#10 at it Again: It's official folks, NC State's found their starting quarterback. For the second straight game, junior Jay Davis has played outstanding for the Wolfpack. He completed 22 of 28 passes for 273 yards against the Tar Heels, and consistently put NC State into scoring position. Davis is now 40-52 for 517 yards in his past two games... that's production. The 'Pack will need that heading into College Park, Maryland.
'Four Horsemen' Run Wild: NC State did what they wanted on the ground against the Tar Heels, rushing for 304 yards on 50 carries. Leading the way was their outstanding group of running backs: T.A. McLendon, Reggie Davis, Darrell Blackman, and Bobby Washington. McLendon and Davis were particularly effective, totaling 189 yards on 30 carries between them. Despite all the success on the ground, it was about six inches that may have cost the 'Pack the victory. Do you think Jay Davis could have picked up that six inches?
T.J's Strong Day: Wolfpack fans have been asking for tight end T.J. Williams to be a factor on offense, and he was against the Tar Heels. Williams tallied 6 catches for 66 yards, including a critical catch on fourth down on NC State's final drive. Look for the 'Pack to try and keep Williams involved from here on out. Looking back, one play T.J. probably wishes he would have made was a somewhat difficult catch on the first drive that would have been a touchdown. Either way, he's developing into exactly the kind of player most thought he would be entering the season.
Deraney Back on Track: Kicker John Deraney had a rough game against Wake Forest, but he bounced back with three field goals against North Carolina. He also averaged 45.5 yards on his two punts. Deraney's a weapon, and the sophomore has a very bright future. However, Wolfpack fans probably hope he's kicking a lot less field goals and many more extra points from here on out.
Offensive Line Leads the Way: Coach Barry has his boys playing well. NC State dominated UNC in the trenches, racking up 577 yards of total offense and practically doing what they wanted throughout the game. The Wolfpack may have to replace senior center Jed Paulsen, who left the UNC game with an ankle injury. Expect Leroy Harris to move to center and Ricky Fowler or James Newby to replace him at left guard.
There's Reggie: Like T.J. Williams, fans have been asking to see sophomore running back Reggie Davis. Well, they saw him on Saturday and he responded with 72 yards on 11 carries. Davis is a bruising, physical tailback, but looked more explosive than he did last season. He brings a different dimension to the table and should continue to get more action as the season goes on.
Fast Break Offense: For all the early complaints about NC State's offense, fans must admit it's really clicking now. They racked up 577 yards of total offense against the Tar Heels, and Davis is now using all those weapons around them. If they can start to convert a little better in the red zone, look out because when it's clicking the Wolfpack offense can compete with anybody in the ACC.
Big Plays Lead to Bad Days: Defenses always want to limit big plays, and the Wolfpack couldn't do that against the Tar Heels. For all the complaints about how bad the defense played, they still held UNC to nearly 60 yards less than their season average. However, the Tar Heels were able to make big plays on the ground and in the air that were damaging. Of North Carolina's 356 yards of total offense, 170 yards came on just five plays, and two of those plays were for touchdowns. Therefore, North Carolina totaled 186 yards on their other 48 plays, an average of 3.9 yards per play. The Wolfpack defense did a good job for the game, but they must prevent big plays against the Terps on Saturday because they could be the difference.
Turnovers the Difference: Once again, NC State failed to force turnovers and put the ball on the ground against the opposition, and like against Ohio State, it came back to hurt them in the end. The Wolfpack had three turnovers against North Carolina, but didn't force any. One led to a UNC score, the either stopped a drive from entering the red zone, and the final was on the goalline as T.A. McLendon tried to tie the game. For all the yardage, turnovers may have been the difference in the game. At some point, the Wolfpack's aggressive defense will force some turnovers... you would think. Right?
Officially Awful: Referees are going to make mistakes, we all know that. However, can you recall a game that had such a controversial ending or a string of blown calls that could have changed the outcome of a game? Even before the crazy ending, the referees appeared to miss a delay of game on the Wolfpack's fourth down conversion and determined McLendon's forward progress had been stopped although he looked to be out of bounds (forcing NC State to burn it's second timeout) on the final drive.
That brings us to the 'controversial' part. Did McLendon get in or not? No one outside of John Bunting seems to know for sure. I've seen a dozen replays, and I still don't know if his knee was down before the ball crossed the goalline. I don't even know if his knee was ever down. However, the head linesman by rule makes the call, and he emphatically ruled it was a touchdown. That call was eventually overturned, and then for some reason the officials choose to "reset" (how can you reset to a time that was never passed?) the clock to 14 seconds. Third and goal with no timeouts and 24 seconds is much different than third and goal with no timeouts and 14 seconds. No reason has been given for the time reduction, but apparently the officials determined the clock shouldn't have been stopped on the play. Well, the clock is stopped by the scorekeeper on a touchdown, and that's what he saw. The ball should have been marked and the clock started at 24 seconds after realizing McLendon was short of the goalline. In the end, it looks like ten seconds were removed to penalize NC State for an error in judgement by the referees.
Those were just a few of questionable calls throughout the game that may have changed the outcome. Officiating across college football has be scrutinized a lot this season. Maybe it's time for the one sport that a season can be ruined by the outcome of a single game to consider having instant replay.
Seven is Better Than Three: For all their success on offense, NC State failed to score touchdowns on three opportunities early in the game and had to settle for field goals. Coach Amato mentioned it has been a problem converting in the red zone, and that has to change as the Wolfpack enters the heart of their schedule. With games against Miami, Florida State, Maryland, and Clemson on the horizon, they can't settle for field goals.
Crucial Coaching Call: One weird play occured in the second quarter with the Tar Heels driving and up 6-3. On 3rd and 1 from the 17-yard line, running back Jacque Lewis was stopped for what looked to be a yard loss on the play, setting up 4th and short from the 18-yard line. However, the Tar Heels were also whistled for having just six men on the line of scrimmage, a five yard penalty. NC State chose to accept the penalty (leaving 3rd and 6) instead of declining the call and leaving North Carolina's John Bunting in the position to likely kick another field goal.
A field goal would have put the Tar Heels up 9-3, but instead on the next play quarterback Darian Durant found Jesse Holley wide open on the sidelines for a 23-yard touchdown. The first TD of the game gave UNC a 13-3 lead and additional momentum. That was a big, big play in the ball game.