What did we learn about NC State from the Louisville loss? 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 Louisville?
James Henderson: Ryan Finley struggles. For the first time all season, I thought he looked rattled and out-of-character, particularly in the first half.
Steve Williams: To me it was the complete lack of focus, execution, etc. The Pack couldn't block anyone. They couldn't create any running lanes and Ryan Finley played his worst game of the year.
Rob McLamb: The quick turnovers essentially changed whatever approach NC State had. It seemed that the Wolfpack never gave itself a chance as the offense took over a quarter to actually gain a yard while Louisville already had a three score lead.
Bryant Carson: Not a lot of positives to discuss here BUT it is good to continue to see Kelvin Harmon grow and develop—the TD grab he had was overall an impressive play. Outside of that you have to hope that the team, collectively, got a down-day out of their system all at the same time.
Not to take away from L’Ville who played extremely well on both sides of the ball but for State, they simply must be better than that the next 5-weeks.
What did you think of the gameplan?
James Henderson: I would have looked to get Matt Dayes going right away. Granted, I know it was early but after Louisville scored on the opening possession I probably would have went to Dayes on the first couple of plays. Instead, Finley threw an interception and the rout was on.
Frankly, I don't think we got a good feel for the gameplan mainly due to the ineffectiveness.
Steve Williams: The greatest game plan in the world isn't worth squat if you don't go out and play smart and physical. The Pack did neither against Louisville.
Rob McLamb: There is no way to genuinely discern what NC State's game plan was. The Wolfpack was buried before it could get started.
Bryant Carson: In hindsight I thought it may have helped State early on to have gone a little more run-heavy. Finely didn’t have his best day out there—which no one could have known before the game started—and the inconsistency throwing the ball caused a lot of quick 3-and-outs and put the defense in terrible situations early on.
What was the biggest concern on that side of the ball?
James Henderson: The running game. NC State could never get anything going on the ground and tried multiple ball carriers.
Steve Williams: All of it was concerning to me but I suppose I was most disappointed with State's inability to run the football. That surprised me. I know the Cards have a decent defense but I thought the Pack might be able to get something going on the ground.
Rob McLamb: Turnovers always hurt. However, NC State took a significant amount of time to simply gain a yard. In that scenario the defense must make plays. That did not happen.
Bryant Carson: This was a game, like Clemson before it, where the offense needed to stay on the field and sustain drives—that did not happen at all in the first half and when you don’t score and you have quick 3-and-outs against an explosive offensive team like L’Ville…you pay the price.
Who was the player of the game offensively for NC State?
James Henderson: Sophomore lineman Terronne Prescod made his first college start and did so out of position, as he's mainly worked at guard or center but got the nod at right tackle.
He graded out as the Wolfpack's best offensive player in the game per Pro Football Focus. Not bad against Louisville's front in a first start.
Steve Williams: I would give it to Terrone Prescod for the job he did filling in for Will Richardson. Prescod wasn't dominant by any stretch but he didn't make any glaring mistakes either and that's a positive for a guy with limited experience.
Rob McLamb: Any NC State offensive player that survived the bludgeoning in good enough health to fight another day should consider it a moral victory.
Bryant Carson: I’m going to go with Terrone Prescod. Obviously in a game like this its hard to be too positive about anything but I thought Prescod did a relatively nice job replacing Will Richardson at RT. It seems that Prescod has really found his way under Coach Ledford.
What concerned you the most about NC State's defense against Louisville?
James Henderson: The big plays. They allowed far too many, and you can't do that while also playing some bend, don't break principles. NC State allowed one play over 21 yards against Clemson. Louisville had five over 30 yards.
Steve Williams: The back seven's inability to cover anyone in the passing game. Receivers weren't just open, they were wide open more times than not.
Rob McLamb: Lamar Jackson is a better passer as a sophomore than he was last season but his eclipsing 300 passing yards in the first half against NC State should make the Wolfpack want to vomit.
Bryant Carson: I think the combination of a Clemson hangover and playing across from the most explosive player in college football had the defense on its heels from jump street. For an outsider watching State play for the first time, one could get the impression that this D couldn’t stop a squad of elderly sloths from moving the ball but personally I think this performance was an outlier.
When you’re playing against a guy like Lamar Jackson you have to constantly be aware of where he is regardless of what else is happening on the field—makes it very challenging in all aspects.
How do you think the pass defense fared against Lamar Jackson?
James Henderson: Bad.
Steve Williams: They didn't fare well.
Rob McLamb: They didn't fare at all. If Jackson wins the Heisman he should send NC State a thank you note.
Bryant Carson: Not very well, gave up the most explosive plays in the passing game this season.
Who was the player of the game defensively for NC State?
James Henderson: Bradley Chubb graded out as the Wolfpack's best defensive player, as he finished the game with five tackles, a sack, a a quarterback hit, and four pressures in 32 rushes per Pro Football Focus.
Steve Williams: I suppose Josh Jones as he made a few plays but really, when you give up a 44-0 lead at half time, there are no players of the game for me.
Rob McLamb: Maybe Tyrone Riley if you are the type of person that looks on the bright side of life.
Bryant Carson: Again it’s hard to find a lot of positives in a game like that so I’m going to go with Tyrone Riley here. Pretty much the same as the offensive version of this question, I thought Riley had some nice flashes in his first game with a lot of snaps. As long as he continues to get some snaps and progress Riley could have a really nice future in Raleigh.
Overall, did you learn anything new about the Wolfpack?
James Henderson: I learned that it's tough to play Louisville when they are clicking and really tough to do so on the road after an emotional road loss.
I said all week I thought this was a bad setup for NC State and it certainly appeared to be the case.
Steve Williams: I learned that they can look as bad as they did good, all in the span of seven days. I still don't know who the true NC State team is. They have five opportunities to salvage the season. If the Pack gives a Clemson-like effort then they have a chance in all of them.
Rob McLamb: The only thing to learn about NC State in relation to the loss at Louisville is how the Wolfpack will respond to being thrashed. Boston College at home is a game the Pack has to win but it will not be easy despite the Eagles' struggles over the past couple of seasons.
Bryant Carson: I had really hoped that this team, unlike past Wolfpack teams, would respond well to the disappointment of a tough loss—they did not. Now that the insane gauntlet of road games against Clemson and L’Ville have passed it’s time to stand back up, dust yourself off and get serious about finishing the rest of the season strong because there is still an awful lot left to play for.