Pack to visit explosive Pirates

Football or pinball?

N.C. State and East Carolina, two of America’s highest-scoring
teams, will tackle the bell-ringing question at noon today at
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium in Greenville.

The Wolfpack (5-1, 2-1 ACC) averages 37.5 points, 13th among the
NCAA’s 120 bowl-division teams. The Pirates (3-2, 3-0 Conference
USA) can top that – 37.6 points a game, 12th nationally.

At State, quarterback Russell Wilson is the offensive star, the
generator of more passing yards (300 a game) than any other ACC
player.

His efficiency weighs heavily on the final outcome, an
assumption confirmed when quarterback Tyrod Taylor outplayed Wilson
two weeks ago and led Virginia Tech’s rally from 17 points
down.

The Wolfpack bounced back against Boston
College 44-17 and again dodged the
widespread injuries that decimated the 2009 team. Coach Tom O’Brien
reports assorted nicks and heavy legs but nothing severe.

“When good things started happening to us this year,” O’Brien
said, “they’ve just kept happening.”

Wilson also weighs on the mind of ECU’s new coach, Ruffin
McNeill, who played defensive back against the Wolfpack in his
second
college game 34 years ago. Student
McNeill split four games. State leads the series 16-10.

Taylor was a prime figure in Virginia Tech’s 49-27 win against
ECU. McNeill says that Wilson has similar versatility, “but when he
throws the
football, he has zip, accuracy and
field vision to distribute the
football to all five receivers.”

At ECU, the spread offense McNeill imported from Texas Tech is
the star. McNeill coached the defense for creative boss Mike Leach,
who was fired late last season and will work this game from the
broadcast booth.

The key ECU movers are quarterback Dominique Davis and
receiver-kick returner Dwayne Harris, a jet-propelled senior who
already has caught 40 passes, five for touchdowns.

Davis, a junior transfer from Boston
College via a Kansas community
college, finished his prep career
just as O’Brien left BC for State. Davis started the 2008 ACC title
game as a redshirt freshman.

The Pirates beat Tulsa 51-49, Memphis 49-27 and Southern Miss
44-43, rallying from 20 points behind last week. They have scored
on all 18 trips inside the 20-yard line, with 14 touchdowns.

Opponents score even more. The Pirates rank No. 117 in the
nation, allowing 42 points a game, or 20 more than the Wolfpack’s
defensive average. North Carolina racked up the final 28 points in
a 42-17 victory.

ECU is 110th in passing defense and 114th in total defense – and
defensive back Derek Blacknall has been suspended for this game
because of a helmet-to-helmet hit on a Southern Miss receiver.
Ouch.