While holding the Hokies to just 36 yards on 43 attempts, the Pack ran for 145 yards on 39 carries. State got a 53-yard field goal, three touchbacks in four kickoffs and an average of 43.2 yards per punt from John Deraney, while Virginia Tech missed two of five field goals and botched a punt to give the Wolfpack the ball on the Hokies' 5-yard line. Meanwhile, the Wolfpack harassed Brian Randall into 10 sacks, and when the Pack established a 17-10 lead, it was more than happy to play field-position football and put the fate of the contest in the hands of coordinator Reggie Herring's defense.
It's the M.O. that has helped Ohio State win 28 of 30 games and pick up a national championship along the way. Maybe we'll call it "ChestBall," since Amato & Co. seem determined to use that formula to win not only against the Hokies, but in the foreseeable future as well.
Herring could rattle off the numbers just as any NC State fan who watched the defensive domination against Virginia Tech: 10 sacks. A total of –14 yards allowed in the third quarter. Only 192 offensive yards surrendered. Limited the Hokies to just 5-of-17 third-down conversions. But true to his fiery, perfectionist nature, Herring was relatively unimpressed with his troops – he said that junior defensive end Manny Lawson still "overanalyzes" the simple plays and that sophomore defensive end Mario Williams is still in the "embryonic-stages; still a child." And he couldn't have been happy with the Pack not forcing a turnover on defense.
However, a new era has arrived in Raleigh, whether you want to call it "ChestBall" or anything else. What has been most jarring is the complete role reversal from a season ago – Philip Rivers rifling 40 passes a game around the stadium while the defense tries desperately to come up with a crucial stop in a seemingly endless string of shootouts. Now, the Wolfpack aims to limit the risks taken by young quarterbacks Jay Davis and Marcus Stone and rely on defense to carry the day. Junior T.A. McLendon leads a talented stable of running backs capable of helping NC State control the contest on the ground – while last year, the Pack could rarely get anything going in the running game, which even offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone referred to as a "joke."
Still, it's a recipe that leads to many anxious moments – even the Pack had to wait out a last-second long field goal that drifted wide right. How many close games have the Buckeyes won in the Jim Tressel Era? How many times can NC State rely on this philosophy as the murderer's row schedule continues? How soon will it take the offense to bridge the gap in production with its defense?
But for one beautiful football Saturday in Blacksburg, in a hostile environment, the debut of "ChestBall" was a monumental success against a Hokies team considered the most physical the Wolfpack will see all season. State beat Virginia Tech at its own game, and as Amato has pointed out, a defensive struggle can often be as entertaining to watch as a high-scoring shootout.
And one other thing Amato likes to say – it's a lot easier to learn from a victory than a loss.