Slow Start, Small Mistakes Doom Pack

There were several big plays made my both teams in NC State's 45-35 loss to Georgia Tech Saturday, but as is the case with almost every football game, it was the little things that mattered most.

And while it's coach-speak of the highest order, it proved to be true for NC State -- the Wolfpack made too many careless errors and dug themselves too big a hole against a team that provides little margin for error.

It started with NC State's first possession, a three-and-out which gave Georgia Tech's high-octane offense the ball just over a minute into the game. The Yellow Jackets wasted little time taking advantage, marching 64 yards in 10 plays -- and also converting a fake punt on 4th down -- to take a 7-0 lead just five minutes into the game.

The fake punt was a devastating play for the Pack, and a sign of things to come.

Ten minutes later, following a missed field goal and a second punt, NC State was staring at a 21-0 deficit and a nearly impossible hill to climb against an offense built to play with a lead.

"They came on us quick," senior linebacker Audie Cole said following the loss. "We stopped them the first drive and then they got the fake punt which hurt us pretty good. After that, we were snow-balling a little bit. We just kept making mistakes, penalties, hurting ourselves really."

Georgia Tech racked up 164 yards in the first quarter and held the ball for more than nine minutes, building an edge that would be tough for any team to overcome.

Even when NC State succeeded in the first half, it couldn't quite get over the hump. The Wolfpack failed to put any points on the board following a 19-play drive that lasted almost 10 minutes, failing to convert a 4th down inside the Georgia Tech 10-yard line midway through the second quarter.

NC State pulled to within two scores by halftime on a touchdown pass from Mike Glennon to Jay Smith, but it could have been, and probably should have been, much closer.

The first half struggles loomed even larger for the Wolfpack early in the third quarter when James Washington raced up the left sideline for a 46-yard touchdown to make the score 21-14. Had the Wolfpack played better early, Washington's career-long run could have tied the game or even given State the lead.

NC State had another chance to draw even after stopping Georgia Tech on a fourth down play inside its own 5-yard line midway through the third quarter, but a promising drive stalled after quarterback Mike Glennon was sacked for a huge loss to set up a third and long.

The Wolfpack failed to convert, punted the ball away and once again, Georgia Tech took advantage. The Yellow Jackets drove 67 yards and went up 28-14 when Orwin Smith scored his third touchdown of the day from two yards out.

The touchdown run came just two plays after an NC State offsides penalty on fourth down gave the Jackets a new set of downs inside the five.

"We've got to stay onside," Tom O'Brien said. "We've got a true freshman in there trying to make a play, it's fourth down and he's jumping on noise instead of watching the football. We've got to coach him up because h's got to play a lot now."

The miscues continued on NC State's next offensive snap, as Glennon threw an interception that Isaiah Johnson returned 34 yards for a touchdown to put Georgia Tech up 35-14.

The Yellow Jackets put the game away two minutes later when Tevin Washington hit Roddy Jones from 38 yards out following another failed fourth down attempt by NC State.

One thing after another, after another, after another. It was just that sort of day for the Wolfpack.

Sitting at 2-3 (0-2), NC State will welcome Central Michigan to Carter-Finley Stadium next Saturday before closing out the season with six conference games.

There is time to right the ship, but until the Wolfpack can start faster and eliminate ill-timed mistakes, the trends of the last two weeks will become the trends of a failed season.

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