Three Plays Doom The Pack
There wasn’t a lot to write home about on either side of the ball but three plays in particular played a huge role in the Wolfpack’s loss.
JuMichael Ramos and Jacoby Brissett hooked up on a 48-yard completion but Ramos was stripped at the Louisville four yard line while fighting for extra yards. It’s hard to fault Ramos as he was simply competing but controlling the ball has to be priority one when in that position. The Cards responded with a touchdown. At worst, State would’ve gotten three so it was a 10 point turnaround at a minimum.
After the turnove, the defense had looked solid up until a 68 yard run by Louisville QB Lamar Jackson off of a zone read. As had been the case way too often in the first four games, the defense yet again got grossly out of position and gave up a huge play.
Facing fourth and one at their 14 yard line, State ran Matt Dayes behind an unbalanced line. they had ran that play at least two times previously- once to Dayes and once on a QB sneak by Brissett. The Louisville defense stuffed Dayes for no gain and that was the ball game. If you get that initial first down then often times a team is able to build some offensive momentum.
Wolfpack... Can’t Run, Can’t Win?
The Pack (against much lesser competition) came into Saturday’s game averaging well over 200 yards per game on the ground in 2015. Going back to the last few games of 2014, running the football has been a constant for NC State.
Interestingly, the Pack didn’t appear interested early on in establishing the run. The Pack tried to spread the ball around the field with Matt Dayes ending up with just seven carries in the first half. State has built their success around running the football and that’s clearly been their identity for the last eight games but they either didn’t want to run or didn’t feel like they could run against the Card’s front seven. The Pack finished with just 45 yards rushing and that’s not going to get it done most weeks for this team.
For whatever reason- the weather, Louisville, a combination of both- but Brissett never seemed comfortable in this game. He short hopped a couple of passes, overthrew the ball on a couple of passes and missed wide open receivers at a couple of critical points in the game. It’s become clear that Brissett doesn’t fare well under pressure and at times it seems to make him force things when in reality he has plenty of time. He can be one of the ACC’s top quarterbacks but he has to show that he can do it against the better teams in the league.
I’ve never been one to second guess an offensive coordinator. There’s usually 56,000 others in Carter-Finley Stadium that can take care of that. However, five touches for Jaylen Samuels simply isn’t enough in my opinion. With Shadrach Thornton gone, Samuel’s should be getting double digit touches every game.
Some Bright Spots
Punter A.J. Cole is really putting together a solid year and he’s developed into a very consistent kicker. He averaged better than 41 yards on seven punts including a 53 yarder. He had two inside the 20.
Nyheim Hines is turning into a big play threat on kickoffs and that’s something future teams will definitely take notice of. His 95 yard return set up an NC State touchdown. Hines is ranked 21st nationally in kickoff returns.
DT Justin Jones continues to emerge and put together a very nice game Saturday with three tackles, two tackles for loss and a QB hurry.
Jaylen Samuels is a big time playmaker for NC State and he amassed 75 yards and a touchdown on five catches.
Which Is It?
One of two NC State teams showed up against Louisville. It was either a team that just had a bad game, perhaps distracted because of the Shadrach Thornton news that came out midweek- giving offensive coordinator Matt Canada very little time to adjust.
The other scenario is much more bleak- that this is the real NC State. If true then this is a team with an offensive line that got whipped at the line of scrimmage, a defense that let a one dimensional offense do just enough to win and a team that made too many mistakes while not forcing any from Louisville.
The worst part is the Wolfpack lost to a not-so-good Louisville team at home. This wasn’t Florida State or Clemson or even UNC. This was a 1-3 Louisville team with a QB making his first start on the road while orchestrating an offense that ran about five different plays for 90% of the game. If this is the real NC State then it’s going to be a long season.