RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State opened the year against a Southeastern Conference opponent at the home of that league’s championship game, then traveled to face a BCS-league program.
It’s easy to see why then that Wolfpack players are so eager to face South Alabama on Saturday night in their first home game.
“It’s a great feeling … having someone actually backing us up instead of every time we get on the field, it’s a boo or every time we get a first down, it’s a boo,” offensive guard Zach Allen said.
N.C. State (1-1) lost the opener against Tennessee in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome in a turnover-filled performance. The Wolfpack rebounded last weekend at Connecticut, but the offense struggled in the 10-7 victory that represented the program’s lowest point total in a win since 1999.
It was a slow start for a team that entered the year with hopes of contending for the Atlantic Coast Conference championship, but the players said most of their goals are still reachable despite the slow start.
Returning to Carter-Finley Stadium could provide a boost for the Wolfpack. N.C. State plays three of the next four at home, starting with the Jaguars (1-1) and ending with ACC favorite Florida State on Oct. 6.
“Honestly we wanted to win them all and we’re not able to do that,” quarterback Mike Glennon said. “But we still have all of our conference games and we can still win the conference. … We just have to learn from our mistakes and not let it happen again.”
Glennon’s slow start has been one of the biggest causes for concern. He threw four interceptions against the Volunteers, while the offense managed 258 total yards against the Huskies.
But coach Tom O’Brien pointed to several factors, from a lack of protection up front — Connecticut had six sacks last weekend — to issues with receivers’ route-running and Glennon’s decision-making.
“We’ve worked hard on it this week to get it done,” O’Brien said. “The proof is going to come Saturday night if we’ve made any progress in any of the three areas.”
Glennon had a huge game against South Alabama in last year’s meeting here, completing 17 of 20 passes for 274 yards and four touchdowns in his third career start. N.C. State forced three turnovers in the 35-13 win.
Jaguars coach Joey Jones said he believes the experience of playing in Carter-Finley will help this year’s team, which is in its second year of transition to the Bowl Subdivision ranks.
“Our kids will be ready to play no matter what, and that’s one thing we pride ourselves on,” Jones said. “I thought we walked out last year as confident as a team could be. It wasn’t a deal where we were star-struck by the lights or the fact that it was our first FBS opponent. Our kids came to play — that’s what I like about our team — and I expect them to play well this year.”
South Alabama is coming off a 9-3 home win against Nicholls State. The Jaguars allowed 118 yards while racking up 14 tackles for loss and six sacks, but they failed to score a touchdown for the first time since beginning play in 2009.
“We have the offense and we certainly have the plays to do what it takes to get in the red zone,” Jaguars running back Demetre Baker said. “We just have to finish up, do a little more polishing and practice harder and put one in.”
South Alabama is playing the first of two straight road games against BCS conference teams, including next week’s trip to Mississippi State.
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