NC State-Wake Forest: The Good and Bad

N.C. State's 27-21 overtime victory over Wake Forest could prove to be a huge win for several reasons. Not just because it could have saved the Wolfpack's season, but NC State may have found their quarterback. <P> Here is a look at the good and bad in the Wolfpack's huge win.

GOOD

#10 Steps Up: The crowd was getting restless, the players were frustrated, and the 'Pack was down two scores at the half. Someone needed to step up and red-shirt junior Jay Davis did just that. After completing just 3 of 6 passes in the first half, Davis was on fire in the second, completing 15 of his last 18 attempts for 225 yards. His accuracy, leadership, and poise was the spark NC State needed. Heading into Chapel Hill against a suspect defense, you would think Davis now has the confidence to keep the offense moving as it did in the second half against Wake. He's got plenty of weapons around him, and now he looks comfortable throwing them the ball.

'Touchdown Anytime' McLendon: He was special on Saturday. With cuts on his arms and blood on his pants, you couldn't help but notice the huge smile on T.A. McLendon's face following the victory. He rushed for 139 yards on 30 carries and two scores, including the game winner; yet all he wanted to talk about was the 'Pack being 2-0 in the ACC. The Wolfpack's now 8-0 when T.A. rushes for over 100 yards in a game. McLendon was a workhorse against the Deacons, and NC State's going to need that effort each week from here on out.

Pass Defense Stays Strong: NC State came into the game with the nation's top pass defense, and that won't change after this week. The Wolfpack held Wake to just 77 yards through the air on 11 completions. NC State put plenty of pressure on the Wake quarterbacks, but also did a superb job of limiting the yards after catch. They did all of this with All-ACC rover Andre Maddox on the bench for the final three quarters with a strained hamstring. Lamont Reid shut down his side of the field (teams are staying away from him now), and Troy Graham was outstanding. Amato said in fall practice that the secondary would be a strength, and it appears he was right.

Kudos to the OL: Talk about a unit stepping up, in the second half NC State's offensive line was outstanding. Rotating seven players, the line dominated Wake Forest's front and gave Davis plenty of time to make plays. The numbers don't lie. NC State churned out 198 yards on the ground and 259 yards through the air, and 314 yards of total offense in the second half alone. Barry's unit has put together two strong games, and appears to have solid depth with Newby and Holt contributing. Expect the 'Pack to run the ball A LOT against UNC next weekend behind this offensive line.

Burn the Clock: For the first time in three games, NC State's offense dominated the clock. The Wolfpack held the ball for over 36 minutes and wore down a defensive unit that was riddled with injuries. This kept the 'Pack's defense fresh in the second half and possibly led to their impressive turnaround late in the game. If NC State can continue to manage the clock and run the ball with McLendon and Bobby Washington, they'll be in every game this season because their defense is legit.

Energized Second Half: Words were probably said in the locker room that can't be repeated, but the Wolfpack played with much more energy following the intermission. Emotions are critical in athletics, and after the big 58-yard touchdown catch by Sterling Hicks, you could feel momentum swing into the Wolfpack's favor. Amato mentioned that his team played with 'amazing energy' in the second half, and he was right.

YAC Attack: Want an interesting stat? Wake Forest totaled 77 yards on 11 completions. NC State finished with 259 yards on 21 completions. Wake's wide receivers were unable to break tackles, stretch the field vertically, or make any big plays. NC State's averaged 12.3 yards per completion while Wake averaged 7.7 yards per completion. Simply put, NC State's wideouts were able to make plays after catching the ball and those yards after catch proved to be the difference.

BAD

Run, Wake, Run: Wake was able to run the ball on NC State. Should that be a concern? Time will only tell, but the Wolfpack did make critical stops when needed and only gave up 2 touchdowns on defense. Wake's 202 yards rushing was more than any team had totaled against the 'Pack thus far, and they gained the majority rushing off left tackle right at Manny Lawson. Maurice Charles did a solid job in the second half, and made a huge stop in overtime. This weekend the Wolfpack faces another strong rushing game as UNC features two solid tailbacks in Ronnie McGill and Jacque Lewis. NC State must stop the running game or UNC could have some success offensively.

Field Goal Troubles: After booting a 53-yarder against Virginia Tech last week, John Deraney struggled on Saturday. He missed a 43-yard attempt wide left and a 27-yarder wide right. The 27-yarder would have given the 'Pack a three-point lead with just over three minutes to play. NC State's going to be in close games all season, and Deraney's going to be called upon often. Look for him to bounce back next weekend against North Carolina.

Seeing Yellow... Again: Penalties, penalties, penalties. Nine penalties for 66 yards, NC State almost shoot themselves in the foot with errors that have plagued them all season. If the Wolfpack can get those penalties below five a game, it would do wonders for the offense and only improve the defense. It's the hidden yardage that Amato stresses, and in a field position game, the five or ten yards lost on a penalty can be devastating.

That's a Tough Pass: Marcus Stone is probably questioning that pass right now. Deep in his own territory, Stone attempted an out to Brian Clark which was intercepted and returned for a 22-yard touchdown by cornerback Marcus McGruder. The score gave Wake a 7-0 lead and early momentum. To Stone's credit, he came back out and did some good things in the first half, but that early interception hurt. Those types of plays NC State's going to have to avoid the rest of the season.

Stop Those Screens: Wake obviously did their homework, as they came out in the first half throwing screens on what seemed like every other play to try and negate the aggressive, blitzing style of the Wolfpack. It worked early, as Wake churned up yards on converted a couple of third downs on the short pass. However, at halftime NC State focused in on stopping the screen and it became a non-factor. Against UNC they are really going to have to watch the screen pass, a play the Tar Heels like to use.

Where's the Turnovers? NC State has the nation's best defense but is not forcing turnovers. For the second straight game the defense yielded zero turnovers, and how much longer can that continue? Look for the Wolfpack to really try and force Darian Durant and company to make mistakes on Saturday, as UNC's struggled taking care of the football this season.


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