UNC raced out to a 35-7 first-quarter lead and was never seriously threatened as they whipped NC State 45-34 in front of a packed house at Carter-Finley Stadium. Pack Pride takes a look back at the game.
Fast Start Betrays The Pack
Fast start- it’s been the one thing NC State has been able to hang their hat on all year- at least until UNC showed up. Five Carolina possessions in the first quarter- five touchdowns. Five NC State possessions in the first quarter- one touchdown, two punts, one interception and a turnover on downs. For all intents and purposes this game was all but over in the first 15 minutes.
Defense Looked Lost
You want to know how dominant UNC was in the first quarter? The Heels ran an astounding 38 plays and yet had only five third downs- the longest of which was a third and five. They had six plays that totaled 20+ yards.
By the third drive the NC State defense looked as if they had no clue what was coming or going. Perhaps they weren’t mentally prepared. I know they weren’t prepared for the speed and execution of UNC’s offense- whether mental or physical. Just as they’ve done against virtually every other team not from the state of South Carolina this year, the Heels made it look easy and the Pack was powerless to slow it down, much less stop it.
Game Played On NC State’s Side Of The Ball
If there was one area that I thought State may have an advantage it was with the Pack’s front four. Uh, no. UNC’s offensive line owned the Wolfpack and the entire game save just a rare few plays was played on the NC State side of the line of scrimmage.
The Pack chose to rush four and drop seven for most of the game and were never able to generate any pressure on QB Marquise Williams.
State couldn’t fill gaps or penetrate on running plays which allowed Elijah Hood to get up a head of steam. He may not be the fastest back around but Hood’s explosion through the hole is about as good as I’ve seen all year and that left the Wolfpack D chasing him from behind all game.
State Offense Played Right Into UNC’s Hands
Give UNC defensive coordinator Gene Chizik all the credit in the world. Carolina doesn’t have some ultra-talented defense but Chizik has devised a scheme and strategy that has put them in a position to be successful.
Right off the bat he knows UNC is going to score a bunch of points which means if he can get just five or six stops a game- the Heels have a good shot of winning. He doesn’t mind giving up a ton of yards between the 20’s. Chizik is counting on you getting into a third and long along the way or turning the ball over. Again, if he can do this a half dozen times a game, the Heels can win.
State had just two three and outs Saturday. They generated 28 first downs and rushed for 302 yards. On paper that sounds fine and dandy but that’s what UNC has been giving up all year. Where they beat State was forcing the Pack to kick two field goals, four punts, one interception and one turnover on downs. That was a half dozen stops and all the Tar Heels needed.
Missed Matt Dayes
I’m not saying having Matt Dayes would’ve necessarily changed the outcome of the game. However, I do feel this was the type game where Dayes’ skill set could have helped the Pack.
Sure, the Pack generated a ton of rushing yards. However, neither Dakwa Nichols or Reggie Gallaspy give you the home run threat that Dayes provides. With the way UNC likes to play defense, this was a setup where a seven yard run by Gallaspy could have been a 50 yard run by Dayes and with the Heels content to sit back and keep everything in front of them- that may have made a difference in the game.
About The Only Positive
Down 35-7, it would have been easy for NC State to just roll over and play dead. The potential was certainly there to get completely embarrassed by your rival. To the Pack’s credit they fought back. State held UNC to just 10 points through the final three quarters while generating 27 points of their own. To me that says a lot about the coaching staff and the pride the players have in the team.
In hindsight the season as a whole was probably a disappointment to the majority of Pack fans. Personally, I felt State would go 7-5 but even now, the losses to Louisville and Virginia Tech were the two that bother me the most. They were the difference between a very good season and where State ultimately finished.
From here, State can now look forward to a bowl game and the extra practice time that comes with it. This is a crucial period for developing your younger players and something the Pack will try to take full advantage of.
Getting eight wins and at least staying on par with last season is a must for NC State, especially as it pertains to recruiting.