What did we learn about NC State from the Florida State 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 Florida State?
James Henderson: It was good to see NC State winning again on the line of scrimmage. I thought they were opening some holes in the run game and did a really good job of protecting Ryan Finley against a stout defensive front.
Steve Williams: I liked that State was able to hit some drag routes and check downs that ultimately resulted in some pretty big gains. I thought they'd use more of it, particularly down the stretch. Perhaps that's something we'll see more of down the road.
When the Pack can get Cherry or Hines matched up on a linebacker, that's something they need to exploit.
Rob McLamb: NC State did an effective job of finding balance within its offense. Matt Dayes and Nyheim Hines exceeding 100 yards in rushing and receiving respectively would seem to bode well.
Unfortunately for the Wolfpack the offense struggled in the red zone. NC State has not scored enough points this season and the game against Florida State accentuated those issues.
Bryant Carson: Over 300 yards passing with an over 100 yard rusher and an over 100 yard receiver is a fine offensive performance, from a statistics standpoint, especially against a top 25 type of team. However, not scoring touchdowns continues to plague this group—along with missing mid-range FGs.
What did you think of the gameplan?
James Henderson: It was a really good gameplan... State moved the ball up and down the field all game. With that being said, there needs to be some tweaks in the redzone.
Steve Williams: I thought it was good. No complaints from me. I thought the strategy was sound but the inability to execute is what cost State the game.
Rob McLamb: NC State generally moved the ball up and down the field. The game plan, in that regard, was effective. Ultimate success hinged on the Wolfpack finishing off drives and limiting unforced errors. That didn't happen.
Bryant Carson: Aside from not scoring enough the offensive gameplan worked as far as effectively moving the ball against a good defense. Matt Dayes looked like Matt Dayes again, the offensive line did its job and Finley settled back in and had a pretty good overall game. In between the 20s the offensive performance was enough to win…just not enough once in scoring position.
What was the biggest concern on that side of the ball?
James Henderson: Redzone issues. State has to find a way to start scoring more touchdowns inside the 20. Both touchdowns came outside of the redzone for the Wolfpack and four trips inside the redzone resulted in just six points.
Steve Williams: Inability to finish drives. The Pack didn't have many three and outs and was able to move the ball but they simply couldn't finish enough of those drives with points.
Rob McLamb: Inefficiency in the red zone and just not seizing opportunities in general is what did NC State in.
Bryant Carson: Scoring. The NC State defense has given the team good chances to win several games now but the offense continues to come up short on taking advantage of scoring position/opportunities.
Who was the player of the game offensively for NC State?
James Henderson: I thought Nyheim Hines had the best game of his career. He was really good by winning consistently in the slot and making tough catches in tight coverage.
Steve Williams: Without a doubt it was Nyheim Hines. What we saw from him and the dynamic he brought to the offense is exactly why we were so high on him in high school.
Rob McLamb: Nyheim Hines, who had injury issues and started slow this season, was a definite bright spot for NC State. If Hines can continue the fine play the Wolfpack can still reach bowl eligibility in 2016 and improve next season.
Bryant Carson: Nyheim Hines is coming alive all the sudden. He had a good game against BC but his performance Saturday was phenomenal. Hines routinely won his match-ups with FSU defenders and made a spectacular catch late in the game.
What concerned you the most about NC State's defense against Florida State?
James Henderson: They couldn't get THE stop. Back-to-back weeks the defense was on the field with a chance to seal a win inside the last five minutes and couldn't get that critical stop.
Steve Williams: Let's be honest, the defense played well enough to win this game. However, if there was one area of concern it was the inability to get pressure on Deondre Francois. FSU hadn't protected him all year and yet State couldn't get to him, registering just one sack. With more than enough time in the pocket he was able to pick the Pack apart.
Rob McLamb: NC State allowed too much passing yards against Florida State. It is the second straight season (Louisville with Lamar Jackson in 2015) that a team the Wolfpack is looking to catch in the Atlantic came into Raleigh and won with a freshman quarterback.
Bryant Carson: Again, giving up 24 points to FSU is not the end of the world and should generally give you a chance to win most games. When Dalvin Cook is held to under 70 yards then your defense probably did what you asked of them. However, the downfield coverage had a few too many breakdowns giving up big pass plays throughout the game. At the end of the day though you can live with 24 points allowed against a top 25 team.
How do you think the rush defense fared against Dalvin Cook?
James Henderson: It was great, but that's the be expected. They've been really good against the run all year.
Steve Williams: It was a Clemson-like effort and the Pack showed again that they can really defend the more traditional-type running backs. It was a very, very solid effort from the Pack's front seven.
Rob McLamb: The run defense was solid. Cook was stopped and Florida State was basically left to beat NC State with a freshman quarterback. Francois ended up doing a little more, including finishing off critical drives, than the Wolfpack had hoped.
Bryant Carson: Those guys did their job. I believe Cook is the best RB in college football and one of the best overall players—he’s a game changer for FSU. State’s D did a tremendous job finding him and getting him to the ground.
Who was the player of the game defensively for NC State?
James Henderson: Jerod Fernandez did a great job of tackling inside the box and flying to the football. Back-to-back strong weeks for Fernandez.
Steve Williams: As a whole I thought it was a great group effort by the defense. I felt all 11 guys played extremely well. However, if I'm going to single out one player I'd go with LB Jerod Fernandez. He led the Pack with 10 tackles and was a big reason behind the Noles' inability to run.
Rob McLamb: Jerod Fernandez led the team in tackles and generally helped lead the way as NC State stymied Florida State's running game. The linebackers in general were solid for the Wolfpack Saturday.
Bryant Carson: I’m going to go Dravius Wright with 10 total tackles and 7 solo. Wright still has some problems in coverage but when he gets to the ball carrier everyone in the stadium and watching at home can hear it.
Overall, did you learn anything new about the Wolfpack?
James Henderson: Just that State continues to be close to a marquee win. I felt coming in that NC State would win the game, and I still believe I picked the right side. State played well enough in all phases to win that game, Florida State just made more plays in the last five minutes.
The Wolfpack needs to find a way to do that.
Steve Williams: For me, no and that's not really a good thing. The thing that you hoped to learn was that State could win one of these games. Yet, the Pack isn't there yet.
Rob McLamb: NC State has the resolve to fight back after misfortune. The final bridge to cross, assuming they can consistently make field goals, is to show the same resolve when finishing drives.
Bryant Carson: As Henderson has harped on all week I thought it was refreshing to see a performance not completely riddled by penalties. That is a big step in the right direction for this team—obviously wasn’t enough to change the outcome last Saturday but if they can keep penalties down the next three weeks it could drastically change those outcomes.