Observations From The Game: Syracuse

Pack Pride takes a look back at NC State's 42-29 win over Syracuse.

NC State came out firing on all cylinders and held off Syracuse for a 42-29 victory on Saturday in Carter-Finley Stadium. Pack Pride takes a look back at the Wolfpack’s seventh win of the season.

Another Fast Start
It seems every week we begin this column by pointing out another fast start, particularly by the NC State offense. That was certainly the case again Saturday. The Pack scored touchdowns on its first two possessions. The first was an impressive 11 play, 75 yard drive that culminated with a seven yard TD pass to Jaylen Samuels. On that drive the Pack had just one third down play and that came on the pass to Samuels.

The second scoring drive was six plays and totaled 73 yards with Reggie Gallaspy running it in from one yard out for the score. Again, the only third down play of the drive came on Gallaspy’s score.

NC State scored touchdowns on three of its first four possessions and missed a field goal on the fourth. The Pack has now outscored their opponents 124 to 47 in the first quarter.

Pack Gets Back To Its Bread and Butter
NC State’s offense just seems more effective when they build everything around the run. The Pack finished with 276 yards rushing which was 100 more than Syracuse had averaged giving up on the year.

State has put together a running back by committee approach and it was super effective against the Orange. Jaylen Samuels and Reggie Gallaspy give you a little more power between the tackles while Dakwa Nichols and Nyheim Hines are more explosive and quicker to the second level. With UNC looming the Pack will need a lot more of this next weekend.

Breakout Game For Hines
Everyone has been waiting for that breakout game for freshman Nyheim Hines and I think we got  a taste of that Saturday although I still believe the best is yet to come.

Hines finished with 70 yards rushing, 69 yards receiving and 69 yards on three kickoff returns. With Matt Dayes injured a lot has been put on Hines’ plate and it’s easy to forget that this is a true freshman that didn’t have the luxury of enrolling early and going through spring ball.

Each week we’ve seen Hines take small steps forward as offensive coordinator Matt Canada has increased his workload in small increments. Saturday should’ve given him a ton of confidence with two games remaining and he’s certainly one of those guys that could have a huge impact on the game for NC State next Saturday. As good as he was on Saturday I think that was really just a glimpse of how good he can become.

Wolfpack D Not Spectacular But Solid
I thought NC State’s defense was solid on Saturday but maybe not quite as dominant as I would’ve thought going into the game. I didn’t think Syracuse could put up 29 points against the Pack but to their credit they made some plays- the biggest of which was a 75 yard touchdown run to open the second half. It appeared Riley Nicholson went into the wrong gap and with Josh Jones in coverage, the middle of the field was wide open for the long touchdown run.

Beyond that, State held Syracuse to 15 first downs, 140 yards rushing and just 292 yards of total offense. The Pack generated 10 tackles for loss, two sacks and a pick six by freshman Darian Roseboro. Again, not a world beating effort but sufficient to defeat Syracuse.

Nicholson and Roseboro
It’s amazing to see how these two have progressed through their freshman seasons. Early on I questioned if either would even see the field in 2015 but both have made great strides and established themselves as huge pieces of the Wolfpack defense.

Roseboro’s 20-yard pick six was the second in as many years against Syracuse and he finished with three tackles on the game.

Nicholson lead NC State with eight tackles and had a tackle for loss. He was oh-so-close to another tackle for loss. There was the one blown assignment on the long TD run but with the success will also be the growing pains of being a freshman. However, the trend is definitely moving in the right direction where he and Airius Moore are starting to have that look of playmakers at linebacker.

What The Heck Was Going On With Syracuse?
Not sure why they showed up mad. WR Steve Ishmael came out of the locker room running his mouth and got in the face of a Wolfpack player on the first three plays of the game. On the third he received an unsportsmanlike penalty and would be ejected in the fourth quarter.

Brisly Estime was also ejected for throwing a punch and there were several other instances where Syracuse players just seemed out of control. There appeared to be a felonious assault going on against Monty Nelson on the play where he was ejected.

In the end I suppose Syracuse has just grown tired of losing. Perhaps the radio crew called it best when they said maybe the players were just mad because they had to go back to Syracuse.

Rivalry Week
It’s rivalry week, at least to everyone but UNC RB Elijah Hood (he declared that State wasn’t UNC’s rival). Whatever, Elijah. We saw all we needed to see when you videotaped yourself flushing Alabama’s recruiting letters down the toilet. That was sheer class in a Chapel Hill kind of way. If you couldn’t tell, it is rivalry week to me.

And for the UNC editors/writers/reporters that don't like the way I write- I really don't care. Really, I don't. I'm not objective and I use "we" and "us" when I refer to NC State. I'm not very good at playing pretend.

Back to the game. Personally I think NC State is a good matchup for UNC. But the more I think about it the more I’m convinced that the NC State-UNC game is very rarely about X’s and O’s or talent level.

You’ll never convince me that NC State was 28 points better than UNC last year. However, they were clearly much more “up” for the game than Carolina appeared to be.

We’ve seen games decided on questionable calls by the refs (TA McLendon). We’ve seen State beat UNC with a two yard hail mary from Russell Wilson. And then there was the inexplicable decision to punt to Gio Bernard.

“If” the game does come down to X’s and O’s then it’s a toss up in my mind. When UNC is at their best (and they have been for much of 2015) they’re pretty doggone good.

If there’s one way to accurately describe NC State in 2015 it’s that they’ve been consistently inconsistent. At times, usually in the first quarter, the Pack looks unbeatable. When State went up 14-3 on Saturday I looked at my son and told him State probably wouldn’t score again until 3 o’clock. (I was wrong).

UNC has one impressive win this year- Pittsburgh on the road. The Pack has none. In the ACC, State has wins over Wake Forest, Boston College and Syracuse- teams with a combined record of 9-24. Those nine wins include impressive victories over Rhode Island, Central Michigan, Maine, Howard, Elon and Army.

Hail Mary’s, refs and head-scratching coaching blunders aside, NC State (for the first time this season) has to be consistent for 60 minutes. They can’t play well for a 10-minute stretch and then sleep walk for two and a half quarters. State can’t fill the wrong gap or have safeties lost in coverage. If those things happen then the Pack could very well get run out of Carter-Finley Stadium. I’ve been waiting all year for that one game where everything finally comes together for four quarters. Saturday would be as good a time as any for that to happen.


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