NC State's defense has certainly been a strength through six games. The Wolfpack's been sound against the run and the pass, and the statistics back that up.
|Category||NC State Defense|
|Scoring Defense||16.0 ppg (No. 17 nationally)|
|Total Defense||247.8 ypg (No. 3)|
|Rushing Defense||100.17 ypg (No. 14)|
|Passing Defense||147.7 ypg (No. 10)|
|Third Down Defense||28.2% (No. 18)|
|Turnovers Forced||5 (No. 110)|
While the rushing defense has slipped (mainly due to two big plays) a bit in league play, the passing defense has actually improved. The Wolfpack defense allowed just a 42.9% completion rate in the losses, while the four opening opponents completed 48% of their passes. The passing yardage defense also improved in the losses (156.3-to-130.5), but the Pack has yet to record an interception in league play and had three in the first four games.
The upcoming opponents are really a mixed bag in terms of offense (stats prior to Saturday's games).
|Category||Wake Forest||Clemson||Boston College||Florida State||Syracuse||North Carolina|
|Scoring Offense||19.7 ppg (No. 117)||35.4 ppg (No. 33)||20.7 ppg (No. 111)||32.0 ppg (No. 49)||31.0 ppg (No. 58)||38.6 ppg (No. 17)|
|Total Offense||368.7 ypg (No. 92)||431.8 ypg (No. 48)||323.0 ypg (No. 119)||432.4 ypg (No. 47)||341.6 ypg (No. 108)||471.0 ypg (No. 23)|
|Rushing Offense||114.7 ypg (No. 115)||195.4 ypg (No. 43)||214 ypg (No. 25)||203.4 ypg (No. 30)||165.2 ypg (No. 75)||219.8 ypg (No. 22)|
|Passing Offense||254.0 ypg (No. 39)||236.4 ypg (No. 59)||109.0 ypg (No.124)||229.0 ypg (No. 67)||176.4 ypg (No. 106)||251.2 ypg (No. 43)|
Wake Forest surprisingly has the top passing offense (No. 39 nationally) and North Carolina is the best in terms of total offense (No. 23), rushing offense (No. 22), and scoring offense (No. 17).
Where does NC State need to improve?
Limit The Big Plays
In today's college football, this is a given for pretty much all defenses. Offenses are much more explosive now and the rules in the passing game favor the offense.
With that being said, NC State has to find a way to keep limiting the big plays... especially for touchdowns. In the last two games they've allowed three touchdowns of 20+ yards, including two that were over 55+ yards. That can't happen.
State must work on keeping the opposition out of the endzone, if they allow a big play.
Force More Turnovers
This has really been where NC State's defense has struggled.
The Wolfpack has generated just five takeaways in six games, good for 110th nationally. That's not going to work. They've been in a position to force turnovers but just haven't got it done enough. Some of that can be luck, especially with fumbles, but Dave Doeren said this week there are things they can do to help themselves.
"When you're tackling, when you're getting people to the football, putting hats on the ball, then you're going to create fumbles," said Doeren. "When you're hitting the quarterback a lot and now he's a little bit off with his timing, now you're going to get ticks.
"When you're in tighter coverage and got to hold the ball, now you're going to get picks and sack forced fumbles. Here's a lot of reasons we have it, we spend a lot of time talking about it, and we've got to continue work on getting them. But it's a game changer any time you can get the ball back for your offense."
That hd to be a point of emphasis during the bye for NC State's defense... force more turnovers.
Turn Up The Heat
Whether it's with the four-man front or through blitzing, NC State has to get more pressure on the quarterback. That can lead to turnovers, negative plays, and tough third-down situations for the offense.
NC State has totaled 12 sacks, 49th-best in the country, but that number should be higher. Against Louisville and Virginia Tech the Wolfpack left multiple sacks on the field by simply not getting the quarterback on the ground.
That comes down to correcting pursuit angles, tackling better, and flying to the football.
Last year the Wolfpack came out of the bye week as more of a pressure team on defense... using the linebackers and defensive backs to generate more pressure. Will they do the same in 2015?
Tweak The Lineup?
NC State might look to make a few personnel changes and that would mean some position battles during the bye week.
It's hard to speculate on those, but with the big plays being allowed it's something you can't rule out.
This could be another reason for the big plays.
Guys have to do their job. If it's your job to get up the field and set the edge... set the edge. If you have the fullback in the flat, defend the fullback in the flat. Fill your gap, stay in your zone... do your job.
Doeren talked about discipline and eye variation this week as well.
"What an eye violation is you're supposed to read your key," said Doeren. "If I'm supposed to read the number two receiver, that's where my eyes are. They're not in the backfield. If I'm the defensive end and I'm supposed to leverage the ball and stay outside the tight end and keep on his pad, that's what I do.
"We do that nine times out of ten, but the one time we do, we lose leverage on the ball and give up a play we can't give up. It's all about discipline. We have a young football team, and they need to be more disciplined, and it's my job to get them there as the head coach."
Find A Playmaker
Sometimes, it's that simple. NC State needs someone to step up and make a big play.
In those situations, you look to your leaders. Mike Rose, Hakim Jones, and Juston Burris are the three senior starters for the Wolfpack. They are having fine seasons, but if you ask them, all three would probably say they could do a little more... make a bigger impact.
Maybe it will be one of those three or it could be a younger standout like Airius Moore or Mike Stevens, but either way, NC State has to start making BIG plays defensively.
That should be stressed during the bye week.