Observations From the Game: Liberty

Pack Pride takes a look back at NC State's 43-21 win over Liberty. The biggest play of the game for the Wolfpack was senior wide receiver T.J. Graham's 82-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Pack Pride takes a look back at NC State's 43-21 win over Liberty on Saturday night in Carter-Finley Stadium.

In A Nutshell
Regardless of how they got there, NC State is 1-0. It wasn't pretty but first games have a tendency to be that way. Offenses typically take longer to come around and clearly the Wolfpack has work to do.

One has to wonder about the decision to put the weight of the NC State offense on the shoulders of QB Mike Glennon, at least in the early going. If the Pack's coaches wanted to throw him right in the fire, well, they certainly accomplished that. Clearly, fan expectations for Glennon were through the roof which probably isn't fair to Glennon. He's not going to play like a polished veteran right away because that will only come with time and experience.

In all, it was a win and gave the NC State staff a pretty good idea of what needs to be corrected headed forward. This is a veteran staff and you can bet there will be adjustments made.

The Good
Headed into the season, most figured the NC State secondary to be the strength of the team and they were just that on Saturday night. And with Liberty throwing the ball 42 times, they needed to be.

The Wolfpack defensive backs accounted for 41 tackles and three interceptions. Beyond just stats the secondary did a fairly good job of tackling and brought some physicality to the game. Earl Wolff and Brandon Bishop accounted for several big hits with C.J. Wilson getting in a solid tackle of his own.

State did give up 295 yards through the air but that's not completely surprising considering the offense Liberty runs.

The Bad
Time of possession. NC State was dominated in time of possession and this is something that has to improve as the schedule stiffens. Liberty held the ball for 33 minutes compared to State's 27. This came as a result of the Wolfpack not being able to move the football and the Flames' ability to sustain drives.

The Ugly
State's offense, particularly early in the game struggled mightily. On five of State's first six possessions, the Pack managed just 58 yards on 19 plays (3 yards per play).

Perhaps the biggest reason for State's problems was it's inability to run the football. Despite a size and depth advantage, the Pack was unable to consistently gain any yardage on the ground which put the burden back on Glennon to make a play.

The Wolfpack simply seemed out of sorts and out of sync offensively and ironically, didn't seem to turn it around until the run game gained traction later in the contest. By that time, Liberty had been worn down and State was able to take advantage of it's numbers. However, the Wolfpack won't have the same numbers and depth advantage when bigger and deeper FBS opponents show up down the road.

Player Of The Game
This is a tough one to call because several NC State players had solid games on Saturday night, but I'm going to go with junior defensive tackle Brian Slay. With J.R. Sweezy out, Slay needed to step up and he did just that. The junior finished with five tackles, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries... one of which he returned for a touchdown.

The Pack needs depth at defensive tackle and State has to feel a little better about that after Slay's performance this weekend.

Unsung Hero
While his two freshmen special team's counterparts were predictably inconsistent, long snapper Scotty Thompson did a great job in his first college outing. Long snappers rarely get mentioned unless something goes wrong which meant Thompson's effort was commendable  because it wasn't noticed.

Giving Credit Where Credit's Due
One of the big question marks headed into the season was whether the NC State receivers would catch the ball. At least for one game they put those concerns to rest. There may have been some timing issues on a few plays but the Wolfpack wideouts caught the ball with no noticeable drops. This is definitely something to build on headed forward.

Worth Mentioning
Have to give a shout out to redshirt freshman defensive tackle Thomas Teal. In very limited snaps he registered two tackles including one sack and a tackle for loss. Teal was a bull blowing into the Liberty backfield and you can see he has a world of potential. Unfortunately his emergence was derailed with what appeared to be a foot injury, the severity of which is unknown currently.

And Finally
Being brutally honest, if Liberty doesn't turn the ball over seven times on Saturday there's a pretty good chance that State loses. The big question now becomes whether the team that showed up this weekend is the real NC State. If it is, then any objective observer would admit that it's likely going to be a long season for the Pack.

The good news is this is a team with a lot of talent and a great coaching staff. You also have to consider that the Pack was very vanilla on offense and defense. They wanted to win without showing future opponents too much of their offensive and defensive packages.

Offensively, success has to start with running the football. There will come a time when Mike Glennon can carry the offense but that time isn't now. Until he matures, State needs to get contributions from it's other parts to bridge Glennon's experience gap. With Wake Forest on the horizon, that help had better come soon.

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