O’Cain Likens Alabama To Florida State
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) _ Comparing Alabama to Florida State does not bode well for North Carolina State’s struggling Wolfpack going into Saturday’s game against the eighth-ranked Crimson Tide.
As part of his preparation for Saturday’s game, N.C. State coach Mike O’Cain studied plenty of videotape of Alabama’s defense, which is ranked second in the nation. What he saw, O’Cain said, reminded him of Florida State.
The Seminoles defeated N.C. State 51-17 this year and 77-17 in 1995.
``They are very similar to Florida State in terms of athletes,″ O’Cain said of the Crimson Tide. ``Alabama is a little bit bigger with their down four people. Florida State’s may be a little bit faster.″
Regardless, it’s not an ideal scenario for a Wolfpack team that defeated Maryland 34-8 last week to avoid the first 0-4 start by N.C. State since 1971.
Going against Alabama (5-0) could be even more difficult without Tremayne Stephens, a junior who is the Wolfpack’s No. 8 career rusher. Stephens is nursing a sore shoulder and might not start Saturday.
``He has a hard time reaching up and catching a ball,″ O’Cain said. ``As long as he keeps his elbow down below his shoulder, he is pretty effective as far as carrying the football.″
Stephens, who leads N.C. State with 166 rushing yards and three touchdowns in 1996, was held out of contract drills this week. If Stephens can’t go, he will be replaced by freshman Rahshon Spikes, who has rushed for 80 yards on 27 carries.
O’Cain said Spikes ``runs with a little more confidence every time he touches the ball.″
Alabama coach Gene Stallings also has had to do some shuffling because of injuries.
Linebacker Fernando Davis has been lost for the season, and his replacement, Tyrell Buckner, got banged up in last week’s 35-7 victory over Kentucky, but should play against N.C. State. Also out is running back Curtis Alexander with a broken wrist, and linebacker Ralph Staten and center John Causey were both listed as questionable.
``The thing that concerns me is injuries,″ Stallings said. ```All of the sudden, we’ve lost Causey and Staten. Buckner is injured a little bit. We’re shorthanded. It’s occupying a little more of my time than usual.″
Alabama scored on its first two possessions last year on the way to a 27-11 victory over the N.C. State. The Crimson Tide is 4-0 against the Wolfpack heading into Alabama’s first-ever game in North Carolina.
The oddsmakers have made Alabama a two-touchdown favorite to defeat the Wolfpack again.
The Wolfpack is giving up 32 points per game, placing N.C. State 90th in the nation in scoring defense, and allowing an average of 225 rushing yards, 97th in the country.
But Stallings, whose team has scored 129 points in victories over Bowling Green, Southern Mississippi, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Kentucky, said the Wolfpack shouldn’t be taken lightly.
``They’re probably the best defensive team we’ve played at this point,″ he said. ``I’m really basing that on what I saw in their last game. I haven’t had time to study the other films, so that’s what I’m basing it on.″