Observations From the Game: South Alabama

After opening the season with two road games, NC State finally enjoyed the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd on Saturday evening. The Wolfpack came out hot on offense and quickly dispatched South Alabama, 31-7. Pack Pride takes a look back at NC State's second win of the season.

After opening the season with two road games, NC State finally enjoyed the opportunity to play in front of the home crowd on Saturday evening. The Wolfpack came out hot on offense and quickly dispatched South Alabama, 31-7. Pack Pride takes a look back at NC State's second win of the season.

The Bottom Line

This was a game that NC State was expected to win but beyond that, they needed to come out and win it in convincing fashion. They did that for the most part although it would be premature to say that all's perfect in Wolfpack-land.

To the Pack's credit, they took control of the game early and never let the Jaguars in it. By halftime it was 28-0 and State was on cruise control. They moved the ball effectively and all but shut down the USA offense for 55 minutes.

Still, there were some breakdowns on the offensive line and the running game continues to be a work in progress. This was a week to work out some of the kinks, however, and State was able to do that as a whole.

Pack Opens With Quick Hit Offense

It wasn't a radical change but give Wolfpack offensive coordinator Dana Bible for opening the game with a slight offensive wrinkle. State utilized a bunch of formation shifts, motion and three step drops that helped to serve several purposes. First, it kept the South Alabama front moving and adjusting just prior to the snap. The quick throws also eliminated the pass rush and allowed Glennon and the rest of the offense to get into a rhythm. The strategy was actually somewhat reminiscent of the way State came out against Boston College a couple of years ago at home.

The short throws actually seemed to help set up Glennon's 33-yard touchdown pass to Rashard Smith. On the play, Smith motioned across the line of scrimmage and actually seemed to say something to Glennon as he crossed in front of him. The USA defender was slow to cover Smith who ran something similar to a wheel route. That play really seemed to set the tone for the Wolfpack offense in the first half.

Glennon Deep Balls

Perhaps we're biased but there's no one around that throws a prettier deep ball than Mike Glennon. The pass to Smith to open the scoring and then the subsequent 44 yard bomb to Bryan Underwood were absolutely perfect. When given time to set up and throw on time, Glennon is as good as anyone in the country when throwing down field.

Coming Out Party for Smith?

Wolfpack fans have wondered when they were finally going to see Rashard Smith make an impact and they got it on Saturday. While he only had one catch, it was a big one. But he also showed some elusiveness and potential in the punt return game as well. Saturday should've done wonders for Smith's confidence and going forward he could be a guy that emerges as another play making threat for the Pack.

Payton Becoming Go-To Guy

WR Quinton Payton is quietly developing into one of the league's better wide receivers. We mentioned in the pre-season that of all the receivers, he was the guy that seemed to take on the leadership role of that group and it's translated onto the field.

He has shown that he has rock-solid hands and the ability to catch the ball in traffic. Payton has the size to go over corners and he's quickly emerged as Mike Glennon's go-to guy. Headed forward, teams are going to have to game plan Payton which should benefit other players like Bryan Underwood and Tobais Palmer.

Offensive Line a Work in Progress

They weren't great but they were better and in all honesty, they should've been better against South Alabama. But still, there were a few breakdowns- particularly at the tackle spots- when Glennon took deep drops and that's something this unit has to limit as the schedule toughens down the road. State has allowed 11 sacks so far this season which ranks them 112th in the nation. Each hit on Glennon is another opportunity for injury and that could be a season-ender for State.

The running game continues to struggle and while it was sufficient to beat USA, 51 yards on the ground isn't likely to get it done in October and November. At this point, it's a head-scratcher as to why this team is finding it so hard to run the ball. Granted, RB's Tony Creecy, James Washington and Brandon Barnes did combine for nine catches which is essentially an extension of the running game but there's no disguising the fact that State's rushing attack has been anemic. In fact, after week three, there are only 12 teams in the country that are worse than the Pack running the football.

Defense Dominates

For the last two weeks, the NC State defense has played extremely well. Other than one big play against Connecticut and one drive at the end of the game versus South Alabama, the Pack's D has been stout.

Much of the Pack's success starts up front and if you watch State closely, the play of Thomas Teal and T.Y. McGill can't be over stated. Those two guys have just done a fantastic job of blowing up the interior of the opposing offensive line which has allowed other players to fill and make plays. It's a safe bet as the season progresses that how things go for these two will be a pretty good indicator of how things are going for the defense as a whole.

Player of the Game

Feel free to disagree here. Mike Glennon was very efficient. Quinton Payton had a solid effort. But the guy that really stood out to me in this game was Brandon Pittman. He finished as the Pack's leader in tackles with eight and added two tackles for loss. I came away impressed with his speed to the ball. He reacted well and is proving to be a sure tackler. Obviously at this point he just needs reps which will only help him play faster down the road. But on Saturday night he was solid and as Pittman matures physically and experience-wise, he could very well be a player that emerges for State over the next year as the next big-time linebacker.

Sade Struggling but Baumann Solid

After an impressive freshman campaign, Niklas Sade has struggled somewhat through the first three games of 2012. He is just 2 of 5 in field goals thus far. Sade always seems to struggle from the left hash and it would be interesting to know what his percentage is from that side.

One guy that continues to improve is Wil Baumann. He is averaging close to 41 yards per punt and was up around 43 yards per punt against USA. His hang time has been fairly consistent which has really limited returns by the opposition. We've said it before but it's worth repeating that Baumann definitely has NFL potential as a punter.

Turning the Page

The Pack needed to iron out some kinks against South Alabama and as a whole, we'd give them a B. The defense performed as you'd expect and the offense showed some positive signs of life although there's certainly room for improvement.

Next week The Citadel rolls into town and if you think that's going to be a cake walk then you could be in for a rude awakening- just ask Appalachian State. They lit ASU up for 618 yards of offense and 52 points on Saturday.

Granted, State brings more talent to the table than the Mountaineers but the triple option isn't something you see very often and it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your linebackers to play disciplined. That's an area where State is very inexperienced so it will be a huge challenge for the Pack.

Offensively State should be able to put up points but the Citadel can frustrate you with their ball-control offense. This is going to be a big test for the Wolfpack and if they come out flat, could very well put themselves in position for an upset.


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