Bowl Season



ACC vs. Big East Orlando, Fla.
Florida Citrus Bowl
Dec. 28
6:30 p.m.

 The pick: I like West Virginia to win this game. I like their defense to have a big game.

This pick has been made by and therefore will be correct.
 But if you disagree or agree with me send and email to saying who you think will win and why and I'll post it.... 

Steven, of was nice enough to answer some questions about the Wolfpack.

BS:The Pack finished just one game short of the ACC title game.Thats very respectable considering NC State didn't return too many starters. How would you compare on field performance to expectations?

Steven: It was a disappointing way to end the season, but there is no question that the team far exceeded expectations.  Probably the most optimistic pre-season predictions had the team winning seven games.  I thought they would win five.  Certainly no one thought they would be in a position to earn a spot in the ACC title game on the last week of the season. 

BS:Russell Wilson had another great season, accounting for 35 total touchdowns. Talk about his impact on the offense and the offense in general including other impact players.

Steven:Wilson was the offense this year, pretty much.  The coaching staff asked him to throw the ball a ton--he averaged 40 attempts per game.  To a certain extent, though, his performance felt a little disappointing.  He made some mistakes in big spots that we aren't used to seeing.  Which is not to say that he was bad--far from it--but rather that he didn't really take a step forward this season, and he set a really high standard for himself in '08 and '09.

He threw the ball as much as he did because the strength of this offense is in its receivers.  Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams are talented and experienced targets, and George Bryan is one of the best tight ends anywhere.  Those three combined to make 135 receptions. 

Running back Mustafa Greene played pretty well for a true freshman and averaged about 4.5 yards per carry on the year.  His opportunities were limited because of all the passing, but that could change in the future.

BS:The defense went from 99th to 29th in points allowed. What would say accounts for such a big improvement? Also, comment on some impact players.

Steven: A few reasons for that.  One, the secondary improved quite a bit.  That unit was an unmitigated disaster last season as it featured a number of guys with limited experience.  They blew assignments and tackled poorly on a regular basis.  Those problems largely disappeared this season; in particular, they stopped giving up the big play, and that's been huge.  Earl Wolff had an excellent year at safety.

We're got off the field on third down and forced more turnovers.  We did neither last season.  Opponents converted 32.1% of their third downs versus 42.5% last year; we have 24 takeaways versus 14 last year.

And then there is linebacker Nate Irving.  After an outstanding 2008 season, he missed all of 2009 because of injuries he sustained in a scary car accident that summer.  He worked his way back, and while he may not have been 100%, he played in every game this year and really anchored the defense.  He's just an irreplaceable presence.

The other two linebackers--Audie Cole and Terrell Manning--played well, too.  That group was the strength of the defense.

BS:If you could chose one player who you think will have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Steven: I'll go with George Bryan.  He's been relatively quiet this year--never more than four catches in any one game.  He probably got lost in the shuffle a bit, and league foes were perhaps better prepared to handle him.  That may not be the case with West Virginia.

Thanks a lot to Steven. Check him out at
WVUIE97, of was nice enough to answer some questions about the Mountaineers.

BS: After the UConn game, the Mounatineers were 1-2 in the Big East and the offense was really struggling. However, after that game, West Virginia scored more than 30 points in 3 of their last 4 games. What changed during the last third of the season?

WVUIE97: A couple things.  One of the biggest was on the Belly Option and Zone Read Option, Geno started keeping the ball, which up until that point, I'm not sure he did once.  Also, I think there was a bit more concerted effort to get the ball into Tavon Austin's hands

BS: The offense was led by first year QB Geno Smith. In what ways has he struggled and succeeded and please comment on the offense in general.

WVUIE97: The only real game that he struggled was the Syracuse game in which they brought almost constant pressure from a variety of angles and personnel.  The pressure resulted in a few bad decisions and consequently several interceptions.  UConn continued with this blueprint and although Geno didn't struggle so much individually, the entire offense seemed to be in a funk.  Turnovers will do that to an offense and these two games had a combined 7 turnovers (with multiple other fumbles that were not lost) when there were only 23 for the entire year.

BS: The defense was 2nd in the nation, giving up only 12.8 points a game. How were they so successful and who are the key players in stopping the NC State offense which averages 30 points a game?

WVUIE97: The 3-3-5 is a unique scheme that not many use (at least as a base defense) which relies on players knowing their responsibilities intimately and it has the ability to disguise coverages well.  Combine that with an extremely talented and experienced squad and the results speak for themselves this year.  The key players for stopping NCSU will be CB Pat Miller who will be starting in an injured Brandon Hogan's place, Keith Tandy who flourished this year and lead the Big East with 6 INT's, S Robert Sands who is a bonafide NFL prospect and under-appreciated NT Chris Neild who eats up blocks for the LB corps, led by J.T. Thomas.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

WVUIE97: It has to be Tavon Austin.  When he has the ball, exciting things tend to happen, much in the way they used to when Noel Devine would carry the ball before his injuries slowed him a bit this year.  RB Coach Chris Beatty has said that Tavon could still be un-tackle-able, even in a phone booth.  He starts and stops and changes directions maybe even quicker than Devine in his prime.  But I also wouldn't count out Devine and/or Jock Sanders having big games to close out their careers at Mountaineers.

Thanks a lot to WVUIE97. Check him out at

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