept. 3. A week later at Wake Forest, the Pack gave up none.
"It was a big improvement," NC State starting left tackle R.J. Mattes, a redshirt junior, said. "We didn't give up any sacks, which is always big. It's been a while since we've done that, since I've been here I don't think. That was real good improvement.
"There's still things we got to clean up. There's always things we got to work on, but we took a big leap from week one to week two."
The offensive line's performance against Liberty was poor enough that the line literally apologized to redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon after the game.
"The o-linemen don't want Mike to get hit, ever," Mattes said. "It wasn't that we were getting beat on the blocks, it was just we were having missed assignments where we were getting hit."
Zero sacks at Wake Forest may have overshadowed the fact that through two games State has had solid performances running the football. The duo of fifth-year senior Curtis Underwood, Jr. and junior James Washington have combined to rush 53 times for 286 yards and three touchdowns in two contests.
When you take out Glennon's net negative-22 yards rushing, mostly the result of sacks, NC State is averaging an impressive 5.4 yards per carry.
"That was what we had been focusing on this year especially, trying to run the ball and establish the run so we could be a double threat offense," Mattes noted. "If we establish the run, the passing lanes will open up."
South Alabama will present a unique defense Saturday. They line up in a quasi 4-3 defense, with both defensive ends standing up.
"Their speed rushers are smaller guys, but that doesn't mean they're bad because they are real quick," Mattes stated. "They are real quick off the edge, and they try to get outside hard. They stand them up so they can get a real quick jump off the edge.
"It's quick starting. You can't get beat. They get to your outside shoulder quick and you got to kick back quick before they get there."
The Pack needs a quick start Saturday. Mattes noted the team came out slow against Wake Forest and was forced to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns. The 34-27 loss in Winston-Salem, N.C., has taught the team another lesson, too, that has carried over to practices this week.
"We've been a lot more focus," Mattes said. "The Wake game was a wake up call for us. The practices have been the best practices we've had this year for us. It always hurt to lose, but it also helps to refocus us. We're going to try to get the W this weekend."