What did we learn about NC State from the Syracuse 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 Syracuse?
James Henderson: The balance on the ground and through the air. It was nearly a 300-plus passing, 200-plus rushing game for the Wolfpack, and when State has that sort of balance they will be tough to beat.
Steve Williams: Going into the game I felt like State would have some success but never expected them to dominate time of possession and rack up the yards that they did. To be honest, I really felt like State kept the game closer than it needed it be.
Rob McLamb: The diversity is exactly what Dave Doeren likes. A 300-yard passer, 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver means the opposing defense cannot key on one particular thing.
Bryant Carson: I thought the drive State put together late in the 3rd quarter when the game was 21-20 was one of their better offensive sequences of the season. The result of that drive was a Matt Dayes touchdown that gave the Pack an 8-point lead heading into the 4th. Throughout the course of that drive State converted on 3 or 4 3rd downs with a couple of them being 3rd and long.
It was a really impressive drive that chewed the clock and resulted in points. I felt like that drive and its result put a nail in the coffin of the Cuse D.
After some recent red zone struggles the last few weeks the Pack scored on 4 of 5 trips against Syracuse with the lone miss coming while Finley was sidelined with a foot injury. To what do you attribute the success against Syracuse?
James Henderson: Less mistakes, better execution, and the Wolfpack was facing a weaker defense than in the previous five weeks.
I said it coming in that I thought this was a "get right" game for the offense and that proved to be the case.
Steve Williams: The ability to run the football was easily the difference and almost always is when teams struggle in the red zone.
Rob McLamb: Syracuse does not have a great defense so this was an ideal opportunity for NC State to get back on track in many phases offensively, including play in the red zone. Diversity always helps but the Wolfpack really just had better execution in the red zone versus the Orange, sans the interception in the end zone. There will needless penalties once again, including two unsportsmanlike conduct calls against offensive linemen, but the Wolfpack was able to shrug them off and score.
Bryant Carson: To me it mostly had to do with Syracuse not having a very good defense or at least not as good as the ones that State had seen the prior 4 weeks. I thought State did essentially the same stuff they tried against BC/etc but instead of being stuffed Matt Dayes got loose.
Offensively what worked for NC State and what did not?
James Henderson: State was able to do pretty much whatever they wanted offensively. I think they could have been more explosive in the ground... not a lot of major chunk plays there, but otherwise, great offensive performance.
Steve Williams: I thought everything worked well and the Pack had good balance. They finished with 540 yards of offense with 360 through the air and 180 on the ground. I felt like the receivers really stepped up and made some nice catches and when you combine that with Dayes running the football, the Pack becomes pretty tough to beat.
Rob McLamb: The Wolfpack was able to move the ball every conceivable way possible. The scoring drive with four consecutive conversions on third down was what sealed the victory for NC State.
Bryant Carson: Most everything worked offensively for State Saturday. I felt like they ran well, had a nice underneath game and completed some stuff vertically down the field as well. Solid overall performance from State on Saturday.
Who was your offensive player of the game?
James Henderson: Matt Dayes was dominant in the red zone, but for me it all started with Ryan Finley's effectiveness.
Finley only had one touchdown pass because of the efficiency from Dayes, but the Wolfpack signal-caller completed 20-of-29 passes (69% completion) for 340 yards... an absurd 11.7 yards per attempt. It was easily his most efficient performance of the year, especially when you factor in how critical he was to the Wolfpack's 10-of-18 third-down conversions.
Steve Williams: I'm going with Matt Dayes. He had another 100+ yard game and three touchdowns. It was all about patience and just grinding it out. The Pack has struggled so much in the red zone so his ability to run the football inside the 20 was huge for NC State.
Rob McLamb: Kelvin Harmon: When NC State has a deep threat that is making plays it opens up everything else in the offense.
Bryant Carson: Before the game I picked Cherry to be a guy I thought needed to step up in this game and I feel like he did just that Saturday. Cherry finished with 7 catches for 85 yards (and would have likely surpassed 100 had he held on to a tunnel screen early in the game). However, it wasn’t just the number of catches or yardage but how and when he made his plays—bailed State out a few times to keep the chains moving.
