NC State coach Tom O'Brien half-joked that Saturday's intra-squad scrimmage at Carter-Finley Stadium better be the worst out of the scrimmages that will be held this spring and during fall camp in August.
NC State rising redshirt sophomore quarterback Mike Glennon started off the scrimmage in style with a 79-yard touchdown pass to Owen Spencer. Glennon later threw a second touchdown to Spencer, who finished with two catches for 96 yards.
Glennon and junior Daniel Imhoff split the quarterback snaps, while redshirt junior Russell Wilson watched his teammates today at the closed scrimmage. Glennon finished 12 of 25 for 179 yards and the two touchdowns to Spencer, and Imhoff went 8 for 12 for 94 yards and a score.
"I think we are a tougher football team," O'Brien said. "It's a step to where we want to be. I think there was a little more intensity out there than we have been accustomed to the first time around. Those are all positive things. There was a lot of mistakes and a lot of things to correct. I think everybody understands that.
"As long as we use this as the worst scrimmage that we are going to have, and we get better from here, then it will be a good scrimmage."
The first-team offense went against the first-team defense for 48 players, and the same amount of plays for the reserves
"We put the ball down in four different spots on the field and try to get X number of plays in," O'Brien said. "You don't mark off penalties. You just go 12 plays and see who can last at the end of 12. It's similar to the first scrimmage we do in August.
"We've had three hot days. Thursday was really hot, and today was hot. It's supposed to be near 90 on Tuesday. We aren't that deep. We are basically playing with two teams."
O'Brien always likes to point out the yin and yang of intra-squad scrimmage. He enjoyed watching Glennon throw a touchdown pass on the first play, but then was also discouraged that a cornerback got beat on the play.
"It's good for Owen and it's good for Michael, but bad for the defense to get the ball thrown over their head for a long touchdown pass," O'Brien said.
Four defensive players combined for 13 1/2 tackles for loss and five sacks - redshirt junior defensive tackle Markus Kuhn, redshirt senior middle linebacker Nate Irving in his first scrimmage since breaking his leg in a car accident June 28, 2009, redshirt freshman defensive end Darryl Cato-Bishop and redshirt sophomore outside linebacker Terrell Manning.
Cato-Bishop might have been the surprise in the group, finishing with four tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks for minus-11 yards.
"I wouldn't get too excited about some of this stuff because sometimes the personnel matchups aren't the best when you get to where we are right now," O'Brien said.
Just because some defensive lineman had great statistical days, O'Brien wasn't discouraged by the offensive line play.
"I think we have to take a look, and again, sometimes you get into personnel mismatches that favors the offense or favors the defense," O'Brien said.
Irving filled up the stat sheet with eight tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss, one sack and one caused fumble. O'Brien was pleased with the effort, but noted that his star defensive player still has room for improvement.
"He's not in midseason form, but he certainly is a presence when he's out there," O'Brien said. "He sees things and reacts quickly. He had a pretty good day."
Kuhn and leading rusher Curtis Underwood, Jr. both redshirted last year to preserve two seasons of eligibility remaining. Kuhn finished with six tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks and a quarterback pressure.
"Markus has a long way to go," O'Brien said. "I think he's working hard. His hard work paid off today."
Underwood is competing for the starting running back job, and had 44 yards on 14 carries, plus three receptions for 28. Sophomore James Washington rushed for 35 yards on 12 carries, and redshirt sophomore Brandon Barnes had 18 yards on nine attempts. Finding a go-to running back is one of the priorities this offseason.
"No, not really," O'Brien said to whether any of the running backs took a step forward. "We'll have to keep working at it. Certainly, that would be a positive for us to get that done [have a clear-cut No. 1 running back]. They are all getting equal chances and equal opportunities. We'll see how it works out."
Redshirt senior kicker Josh Czajkowski has been a model of consistency the last two years, going a combined 26 of 31 on field goals. He continued in the spring scrimmage, going 4 of 5 with a long of 47, and his lone miss from 53.
"He's striking the ball good and has been accurate," O'Brien said. "In a scrimmage like that, there are a lot of fourth downs in areas where the offense got stopped."
O'Brien also announced that redshirt sophomore cornerback Gary Grant would miss the rest of the spring because of an abdominal injury. He missed most of his first season in Raleigh with a serious hip injury, but returned last year to record five tackles in 33 plays, appearing in six games.
Sophomore Jordan Monk, who was called upon to play 24 snaps in the season finale against North Carolina, recording three tackles, and fellow walk-on Jesse Riley, a sophomore (nine special teams tackles in eight games), will receive extra reps in light of Grant's injury.
"Gary Grant is done for the spring," O'Brien said. "Whatever he came in with, a fractured pelvis or whatever, something is still not right. We'll shut him down and see if we can fix whatever is wrong, so he'll be ready in August."
Mike Glennon: 12 for 25 for 179 yards and two touchdowns (first pass was a 79-yard touchdown to Owen Spencer)
Daniel Imhoff: 8 for 12 for 94 yards and a touchdown
Curtis Underwood: 14 attempts for 44 yards
Brandon Barnes: Nine attempts for 18 yards
James Washington: 12 attempts for 35 yards
Owen Spencer: Two receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns
Jay Smith: Five receptions for 43 yards
Underwood: Three receptions for 28 yards
Jarvis Williams: Two receptions for 29 yards
Josh Czajkowski: 4 for 5 with a miss from 53 yards. He made field goals from 37, 38, 39 and 47 yards.
Nate Irving: Eight tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss, one sack and a caused fumble
Terrell Manning: Six tackles and a tackle for loss
Markus Kuhn: Six tackles, five tackles for loss, two sacks and a quarterback pressure
Darryl Cato-Bishop: Four tackles, four tackles for loss, two sacks for minus-11 yards