What did we learn about NC State from the North Carolina 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 North Carolina?
James Henderson: I really liked the aggressiveness and the diversity. NC State ran a trick play to get a score and had another long trick play called back on a bad holding call. They mixed in both quarterbacks well, worked in Reggie Gallaspy to compliment Matt Dayes, and stayed ahead of the changes most of the day.
Steve Williams: I liked that State rolled out a couple of trick plays. But beyond that I was surprised at how the Pack was efficient in the run and pass game. I figured State could run the ball but I felt that did some pretty good things in the passing game as well and that jumped out at me.
Rob McLamb: The commitment to the run was expected. Matt Dayes is one of the greatest running backs in NC State history and North Carolina has struggled to stop the run for years.
What helped the Wolfpack was the production from others. Reggie Gallaspy II, Nyheim Hines (his fumble not withstanding), Ryan Finley, Jalan McClendon and Jaylen Samuels all helped NC State on the ground. Samuels' touchdown pass was probably impacted by the Tar Heels trying to key on the run, something that they struggle to stop.
Bryant Carson: Controlling the LOS. State did an excellent job blocking up front and moving the UNC defense at will to open lanes for Dayes and Gallaspy pretty much all day.
It was a really fast start for the offense. What did you like early about the Wolfpack's offense?
James Henderson: They scored. Playing a time like North Carolina, it's critical to jump out to a big lead because if you can make them one-dimensional you will have a better chance to slow them down.
State scored early and often against the Tar Heels, and that fast start was critical to the Wolfpack pulling off the upset.
Steve Williams: Again, the double pass to Louis was a great call. The Pack follows that up on a short field by basically pounding the ball behind Nyheim Hines and Jalan McClendon. I thought those two early scores were huge for State.
Rob McLamb: The commitment to running played a role. Capitalizing on an early turnover did as well. While rushing the ball was always going to be a key, there was enough diversity. NC State also came out aggressively with its play calling. The team that wins this particular rivalry matchup tends to be the one that will take chances, although UNC's fourth down call in the third quarter is probably more bizarre than brave.
Bryant Carson: I was most impressed with how well State ran the ball and dominated the LOS. I just felt like, even if the trick plays had failed or the long pass attempts had failed that State would control the clock and do enough on the ground. They looked unstoppable for the entire first half and a lot of the second.
How do you feel Ryan Finley and Jalan McClendon performed against the Tar Heels?
James Henderson:Overall, they combined to have a really efficient game for NC State. McClendon did most of his damage on the ground, but State still opened up the playbook a little more for him. I thought Finley made some critical throws/plays on third down to extend drives.
My lone complaint would be the use of McClendon on the final drive of the first half. I thought State should have had Finley in there.
Steve Williams: Both played extremely well. McClendon's role was expanded and I love the dimension he adds to the run game. Finley made some nice plays and was key in helping the Pack extend some drives. If those two can continue to build on that effort I think it'll take them far in games to come.
Rob McLamb: They were both efficient. Neither made mistakes that were overly critical and they did not let a pass defense that had only one interception all season pick them off. North Carolina just does not have enough defensive weapons to deal with good teams that do not shoot themselves in the foot.
Bryant Carson: I thought Finley was Finley—threw the ball pretty well, had a few misses but overall a solid effort. My fear with McClendon is always that the offense becomes one dimensional with him and that the defenses will be prepared for him to run—but he picked up a lot of good yardage Friday. It would be great, for next season, if the staff gets comfortable enough with him throwing the ball vertically so they can put him in, force opposing defenses to load up the box and then beat them over the top.
Who was your offensive player of the game?
James Henderson: Matt Dayes grinded his way to another 100-plus yard performance and two touchdowns, but I thought Stephen Louis was really, really good. His one-handed catch down the sideline was terrific, and he picked up first downs on a couple of hitch routes by bullying through defenders.
