NC State came out and made a statement on their opening possession by easily marching down the field for a touchdown, and then the defense came out and forced a North Carolina punt.
Credit to the NC State players for executing early and often. They looked to start fast and apply pressure to UNC's offense... and defense.
WINNING THE TRENCHES
The stats are great and the skill position players will get the accolades, but NC State won this game in the trenches.
Facing a defense that has had issues all year, NC State's offensive line was superb. They kept Jacoby Brissett clean and opened up huge holes for Brissett and the Wolfpack's tailbacks, mainly Shadrach Thornton. Brissett and Thornton EACH rushed for over 160 yards, and the Wolfpack finished with 454 yards of total offense.
Defensively, it was much of the same. Defensive linemen Mike Rose, B.J. Hill, Thomas Teal, T.Y. McGill, and Pharoah McKever all made plays in the backfield, as the Pack finished the game with ten tackles for a loss and four sacks. The pressure led to North Carolina's offense never finding a rhythm.
EFFICIENT ON OFFENSE
NC State offensive coordinator Matt Canada kept North Carolina's defense off-balance all game with his play-calling.
Facing a 4-2-5 defensive front, Canada used the bye week to implement a couple of new formations, and mixed in the QB run game more than he had all season. For most of the season the Pack focused on using different receivers and various runners, but this game it was mainly all about Brissett and Thornton, as they dominated the touches, totaling 40 of the Pack's 58 carries.
The Wolfpack was also efficient. NC State was 9-of-15 on 3rd down and averaged just 3.7 yards per attempt on third down, churning up yardage on 1st and 2nd down.
They were also 5-for-5 in the red zone, all touchdowns. Can't get much better than that.
DEFENSE STEPS UP
Dave Doeren challenged his defense this week and knew that his group had to get to quarterback Marquise Williams if they were going to have any success, and that's exactly what they did.
State tackled well on all three levels, the defensive line re-established the line of scrimmage, and the Wolfpack forced multiple turnovers.
The Pack held UNC to just 207 total yards, the fewest a Larry Fedora team has ever totaled and the seven-points is just the second time in 90 games Fedora's team has been held to single-digits.
PACK IN SHAPE
It's been a common theme this season... NC State looked to be in terrific shape on both sides of the ball and wore down Carolina.
The Wolfpack seemed to be coming at North Carolina in waves offensively, using various personnel to stay fresh and uptempo. Defensively the Wolfpack rotated as well, and it allowed them to play fast and physical all game.
In the finale, it looked almost like a season opener for the Wolfpack. Major credit to the strength and conditioning staff for the job they've done with this team.
NC State had a 35-0 lead late in the fourth when North Carolina was able to sustain their first real drive since the first quarter. Reserve quarterback Mitch Trubisky found Quinshad Davis on a tunnel screen, and Davis ran it in for the touchdown, cutting the Pack's lead to 35-7.
That touchdown prevented the shutout for the Wolfpack.