N.C. State's running game going nowhere fast

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 10, 2012 

— In its first ACC game, N.C. State rushed for 224 yards.

The Wolfpack hasn’t reached that total in the four subsequent games combined.

To say the least, running the ball has been a problem for the Wolfpack, which enters Saturday’s home game with Wake Forest ranked 110th in the country in rushing offense (110.9 yards per game).

The Wolfpack ran for a season-low 19 yards in last week’s 33-6 loss to Virginia.

“I was furious,” senior center Cam Wentz said. “Usually, I’m pretty calm, cool and collected but that was eating away at me.”

N.C. State couldn’t run and couldn’t protect quarterback Mike Glennon against Virginia. The Cavaliers’ defense sacked Glennon six times.

Even if you take out the yards lost for sacks, the Wolfpack ran 18 times for 53 yards against the Cavaliers, an average of fewer than 3 yards per carry.

“We got ourselves in a hole and when that happens, you become one dimensional,” offensive coordinator Dana Bible said.

Playing catch-up has been an ongoing issue. N.C. State faced early deficits against Tennessee, Miami, Florida State, North Carolina and Virginia. While the running game has lagged, the passing offense ranks second in the ACC and 24th nationally (294.7 yards per game).

The way N.C. State was able to throw the ball against UNC (467 yards), Maryland (307) and FSU (259), offset the necessity to establish the running game.

But since a 44-37 loss at Miami, in which N.C. State rushed for 224 yards, its rushing totals in ACC play are 66, 40, 67 and 19 yards.

The offensive line has been re-shuffled because of injuries, with guard Zach Allen lost for the year with a foot injury during the Miami game on Sept. 29. Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said Allen, a senior and three-year starter, was the team’s best run-blocker.

“That can’t be an excuse, other guys need to step up and fill that role,” Wentz said.

The Wolfpack will face the Deacons without Allen’s backup, junior guard Duran Christophe, and senior tackle Andrew Wallace has been in for a total of seven snaps since hurting his left ankle against The Citadel on Sept. 22.

The Wolfpack has also lost two of its top three running backs from the start of the season. Mustafa Greene, the team’s leading rusher in 2010, was kicked off the team before the Maryland game on Oct. 20, and after a four-game suspension. James Washington, the team’s leading rusher in 2011, was lost for the season to a knee injury against UNC on Oct. 27, after he had missed the previous four games because of an ankle injury.

“We still have people who we feel can be effective in the run game,” Bible said.

Sophomore Tony Creecy leads the team with 398 yards on 102 carries. Freshman Shadrach Thornton has 326 yards in six games. Creecy broke the 100-yard mark against Miami and Thornton had 145 yards against The Citadel. Between the two, they’ve broken the 50-yard mark only once in the past four games.

“I have to pick it up more,” Creecy said. “I have do better on my reads and I have to run the ball tougher.”

It will take a concerted effort to get the ground game going, O’Brien said, by the blockers up front, the running backs and the coaches.

The Wolfpack can’t give up on the running game, either, the coach said.

“I don’t think you ever have to get away from the running game,” O’Brien said. “We just have to do a better job.”

Giglio: 919-829-8938

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