2011 Belk - NC State 31, Louisville 24

Posted Dec 27, 2011

2011-2012 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2011 Belk Bowl

2011 Belk

NC St 31 ... Louisville 24

- 2011-2012 CFN Bowl Central

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National Rankings
104th Total Offense 93rd
23rd Total Defense 39th
100th Scoring Offense 58th
14th Scoring Defense 55th
94th Rushing Offense 107th
10th Run Defense 40th
79th Passing Offense 53rd
62nd Passing Defense 55th
68th Turnover Margin 5th
Position Rankings
relative to each other
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
L   N
3.5 Quarterbacks 3.5
3 RBs 2.5
3.5 Receivers 3
2 O Line 2
4.5 D Line 4.5
4 Linebackers 4
3.5 Secondary 3.5
3 Spec Teams 3
4.5 Coaching 4
NC State 31 … Louisville 24
- CFN Thoughts on the Game

NC State: The Wolfpack made five sacks and 12 tackles for loss. … Mike Glennon completed 21-of-33 passes for 264 yards and three scores with a pick. … James Washington ran 14 times for 45 yards. … WR T.J. Graham caught seven passes for 116 yards and two scores. … Brandan Bishop made 12 tackles with a tackle for loss, while Audie Cole made ten tackles with two sacks and four tackles for loss. … David Amerson made five tackles with two picks to close out the year with 13 picks.

Louisville: The Cardinals outgained State 391 yards to 329. … Teddy Bridgewater completed 24-of-43 passes for 274 yards and two scores with three picks. … Victor Anderson ran 15 times for 61 yards. … Eli Rogers caught seven passes for 54 yards. … Adrian Bushell made seven tackles with a tackle for loss and a forced fumble with a broken up pass.

(AP) CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Mike Glennon threw for 264 yards and three touchdowns and David Amerson returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown as North Carolina State defeated Louisville 31-24 in the Belk Bowl.

T.J. Graham made the most of his final game at N.C. State with seven catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yard score on a nifty catch-and-run, as the Wolfpack (8-5) overcame a series of special teams blunders to hold off a late charge from the Cardinals (7-6).

Amerson had two more interceptions to give him 13 for the season, the most in the country, while setting a new Atlantic Coast Conference record.

Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, who threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another, nearly brought the Cardinals back from a 21-point deficit, but his final heave on fourth-and-23 was picked off by Amerson with 41 seconds left.

Louisville used a fake punt and recovered an onside kick to get back in the game after falling behind 31-10.

Bridgewater threw a pair of 2-yard touchdown passes to close the gap to 31-24 with 3:55 left in the game.

The Cardinals had once last chance to send the game into overtime after stopping N.C. State on fourth-and-2. However, on a third-and-12 Dontae Johnson sacked Bridgewater for an 11-yard loss setting up Amerson's clinching interception.

The Wolfpack came into the game leading the nation in interceptions and picked off Bridgewater three times.

On Louisville's first possession, Bridgewater came under pressure and made a poor decision to try to dump the ball off, but instead threw it in the hands of linebacker Terrell Manning for an interception. Glennon took advantage, methodically driving the Wolfpack 79 yards completing 6 of 7 passes for 49 yards, including a 6-yard touchdown strike to Graham to take a 7-0 lead.

Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien was worried about his young special teams unit coming into the game and his worst fears were realized on his team's next drive. Freshman punter Will Baumann mishandled a low snap from center and was swarmed under at the 5-yard line.

The Cardinals cashed in three plays later on an 8-yard touchdown run by Bridgewater to tie the game.

After Louisville went ahead 10-7, Glennon bounced back from an early interception by completing five straight passes for 80 yards, capped by a 35-yard touchdown to Tobais Palmer, who made a nice adjustment with the ball in midair to haul in the pass.

Then came the play of the game as Graham caught a pass over the middle from Glennon and broke two tackles en route to a 68-yard touchdown reception giving the Wolfpack a 21-10 lead at the break.

N.C. State tacked on three more to start the third quarter after a pair of costly Louisville penalties -- a running into the kicker on Adrian Bushell on fourth down and unnecessary roughness call on linebacker Preston Brown after the Cardinals stopped the Wolfpack on third down.

The Wolfpack seemingly put the game away 17 seconds later when Amerson intercepted Bridgewater downfield and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown.

With his team trailing down 24, Louisville coach Charlie Strong started to gamble.

Strong called for a fake punt after the Cardinals' next drive stalled and Preston Brown, the up back on the punt team, took a direct snap from center and raced 32 yards for a first down. That set up a 2-yard touchdown pass from Bridgewater to tight end Nate Nord in the back corner of the end zone.

Bridgewater added another 2-yard touchdown pass to Josh Bellamy but it wasn't enough.

