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.