Observations From The Game: Eastern Kentucky

Pack Pride takes a look back at NC State's win over Eastern Kentucky.

NC State overcame a sloppy start to post a commanding 35-0 win over Eastern Kentucky on Saturday evening in Carter-Finley Stadium. Pack Pride takes a look back at the Wolfpack’s second win of the 2015 season.

Offense Comes Out Shaky

A week after a virtual error-free outing against Troy, NC State wasn’t nearly as sharp in the early going versus EKU. The Pack gave up two sacks, a holding penalty and a false start and that was all during the first drive of the game. To add insult to injury, State finished off their opening possession by allowing the Colonels to block Kyle Bambard’s 33-yard field goal attempt. State finished with seven penalties for 56 yards and also had one fumble. Overall it was a solid outing for the Pack but the coaching staff will certainly look to clean up these mistakes headed on the road for the next two contests.

Stat of the Game

40-20...A week after doubling up Troy in time of possession, NC State pulled it off again against Eastern Kentucky. The theme this year through two games is for the Pack to run a ball control offense that grinds its way down the field while chewing up the clock and wearing down the opposing defense. The Pack has been conservative with the ball and hasn’t necessarily attacked down the field and in all honesty, they’ve haven’t needed to. Instead, they’ve spread the field primarily using a short and intermediate passing game while allowing Matt Dayes to run between the tackles.

Ramos Becoming the Go-To Guy

The Pack needed one of their receivers to step up and assume a leadership role and it definitely appears JuMichael Ramos has become that guy. He showed flashes against Troy but was Jacoby Brissett’s top target Saturday night, finishing with seven catches for 95 yards. Most impressive has been Ramos’ hands. He’s caught everything thrown his way, including some not-so-routine catches. If he continues to progress, Ramos is going to be a player that opposing defenses will have to account for and that will only help the other receivers and the offense as a whole headed forward.

Offensive MVP

During the final quarter of the 2014 season, it appeared the proverbial light switch flipped on for junior RB Matt Dayes. That’s carried over into 2015 with Dayes seemingly having found a different gear. Some of that stems from him simply being in better shape but there’s no doubt that reps and confidence have played a huge role as well. Dayes has shown that he can pound it up in between the tackles and be an every down back but it’s once he gets to the second level where his talent really jumps out. He’s able to cut at full speed which makes him extremely difficult to tackle in the open field. Dayes finished Saturday night with 116 yards on 24 carries and three touchdowns. Equally impressive was that he had no negative yards. The competition level will improve down the road but you couldn’t ask for a better start from Dayes.

In Case You Missed It

Former Wolfpack prospect and Ohio State player Noah Spence now lines up for Eastern Kentucky. He recorded a sack, a forced fumble and a holding penalty on State’s opening drive. However, the Pack adjusted and he logged just one tackle the rest of the game.

Wolfpack D Dominates

A week after giving up way too many big plays to Troy, NC State’s defense had one of their more impressive outings in recent memory. EKU managed just five first downs offensively (two more as a result of NC State penalties), 35 net rushing yards and 77 total passing yards. The Pack’s interior owned the line of scrimmage and completely shut down the Colonels zone read offense. Eastern Kentucky QB Bennie Coney never seemed comfortable with State’s defense swarming him all night. Although the Pack recorded just two sacks, they harassed Coney all night and he finished up completing just 5 of 17 passes.

Defensive Player of the Game

B.J. Hill has emerged as the anchor of the Wolfpack defense and was a major reason why State was able to hold Eastern Kentucky to just 112 yards of total offense. He tallied four tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and batted down a pass. Hill has steadily improved since about midway of last season and should that continue, will become a serious contender for all-conference consideration at some point down the road. Against EKU he looked unblockable at times and even when he wasn’t necessarily in on the play he was disruptive- allowing someone else to make a play.

Special Teams Solid So Far

Other than Kyle Bambard’s blocked field goal and one shaky extra point, NC State’s special teams have been solid. Bra’lon Cherry has shown big play ability at punt returner. He finished with four returns for 74 yards but had his best return of the night called back because of a block in the back. A.J. Cole has been steady. He had one punt inside the 20 and another that landed on the 20. Special teams were a huge question mark and concern to some degree in the preseason but so far, the Pack has done an admirable job.

Headed Forward

The Pack now embarks on a two game road trip starting with Old Dominion next week. On paper State will be favored but you can bet that the Monarchs have had this game circled for some time. If the Wolfpack continues their consistency on offense, avoids some of the mistakes that plagued them early against Troy and continue to get the effort they’ve had in the first two games on defense then State should be fine. While a lot of State fans likely feel good about where NC State is right now, the fact is the Pack isn’t good enough to go on the road, play a sloppy game and expect that’ll be good enough to win. State has to grow from week to week and part of that will be going on the road for the first time this season- handling an unfriendly environment and continuing to play well.

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