Third Quarter's the Charm

Here's a memo to the coaches and coordinators of the Pack's future opponents. Go ahead and save yourself the trouble of planning for the third quarter.

Don't do any play scripting or anticipate on your halftime speech doing a lick of good.

The reason is simple: the Wolfpack owns the third quarter. In fact, if the game were played solely in the third quarter, the Pack would likely be the most dominant team in the country.

The numbers from the third quarters of the first four games are simply staggering.

They've outscored their opponents 35-6 in the third frame, shutting out three of those four teams. The only team to put up points on the Pack in the third quarter, Ohio State, was only able to manage two field goals from 33 and 46 yards.

Denying the other team the ball is a key component to that 35-6 figure. After all, it's much more difficult to score when you don't have the ball.

The Pack is averaging a time-of-possession advantage of 8:10 to 6:50 in the third period. In two games, the Wake and Richmond victories, State held the ball on average for 9:17, nearly a three and a half minute advantage. The figure has been bolstered by the resurgence of T.A. McLendon and the Pack's running game, which has been churning up yards in big bunches in the third quarter.

Three-and-outs and stalled drives have been plentiful by opposing squads in the third quarter. Opponents are a woeful 1-15 in the third period on third down conversions. That's good (or bad) enough for a 6.7% mark, ultimately leading to more possessions for the Pack.

But by far the most mind-boggling stat of all is the total yardage yielded by the Pack in the third quarter. Through four games, Pack opponents have amassed a meager 56 total yards. That's right, 56. Only two of the opponents, OSU and Richmond, have put up positive yardage. Wake broke even through three drives, and VT ended up in the negative.

The totals were: Richmond, two drives, 42 yards; OSU, four drives, 32 yards; Virginia Tech, five drives, -18 yards; and Wake Forest, three drives, 0 yards. Average that out, and opposing teams are posting a mere 14 yards for 15 minutes worth of effort.

By posting these smothering defensive and effective (if not electrifying) offensive third-quarter performances, the 'Pack has managed to make games of contests that seemed out of reach.

Facing the top-10 Buckeyes at home and down 13 points after two quarters, the Pack kept OSU out of the red zone and limited them to two field goals. With McLendon's touchdown, the Pack found new life and clawed back into the contest to make it a one-score game at the end.

Against Wake Forest, a team that has given State's aggressive defense fits in the last few years, the Pack again found itself in a two-score hole after the first half. After some halftime adjustments, the Pack closed the door on the Deacs defensively and found their legs offensively, posting 21 points to Wake's zero. Though the Deacs would later tie the score to send it to overtime, the Pack used the third quarter to regain the momentum it needed to propel itself to victory.

So the challenge now is capturing whatever magic seems to occur following the halftime period and sprinkling some of that over the remaining 45 minutes. Maintaining that level of intensity over 60 minutes is physically demanding, even for a team that puts so much attention on building stamina.

Should State find a way to partially emulate these third quarter performances for an entire contest, look out. The Pack could easily be a team to be reckoned with.

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