RALEIGH — N.C. State has a second chance to hold onto its favored status with regard to the ACC football championship game but will have to do it without senior place-kicker Josh Czajkowski.
The school announced Monday that Czajkowski is out for at least the rest of the regular season with a hamstring injury suffered on a fourth-quarter kickoff during a 14-13 loss Saturday at Clemson.
Sophomore Ellis Flint and freshman Chris Hawthorne will compete this week in practice for the opportunity to play in Saturday's final home game, against Wake Forest at 2 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium.
The game is important for the Wolfpack because North Carolina's 37-35 defeat of Florida State on Saturday put N.C. State (6-3, 3-2 ACC) back in control in the ACC's Atlantic Division after the Wolfpack lost at Clemson.
If N.C. State wins its final three ACC games against Wake Forest, North Carolina and Maryland, the Wolfpack will advance to the ACC title game Dec. 4 in Charlotte.
"Now we've just got to make sure we don't lose again," N.C. State offensive tackle Jake Vermiglio said.
One kicking candidate, Flint, is a former Hofstra player who transferred after that school dropped its football program at the end of last season. Czajkowski had attended kicking camp with him and brought it to the N.C. State coaching staff's attention that Flint needed to find a place to play. Hawthorne is a freshman from Leesville Road High.
"He's gotten better as the year has gone on," O'Brien said of Hawthorne. "He's a big kid with a strong leg, so we'll see how this turns out this week. We may use both. Maybe one will kick off, and one will kick field goals."
Czajkowski was injured on a 76-yard kickoff return by Clemson in the fourth quarter of Saturday's game. He is 12-for-16 on field-goal attempts this season. He ranks fourth in school history in field-goal percentage (.866) and is tied for fourth in career field goals (40).
Quarterback to be honored: N.C. State also announced that junior quarterback Russell Wilson will be honored with the Wolfpack seniors before their final home game. O'Brien said he doesn't have any information on whether Wilson, who played pro baseball last summer in the Colorado Rockies organization, will return for more football in 2011.
Wilson already has his bachelor's degree in communications and is taking graduate school classes this semester. O'Brien said he hasn't discussed 2011 with Wilson and doesn't plan to discuss it until after this season is over.
"There are too many things for us to play for right now to be worried about next year," O'Brien said.
Wilson has declined on numerous occasions to discuss what he plans to do after the 2010 football season ends.
O'Brien's decision to honor Wilson on Saturday is partly a result of missing an opportunity to honor running back Toney Baker after the 2009 season. Baker was cleared to return for a sixth season and had told O'Brien he planned to return for 2010.
But Baker changed his mind after the season and didn't get honored.
"Russell is going to go out, and this could very well be his last game," O'Brien said. "If it is, we're going to honor him with everybody else who's going to play their last game."
Haynes recovering: O'Brien has listed redshirt freshman Dean Haynes back on top of the depth chart at running back for the Wake Forest game.
Haynes was listed as a starter and was medically cleared to play at Clemson, but he suffered a head injury in N.C. State's win over Florida State on Oct. 28 and did not play against the Tigers. Mustafa Greene and James Washington played at running back at Clemson.
"[Haynes] would have been the third tailback," O'Brien said. "He could have gone in the game. It's another one of those head injuries, that, I just wanted to be a little safe."
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