Observations From The Game: Florida State

Pack Pride takes a look back at the highs and lows from NC State's 34-17 loss to Florida State.

NC State opened up an early 17-7 lead over Florida State but the Noles responded with 27 unanswered points to pull away from the Wolfpack. Pack Pride takes a look back at the game.

Another Fast Start
One thing we’ve seen consistently from NC State in 2015 is fast starts. That was the case again Saturday as the Pack came out aggressive on defense and put up 17 quick points against FSU.

Through the first 10 games of the year State has outscored their opponents 110-44. The problem for State is they haven’t figured out a way to maintain that momentum. They can look unstoppable early on offense and then go ice cold for long stretches. Obviously no team is going to score every time they touch the ball but the Pack has got to find some consistency on offense.

On the 10 Wolfpack offensive possessions after going up 17-7, NC State had eight punts and a turnover with the final drive ending with the clock expiring. That’s simply not going to get it done against ACC competition.

Hanging Their Hat On Something
Last year NC State decided to hang their hat on running the football and during the final third of the season became very effective at it. In 2015 it appears the Pack has spent too much time chasing success and not figuring out what they can be good at. One game it’s trying to run the football. The next game State wants to throw it 50 times.

We’ve seen State attack down the field and we’ve also seen the Pack keep it extremely conservative. I understand the Pack wanting to take advantage of matchups but at the same time, the Wolfpack desperately needs to find an offensive identity and time is waning.

Wolfpack Defense
I thought NC State’s defense was as good as it’s been all year through the first 15 minutes of the game. They played downhill, attacked the football and their team speed was the best I’ve seen all year. However, it appeared once that initial burst of adrenaline wore off and State settled into their normal game speed it just wasn’t enough to keep up with Florida State’s athletes.

With that said (and some will likely disagree) I really liked what I saw from the defense Saturday. They generated five turnovers and they weren’t gimmes. State’s defenders made great plays on each turnover. With the offense providing nothing after the first quarter the defense was put in a tough position.

The bottom line is State lost to the better, more talented team but I also felt like it was a step in the right direction for a young defense and something I feel they can build off of.

Four Plays That Mattered
This is not to suggest the final outcome of the game would have been any different but I felt these four plays played a large part in the final score.

This is not to suggest the final outcome of the game would have been any different but I felt these four plays played a large part in the final score.

The biggest play to me was the fumble by Jaylen Samuels. This isn’t meant to be critical of Samuels at all. He was fighting for extra yardage and lost the football. It happens. However, State was down three at the time but it only took Florida State two plays to score. Now down 10, the Pack had no answer. They completely abandoned the run, became one dimensional offensively and were virtually taken out of the game.

The biggest play to me was the fumble by Jaylen Samuels. This isn’t meant to be critical of Samuels at all. He was fighting for extra yardage and lost the football. It happens. However, State was down three at the time but it only took Florida State two plays to score. Now down 10, the Pack had no answer. They completely abandoned the run, became one dimensional offensively and were virtually taken out of the game.

A couple of additional plays that went against the Pack were the blown coverage on the 27-yard TD pass to Kermit Whitfield and then the 45 yard touchdown pass to Whitfield where Shawn Boone came up lame and couldn’t make the play.

Finally, if the Pack somehow makes the play on those two touchdowns then perhaps the Pack’s final drive means something. Brissett’s QB sneak for no gain ended the game and was ultimately meaningless. However, if the first three plays mentioned go differently I think State probably approaches that final play differently.

Statement Game For Nicholson?
I thought Riley Nicholson played a great game Saturday.

His numbers weren’t gaudy- six tackles and .5 tackles for loss. However there was one play that really stuck out to me. Nicholson met Dalvin Cook (arguably the top running back in the nation when healthy) in the hole at the line of scrimmage and stoned him. Nicholson is young but that play in particular and the game as a whole should give him a ton of confidence headed forward.

As Nicholson gains experience he’ll play faster and become even more effective. The Pack hasn’t had a dominant linebacker since Terrell Manning. Perhaps Nicholson will be the next.

Leadership
State needs a leader. They need a player on offense and defense that they can count on to make a play when the game’s on the line. Right now I don’t see it.

However, if the Pack is to take that next step then someone has to step up- Jacoby Brissett, Jaylen Samuels, JuMichael Ramos, Airius Moore, Dravious Wright- someone has got to become that go-to guy for the Wolfpack.

Headed Forward
The Pack is down to two home games with an eight win season on the line. The importance of these two games as it relates to perception and the growth of the program cannot be overstated. Those two factors are huge for recruiting and the program headed forward.

State will be the favorite against Syracuse. The Pack ‘should’ win this game but it’s a road the Wolfpack has traveled previously this season. Louisville and Virginia Tech come to mind. If they fall flat like they did in those two games then they’ll lose to Syracuse- go ahead and write it down. The Orange showed me enough against Clemson to prove they can beat NC State if the Pack sleep walks through the game.

UNC may be the hottest team in the conference right now. Yeah, I know- they haven’t played anyone. But here’s the deal- you play who they put in front of you and lately, Carolina’s been blowing them all out. You can live in a dream world and convince yourself UNC is a paper tiger and maybe they are. Personally, I don’t believe it. If nothing else they've become extremely confident and that's huge in football. At the very least I know they’re certainly good enough to beat State.

At the same time I know UNC usually brings out the very best in NC State and I have no doubt the Wolfpack is more than capable of beating Carolina at home. The question is- which team shows up and if the ‘good’ NC State shows up, can they sustain it for four quarters.

One thing is for sure, 8-4 sounds a heck of a lot better than 6-6 or 7-5.


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