The soft schedule, though, has allowed a young offense to jell around the nation's winningest junior quarterback, Philip Rivers, who has thrown for 1,481 yards and 13 touchdowns and is second in the nation in passing efficiency (177-4 rating). Another major reason the Wolfpack is averaging 418.3 yards and 45.3 points is freshman T.A. McLendon, an explosive 5'11", 214-pound tailback who has rushed for 421 yards and 10 touchdowns. McLendon (the T.A. stands for Tristian Akeen) has made a smooth transition from Albemarle (N.C.) High, where he earned the nickname "Touchdown Anytime" after setting national records for touchdowns in a career (178) and a season (71 as a senior). "I never expected to do as well as I'm doing," says McLendon. "I've come into college and been able to do the same stuff I did in high school."
With the favorable schedule continuing, N.C. State is starting to believe that it can go undefeated. The Wolfpack isn't likely to play a ranked team until the season finale on Nov. 23, when it hosts Florida State.
Ragone Just Flingin' in the Rain
By malting the footing equally treacherous for both teams, the torrential rain that Tropical Storm Isidore dumped upon Papa John's Cardinal Stadium last Thursday night helped home-standing Louisville in its 26-20 overtime upset of fourth-ranked Florida State. The Cardinals won because senior quarterback Dave Ragone adjusted to the wet weather conditions far better than did Seminoles sophomore Chris Rix.
Ragone completed 15 of 27 passes for 182 yards and two second-half touchdowns. He also rushed for 81 yards—albeit a net of 43 counting six sacks and a total of minus 38 yards—as Florida State gave him room to run in front of its zone defense. "In their first four games they played a lot of man," said Ragone. "Against us they dropped seven into zone coverage. When a defense does that, there are holes to throw to, but you have to make sure you have the velocity, and my grip wasn't good. I had to be smart with the football."
Afterward, Florida State coach Bobby Bowden was singing Ragone's praises. "[ Ragone] made so many big plays," said Bowden. "We got to him and got in his face, but he tucked it and ran for first downs over and over. He just killed us. He's as good as any [quarterback] I've seen this year."
Meanwhile, Rix, who completed 2 of 12 passes in the first half, played better in the second—12 for 20 for 145 yards and a touchdown—but faltered with the game on the line. His ill-advised throw on the first play of overtime was intercepted by safety Anthony Floyd. One play later Louisville tailback Henry Miller ran 25 yards for a touchdown, touching off a celebration on the field that spilled over and lasted, at least in Ragone's apartment, until 5 a.m. on Friday. "We're still savoring the moment," Ragone said on Saturday morning.
Louisville (3-2) had extra time to relish the big win; its next game isn't until Oct. 8, at Memphis.