After an embarrassing loss to Cincinnati on national television, an injury-depleted NC State squad looked to rebound Saturday against Georgia Tech. While the effort was there, the results weren't and a combination of mental mistakes by the Pack and big plays by the Jackets put State on the short end of a 45-35 loss. Pack Pride takes a look back at the game.
In a nutshell
At this point injuries are a given and State is simply left to compete with what they have left in the tank. Give the Pack some credit. Down 21-0 at the start of the second quarter it would have been easy to pack it in and allow the game to get completely out of hand. However, State battled back and for two quarters may have played some of their best football of the year. They whittled GT's lead down to 21-14 and had the ball with a chance to tie the score. When that drive stalled State imploded and in a matter of minutes found themselves down by four touchdowns. Even so, they continued to fight and at the very least made the final score respectable. That's little consolation for a team and fan base that had such high expectations for 2011. For now the Wolfpack is left just trying to find a way to win a football game.
Something that worked
The NC State rushing attack...after being completed dominated at the line of scrimmage against Cincinnati the Pack found a way to run the football against Georgia Tech and that is a good sign headed forward. James Washington had a career day- rushing for 131 yards including a beautiful 46 yard for a score. On that play and for the very first time at NC State, Washington was able to get tot the second level, make a guy miss and out run the defense. Perhaps that play can help spring board his play headed forward. Equally important was the fact that Washington had no negative carries on the day. In all State's running backs tallied 217 yards on the ground and that's good work. Sure the Pack lost but at this point you need any positive you can find and the run game was one of the few bright spots Saturday.
Something that didn't
Discipline...this is something that you just don't see very often out of a Tom O'Brien coached team but penalties killed State. The Pack only had 35 yards in penalties which isn't so bad at first glance but the timing was horrible. State had three offsides penalties on fourth down. Two of those helped sustain a Georgia Tech drive that made the score 28-14. On another series State has the ball first and goal and proceeds to get illegal substitution and personal foul penalties and comes away with no points. That's 14 points that could have made a huge difference at that juncture of the contest.
Player of the game
James Washington....this was an easy choice. Washington's numbers have been very sparse all year but he benefitted from a good offensive line push and made the best of it. He averaged just short of seven yards per carry which is impressive and chipped in 35 receiving yards on five pass receptions. Washington also took care of the ball and had no fumbles on the day.
J Ellis Flint...Despite being announced as Wil Baumann throughout the game, it was actually Flint who was doing the punting. Unbelievably (or perhaps it should come as no surprise at this point) Baumann was hurt during pre-game warmups which thrust the walk-on into action. He only averaged 35.3 yards per punt which isn't anything to write home about but he was able to get enough distance and hang time to prevent Georgia Tech from returning any of his punts and State actually beat GT in this stat for the game. So a tip of the hat to Flint for stepping up and getting the job done on short notice.
Creecy makes most of his opportunity
He's waited patiently behind James Washington and Curtis Underwood in 2011 and with Underwood sidelined Saturday, redshirt freshman RB Tony Creecy got his opportunity against Georgia Tech.
Although he ran somewhat tentatively early in the game, you could sense Creecy's confidence grow as the game wore on and so did his production. He ripped off an impressive 27 yard run that almost resulted in a touchdown. On the day Creecy finished with 77 yards on 12 carries, averaging 6.4 yards per carry along the way. This was a good chance for him to work out the jitters, get beyond just making sure there were no mistakes and actually go out looking to make something happen in the run game. Creecy's performance Saturday should be a stepping stone headed forward.
Giving credit where credit's due
You have to give Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson credit. He plays unconventionally whether it be going for it on fourth down or running fake punts. Even when the other team knows it's coming, he somehow always seems to get away with it. Now that he's added big play potential through the passing game his team has become even more dangerous. While his defense will likely cost him a game or two from here on out, the Jackets are unique enough on offense that they'll win a bunch of games in 2011.
Where'd he go?
Coming into the game Wolfpack WR T.J. Graham led the team in receiving and the nation in all-purpose yards. And yet State never really looked his way on offense all day and that's a head scratcher. Graham doesn't need passes down the field to be effective although he's shown that ability several times this year. He can also take short, easy passes and make people miss for huge gains. However, after Glennon went deep to Graham on the first play of the game (and a fairly obvious pass interference wasn't called) we don't recall the Pack going to him again. State has to find ways to get the ball in his hands because he brings a home run threat every time he touches the ball.
Where to go from here
State did some things right Saturday and in football, that's what you have to build on. The defense was beaten but showed some life at times. The Wolfpack offensive line played better although the unit as a whole is still erratic.
The biggest thing for State right now is just to win a game, restore some confidence and get healthy. Central Michigan looked like good medicine prior to this weekend. They had struggled mightily on offense before hanging 48 points on Northern Illinois this weekend.
However, this is a game that State should win. Beyond just winning, the Pack has to find some consistency on offense and eliminate self-inflicted mistakes. If State can come out with a win then they go into the bye week at 3-3. When they emerge on the other side against Virginia they should be healthy assuming no new injuries crop up between now and then. The final six games are going to determine how this season is judged and the potential is there for the Pack to finally have some good fortune.
Observations From the Game: Georgia Tech
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