Perhaps Garner (NC) tailback Nyheim Hines said it best when he told Pack Pride after the game, "It was very impressive. They dominated the game and won the battle of the trenches."
Hines nailed it.
NC State owned both sides of the line of scrimmage and put on
its most dominant display of the season. The Wolfpack offensive line
consistently gashed the UNC front four which resulted in just 11
pass attempts. On defense the Pack not only controlled Carolina's
offensive line but blew it up- repeatedly. State's front four lived
in the Heel's backfield and prevented UNC from ever getting into an
offensive rhythm. All of it culminated in a resounding 35-7 win that
should serve as a launching pad as the Pack now turns its focus to
recruiting and a bowl game.
There was nothing complex about NC State's offensive game plan Saturday. The Wolfpack simply lined up, punched UNC in the mouth and kept slugging the Heels until the clock fell to zero. State averaged 6.2 yards per carry. On obvious passing downs the Wolfpack would spread the field, UNC would counter with just five men in the box- an alignment that Jacoby Brissett recognized repeatedly and exploited to the tune of 167 yards rushing. Carolina never adjusted and neither did Brissett. He just kept running the QB draw up the middle over and over.
The Pack did show one new alignment that we hadn't seen this year and that was an overloaded line on the left side. When I saw this I immediately felt like it had the potential to be a big play based on Carolina's defense. The interesting thing is that (without watching the tape) I don't think State could have thrown out of that formation meaning the play and where it was going was fairly predictable. The Pack created a massive running lane and Thornton exploited it for a 58 yard run.
Been There, Done That
Even when State jumped out to the early 14-0 lead there was still a sense of unease. The Pack had been there before- last year to be exact. State jumped out to an early 10-0 lead in Carter-Finley Stadium only to have the wheels come off with UNC outscoring the Pack 27-9 down the stretch. However, there would be no let up on Saturday. State made very few mistakes during the game and were able to overcome the ones they did make.
Something That Worked
Dave Huxtable's defensive game plan- Wolfpack defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable has taken his lumps from the fan base over the course of the season but he drew up a tremendous game plan for the Heels. It wasn't complicated. The Pack simplified the defense and used roughly three different alignments during the course of the game. Because of the speed of Carolina's offense State didn't have the time to get into a bunch of different exotic looks.
Instead NC State focused on getting penetration with their front four and this served a couple of purposes. It made life miserable for QB Marquise Williams in the passing game as he was never able to establish a rhythm with Wolfpack defenders hitting him on virtually every play. It also neutralized UNC's zone read game and virtually eliminated Carolina's run game from the equation.
The Pack blitzed rarely, particularly in the first half and this allowed State to get back in coverage and take away throwing lanes. You also have to commend State's back seven as they did a great job in coverage all day. They effectively shut down a wide receiver unit that has abused virtually every defense they've faced all year.
Something That Didn't
UNC's crowd- It's inexplicable to me that there could be thousands of empty seats a week after manhandling Duke and facing your rival with a seventh win on the line.
Stat Of The Game
39-21 That was the difference in time of possession. NC State owned the clock and ended eight of UNC possessions with six punts and two with turnovers.
Player Of The Game
There were several guys that were deserving. Jacoby Brissett had an outstanding game. Thomas Teal's six tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss led the defense. Ryan Purvis' two touchdown catches on third down were huge for the offense. However, on this day none were better than RB Shadrach Thornton. The final tally... 161 yards rushing and a touchdown on 28 carries. Equally impressive was the fact he lost just four yards on those 28 carries.
Personally, I liked seeing a Wolfpack running back get 28 carries.
That had to be a season high for the backs.
Peaking At The Right Time
NC State finished out the regular season strong, winning three of four and showing a ton of defensive improvement along the way. In the three wins State gave up just 12 points per game. In the preceding five losses the Pack gave up right at 43 points per game. This bodes well for the future. In no way can anyone say State's defense has arrived but guys like B.J. Hill, Pharoah McKever, Jerod Fernandez, Airius Moore, Josh Jones and others have time under their belt and it's beginning to pay dividends.
Hats Off to Dave Doeren
NC State fans aren't the most patient bunch. We preached all year that State was young and needed time to mature. Some argued that Doeren was learning on the job. I would like to think that every coach learns on the job. What worked last year or even last week could get you beat in the next game. Doeren is building a program and he's doing it the right way. He inherited a mess and the talent level was nowhere near what it needed to be to be competitive week in and week out. Slowly the young players have developed and you're seeing the results on the field. Hats off to coach Doeren and the job he's done- sticking to his guns, not taking short cuts and weathering the storm of friendly fire.
NC State couldn't have asked for a better scenario as recruiting now moves front and center for the Wolfpack coaching staff. As previously mentioned State can sell winning three out of four including going 3-1 in the conference down the stretch. They can sell sell seven victories with a decent bowl game and the possibility of an eighth win on the horizon. They can sell the fact that they're the fifth youngest team in the country and their willingness to play young talent. They can sell that they dominated their in-state opponent. The only downside may be the fact that they have just a handful of scholarships left to work with.
The Pack also looks forward to a bowl game and sources I've talked with believe the Belk Bowl is a "strong possibility". With this comes the luxury of additional practices and the opportunity to further develop the young talent on the team.