After two straight wins, NC State entered Saturday's contest with Florida State hoping that it had righted the ship headed into the home stretch of the 2011 season. Instead, the Wolfpack bumbled and stumbled its way to a 34-0 shellacking at the hands of the Seminoles and suffered their first shutout since a 34-0 loss at South Carolina to open the 2008 season. Pack Pride takes a look back at this weekend's contest.
In a Nutshell
The sad reality of this game is that NC State simply wasn't very competitive from the beginning. They opened with a three and out and it only got worse from there. Out of 12 total offensive drives during the game, six were three and outs and the Pack never seriously threatened Florida State all day. Throw in three turnovers and four sacks and it was a recipe for disaster if you're a Wolfpack fan.
The defense wasn't much better. At times, opposing teams seem to make the Wolfpack look like the Keystone cops trying to make tackles. Greg Reid made more than one State defender look silly on a 28 yard punt return and Lonnie Pryor seemingly carried half the defense into the end zone with him on an eight yard touchdown run. Defense is often about energy level and attitude and State didn't appear to have much of either on Saturday.
Something that worked
Seriously, very little of anything worked. The Pack did avoid suffering any injuries during pre-game warmups which was certainly a plus. But beyond that the only player that had a decent game that we could find was P Wil Baumann. He got plenty of work and responded by averaging nearly 41 yards per punt on seven punts and was able to put two of those inside the 20.
Something that didn't
Where to start? One of the keys for State to have any chance offensively was to protect QB Mike Glennon. The Pack didn't come anywhere close to pulling this off as Glennon was sacked four times and harassed all day. Florida State took away the short passing game knowing that Glennon wouldn't have the time to set up to go down field.
Defensively State was way too generous on first and second down and could never force Florida State into third and longs. Consider that the Seminoles only faced third and long three times throughout the whole game. Conversely, NC State had 10 third and longs. This allowed FSU to methodically drive the ball down the field and other than the third quarter, all but dominated the Wolfpack defense all day.
Offensive line woes
Injuries have clearly played a role and a big one in NC State's season thus far. However, that hasn't been the case along the offensive line. The only former starter that's missed any significant time over the last several weeks was Andrew Wallace and even he was on the field Saturday. That makes it even harder to understand the Wolfpack's woeful performance along the offensive line. This coaching staff has a history of developing lesser regarded high school players into sound college linemen but that just hasn't materialized at NC State. Without a mobile QB to mask their deficiencies, the unit has struggled in pass protection. On Saturday there were way too many occasions where Florida State defenders went virtually unblocked into NC State's backfield. Without a dynamic running back that can create yards on his own, plowing running lanes has been a must but the Pack hasn't been able to do it against the better competition they've faced. Unless State is willing to add some new dimension to its offensive attack, one has to wonder if this unit has any upside through the remainder of the 2011 season.
Player of the game
When you get beat 34-0 it's difficult to name a player of the game. However, Markus Kuhn is one of the few Wolfpack defenders that has played well all year and grown into State's most consistent defensive lineman. On Saturday he tallied five tackles, two tackles for loss, one batted pass and a sack. Kuhn has proven to be one of State's most reliable players in 2011.
Giving credit where credit's due
You have to give Florida State credit. They came out firing and never slowed down. While they weren't spectacular on the ground, the Noles managed just enough (123 yards) to keep the Pack honest which helped open up a passing attack that torched State to the tune of 321 yards and two scores.
Florida State whipped the NC State offense at the line of scrimmage and controlled the game with their front four. The Pack managed a measly 36 yards on the ground and 130 through the air. That output was easily NC State's worst of the year.
It boils down to this
Now sitting at 4-4, NC State has to win three of the next four games to become bowl eligible and avoid its sixth losing season out of the last nine years.
-NC State is ranked 7th nationally in punt returns
-NC State is ranked 12th nationally in turnover margin
-David Amerson leads the nation with eight interceptions
-T.J. Graham is 6th in the nation in all purpose yards at 177 yards per game
-NC State is ranked 5th nationally in forced turnovers
-NC State is ranked 11th in fewest penalties per game
Where to go from here
We mentioned before Saturday's game that it wasn't necessarily a must win for NC State but the Wolfpack needed to be competitive and they weren't. The same can't be said for next weekend's showdown with UNC. State has to win this game to keep its bowl hopes alive and relieve some of the pressure building against this team.
UNC is tired of losing to NC State and they'll come to Carter-Finley with a very balanced offensive attack with big play capability. Defensively they've underperformed to some degree in 2011 but have the players to create problems for the Wolfpack.
It really boils down to which NC State team shows up. Over the past four years, the Pack has played some of its best football against the Heels. If you're a State fan you have to worry that the law of averages are working against you. If the Wolfpack team that took the field against Cincinnati or Florida State shows up, things could get ugly in a hurry next Saturday.
Observations From the Game: Florida State
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