It All Started in the Trenches
Most observers figured NC State would be able to put up points on The Citadel. The question was whether the Wolfpack defense could slow down the Bulldog's potent rushing attack. Not to take anything away from the superb efforts of Brandan Bishop (6.5 tackles), Earl Wolff (5.5 tackles) or Rodman Noel (8.5 tackles) but this game was won up front with the defensive line. In particular, Thomas Teal (prior to leaving the game) and T.Y. McGill absolutely dominated the interior of the Bulldog offensive line. Those two consistently blew up the middle of the opposing offensive line which served a couple of purposes. Oftentimes it changed the angles of attack, forcing The Citadel out wider than they wanted to go which disrupted timing. It also prevented the Bulldog linemen from getting to the second level which kept the safeties and linebackers clean to make plays. If you take out the one long run NC State gave up, the Pack held the Bulldogs to just 134 yards on 40 carries (3.35 yards per carry). For an offense predicated on running the football, that's simply a recipe for disaster.
Amerson Continues With Interceptions
If anyone thought David Amerson was going to be a one hit wonder, he has quickly dispelled any of those thoughts. With his first quarter interception, Amerson now has three on the year which ties him for sixth nationally.
Hats Off to Defensive Coaches
NC State spent time during fall camp preparing for The Citadel's tripe option offense and it was obvious on Saturday that the Wolfpack defense paid attention. Hats off to the coaches for their preparation. State's players were rarely out of position, maintained their assignments but most importantly, made plays and tackled well. Even the younger players did their part with Rodman Noel chipping in 8.5 tackles and a tackle for loss. Rickey Dowdy added four tackles and a tackle for loss while Thomas Teal logged three tackles and a tackle for loss in about a half of action.
Bulldogs Get Shad-Smacked
While we thought true freshman Shadrach Thornton would certainly get reps at running back on Saturday, we were surprised when he got the start. We mentioned that he had looked good in fall camp so you have to think the coaches felt pretty good about putting him in against The Citadel.
The thing that jumped off the page with Thornton was how hard he hit the hole and his vision. He really used the cutback effectively to take advantage of defenders over pursuing. He also did a tremendous job of keeping his legs churning and moving forward to get every possible yard. Throw in a couple of teeth-rattling blocks and it all added up to a stellar debut for Thornton. He finished with 145 rushing yards, two touchdowns and 26 receiving yards on four catches. Thornton was the first freshman to run for better than 100 yards in his first game since Joe Mcintosh did it 31 years ago.
Payton Continues to Emerge as Go-to Guy
WR Quinton Payton continues to play well and the thing that really stands out is his consistency. He has proven the ability to make plays game in and game out. We thought he'd be able to take advantage of some matchups Saturday and he finished with five catches for 100 yards. Payton ranks 37th nationally in receiving yards per game with 87.50.
Pack Finding Ways to Include Palmer
NC State continues to find ways to get the ball in the hands of Tobais Palmer. He is clearly the Pack's most explosive offensive threat and State did a good job of utilizing him on Saturday. He had three carries for 35 yards, one catch for nine yards (although he did fumble one touchdown through the endzone) and two kickoff returns for 49 yards. Palmer finished with 93 all-purpose yards.
Rashard Smith Continues to Dazzle
After a beautiful touchdown reception a week ago, Rashard Smith followed that up with a scintillating 73 yard punt return for a score. He is showing the ability to make game-changing plays in different ways and that's very good news for NC State. The challenge will be whether he can continue that as the schedule toughens down the stretch.
Offensive Line Gets it Done
NC State boasted a huge size advantage against The Citadel and it was clearly a game that the Wolfpack offensive line needed to dominate. Against the Bulldogs they played up to expectations. For the most part they kept QB Mike Glennon upright and he has proven that when given time, he's as effective as anyone in the nation.
Perhaps more impressive were the gaping holes they created in The Citadel defensive front. Shadrach Thornton's 145 rushing yards were impressive but walk-on Jonathan Fisher and Milton Hall also combined for 78 yards. All in all it was easily the offensive line's best effort of the year. Clearly there was a huge disparity in talent across the lines so State will need to show they can repeat the effort when they head to Miami next week.
Past Opponents Don't Fare Well But Future Ones Do
South Alabama was throttled by Mississippi State. Tennessee struggled with Akron and Connecticut was beaten by Western Michigan. Yeah, Western Michigan. NC State's next opponent, Miami, beat Georgia Tech in overtime while Florida State looked invincible against Clemson. Forgive us for wishing that Miami would've struggled a little more with the Jackets. However, the Canes got it done after falling behind and their blowout loss to Kansas State doesn't look so bad now.
Halftime Show Was Stellar
Major kudos to all those that helped put on a spectacular halftime show on Saturday. The playing of Amazing Grace, the combination of the bagpipes and the band and the unfurling of the flag were moving. It was quite possibly the best halftime show we've ever seen in Carter-Finley Stadium.
Turning the Page
The preseason is over and now NC State begins an eight game conference stretch. Through four games there have been flashes of brilliance but just as many question marks. The Pack looked good against The Citadel but then again, The Citadel isn't Miami and they certainly aren't Florida State.
State has to continue to develop offensively. The play makers are there but clearly the key is the players up front. So goes the offensive line, so goes the Wolfpack offense. If they limit pressure on Glennon and run for 130 yards, they can play with just about anyone.
Defensively, State has been fairly consistent. We feel like this is a unit that will only get better as the year progresses. History has shown that the Wolfpack's chances at winning are exponentially higher if they hold opponents under 24 points. If State can reach that goal then they should put themselves in position for a solid conference record headed into November.