#17 N.C State Too Much For Minutemen
Sept. 28, 2002
By AARON BEARD
RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina State coach Chuck Amato hardly sounded like a coach whose team had just improved to 6-0.
"Intensity is so important. We've got to do a better job in coaching that," he said after his team's 56-24 win over Massachusetts on Saturday. "We've got to do a better job in getting these young men prepared."
T.A. McLendon rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns for the 17th-ranked Wolfpack, who are off to their best start since 1991. N.C. State also got two touchdowns on special teams from Lamont Reid.
Overall, however, the Wolfpack were inconsistent, despite scoring on their first four possessions and taking a 28-0 second-quarter lead against the Division I-AA Minutemen (2-2).
N.C. State moved the ball with ease for much of the game behind McLendon and Philip Rivers, who threw for 227 yards and four touchdowns. But Rivers had two interceptions in the third quarter - once on a screen pass deep in his own territory.
The defense prevented UMass from taking advantage. After starting first-and-goal from inside the 3-yard line, the Minutemen came away empty when Andre Maddox intercepted Jeff Krohn's pass on third down.
At other times, there were breakdowns that allowed Minutemen receivers to find openings in the secondary.
"I think we went out there and slopped around a little bit," McLendon said. "I don't think we played the way we should've played."
N.C. State improved to 17-1 against non-conference opponents under Amato, while the Minutemen fell to 8-14 against Division I-A foes.
"I think our kids fought hard and didn't give up," UMass coach Mark Whipple said. "There is obviously a big difference between the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Atlantic 10."
McLendon scored his 10th touchdown of the season on a 3-yard run early in the fourth quarter. He also had five catches for 37 yards.
Reid, meanwhile, scored on a 97-yard kickoff return just before halftime and a 15-yard blocked punt return in the fourth quarter.
"We focus on (special teams) a lot," Reid said. "That changes the game around. It gets a lot of momentum going for the team."
The Wolfpack answered with touchdown drives on their next two possessions, the second ending with McLendon's run.
After N.C. State's defense forced Massachusetts to punt on its next possession, Manny Lawson burst through the middle of the line and blocked David Sanger's kick. Reid picked the ball up and ran for the score.
The Wolfpack, who had outscored opponents 117-28 in the first half this season, scored on their second offensive play, getting an 18-yard touchdown run from McLendon in the first quarter. It was the fifth straight game that the Wolfpack had scored on their opening possession.
Meanwhile, N.C. State's defense harassed Krohn early, intercepting his passes on the Minutemen's first two possessions to set up scoring drives.
After McLendon's run, Rivers directed the Wolfpack on drives of 58, 97 and 80 yards to go ahead by four touchdowns.
UMass got on the board after a fumble by Sterling Hicks, scoring on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Krohn to Adrian Zullo with 9:03 left before halftime. After a 28-yard field goal by Doug White made it 28-10 late in the period, Reid returned the ensuing kickoff for the score with 1:50 left in the half.