Wolfpack blows by Catamounts|Wilson shines in season opener

Published 2:26 pm Sunday, September 5, 2010

By By Associated Pres
RALEIGH — Russell Wilson spent much of his offseason playing baseball. His return to the football field was a hit on Saturday night, even if his coach wouldn’t call it a home run.
Wilson passed for 306 yards and four touchdowns to help North Carolina State defeat Western Carolina 48-7.
‘‘It was definitely good to get out there again,’’ said Wilson who missed spring practice to play for N.C. State’s baseball team and spent the summer playing in the Colorado Rockies organization. ‘‘I’ve been working hard to find my comfort zone.’’
Wilson completed 21 of 31 passes, engineering seven consecutive scoring drives as the Wolfpack won their season opener for the first time in four tries under coach Tom O’Brien.
Wilson notched his fifth 300-yard passing game and didn’t throw an interception, but O’Brien saw room for improvement.
O’Brien wanted to see a sharper 2-minute drill on N.C. State’s final possession of the first half, which resulted in a 24-yard field goal by Josh Czajkowski. The coach also pointed out that Wilson failed to recognize that the team had 12 players in the huddle on one occasion.
‘‘We’re not where we have to be offensively,’’ O’Brien said. ‘‘I think we’ve got to get Russell back into the swing of things.’’
The Wolfpack replaced Wilson with Mike Glennon with 3:10 remaining in the third quarter. Glennon limped off the field with 10 minutes left in the fourth with what team officials called a bruised left knee.
N.C. State, which scored three points in its previous two season openers combined, enjoyed its highest scoring output in a first game since a 59-20 win over Western Carolina in 2003.
T.J. Graham posted career highs with six receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns — all in the first half — for the Wolfpack. Freshman tailbacks Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene each added a third-quarter rushing touchdown for N.C. State.
Western Carolina dropped to 0-26 all-time against current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The Catamounts went 87 yards on 10 plays to score a touchdown on the game’s first possession, but amassed just 102 yards on 39 plays the rest of the game.
‘‘The first half we came out there a little too excited,’’ N.C. State linebacker Terrell Manning said. ‘‘They were doing a couple of different things, so we had to go and adjust. … We just had to slow down and play a little slower. That took care of everything.’’
A mistake by Western Carolina on special teams ignited N.C. State’s attack. After their opening score, the Catamounts forced N.C. State to punt after three plays.
But Deja Alexander muffed the catch on the short kick, and Taylor Gentry recovered for N.C. State on the Western Carolina 26 yard line. Wilson found Graham streaking down the seam uncovered on the next play for a touchdown, the first of four scoring strikes in as many possessions for Wilson.
Graham, who had one touchdown catch in his first two seasons, put the Wolfpack ahead 14-7 with his second scoring grab of the opening quarter. He pulled in a quick slant from Wilson on third and 5, weaving his way right to left through the defense on his way to a 25-yard touchdown.
‘‘I’m happy to finally break out and kind of show people what I’m able to do,’’ Graham said. ‘‘I’ve been in the shadows of Jarvis (Williams) and Owen (Spencer) at receiver. I’m not just a return specialist. I do also play receiver, and I just wanted to show that.’’
N.C. State’s defense kept the Catamounts from climbing back into the game. The Wolfpack, who surrendered at least 30 points in a school-record eight consecutive games last season, never allowed Western Carolina to enter the red zone.
‘‘We just didn’t take advantage of what they gave us,’’ Western Carolina coach Dennis Wagner said. ‘‘This game was not a performance the Catamounts are proud of.’’
The Wolfpack won without three members of their two-deep depth chart. Starting offensive tackle Jake Vermiglio and backup defensive tackles Marcus Kuhn and J.R. Sweezy didn’t dress out for the game. All three had faced drug charges, which eventually were dropped, during the offseason.
O’Brien declined to say if the trio would play next week at Central Florida.