Heels won't miss Wilson

New QB gets compliments

jgiglio@newsosbserver.comNovember 1, 2011 

North Carolina's not going miss to Russell Wilson on Saturday.

The former Wolfpack quarterback led N.C. State to three wins against the Tar Heels, a fact interim coach Everett Withers and some of his players did not overlook Monday in preparation for the teams' 101st meeting Saturday in Raleigh.

North Carolina freshman receiver T.J. Thorpe said the Tar Heels are "slightly relieved" that Wilson is in Wisconsin for his final college season.

"And I think that his experience probably would change the game a lot more for them," Thorpe said. "But the fact that he's not playing, I think that takes a lot off our back and relieves a lot of the pressure that we're going to have to face on defense."

Withers, North Carolina's defensive coordinator in the previous four games against the Wolfpack, all Tar Heels losses, said he admired Wilson, who is the top-rated passer in country for the Badgers, and respected him.

"Russell Wilson was a big part of their success," Withers said Monday.

He pointed out Wilson's ability to make plays "off schedule" and with his running ability. Two plays in last year's 29-25 Wolfpack win in Chapel Hill illustrated Wilson's playmaking and importance in the series.

Down nine points in the third quarter, Wilson converted a third-and-18 with a 34-yard scramble, and then threw a memorable 2-yard touchdown pass to Owen Spencer, which N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien called a "2-yard Hail Mary" on Monday.

Withers complimented N.C. State's new quarterback Mike Glennon but said with Wilson, "you had to do so many things to keep him back there in the pocket because he was so dangerous once he got out of the pocket, throwing it and running."

Wilson averaged 233.6 passing yards in three games against North Carolina, with eight touchdowns and one interception. The most important stat, though, is the 3-0 record. Wilson went 8-13 against the rest of the ACC but was always at his best, particularly in a four-touchdown performance in the 28-27 win in Raleigh in 2009.

N.C. State did beat North Carolina in 2007, when Wilson was a redshirt. Senior tackle Mikel Overgaard said the Wolfpack will be ready Saturday without Wilson.

"It doesn't matter who's there, you still have to show up and play to win the game," Overgaard said. "That's what we're planning on doing. We're going to show up and play our best game of the season."

RIESKAMP DONE FOR THE SEASON: N.C. State added senior defensive end Jeff Rieskamp to its list of injured players out for the season. He has been out since the first game of the season with a shoulder injury.

O'Brien said Rieskamp had hoped he would be able to rehab the injury and return this season but the injury was more severe than they originally thought.

A fifth-year senior, he has the option to petition the NCAA for a sixth season but O'Brien said Rieskamp's career is likely over.

BERNARD NEARS 1,000: North Carolina redshirt freshman running back Gio Bernard is closing in on a milestone.

Bernard's 154 rushing yards against Wake Forest gave him 965 for the season.

He needs 35 yards to become the first Tar Heels player since Jonathan Linton in 1997 to rush for 1,000 yards in a season.

"It's important to what we want to accomplish on offense, to be able to run the football," Withers said. "You get a 1,000-yard rusher, and that says a lot about our ability to run the football.

"That also helps our quarterback. It helps our receivers, helps our tight ends. So yeah, it's important in the whole, grand scheme of our football team."

LOPSIDED SERIES: N.C. State has won four in a row against North Carolina, and 7 of 11, but the Tar Heels hold a commanding 63-31-6 advantage in the series, which dates to 1894.

Dick Sheridan, who beat North Carolina five consecutive years from 1988 to '92, is the only N.C. State coach with a longer streak against the Tar Heels than Tom O'Brien.

"That's strange," O'Brien said. "We've got a long way to go."

North Carolina coach Mack Brown, who lost the five games to Sheridan, won five in row in 1993-97 and Carl Torbush extended that streak to seven games.

North Carolina's nine-game winning streak, between 1943 and 1955 (they didn't play in 1944, '45 or '46), is the longest in the series.

Ken Tysiac contributed to this report

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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