Local News

O-Line Play Could Be Key For Wolfpack

Posted September 28, 2001 12:41 p.m. EDT

— North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato looks at his offensive line and sees no All-Americans, no all-conference players and not much depth.

And he wonders just how the Wolfpack (2-0) will be able to block North Carolina's Julius Peppers and Co. on Saturday.

"They intimidate," the N.C. State coach said of North Carolina's front four. "They're big, strong and fast. They come off the football 100 miles an hour."

North Carolina's defense pulled off the unthinkable last weekend, holding No. 18 Florida State to nine points and 224 yards by dominating the line of scrimmage.

The 41-9 victory by the Tar Heels (1-3) wasn't so outrageous to Amato, who was once a top assistant with the Seminoles.

"If you can play defense, you've got a chance to win any football game you're in," Amato said. "I've told people all along they've got a great defensive football team. They've got the most dominant player in college football playing one defensive end."

The 6-foot-6, 285-pound Peppers already has 10 tackles for loss in four games. Last season, he led the nation with 15 sacks. He is joined up front by Joey Evans, Ryan Sims and Will Chapman.

"Their front four is as good as any front four I've ever seen," Amato said. "This game is going to be won up front. Their strength defensively is their front seven and our weakness on offense is our offensive line. That's quite a matchup there.

"Philip (Rivers) might be taking some Advil before the game as well as after it."

Rivers is the Wolfpack's trump card, a 6-5 quarterback who has a quick release and great vision. He's only been sacked twice in two games.

"Rivers has a very good release. It's uncanny," North Carolina coach John Bunting said. "It reminds me a little bit of (Jeff) Garcia, a little bit of (Dan) Marino - very, very quick.

"He sees blitzers. He sees receivers. He knows where to go with the ball and where to get it right now. Not only does he have this uncanny quick release, but he has the anticipation. He obviously makes that offense go."

A game that a week ago appeared to be somewhat of a sleeper is now very interesting. The Tar Heels believe wins over the Seminoles and Wolfpack could turn their season around.

North Carolina also has a score to settle with N.C. State.

The Wolfpack ran up close to 400 yards on the Tar Heels last season in Chapel Hill, then danced on their logo at midfield after posting a 38-20 victory.

Bunting, who replaced Carl Torbush as head coach in December, hasn't watched tape of last year's Wolfpack game and doesn't plan to.

"I've heard there was some stomping on the "NC" out here. I'll get to that later," said Bunting, hinting he might use the incident to help motivate his team.

"I don't think much about last year," Bunting added. "I think a lot about this year and the years to come. I didn't watch the Florida State tape from last year either. Why should I?"

North Carolina linebacker Quincy Monk hasn't thought much about last year's celebration by the Wolfpack in Kenan Stadium. The N.C. State win broke a seven-game losing streak to its arch-rival.

"It was disrespectful, but we just have to take care of our business," Monk said.

There is often an emotional dropoff in college after big wins. The Wolfpack suffered one after beating the Seminoles in 1998, losing a week later at Baylor.

But Monk guaranteed the Tar Heels would remain focused after their upset of Florida State.

"We're going to increase the pressure because we know what other teams are going to expect from us now," Monk said.

Saturday's game has another interesting twist - both coaches are at their alma maters.

"It's ironic," Bunting said. "He was a linebacker, I was a linebacker. We're both defensive coaches by trade. I know he has a lot of enthusiasm for the game and for his alma mater. And I love football and football players, and I love team play. and I really love this university. It just adds a little to the big picture."