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September 19, 2006

N.C. State's Amato makes quarterback change

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RALEIGH, N.C. - North Carolina State's slow start has prompted coach Chuck Amato to make a change at quarterback - and defend the direction of his program.

Amato said Daniel Evans will start against No. 20 Boston College on Saturday, elevating the reserve past Marcus Stone as the Wolfpack tries to overcome a 1-2 start. Evans came on in relief of Stone and had 97 yards passing and a touchdown during a 37-17 loss at Southern Mississippi over the weekend.

The coach is hoping the move bolsters an offense that is averaging 269 yards and 19 points heading into the Atlantic Coast Conference opener against the Eagles (3-0, 1-0).

"We just felt we need more production out of our offense," Amato said Monday.

Evans and Stone were unavailable for comment Monday afternoon, and Amato said it wasn't clear whether Stone would still see time against the Eagles.

"The job's his," Amato said of Evans. "We're going to do everything in our power and Marcus is going to do everything in his power to help him succeed."

N.C. State has lost two straight after beating Appalachian State, the defending Division I-AA national champion, to open the season. The Wolfpack lost to Akron 20-17 at home when the Zips scored a touchdown on the final play, then followed that with the lopsided road loss to the Golden Eagles.

Stone, a redshirt junior who replaced Jay Davis in the final six games last year, had thrown for 345 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He completed just 48.5 percent of his passes, starting with a 36-yard outing against the Mountaineers. He bounced back with 209 yards and two scores against Akron, and was 10-for-24 for 100 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions against Southern Miss.

Evans, a redshirt sophomore, relieved Stone and went 8-for-11 in his debut with the offense; he had appeared in the first two games as the holder on kicks.

"Probably the biggest thing in this equation is we saw what Daniel did in a condition when the game was out of reach," Amato said. "We want to see what Daniel will do under the conditions of being in there at the beginning of a game."

The program has known nothing but stability at college football's highest-profile position until recently. Evans will be only the fifth starting quarterback for N.C. State in the past 10 years, dating to when freshman Jamie Barnette earned the job midway through the 1996 season and held it for the rest of his career.

Next came Philip Rivers, who started all 51 games of his four-year career and left school in 2003 as one of the nation's all-time leading passers. Davis beat out Stone for the unenviable job of following Rivers, starting all 11 games in a 5-6 season and the first six games of '05.

Stone won six of seven starts before back-to-back losses opened the door for Evans.

The two losses have also led to more criticism of Amato's program. He has a 47-30 career record but has yet to finish better than fourth in the ACC.

But Amato deflected questions about the slow start by pointing out the Wolfpack's five bowl appearances in six seasons. He also refused to answer a question about whether he believed his job was in jeopardy.

"A successful season is to have a winning record and go to a bowl," he said. "Everything over and above that is gravy."

For more coverage of the N.C. State Wolfpack, check out TheWolfpacker.com.

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