The Bottom Line
Even if NC State was able to clean up most or all of the mistakes it made a week earlier against Miami most outside observers gave the Wolfpack little shot at beating Florida State. The Pack did clean up those errors and were also able to find a way to chip away at a 16-0 deficit until they finally put themselves into position to win it with under a minute to play.
It took a combined effort of defense, offensive adjustments and timely special team's play. Make no mistake, the Wolfpack defense was phenomenal. They were able to contain the FSU running attack in the second half and put enough pressure on QB EJ Manuel that he never looked comfortable and never found a rhythm in the passing game.
Offensively, State took what Florida State was willing to give and that was mainly matching up their running backs and speed guys like Tobais Palmer and Bryan Underwood against the Noles' linebackers. They methodically worked the short passing game while mixing in just enough down-the-field throws to keep drives alive. As the Seminole defense wore down in the second half, the Pack took advantage and was able to outscore Florida State, 17-0 in the second half.
Defense Set the Table for a Comeback
Down 16-0 at halftime, it wasn't looking good for NC State. However, you just had a feeling that the Noles were ripe for an upset. Instead of scoring touchdowns, the Pack forced three field goals. The difference was 12 points and that was huge. Had the Wolfpack not come up with the stops they very well could have been looking at a 28-0 deficit and in all probability, that would have been too much to overcome.
It appeared that NC State initially came out with a strategy of running right at Florida State. This provided some success on the initial drive but little else from that point on. For the first 30 minutes the Pack could find little that worked offensively. The FSU pass rush really seemed to rattle QB Mike Glennon which resulted in some rushed passes. The Pack would muster just 68 total yards of offense in the first half.
Give credit to offensive coordinator Dana Bible for adjusting in the second half. After stopping FSU on their initial drive (which was huge), the Pack drove 78 yards in 15 plays although they only got a field goal out of the possession. However, the biggest plus for NC State may have been the confidence they gained on that particular drive. They proved to themselves they could move the ball against the Noles and it was clear FSU wasn't playing at the same speed they brought in the first half.
State relentlessly used short crossing patterns and Florida State simply couldn't figure out a way to stop it. At the same time, it wasn't that the Noles were playing poorly. For many of the plays they were right there with tremendous coverage. State just made one tough catch after another and it may very well have been one of the best overall receiving efforts we've seen from State in years.
Mike Rose Makes the Most of His Chance
Mike Rose was thrust into action on special teams after Logan Winkles was injured earlier in the game and he made the most of his opportunity. State went after Cason Beatty with Rose splitting a couple of FSU defenders. He was able to get a hand on the ball and his block was huge for the Pack maintaining field position on their final drive. The punt traveled just 10 yards which gave State possession at the Noles' 43 yard line. Prior to that block, Beatty had been averaging 45 yards per punt which mean State likely would've taken over somewhere around their own 30 yard line. Those 35 yards were huge for the Wolfpack.
Player of the Game
There were many key plays made during this game but you have to go with Mike Glennon as the player of the game. He wasn't flawless but Glennon showed tremendous patience down the stretch and his passes were on the money. You can't discount the fact that many of those underneath throws are tough to make because they have to be finesse passes. On any one of them, if he misses by just a foot, it's quite possible it's an interception going the other way. Glennon was also able to buy time in the pocket which allowed him to find guys down the field. This was easily the Pack's biggest win with Glennon at the helm.
The Unsung Hero
Prior to Saturday no one would've suspected that Florida State would register just one sack with NC State totaling four. In case you weren't aware, FSU boasted a top five defense in nearly every category while the Pack's offensive line was a patchwork unit mended together due to numerous injuries across the unit.
This unit played light's out all night. They kept Mike Glennon upright and there were plenty of times when he was able to sit in the pocket and pick out receivers. You have to give a special shout out to Tyson Chandler for his play at right tackle. It may just be us but he looked as comfortable as he's looked all year and it came while facing one of the nation's premier defenders in Bjoern Werner. Werner finished the night with just three tackles, one tackle for loss and perhaps most importantly, just one QB hurry.
Tom O'Brien Rebounds
Credit to Tom O'Brien for rallying the troops. After being blasted by critics after the Miami game, no one gave O'Brien or his team any shot at beating Florida State. The fact that he was able to get the team re-energized during what basically boiled down to a short week of preparation was amazing. Obviously this was O'Brien's biggest win since coming to NC State and you know this was one he and his staff had to take great satisfaction in pulling off.
Outsiders that are new to the atmosphere at Carter-Finley Stadium usually come away amazed at just how loud the Pack can be. On Saturday the Wolfpack faithful were at their best. For whatever reason, Saturday night games bring out the Pack's best and C-F was as raucous as it's been since, well, the last time NC State played Florida State.
Pack Has the Noles Number
It's not that NC State owns Florida State but no one in the conference has had more success against the Seminoles. Since 1998 the Wolfpack has beaten FSU seven times and owns a 6-6 record against the Noles since 2001.
Stat That Mattered
NC State is one of the best at winning the time of possession battle. After losing this stat in the first half, the Pack rebounded in the second 30 minutes with a 17-13 minute advantage. This took a toll on the FSU defense and you could clearly see them lose some of their aggressiveness and speed as the game wore on.
Turning the Page
Whew. The Pack now gets a timely week off and it couldn't come at a better time. State lost a couple more players Saturday evening and they need time to get some players healthy headed into the second half of the season.
Other than the 2009 year, NC State has gone 4-2 in the final six games every season under Tom O'Brien. If the Pack is able to replicate it's effort against Florida State then the potential is certainly there to improve on that record.