What did we learn about NC State from the Notre Dame win? We review the game by answering several critical questions about the Wolfpack.
What stood out to you the most about NC State's offense against Notre Dame?
James Henderson: The Wolfpack's offensive line. While Notre Dame struggled with State's defensive front, NC State's line did a great job of rushing for nearly 200 yards (when you eliminate a couple of bad snaps) while allowing zero sacks.
This week the line will get a tough test with Clemson, but they impressed versus the Irish.
Steve Williams: I think State's run game was pretty impressive given the conditions. The Pack rushed for 157 yards but that number would've been closer to 190 were it not for some dropped snaps. State needed every one of those yards because it allowed them to control the clock.
Rob McLamb: Matt Dayes was the one player who seemed to have a game closely resembling what he could do under normal conditions, his fumble notwithstanding.
Bryant Carson: Toughness. The ability to line up against a defense, that became well-aware of your game plan by the middle of the first quarter, and still execute runs right at them. McClendon was a well-timed change-up as well.
What did you think of the gameplan?
James Henderson: I thought it was sound. NC State really worked the ground game and made a nice adjustment in the second half of leaning on reserve quarterback Jalen McClendon's running ability.
Steve Williams: I didn't think much of opening the game with a flea flicker. However, I think State realized early on that throwing the ball simply wasn't an option and kudos to coach Doeren for adjusting on the fly and making Jalan McClendon a big part of the offense in the second half.
Rob McLamb: With the ability to tell with a near certainty what the weather will be like ahead of time there were no excuses. NC State seemed to have a plan to deal with the conditions. Notre Dame did not.
Bryant Carson: I thought it was necessary. I don’t think we saw anything revolutionary out there from the Pack on Saturday from a creative standpoint. Instead it was the determination to force the one thing you wanted to do and not get caught trying to be overly fancy or complex.
What was the biggest concern on that side of the ball?
James Henderson: After a couple of successful runs, the Pack didn't generate much with the jet sweep game.
Steve Williams: The only concern for me was simply holding on to the football. There were six fumbles and had the Pack not recovered four of them the game could've gone much differently.
Rob McLamb: NC State probably could've used two tight end sets and abandoned any pretense of passing. Normally that doesn't work but with Jalan McClendon that could've been an option.
Bryant Carson: In weather like that…a lot of things. In those conditions footing/balance, vision and grip all come in to play. For both teams Saturday routine Center-QB exchanges, Long Snapper-Holder/Punter exchanges, hand-offs, etc became hairy. I felt like State did the better job minimizing some of those things by keeping with the rush.
Who was the player of the game offensively for NC State?
James Henderson: Matt Dayes. He was the best offensive player on the field for either team and it wasn't really close.
Steve Williams: Matt Dayes, what a warrior. It appeared he was just as fast in this game as if the field were dry. He played at a completely different speed than everyone else. I would hate to be a defender in the open field trying to bring Dayes down.
Rob McLamb: If it is not Dayes then it would have to be the entire offensive line for the Wolfpack. Notre Dame's defensive line was not nearly in the offensive backfield as much as NC State was.
Bryant Carson: Has to be Matt Dayes. There were a few plays Saturday where Dayes made it look like he was running on grass and everyone else was playing on ice. He made some bold cuts out there that helped State continue drives, chew the clock and win field position as much as possible.
What concerned you the most about NC State's defense against Notre Dame?
James Henderson: Probably the luck factor. I didn't think Notre Dame would be able to sustain an extended scoring drive against the Wolfpack's defense, but could they get lucky in that weather and complete a long pass or break a fluke run?
Steve Williams: I really worried that Notre Dame would keep airing it out and eventually they'd luck up and connect on a big one. Fortunately for NC State that never happened.
Rob McLamb: The only concern was from a standpoint of whether they would hold when Notre Dame was driving late. The Irish had no real offensive output at all. The field goal, a great kick in the elements, came after a NC State turnover.
