The Pack headed to Winston-Salem looking to end a lengthy losing streak at Groves Stadium and all they did was play their worst game of the year in a 28-13 defeat.
"I thought their guys played their best game of the year against us," said NC State head coach Dave Doeren following the game. "Part of that's them and part of that's us."
How did the Pack fare in the loss?
First of all, the offense was down multiple key contributors. It started with losing quarterback Brandon Mitchell in the opener and then left tackle Rob Crisp was next. NC State didn't have top rusher Matt Dayes or frosh wideout Marquez Valdes, and then top receiver Rashard Smith went down in the first quarter. So, the injuries are going to limit an offense that isn't that explosive.
However, that shouldn't be an excuse for putting up just 13 points against a Wake defense that has been bad this season. The Pack couldn't establish anything on the ground (Pete Thomas was the leading rusher with 60 yards) and couldn't score touchdowns in the redzone.
State did total 372 yards of total offense, but the output should have been much better.
Facing what has been an anemic Wake offense, this was easily the most disappointing unit for the Wolfpack. The defense allowed Wake to dictate pace and score 28 points after averaging just 15 in their first four games.
There were blown coverages, missed tackles, and a hesitation that hadn't been seen previously this season. The Wolfpack totaled just one sack, and Tanner Price seemed to have plenty of time to find his wideouts.
"[Price] played really well," said Doeren. "The guy scrambled, he made plays."
With all of the injuries offensively, the Wolfpack needed a big day from their defense and they didn't get it.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
The special teams were fairly good for much of the game... outside of an extremely bad penalty on Robert Caldwell that put Wake's offense back on the field following a field goal (that they would turn into seven points).
Kicker Nik Sade made both field goals and each kickoff was a touchback. Punter Wil Baumann averaged 37.2 yards per punt with two downed inside the 20-yard line, and he didn't allow a return.
That penalty on Caldwell was huge, but the special teams group didn't allow Wake to score a touchdown on the next play.
Wake obviously deserves credit for the win, but the Wolfpack didn't help themselves. They didn't play well and were outplayed and outcoached.
"We didn't play well," said Doeren. "We didn't do what we needed to do. It starts with me obviously - I thought I had him ready to play today."
Doeren added that the Deacs were using wide-splits up front offensively, something they didn't show previously. They also moved the pocket to give Tanner Price time to make plays and also looked to get the ball out of his hands quickly to limit State's pass rush.
The Pack could never find an answer for him or wideout Michael Campanaro. State started out playing zone and ran some man later, but nothing worked as Campanaro caught 12 passes for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
"Campanaro obviously we couldn't stop today," said Doren. "Even when we had him double teamed at times we couldn't stop him."
Defensively, it continues to come back to not winning up front, and it was the same offensively. Shad Thornton couldn't get anything going and the Pack couldn't block Wake in obvious passing situations.
Disappointing showing by the Wolfpack, and a double-digit loss to a team that you were favored to defeat will always yield a negative grade.
NC State faced their first road test of the year on Saturday and failed miserably.