What stood out to you the most about NC State's defense against Syracuse?
James Henderson: For me, the defense was the difference in the game.
Steve Williams: It had to be the fact that State held Syracuse to just 53 plays while dominating time of possession- 42-18. That's an insane number and shows just how dominant the Pack's defense was.
Rob McLamb: The best part of the defense from a NC State perspective was its ability to shrug off Syracuse's quickness in regards to running plays. The Wolfpack did not fatigue and was judicious in its defensive substituting.
Bryant Carson: The way the Pack has stuffed the run the last few weeks is simply outstanding. Syracuse isn’t a team that really tries to run all over teams but none-the-less 28 yards rushing isn’t good.
How do you feel the defense fared against Syracuse’s uptempo offense?
James Henderson: Outstanding. The tempo never really bothered NC State. They stayed in base a lot and one thing I thought they did a great job of was having line shifts ready for when Syracuse subbed, taking advantage of the NCAA rules that require the officials to let the defense sub when the offense did. If Syracuse subbed anybody, you would see State sending in a wave of defenders, mainly defensive linemen, and they did so quickly.
Steve Williams: I really think the up tempo stuff has lost a lot of it's luster because teams see it so much now. But the Pack handled it well. Heck, the Wolfpack defense handled virtually every facet of Syracuse's offense well.
Rob McLamb: The Wolfpack did alright but there were still too many explosive plays. NC State will have to look at the and figure out the honest answer why those happened. For the Pack to limit Syracuse to 218 yards total offense is quite impressive, especially considering the big plays.
Bryant Carson: Again a pretty complete performance Saturday save a few long completions from the Cuse offense. 218 yards of total offense given up to an uptempo offense that continually takes shots is not a bad day, I don’t care who the QB is.
Who was your defensive player of the game?
James Henderson: Bradley Chubb was outstanding... taking advantage of mismatches at both tackle positions. He now leads the league in tackles for a loss... he's not just a sacks guy, he's really good against the run and his tackle totals are a product of his high-motor.
Steve Williams: Without a doubt it was Bradley Chubb. He played one of his best games of the year and continues to solidify himself as one of the top defensive ends in the conference.
Rob McLamb: Bradley Chubb: Four tackles for loss and two sacks speaks for itself. That is the type of defensive play that merits a No. 9 jersey at NC State.
Bryant Carson: With 7 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 sacks and 1 FF it simply has to be Bradley Chubb. I thought Airius Moore had a great day as well.
After a frustrating 4-weeks what do you think this Syracuse win does for this team and this program?
James Henderson: I guess we'll see on Saturday, but I do think it can provide the team with some much-needed confidence going into the Senior Day matchup with Miami.
NC State really needed a dominant performance, and they had that in the Carrier Dome.
Steve Williams: You would think it has to restore some confidence and at the very least make the game a little funner. It's tough to suffer through a losing streak like that and lose the way the Pack did.
Rob McLamb: The obvious is that it creeps NC State closer to bowl eligibility with wiggle room for a mistake in one of the final two games. In terms of motivation, with Senior Day and a bout versus UNC ahead, the Wolfpack should not need any psychological incentive. If those two games do not get them excited then football is not for them.
Bryant Carson: I remember during TOB’s first season at State things had gone really poorly the first half of the season with the team going just 1-5 heading into their bye week. They came out of that bye and beat ECU on the road and I just remember Tom telling the media the next week how the entire demeanor of the team had changed in the blink of an eye. That team went on a 4-game win streak on the backside of that bye. I think you’ve got to hope that this team responds in similar fashion.
I think this team still has some things to play for and has a chance to finish this season strong but they were never going to be able to do it playing tight and stressed. Getting that much needed win Saturday should allow these guys to loosen up a little and get back to just playing football. If they can do that then I think winning one of these next two or even both of them is certainly possible.