Bryant Carson: In doing the preview I was concerned about their big-play ability and that didn’t change with the weather. If State had scored a few more points earlier then maybe that concern would have fallen off but when you’re tied or ahead by one possession—rain or not—it only takes one play to change the game. I kept waiting for one of those few longer passes from ND to connect—of course, it never happened.
How do you think the pass defense fared against Deshone Kizer?
James Henderson: The pass defense was outstanding. The Wolfpack mixed up some coverage, rarely missed tackles on pass completions, and flew to the football.
Steve Williams: Counting Hurricane Matthew, it appeared State had 12 defensive backs in the game. It was amazing to watch what the wind was doing to the lion's share of Kizer's passes. I thought State defended them well given the conditions.
Rob McLamb: It was decent, which is all it had to be during a hurricane. In that scenario, bend but don't break.
Bryant Carson: The defense swarmed the LOS for pretty much the entire contest giving very little room to run or escape. As ND attempted passing plays that just weren’t there and Kizer was forced to hold the ball those talented DLs for State got to him.
I do think State’s D was in many ways aided by the conditions though as it seemed impossible to maintain a passing attack with any consistency and that really let State pin the ears back. However, when Kizer had time and found a receiver that was open the secondary was there to make a break-up/tackle. When your RB out-gains your opponent your defense has probably had a pretty good day.
Who was the player of the game defensively for NC State?
James Henderson: Bradley Chubb was great, but for me it was Jarius Morehead. Making his first career start, Morehead recorded a huge interception in the redzone and nearly picked off another pass. The redshirt freshman graded out as the ACC's best overall safety last weekend per Pro Football Focus, which tells you how effective he was while replacing Shawn Boone in the first half.
Chubb's performance was expected... I had no clue as to what Morehead would provide.
Steve Williams: Definitely Bradley Chubb. He was a one man wrecking crew and this type game really played to his strengths in my opinion. The Pack needs much more of this if they're to have any success against the next two opponents.
Rob McLamb: Bradley Chubb. Like Dayes, he had a boneheaded play (if you believe the taunting flag was warranted) but he stood out otherwise. Chubb and Dayes are the two players that seemed least affected by the rain and wind.
Bryant Carson: Could be any number of guys. Not sure of their totals but BJ Hill and Justin Jones were disruptive and on a few of the sacks picked up by DEs it was Hill/Jones that flushed Kizer to the edge. However, if I’m picking one guy it’s Chubb—after that insane taunting call on him that continued a ND drive deep in State territory in the first quarter I think the lights came on for Chubb and he played like a man possessed from that point.
Overall, did you learn anything new about the Wolfpack?
James Henderson: I learned that NC State is a tough, physical team. To win in that environment you have to be, and it was clear that on both sides of the ball NC State wanted it more and was much more physical than the Fighting Irish.
Toughness... that's a great trait for a team to have. I think this team has it.
Steve Williams: I learned that Dave Doeren doesn't mind throwing a change up mid-stream to try to change the tone of a game. I still feel like his decision to insert Jalan McClendon was the call of the game and helped set the Pack up to win against Notre Dame.
Rob McLamb: Perhaps NC State has the character needed to focus after a tough loss as well as pull out a big win in adverse conditions. Those are strengths the team will need if it is going to have a solid season.
And NC State can have a solid season. The next two contests (at Clemson and at Louisville) represent the only remaining games where the Wolfpack will be a decided underdog. The possibility of improving and having a great season is real.
Should the Wolfpack fall to both, the team will have to draw on the inner fortitude required to persevere and overcome. The good news for NC State is the wins over Wake Forest and Notre Dame are proof that they can as they have already done it before.
Bryant Carson: I think James hit correctly during the post game podcast that you really saw a lot of toughness out of State, on both sides of the ball on Saturday. Not to say there wasn’t a little luck involved in a game like that but I think that down-by-down State was the better team and was determined to win.