What did we learn about NC State from the East Carolina loss? We review the game by answering several critical questions about the Wolfpack.
What was the biggest reason for NC State losing to East Carolina?
James Henderson: NC State left too many points on the field.
Jerod Fernandez drops an interception that would have been a walk-in touchdown... Ryan Finley overthrows Matt Dayes for another touchdown... NC State runs a well-executed trick play that should have resulted in a score but didn't. Add in the missed field goals and that's a lot of points NC State should have scored... and didn't.
When you lose by three points, those plays stick out.
Steve Williams: I thought inconsistency on defense did the Pack in. They put themselves in great position over and over again (13 tackles for loss) only to give up a silly penalty or big play that allowed East Carolina to extend drives.
Many of those drives resulted in points that never should’ve happened considering how often the Pirates were playing catchup in down and distance.
Rob McLamb: Undisciplined football is the reason NC State lost to East Carolina for a third straight time. It was an equal opportunity failure. Each position group did its part.
Bryant Carson: Squandered opportunities. Dropped pick six, missed field goals, failed fakes, the missed throw to Dayes up the sideline, etc etc. No one could possibly convince me that State was not the better team on the field last Saturday but that’s how you lose as a favorite on the road.
NC State's offense managed to score 30 points and had nearly 500 yards of total offense, but the group still had issues. What should the Wolfpack be concerned about the most on the offensive side of the ball?
James Henderson: Overall, I thought the offense played really well; however, they needed to be better inside East Carolina's 30-yard line.
Including the final drive, NC State had five drills that matriculated inside of East Carolina's 30-yard line that totaled three points. Those issues in the scoring zone get magnified when you factor in the Wolfpack's struggles in the kicking game.
The Wolfpack offense has to be able to turn those drives into touchdowns and/or put the kickers in a position for easier attempts.
Again, in close losses, that type of inefficiency is magnified.
Steve Williams: I would say the biggest thing for the NC State offense is to do whatever it takes to avoid kicking or thinking about kicking a field goal. For two years this has been a huge problem for the Pack and it certainly needs to figure into play calling headed forward.
Rob McLamb: On the offensive side of the ball NC State should build around the run, particularly if the Wolfpack will continue to lack deep threats. Matt Dayes struggled but reached 100-plus yards rushing anyway due to a 54-yard romp.
Bryant Carson: I felt like when State really got rolling in the second quarter it was because they were spreading the ball around and not allowing ECU to target in on Dayes and Samuels. Those guys need to touch the ball early and often for the Pack but there must be a balance not only between rush plays and pass plays but also between Dayes/Samuels and everyone else.
Matt Dayes only had 14 carries and Ryan Finley had the second-most carries on the team with six. Should State have looked to run the ball more?
James Henderson: I think Dayes didn't look like himself for much of the day, so I wasn't that upset with his workload. Add in Gallaspy's effectiveness and overall the Wolfpack still rushed for 200+ yards which should be good enough on the road against East Carolina.
Part of the problem was NC State kept hitting big plays, and those can keep overall snaps down.
Steve Williams: I think they absolutely should’ve run the ball more but of course, hindsight is 20-20. I just feel like Matt Dayes is one of State’s top two offensive weapons and the Pack has to do a better job of putting the ball in his hands.
Rob McLamb: State has the type of talent where the team can have issues rushing but one long gain changes everything. Reggie Gallaspy II got in on the fun as well.
Bryant Carson: Looks like 30 rushes (not counting AJ Cole’s fake attempt) and 32 pass attempts—that’s a pretty good balance and I am personally in favor of balance.
At the end of the day more passing, more rushing—who knows—State was in a position to win that game but just didn’t make enough of the plays when they were there for the taking. Maybe more Dayes would have won the game but I wouldn’t say that’s why State lost.
Who was the best player for NC State offensively?
James Henderson: He only had six touches, but Reggie Gallaspy looked really, really good. Physical and explosive, Gallaspy averaged 12.2 yards per carry on his five runs and added a seven-yard reception.
With NC State trailing 12-0, it was his 37-yard touchdown run where he stiff-armed a defender and ran over another sparked the Wolfpack.
Steve Williams: I’ll go with Stephen Louis although he was invisible in the second half. He showed the ability to make tough catches and big plays and State has got to find a way to utilize him more in the future.
Rob McLamb: Ryan Finley probably was the most consistent offensive player. Stephen Louis, Dayes and Gallaspy all did well.
Bryant Carson: Ryan Finley. Gallaspy, Louis, Dayes and Samuels all had pretty good days out there but Finley once again was poised, consistent and took care of the ball. I thought the first long one to Louis—not the TD pass, the one before—Finley really dropped it right in where it needed to be.
What positives can NC State take away from the game offensively?
James Henderson: The big plays were there for NC State.The offense averaged of 7.9 yards per play, which is outstanding (would rank 5th nationally), and did so on the ground and through the air.
Also, Ryan Finley was even better in his second game, and on the road in that environment, it's extremely encouraging. Look for the offense to continue opening up as he gains experience and the staff begins to lean on him and the passing game even more.
Finally, Stephen Louis looked like a game-breaker at wide receiver. Big, fast, and physical, Louis only had three catches but all three were grabs either over defenders or where he bullied through defenders. He also bounced right up after taking a huge hit in the first quarter. Personally, he needed more targets given his effectiveness but that will likely come.