Louisville (7-5) vs. NC State (7-5) Dec. 27, 8:00, ESPN

Here's The Deal … The sponsor has changed, but the mission has remained the same: Pit a middling ACC team against a Big East runner-up in Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium, and let the two schools have it.

Belk is the third sponsor of this decade-old game owned by Raycom Sports, following in the footsteps of Continental Tire and Meineke Car Care. It's set to stage a matchup between a local program, NC State, and Louisville, which won a share of the Big East championship in Charlie Strong's second season on the payroll. The Cardinals are an up-and-coming team, gradually digging out from the debacle created during the ill-fated Steve Kragthorpe era. Despite using a mess of young kids, and probably being a year or so away from being really good, the program still managed to win five of its final six games. Heck, had Connecticut beaten Cincinnati on the final weekend of the regular season, the Cards, not West Virginia, would have played in the Orange Bowl.

Strong and his staff are bucking the odds with old-fashioned fundamentals. Blocking, tackling and a suffocating D remain fashionable in the ‘Ville. Oh, and the school's success has clearly been a collaborative effort, sans much star power on either side of the ball. In fact, Strong is convinced that his team is still not getting nearly enough respect, inside or outside conference circles. With no other games competing for air time, Louisville has a chance on Tuesday night to turn a few heads if it can win back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history. It could also be another shot in the arm for a program that's already picking up a head of steam on the recruiting trail.

Right around Halloween, after falling to .500, it looked as if NC State was going to fall short of postseason eligibility. The Pack had just been whipped by Florida State, 34-0, and half of its wins came against FCS opponents. And then, Tom O'Brien's kids suddenly found their second wind. In a torrid November, they shutout rival Carolina, stunned eventual ACC champ Clemson and rallied from a 41-14 deficit to upend Maryland in a historic comeback. It wound up being a particularly important finish for O'Brien, who had been vilified ever since allowing QB Russell Wilson to transfer to Wisconsin prior to the start of the season.

In five years in Raleigh, O'Brien has failed to elevate the Wolfpack program, going just 32-30, and winning a single bowl game. Okay, so 2011 was a transition year in many ways, but a transition to what? While the Belk Bowl won't answer that question, it could give the staff and the coaches a little more breathing room in the offseason. And some much-needed momentum as they inch closer to a crucial 2012 season.

Players to Watch: Strong went with youth in the passing game this season, and it has paid off. No, it wasn't shades of Browning Nagle or Dave Ragone in Louisville, but by popping the cork on true freshman Teddy Bridgewater, the program ought to reap the dividends over the next three seasons. The hotshot rookie from Miami got more comfortable as the season progressed, peaking with a three-touchdown, no-pick effort in the season-ending win over South Florida. Even better, the quarterback is evolving alongside an equally youthful corps of receivers. Three of the Cardinals' most dangerous receivers, Michaelee Harris, Eli Harris and DeVante Harris, are in their debut seasons of action.

If Bridgewater does one thing consistently well on this night, it'll be to know where Wolfpack CB David Amerson is at all times. The rangy sophomore was one of this year's breakout stars in college football, picking off an FBS-high 11 passes. A virtual unknown when the season started, he has evolved into a nuisance for opposing passers, reading their eyes, jumping routes and showcasing the ball skills of a top-flight wide receiver. Amerson, S Brandan Bishop and athletic linebackers Terrell Manning and Audie Cole are the cornerstones of an opportunistic D that ranks second nationally to Oklahoma State in takeaways this fall.

The departure of Wilson to the Big Ten opened the door for heralded backup Mike Glennon to finally get a chance to run the show for NC State. The junior has responded by throwing for 2,790 yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The best, though, has yet to come for the 6-6, 232-pounder. He has the physical tools and acumen for the position to prompt O'Brien to compare him to former pupil and current Atlanta Falcons QB Matt Ryan. To be sure, Glennon is not a household today, but that's going to change at some point in the fall of 2012, when pro scouts begin trekking to Carter-Finley Stadium in increasing numbers.

The microcosm for Louisville in 2011 has been the defense; short on stars, yet long on results. Okay, so LB Dexter Heyman, S Hakeem Smith and CB Adrian Bushell, a JUCO transfer, were named All-Big East, but none of the three could be recognized in a lineup. The Cardinals are a no-name defense, which suits Strong just fine. The unit ranks no lower than 25th nationally in run defense, scoring defense, sacks and total D. If you're going to beat it, it'll probably have to happen through the air. Now, Glennon is capable of doing just that, but not if his line is unable to keep Heyman and linemen William Savoy, Greg Scruggs and Marcus Smith out of the backfield. The Pack will begin the Belk Bowl ranked 11th in the ACC in sacks allowed.

Louisville will win if … Bridgewater picks up where he left off in the South Florida game.

