NC State got off to a great start Saturday but struggled down the stretch offensively and ultimately dropped their fifth game of the season. In an evenly contested matchup, this game boiled down to a few important plays which helped propel UNC to a 27-19 win over the Wolfpack. Pack Pride takes a look back at the game.
In a Nutshell
NC State couldn't have asked for a better start Saturday, forcing a
turnover on UNC's initial drive and taking an early 10-0 lead in the
first quarter. But from there the Pack could muster just three
Niklas Sade field goals and it simply wasn't enough offense to keep
pace with the Heels.
The Wolfpack's defense played well enough to win despite being put
in a tough position several times throughout the game. However, in a
game so evenly played, predictably there were several crucial plays
and unfortunately for NC State, all of them went in UNC's favor.
As has been the case all year for the Wolfpack, the margin of error
between success and failure has been razor thin and State hasn't
been able to right the ship when things have gone wrong. One of the
keys to becoming a good team is overcoming adversity and the Pack
just hasn't been able to find that play maker to help overcome the
Game Really Boiled Down to a Few Key Plays
There were 153 plays Saturday but four of them really determined the
outcome of this game.
Fake Punt- The easiest job around is to Monday morning quarterback
but here goes anyway. A fake punt in and of itself can be a good
call (obviously). However, given the down and distance situation,
location on the field and the fact that you're direct snapping to
Robert Caldwell- it was a bad call. There wasn't enough upside with
a 10-7 lead to run that play at that time. Caldwell wasn't going to
run for 40 yards even if it had been successful so best case was a
first down. In hindsight, the risk-reward just didn't seem to make
that play worth running.
Blown coverage- A double pass from Ryan Switzer to Quinshad Davis
was a huge play in this game and gave UNC a lead that they would
never relinquish. It would be easy to get down on Jack Tocho but
he's a freshman and he made a freshman mistake. When you're forced
to play a young guy, these things happen. The reality is that it was
more of a great play by UNC and especially a perfect throw by
Missed Opportunity- Brandon Mitchell missed FB Ryan Purvis on a wide
open sideline pass in the second half that looked like it could've
gone the distance. Purvis got a fingertip on the ball but State
missed it by inches. These are the plays that come back to haunt
Missed Opportunity No. 2- Third and one at the UNC nine yard line.
Mitchell gives a fake pass look and then does a QB draw and is
dropped for a two yard loss. Instead of taking a 23-21 lead, State
settles for a field goal and 21-19 deficit.
Stat That Mattered
Third down inefficiency...State converted just 3 of 10 third downs
in the first half and 3 of 7 in the second. It's been a recurring
theme this year but the Pack hasn't been able to make plays to
sustain drives. Whenever State has been in obvious passing
situations they've struggled and that was compounded by several
penalties on first down that put the Wolfpack behind the chains.
One Dimensional Offense
If you would have told us ahead of time that State would rush for
212 yards we would have felt pretty good about the Pack's chances of
winning. The problem was, the Wolfpack could not convert when it had
to throw the ball. They missed on at least one wide open play that
may have resulted in a score and there were a couple of drops.
Beyond that, there didn't appear to be very many open seams to go
with the ball. We're not sure if that's because of scheme, talent or
a combination of both. However, the ultimate effect was that State
became one dimensional on offense with Mitchell either running the
ball up the middle or handing off to Shadrach Thornton. While
effective at times, when UNC was able to stuff the run, State could
never overcome it by making a play in the passing game. Running the
ball is crucial but the Pack has to become more balanced to be
A lot of folks will focus on the two touchdowns he gave up Saturday-
one on a trick play and the other on a perfectly thrown ball by
Marquise Williams. However, he continues to impress us with his play
and despite the setback Saturday we think the sky is the limit for
him. There's going to be the growing pains that true freshman
corners usually must suffer through but he's going to be better down
the road and we think he has the potential to grow into a super
cornerback for State in the future.
Niklas Sade Continues Impressive Year
One of the few bright spots in 2013 has been the leg of Niklas Sade.
He hit all four of his field goal attempts Saturday and is now 17 of
19 on the year. Sade is tied for second nationally in field goals
made per game which is great for him but perhaps not necessarily a
positive for the Wolfpack.
UNC Shows the Carolina Way in Victory
If NC State wins in Chapel Hill hopefully the Wolfpack players will
show some class and not replicate the display put on by several UNC
players as they danced and stomped on the Pack logo at midfield
after the game.
Having said that, the easiest way to make sure that doesn't happen
is to win the game. When your motto is "This is our state", it's a
pretty safe bet that other teams in the state are going to take
exception to that statement- especially when you haven't produced
much of anything in the way of results over the last 30 years.
As for UNC, their behavior was probably the least surprising thing
we saw on Saturday.
Recruit, recruit and recruit some more. We've said it before and it
won't change anytime soon. State is going to have to recruit their
way out of this mess. The Pack doesn't have a magic bullet and Dawn
Bunting won't be riding in to town to cast a spell that will turn
It doesn't mean State can't win again this year as there are
winnable games remaining on the schedule. But it is what it is and
what we really hope to see over the next four weeks is a team that
plays hard and plays smart. Perhaps if a few things break in the
Pack's favor they can win some games down the stretch.
Defensively, State can compete. With special teams, State is good
enough to win. What's killing the Pack is a one-sided and
inconsistent offense. Maybe State can take a page out of UNC's play
book and look at pursuing a two-quarterback system. Clearly Pete
Thomas is the better thrower while Mitchell is the better runner.
Perhaps the Wolfpack could look at utilizing a mix of both in the
future and take advantage of what each player does best.
Observations From the Game: UNC
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