Manny -- Accolades nice, but wins better
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on September 5, 2005 1:50 PM
RALEIGH -- North Carolina State senior defensive end Manny Lawson posted the first tackle, then later the first sack of Virginia Tech quarterback Marcus Vick -- making his first collegiate start on Sunday night.
Sure, Lawson -- an Eastern Wayne graduate -- is pleased he brought down the elusive Vick a couple of times and eventually finished with five total tackles. But, this is a season where he's not concerned with individual accolades.
Not in the least bit.
"It shows me I can get to him and tackle him, but to me it's not enough because we didn't win the game," said Lawson, a preseason All-ACC selection. "I'm not very proud of that."
Lawson, a captain in State's home opener, and the rest of the defensive unit did a fairly solid job of containing Vick -- especially in the first half as they held the junior signal-caller to just four rushing yards and 72 passing yards.
With his older brother and former Hokie standout, Michael Vick, on the sideline, the younger Vick shook loose of the Pack's grasps and made a few dazzling runs in the second half. Vick capped the evening with a fluid, 19-yard strike to David Clowney to give his team a seven-point lead early in the fourth quarter as Virginia Tech eventually claimed a 20-16 win over the Pack.
"He's one of those players we've got to be weary about. If you let him get outside, he can take it the yard," Lawson said of Vick. "If you miss a couple of tackles here and there, there's no telling what that man can do. He's a great athlete and he's very focused. He's going to be one to watch."
Sure, Vick's play improved in the second half and helped the Hokies avenge last season's loss to the Pack, who dropped to 1-7 against top-10 teams under coach Chuck Amato. But, State's first loss in nine years in a season opener boiled down to an all-too-familiar bugaboo -- penalties.
The Pack, one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's most penalized teams last year, were flagged 12 times on Sunday for 105 yards. Five of the penalties were personal fouls, including one, huge roughing the kicker call late in the game on a missed 46-yard field goal by the Hokies. The penalty extended Virginia Tech's drive as it burned important time off of the fourth-quarter clock.
Lawson pointed to a combination of reasons for State being so penalty-proned. One, the defense was on the field for considerably more minutes in the second half compared to the first. The Wolfpack offense and quarterback Jay Davis outgained Virginia Tech 438-232 on the game and dominated time of possession in the first half, but had just three first downs after halftime.
"We got tired. The mistakes cost us and the penalties gave them yards we didn't want to give them," Lawson said. "In the beginning, our offense was moving the ball up and down the field willingly. Then, we had some mistakes we didn't need to have. That's all from being tired.
"As tired as we were, it made us make stupid mistakes. We'll correct that this week and move on from it."
Upon completion of his senior season, most experts project Lawson to be selected during the first day of the NFL Draft this June. Some scouts think he's better suited as a linebacker. Some even believe Lawson will make a solid safety due to his 4.4 speed to go with his 6-foot-5, 238-pound frame. For now, Lawson isn't looking that far into the future.
"It's my final year dancing with the Wolves and my only goal is to get us to the national championship," he said. "I don't care what I do. As long as we get to the national championship, my goal has been fulfilled."
A lofty goal? Certainly.
But, many didn't think Virginia Tech was talented enough in 2004 to get to the Bowl Championship Series, but they landed a Sugar Bowl berth and a match-up with undefeated LSU. Oh yeah, and the Hokies lost their first ACC game one year ago as well -- that loss coming to the Pack.
"Hopefully we will be that team this year," Lawson said.
Lawson left a lasting legacy at Eastern Wayne as a 2002 graduate.
Besides being a multi-position football player, he brought home three individual state track-and-field titles in the 110 high hurdles, 200-meter dash and long jump during his senior year. His track accomplishments continued into college as well as he won the long jump at the ACC Indoor Championship in 2004.
He certainly hasn't forgotten where he sewed the seeds of his current success.
"I'm representing Goldsboro to the fullest," he said with a smile. "I get a lot of people calling me from home telling me, 'make a tackle for me, or get to Marcus Vick for me.'
"A lot of people keep in touch with me. I love Goldsboro. That's home."
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