RALEIGH — The way N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien sees it, the Wolfpack defense has been preparing for three weeks for its meeting with speedy Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Central Florida freshman quarterback Jeff Godfrey came off the bench and ran for two touchdowns. Cincinnati took advantage of the athletic ability of quarterback Zach Collaros on many designed runs.
Georgia Tech's Joshua Nesbitt, last week's opponent, is among the most accomplished running quarterbacks in the nation.
Taylor also will use his fast feet to try to escape the N.C. State defense as the 23rd-ranked Wolfpack (4-0, 1-0 ACC) plays host to ACC preseason favorite Virginia Tech at 3:30 p.m. today.
O'Brien said chasing mobile quarterbacks in the past three weeks should have N.C. State ready for Taylor.
"They're certainly not as good as Taylor is," O'Brien said, "but at least we've coached and tried to understand rush lanes, containment, all those kinds of things that you have to do to be successful against somebody like Tyrod."
N.C. State will not have to worry about facing running back Ryan Williams, the 2009 ACC rookie of the year. Williams will miss today's game with a hamstring injury.
That makes Taylor the Wolfpack's major concern on the Virginia Tech offense. Like Williams, Taylor has outstanding speed, and he is a threat to run or pass. He leads the Hokies with 201 rushing yards and has improved as a passer since throwing seven interceptions and just two touchdown passes as a sophomore in 2008.
He led the ACC in passing efficiency in 2009 and leads the conference again in that statistic this season. That's in part because his yards per attempt (9.9) is the highest in the conference.
Taylor often scrambles around until the defensive coverage breaks down, then finds a receiver open for a long gain. O'Brien said it's obvious watching tape of the Hokies that coach Frank Beamer's staff has drilled the receivers well on how to get open when Taylor scrambles.
The basic premise for receivers when a quarterback gets out of the pocket is to have the guys on deep routes come back shallow, and the guys on short routes to run deep. Receivers away from the ball are told to break horizontally toward the quarterback.
"Their guys do that," O'Brien said. "And then he knows where guys are when he gets out of the pocket and runs around."
Contending with Virginia Tech's receivers will be the responsibility of an N.C. State secondary that has improved on its dismal performance of 2009, but still has had breakdowns in the past two games.
In the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech on Saturday, a blown coverage resulted in a 32-yard touchdown pass from Nesbitt to Tyler Melton. And Cincinnati's Collaros hit passes of 68 and 60 yards on Sept. 16 at Carter-Finley Stadium.
Nonetheless, Beamer said he has been impressed with N.C. State and the leadership of senior Nate Irving. The Wolfpack ranks third in the ACC in sacks per game with 14 in three games, in part because of the blitzing success of linebackers Irving, Terrell Manning and Audie Cole.
"He's a great football player," Beamer said of Irving, "and he's like the rest of that crowd over there, they're flying around and playing good defense and getting after folks."
So far, that defense has been able for the most part to control the mobile quarterbacks it has faced. But Taylor could pose even more problems.
"Not to put those other quarterbacks down, he's better than the last three," said N.C. State defensive tackle Natanu Mageo, who compared Taylor to Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson. "We've just got to go out there and do what we're supposed to do, just play good defense, and I think we'll be able to contain him."
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