Offensive Keys To The Game: Duke

Brandon Mitchell and NC State know they must be able to score points on Saturday at Duke. Here are some offensive keys to the game for the Wolfpack.

NC State Offense vs. Duke Defense

FINDING BALANCE
Running the football has been on staple on keys to the game throughout the 2013 season. However, the last two games have shown that State has to find some balance on offense if they hope to be successful.

The Wolfpack has averaged exactly 200 yards per game rushing the past two weeks and they've lost by a combined total of 40 points. Clearly running the football isn't enough.

The emergence of Shadrach Thornton is a huge step in the right direction for NC State but they haven't been able to generate anything consistently in the passing game.

It won't be any easier this weekend as Duke is ranked 35th nationally in passing yards allowed at 216 yards per game although that number is skewed somewhat as the Blue Devils have padded this stat with games against Georgia Tech, Navy and NC Central.

Finding balance on offense may boil down to finding balance with the Wolfpack QB's. Pete Thomas is the more polished passer while Brandon Mitchell is much more effective in the run game. However, both have the talent to throw or run which means State doesn't have to pigeon hole its offense when either is in the game.

Perhaps State needs to experiment with rotating the quarterbacks or even look at having both of them in the game at the same time. The Pack needs an offensive spark and utilizing both QB's may be the way to go.

REDZONE EFFECTIVENESS
The Pack has had 25 red zone trips in 2013. Only 18 teams have made fewer trips inside the 20 than NC State. So priority one for State is simply to get into the red zone. Three trips a game on average simply isn't enough. When you consider the Pack has scored just 10 touchdowns on their 25 opportunities, it's easy to see why State is averaging just 15 points per game over the last four contests.

There are so many factors that figure into reaching the red zone that they all can't be listed here. One area the Pack can improve is on kickoff returns where they ranks 117th currently. State needs every yard they can muster to shorten the field and this is clearly one area that needs work. The Wolfpack also needs their defense to force turnovers to give them a short field. Lastly, the Pack needs to avoid penalties, drops and mental miscues that knock them off schedule with down and distance.

INVOLVE THE PLAYMAKERS
It seems as though State has gotten away from the swing passes, bubble screens and jet sweeps that they enjoyed some success with earlier in the year. These plays take pressure off the offensive line and quarterback. Even if they result in just five or six yards, that's a good play for NC State.

Rashard Smith and Marquez Valdes-Scantling had just three touches last week. Travares Copeland had just two. The rest of the receivers had just five touches combined.

State has guys that can make plays and State has to find a way to get the ball in their hands. If the Pack has any advantage at all against Duke it should be with speed on the perimeter. The Wolfpack's backs and receivers are going to have to step up to get themselves open to make plays and do their part to bring some balance to State's offense.


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