Steve Williams: I thought the Pack did what it needed to do offensively to win a game on the road. This loss was not on Ryan Finley or the offense in my opinion. State put up 30 and should’ve had more in a hostile environment and I’m not sure how much more we should expect them to do.
I felt like they were steady and Finley did a great job managing the game and avoiding costly mistakes that may have given State no shot at winning.
Rob McLamb: The positives for NC State offensively will derive from the Wolfpack scoring 30 points and gaining over 500 yards despite make a slew of mental errors in a hostile environment.
Bryant Carson: Over 500 yards of offense, 30 points, productivity both in rushing and passing—all good things. I think everyone has a much better feel for Finley now—though he still hasn’t faced a pass rush like he’s likely to see in the meat of the schedule.
It also seems like the light has come on for Steph Louis and Reggie Gallaspy is growing into a legit back-up RB to spell Dayes.
The Wolfpack defense did some good things, but also struggled at times with East Carolina's high-octane offense. What should the Wolfpack be concerned about the most on the defensive side of the ball?
James Henderson: The penalties in bad situations. Teams are going to commit penalties, but you can't do it on third-down to extend drives.
That's two straight games where penalties were an issue defensively.
Steve Williams: The Pack continues to show that it has major problems defending the spread and a dual threat quarterback. The bottom line on this is State is deficient athletically and they struggle when they’re forced to make plays out in space.
I think from a recruiting standpoint, the Wolfpack has to get faster and more athletic in the back seven to be more competitive against defending the spread.
Rob McLamb: The defensive line should be playing better than it has. It is a position group that is supposed to creep closer to dominant status as the season ends. At the moment, it has looked pedestrian.
Bryant Carson: I still think coverage in the secondary is shaky. Don’t mix this up though, I’m not suggesting State needs to press at the LOS of scrimmage and attempt to go one-on-one every down against spread teams—that is a great way to give up big TD plays quickly.
I thought most of the day State did what I expected them to do which was allow ECU to make the catches and then get them on the ground. However, at some point you’ve got to start denying WRs with better consistency and making third and mediums more of a challenge.
Just one sack for NC State; is that a huge concern given the strength of the team is supposed to be the defensive line?
James Henderson: I actually thought the defensive line played well. East Carolina is a spread team that lives off dink-and-dunk passes so there's not going to be many opportunities for true pass-rushing situations, and really that style of play actually acts an additional "blocker." When defensive linemen know you'll run screens and quick passes, they don't get off the ball as quickly and that helps the offensive line.
Steve Williams: That stat was pretty much irrelevant in my opinion because ECU did such a great job of getting the ball out quickly and in rhythm which all but neutralized the Pack’s biggest strength on defense. I suspect we’ll see much more of the same down the road.
Rob McLamb: You would like to see the defensive line get more sacks, especially since William & Mary had to chase the game and East Carolina threw the ball 43 times.
To be fair, there has to be a closer dissection of the line's play. Are they getting hurries? Are they limiting the running game? Do they have more tackles than the linebackers?
The answers to those questions, and not simply the sack total, will give a better glimpse into what the defensive line is doing.
Bryant Carson: No, not a huge concern. I think the DL has played relatively well. They didn’t get many sacks against ECU—the ball was coming out pretty quickly —but they combined for something like 8 TFL and put pressure on the QB on several plays. Collectively I don’t think the unit has been as strong as some thought they would be but that doesn’t mean they’ve been bad.
Who was the best player for NC State defensively?
James Henderson: When I watched the game back Airius Moore really flashed on the tape. He was active and making plays behind the line of scrimmage. He finished with 11 tackles (including seven solos) and 4.5 tackles for a loss. That's a productive day for an outside linebacker.
Steve Williams: I thought several players were good at times so it’s difficult for me to identify just one guy that stood out over the course of the entire game. I felt like Airius Moore played well at times but State needs him to be much more consistent. Josh Jones also had his moments as did Jerod Fernandez but again, State needs a leader on defense and I’ve yet to see it materialize.
Rob McLamb: This is easy. On Saturday in Greenville Airius Moore was NC State's best player -- perhaps on both sides off the ball. He got after it and was in the ECU backfield often.
Bryant Carson: Airius Moore. 11 tackles (7 Solo/4 Asst), half a sack and 4.5 TFL. Moore was ready to play Saturday.
What positives can NC State take away from the game defensively?
James Henderson: 13 tackles for a loss... creating turnovers... forcing field goals vs. touchdowns stick out to me as positives.
Steve Williams: The biggest positive was State generated some turnovers and a ton of tackles for loss. You have to think at some point it’s enough to help you win a game. Conversely, a five yard tackle for loss means nothing if you give up 15 yards the next play. I think State showed that they have the potential to be very good defensively but now have to do it consistently.
Rob McLamb: The secondary regrouped to a slight extent after being burned on the first few drives. Jack Tocho rebounded to get an interception.
Realistically, there are little positives NC State can take from the defensive side of the ball against East Carolina. People feel it is a bad loss for the Wolfpack but it is really more about letting a solid, emotional win slip through their fingers.
Bryant Carson: 13 TFL and several QB pressures were positives. It was also encouraging to see Tocho turn and make a great play on the ball with an INT in the second quarter.