N.C. State QB Wilson a hard one to pick

| Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2009

The football adage goes that three things happen when you pass the ball, and two of them are bad.

No one told that to North Carolina State's Russell Wilson.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback is virtually interception-proof, with an NCAA Division I-FBS record 329 consecutive pass attempts — and counting — that were either caught by his teammates or fell harmlessly to the turf.

"That's pretty amazing," N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien said.

Pitt (3-0), off to its best start in nine years, will try to snap Wilson's remarkable streak when the Panthers travel to play the Wolfpack (2-1) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium.

"He understands what wins and loses football games," Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt said. "He makes good decisions, and when the ball comes out, it comes out fast. The ball probably comes out as quick as any quarterback we've played in the past couple of years."

Wilson completed 26 of 36 passes for 345 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-14 victory last Saturday over Gardner-Webb. Along the way, he broke the previous NCAA Division I-FBS mark of 325 passes without an interception set by former Kentucky quarterback Andre Woodson from 2006-07.

After only a couple hours of watching film, the Pitt defense understood what it's up against.

Wilson ranks ninth in the NCAA in passing efficiency at 167.19. He has thrown eight touchdowns and is athletic enough to be the starting second baseman on the N.C. State baseball team. Last season, he became the first freshman to be named first-team All-ACC in football.

Most important, the 5-foot-11, 210-pound Wilson also doesn't put his team in jeopardy with careless turnovers. His last interception was thrown to Clemson's Crezdon Butler on Sept. 13, 2008.

Since then, there have been no game-changing interceptions, no poorly thrown balls that stayed in the other team's hands, not even an end-of-the-half heave hauled in for a meaningless pick. And the streak began when Wilson was a 19-year-old redshirt freshman.

Pitt defensive end Gus Mustakas said Wilson reminds him of former West Virginia standout Pat White.

"He's probably as athletic as Pat White, but he can throw the ball probably better than him," Mustakas said. "As a (defensive) line, we are going to have to pressure the quarterback and, hopefully, get that record stopped."

Pitt has done it before.

Last season, the Panthers ended Buffalo senior Drew Willy's streak at 284 passes without an interception, which was the longest in the nation.

Coincidently, Wilson was recruited to N.C. State by Curt Cignetti, a former Pitt assistant and the brother of Pitt first-year offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. In 2006, Curt Cignetti, now at Alabama, landed Wilson out of Richmond, Va.

And who else was recruiting the dual-threat quarterback• Frank Cignetti, the offensive coordinator at rival North Carolina at the time.

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