The rookie does not have to be the MVP in order for the Cardinals to win their eighth game of 2011. He does, however, have to keep the chains moving, and lead his troops into the end zone at least a couple of times. Louisville has been held to no more than 17 points on six separate occasions this year, and won just one of those games, so the stingy defense will get it only so far. To get over the hump, Bridgewater, with help out of the backfield from Victor Anderson and Dominique Brown, has to prevent the punters from trotting on to the field more than four or five times.

NC State will win if … it continues with its season-long thievery.

The Wolfpack is still playing in December, in large part, because of the big-play ability of the defense. The crew had a knack for shifting the momentum of games this year by stripping balls and taking passes back the other way. In fact, when NC State intercepted more passes than touchdowns passes allowed, it went 7-0. Slowing down an average Louisville attack won't be enough on this evening. No, the Pack will need to become an extension of the offense, cutting short drives, and giving Glennon a short field with which to work. The onus is going to fall on Amerson, Manning and Cole to make sure that Bridgewater and his young receivers play with all of the inconsistency of rookies.

What Will Happen: Four weeks is a long time for Strong and his cagey assistants to prepare for a one-trick offense. Too long.

Glennon is a budding star at quarterback, but without proper support from the ground game, he's going to run into a buzzsaw in Charlotte. The way the Cardinals mix their schemes and personnel, NC State will have a dogged time extending drives, and putting up six. It could be a busy night for rookie PK Niklas Sade, with the Pack stalling on those rare occasions that it enters the red zone. In what figures to be a very physical and low-scoring contest, Louisville won't need Bridgewater to be the hero. It'll just need him to limit his unforced errors, and ably work the middle of the field on third downs. If he can simply carry his weight, and play with poise, the Cards will lay down another important brick in the foundation being constructed by Strong.

CFN Prediction: Louisville 23 … NC State 19
- Click For Latest Line From ATS:  NC State -2.5   O/U: 45.5   
Confidence Picks
Fiu Rich Matt Russ Barrett Terry Phil Clucko PICK
UL (1) UL (9) UL (7) NC* (1) UL (25) NC(8) NC (17) UL (31) UL (49)

E-mail Pete Fiutak 
Flip a coin ... nice in-depth analysis, huh? Louisville has the defense to keep the game low scoring, and I'm going against my belief that the veteran quarterback always beats the underclassman, but State is too hit-or-miss. Go under. Way under. Like 17-14 one way or another.

By Richard Cirminiello 
Financial issues aside, this is a better fit for Louisville than the Orange Bowl trip that it nearly procured. Facing NC State provides a much better chance to pick up a tailwind heading into the offseason.

By Matt Zemek
Pick the overachiever (Louisville) over the underachiever (N.C. State) every time in bowl games as long as the talent differential isn't too substantial.

By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee  
Louisville barely missed a BCS bid out of the Big East, and has to settle for a trip to Charlotte to play the hot N.C. State offense. That's gotta hurt.

By Russ Mitchell
Two 7-5 squads, both of whom turned their seasons around and closed out strong - particularly Louisville. This game is intriguing, past the fact that most people in America have no idea what a Belk is. (For those of you living outside the south, a Belk should not be confused from a belch. Belk is a modern southern style outfitter; Modern and Style being two words not often orbiting my personal space.)

By Terry Johnson
Keep an eye on the battle between the Wolfpack offense and the Cardinal defense, as the winner of that struggle will win the game.

By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN
Which NC State team will show up? Look for a home crowd to help out the cause for the Wolfpack.
Best Bowl Moments

Best Wolfpack Bowl Moment: By ACC standards, State has had a rich and extensive postseason history. The Wolfpack claims a dozen wins and a handful of exciting finishes to back that up. However, to find its proudest moment, you only have to venture back several years, when the ‘Pack stuffed Notre Dame, 28-6, for a convincing win in the 2003 Gator Bowl.

Best Cardinal Bowl Moment: In terms of trailblazing significance, Louisville's big bowl breakthrough was the 1991 Fiesta Bowl smackdown of the Alabama Crimson Tide. That game marked the day when Howard Schnellenberger's goals were fulfilled, and a program emerged from the shadows. However, in terms of pure prestige, the 2007 Orange Bowl win over Wake Forest represented a greater feat. Coach Bobby Petrino created a juggernaut in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and that night in South Florida marked the zenith of everything Petrino accomplished in a short but extremely fruitful tenure.

Belk Bowl History (formerly the Meineke Car Care Bowl) History
2010 South Florida 31, Clemson 26
2009 Pitt 19, North Carolina 17
2008 West Virginia 31, North Carolina 30
2007 Wake Forest 24, Connecticut 10
2006 Boston Coll 25, Navy 24
2005 NC St 14, South Florida 0
2004 Boston Col 37, North Carolina 24

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