NC State struggled offensively for the second straight game on Friday. The inability to throw the ball vertically downfield is one of the more disturbing trends from the Wolfpack’s two losses to open conference play.
Jacoby Brissett connected with Jaylen Samuels on a 24-yard pass on the first play from scrimmage--something head coach Dave Doeren conceded he wanted to see more of after NC State could only get Samuels the ball five times in the loss to Louisville on October 3rd.
It was not a harbinger of things to come for Samuels and the Wolfpack.
The completion to Samuels would be the longest play from scrimmage for NC State on Friday. The Wolfpack would once again be limited offensively and the 15-point loss at Virginia Tech has them headed into a bye week at the halfway point of the season looking for answers.
"We'll sit down as a staff and look at everything we've done,” Doeren said afterwards. “We'll look at us first. We'll bring the kids in and talk to them, man-to-man, then get to work, start doing those things, and get ready for Wake Forest."
Somewhere along the line NC State has become vertically challenged. Entering the season, the biggest offensive concern many pundits had of the Wolfpack was its ability to connect with players wide on pass plays--with freshman Nyheim Hines and a return to form from Jumichael Ramos being generally listed as two possibilities for success in 2015.
Ramos made a great play for a touchdown on Friday, which came after he nearly scored on a bomb against Louisville before fumbling inside the five-yard line. His only other catch was for 13 yards. Hines caught one pass for 17 yards.
The reason there was concern for NC State out wide was because most of the returning pass catchers this season had previously done the bulk of their work up the middle.
Remarkably in 2015, the Wolfpack has not gotten much production in the middle of the field as well. David Grinnage, a player many feel has NFL potential, has virtually disappeared from the offense. Grinnage had one catch for 15 yards against the Hokies.
The reception leader for NC State in Blacksburg was Matthew Dayes. He hauled in three passes for zero yards.
Brissett had easily his worst game of the season Friday. Entering the contest as one of the top passers in the nation in terms of completion percentage, Brissett was 12-for-25 for 113 yards and threw his first interception in 241 pass attempts late in the contest.
Virginia Tech, which came into the game struggling against mobile quarterbacks, also sacked Brissett four times, who did gain 62 yards on the ground.
With the second half of the season approaching, the Wolfpack now must lick its wounds during the bye week. Things will not get any easier as three of its next four games are on the road. Opening up the field may be the Wolfpack’s best bet if it is going to make noise on its upcoming travels.