Steve Williams: Have to go with Matt Dayes. He was not at 100% and you could see he was missing a little of the speed we've become accustomed to. However, he plays with so much heart and his second score was off of sheer will power.
Rob McLamb: Matt Dayes: He ran with purpose, made the right reads, made big plays and carried himself like a player who wanted to extend his college career. Consequently, he did.
Bryant Carson: A few great choices for this—Louis, the entire OL, Gallaspy—but you’ve got to give it to Matt Dayes. What a tremendous close to his career—back against the wall, on the road, against your rival and Dayes delivered. He’s played like a man possessed most of the season and he finished it all off the right way Friday.
Coming in, we had a pretty good idea of what North Carolina's offense would look to accomplish. How do you think the Wolfpack defense fared?
James Henderson: Really, really good. NC State was able to pressure Mitch Trubisky, neutralize the run, and limit the explosive scoring plays to just one.
It was another solid, efficient performance by the Wolfpack defense.
Steve Williams: I'd give the defense an A. UNC has racked up points on everyone but to hold them to jut seven points in the first half and 14 in the second was unexpected. State has had trouble with teams that throw the ball around the field but I thought the Pack defended the spread as well as they have all year.
Rob McLamb: The early lead gave NC State leverage. It is the same leverage the Tar Heels had last season in Raleigh. North Carolina could have had success running but that wasn't in the cards with the fact that they were chasing the game playing a big role. It was not a vintage performance by the Wolfpack defense but the plays were made when they had to be.
Bryant Carson: To me this was their masterpiece—best overall performance by the unit all season. When State needed most to make a stand they made it and that was probably the difference in the game.
UNC hurt State by attacking the underneath coverage with Ryan Switzer. Obviously NC State wants to limit big plays, something they've done all year, but do you think the Wolfpack should have pressed up more and eliminated those even if it meant potentially yielding big plays or did you like the game plan?
James Henderson: No, I thought the gameplan was perfect. Switzer got free once for a long gain and Bug Howard caught a deep touchdown pass, but other than that North Carolina lacked explosive plays through the air.
Switzer is a slot guy who specializes in getting open underneath. He's going to get his, but just rally and tackle and you'll be fine. For the most part, State did that.
Steve Williams: You won the game so I wouldn't have changed a thing. I think the loss of Mack Hollins was huge for Carolina and it made the job a little easier for the Wolfpack defensive backs. However, I think you have to keep a team like UNC in front of you and avoid giving up the big play.
Rob McLamb: North Carolina did have big plays, such as the touchdown to Bug Howard, but there was not enough. NC State kept bending but seldom broke. Much of what the Tar Heels did offensively could be considered gaining 'empty yards' as they would march up the field a ways but inevitably would punt -- some of the drives in the first quarter being an example.
The Wolfpack generally kept UNC's offense in front of then, sans Howard's touchdown.
Bryant Carson: I know people can find about anything to complain about but picking on a defensive effort that held a pretty explosive offense to 3 total scores and 21 points shouldn’t be up for debate. Again, the defense had been terrific all season and the game against UNC was the icing on the cake for the group.
Who was your defensive player of the game?
James Henderson: Personally, I thought it was a strong team performance.
Steve Williams: Jerod Fernandez had another solid effort and led the Pack with 10 tackles. He's not a fast guy but I felt like he did a great job of running to the football and his experience at the position is really starting to show. Fernandez has started to get a really good feel for where the ball's going and that's critical for a player that may not be the fastest or most athletic.
Rob McLamb: Jerod Fernandez: He had 10 tackles and kept much of the running game and short passing game in front of him. Fernandez was a big reason why passes to Ryan Switzer was the only thing that worked for the Tar Heels Friday.
Bryant Carson: This was a complete defensive-team effort. For instance Josh Jones only had 2 tackles but he made them both count with punishing blows. BJ Hill only had 3 but 1 of them was a huge sack on Trubisky early on to really set the tone for the whole group. Great effort and results by the entire defensive unit Friday.