Observations From the Game: UNC

NC State made it five straight over North Carolina with a gutty 13-0 win over the Tar Heels in Raleigh on Saturday. Pack Pride breaks down the Wolfpack's win.

After a 34-0 beat down at the hands of Florida State a week earlier, NC State needed a mental boost in the worst kind of way and UNC head coach Everett Withers was more than happy to oblige with some inflammatory comments leading up to this weekend's showdown. The Wolfpack responded by giving their most inspired defensive effort under head coach Tom O'Brien and came away with a 13-0 shutout of the Heels. Pack Pride takes a look back at State's fifth win of the season.

In A Nutshell

It was neither pretty nor particularly thrilling but that certainly didn't matter to the NC State team or it's fans. The Pack needed a win over UNC to stay on track for a bowl game and they played like a team with its back against the wall.

This one was all about the defense. There have been plenty of games where the offense has carried the day but it was the defense's turn on Saturday. Coming in you definitely felt like State had a chance to beat the Heels but few would've expected it to play out the way it did.

The Wolfpack set the tone by hitting UNC QB Bryn Renner early and that seemed to knock him off his game all day. State's defensive line did a masterful job of controlling the line of scrimmage which allowed Terrell Manning and Audie Cole to have tremendous games. The Pack completely shut down arguably the ACC's top running back in Gio Bernard and State seemingly had an answer every time Carolina threatened.

While the offense sputtered and struggled, they managed to make just enough plays to keep NC State out front. Combined with a great effort by P Wil Baumann, the Wolfpack kept UNC bottled up all day which led to the Pack's fifth straight over the Heels.

Something that worked

The NC State defense...UNC came into Saturday's game having averaged 37 points per game over the last three contests. No one could've objectively imagined that they would be held to zero points, just three yards rushing, 13 first downs while never making a trip into the red zone.

The Wolfpack didn't necessarily do anything different on Saturday. However, where QB's in other games seemed to stay one step ahead of the Wolfpack pass rush, UNC appeared to hold the ball just a second longer which allowed State to pressure the QB all day.

With all of their defensive linemen active, the front four for State were exceptional all day. They routinely blew up the line of scrimmage which allowed the Wolfpack's other defenders to contain RB Gio Bernard.

If State is able to replicate this effort over the next three weeks they'll have a shot at winning each game.

Something that didn't

The Wolfpack passing game...You don't want to take anything away from State's big win but it's no secret that NC State's passing game struggled Saturday and it's the continuation of a disturbing trend of late.

The Pack completed less than half of its passes against UNC for 164 yards. Over the last three games State has averaged just 175 yards through the air which is a sizable departure from the previous six games of the year. In the previous three contests Mike Glennon has also tossed five interceptions. He only threw four picks in the Pack's first six games.

State's passing game has gone south recently. Much of the credit has to go to UNC's defense but coming in, that was a squad that had struggled mightily to stop the pass. This is an issue that the Wolfpack must address headed forward.

Player of the game

Terrell Manning...There were many players who stepped up with big plays on Saturday but Manning had his best game in a Wolfpack uniform. He finished with 11 tackles, one sack and three pass breakups, including a huge knockdown on a crucial fourth down for UNC.

Manning was in position all day and clearly benefitted from a productive game by his defensive linemen. However, he seemed to take Carolina head coach Everett Withers' comments personally- posting them on Facebook. But he didn't just talk about it, he went out and backed it up with some stellar play.

Five plays that mattered

-UNC hit on one big play all day which was a 74 yard pass to Dwight Jones in the second quarter. However, the play was called back because of a holding penalty on OL Brennan Williams.

-with Carolina threatening on their very first drive, QB Bryn Renner was sacked for a loss of 19 yards by Audie Cole which killed any chance of UNC taking an early lead.

-Carolina took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove to the NC State 32 yard line after an 11 yard pass completion to Dwight Jones. On the next play Renner inexplicably threw a wounded duck towards the end zone that was easily picked off by David Amerson and returned 33 yards.

-after the Amerson interception and holding a tenuous 10-0 lead, the Pack faced a second and 11. Glennon hit WR Tobais Palmer who exploded up the sideline for a huge 54 yard gain. The drive would stall but a field goal helped State extend its lead to 13.

-with their deepest penetration all day into Wolfpack territory, UNC faced a fourth and four midway through the fourth quarter. LB Terrell Manning made a diving breakup on a pass intended for Dwight Jones which all but sealed the win for NC State.

Welcome back Thomas Teal

In his first game back after suffering a foot injury, Teal again flashed the potential that had folks buzzing early in the season. He finished with three tackles and half a sack but was effective in clogging up the middle all day. Teal and T.Y. McGill are the future of the defensive line and both played well Saturday.

Tip of the hat

You have to give a tip of the hat to P Wil Baumann. With a stiff wind whipping through Carter-Finley Stadium, Baumann proved to be a huge weapon for the Pack. He averaged 38 yards on seven punts and pinned UNC inside their own 20 on five kicks and forced four fair catches. His play was instrumental in forcing the Heels into poor field position all day. Carolina's average starting field position was their own 21 yard line while State averaged the 39 yard line.

And don't forget....

James Washington....Washington many not be flashy but he's effective. On a day where his longest run was just 24 yards, Washington rushed for 110 yards and every one of those were critical given State's inability to throw the football. It helped the Pack with field position and was key in keeping UNC pinned in their own end of the field all day. With 636 yards rushing on the year, it is not outside the realm of possibility that Washington could reach 1,000 yards before the season is done.

Tom O'Brien

Regardless of what you think about how the 2011 season has played out, there are two things that aren't debatable- O'Brien has Carolina figured out and he does it the right way.

Now tied with Dick Sheridan as the only coaches to beat UNC five consecutive times, that fact alone will hold a special place with Wolfpack fans forever. After claims of State being a one man show with QB Russell Wilson, the truth bears out that O'Brien has now defeated UNC five times with three different quarterbacks.

Beyond the wins over UNC, O'Brien has built a program with quality players that represent NC State the right way. While UNC has claimed some mythical high ground for years, it has to irk them that O'Brien has beaten them five straight years while running a squeaky clean program.

It's okay to argue the merits of wins and losses because in the final analysis that's what coaches are primarily judged on. But kudos to O'Brien and his staff for giving the Pack leadership that State fans can brag about.

Headed forward

Sitting now at 5-4, NC State is back on track for a potential bowl game. If they can replicate Saturday's defensive effort, they'll have a legitimate shot in each of their final three games. It's not realistic to expect them to shut out any of the remaining teams on the schedule but this weekend's performance has to give them a huge confidence boost headed to Boston College.

Offensively NC State has to get it figured out and it has to be done in a hurry. The Pack's passing game has regressed over the last three weeks and that's the bread and butter of this offense. Glennon hasn't looked comfortable and teams seem to have State figured out. Receivers aren't getting open consistently and that's caused Glennon to make some shaky decisions. The good news is State is 2-1 in those games.

With little room for error, the Pack will need all of its weapons firing to win at least two of the next three games. It starts next weekend at Boston College. Just as it was with UNC, beating the Eagles is a must with the high powered Clemson Tigers looming.

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