Dominating Defense: Reggie Herring's crew limited Maryland to just 91 yards of total offense, the best effort by the Wolfpack all season. Maryland had a mere 24 yards through the air, and just 67 yards on the ground. Perhaps the most amazing defensive stat was that the Wolfpack held the Terrapins to just 44 yards after their initial drive of the game. It was NC State's finest effort of the season and couldn't come at a better time. After a tough loss to North Carolina, the defense came back and dominated the Terps from beginning to end.
Sack Masters: Since the ten sack performance against Virginia Tech, NC State's defense struggled to gain the 'hidden yardage' Coach Amato stresses. However, they came out against the Terps and recorded five sacks, beginning with Mario Williams' sack on the first drive and ending with Manny Lawson's crushing hit on Jordan Steffy late in the fourth quarter. The Wolfpack pressured both quarterbacks all day long and never really gave them a chance to do much damage. Look for the same philosophy to be in place this weekend when an erratic Brock Berlin comes to Raleigh.
Nothing for Suter: The gameplan for NC State's special teams was simple: don't let returner Steve Suter provide a spark. Thanks to a great job of directional punting by John Deraney and kick coverage by the Wolfpack, Suter was neutralized and never became a factor. His touches were limited and he didn't ever give the Terps a boost in momentum or field position. NC State MUST do the same this weekend against Miami's Devin Hester, the nation's most electrifying special teams player.
Conservative is Sometimes Good: Wolfpack fans are complaining because NC State didn't blowout the Terps, but after four years of losing to Maryland, be happy with the win. The objective is to win a ballgame, not to win by three touchdowns. With how well NC State's defense was playing, Wolfpack coaches did a great job of calling plays on offense that reduced the risk of providing the Terps with a big play or field position. The only way Maryland was scoring a touchdown against that defense would have been due to a mishap by the offense. Head coach Chuck Amato and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone did plenty to make sure that wouldn't happen.
Davis Converts: He didn't have his best game of the season, but quarterback Jay Davis did everything he needed to do for the Wolfpack to win. He had no turnovers and did a great job of throwing the ball away when under pressure. He was 7-for-13 for 108 yards on third down, including three critical conversions on a drive late in the fourth quarter that ran four minutes off the clock. His performance was solid, and perhaps even better considering he played the game without his starting tailback, center, and left tackle.
Skills Stepping Up: Now that Davis is playing better, the players around him are stepping up as well. Richard Washington is really emerging in his junior season and may be NC State's most consistent receiver. Tramain Hall, T.J. Williams, and Lamart Barrett are also great options for Davis. The Wolfpack quarterback completed passes to seven different players on Saturday, showing NC State's depth. With Miami up next, each of these players must play lights out because there will be some one-on-one opportunities against the Hurricanes.
Hudson's Impact: He may be NC State's most valuable defensive player... at least he's playing like it. Safety Marcus Hudson's versatility has been critical to NC State's defensive success. On Saturday, he lined up at free safety, rover, as a slot corner, and even at linebacker. Hudson's athleticism, speed, and toughness allows him to make plays all over the field, as evidenced by his 11 tackle and one sack effort against the Terps. The red-shirt junior is going to contend for All-ACC honors this season, as he is currently playing the best football of his career.
Missed Opportunities: NC State defeated Maryland by ten points, but they had several opportunities to win the game by a more comfortable margin. Kicker John Deraney missed three field goals, and once again the Wolfpack had some problems scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Against teams like Miami and Florida State, the Wolfpack MUST start scoring touchdowns whenver they have the chance, and I'm sure it's something they will continue to work on improving.
Ground Game Silenced: After rushing for over 300 yards against North Carolina, NC State failed to break 100 total yards on the ground against the Terps. Granted, the Wolfpack was playing without T.A. McLendon and two offensive line starters, but that could be the case from here on out so other players are going to have to step up. The talent is there at running back, so look for these guys to become more comfortable and come out against Miami ready to pick up yardage on the ground.
Depth Becoming a Concern?: Injuries are starting to take a toll on the Wolfpack. Center Jed Paulsen is now out for a lengthy period of time and safety Andre Maddox has played only two full games the entire season. T.A. McLendon is still battling a hamstring injury and left tackle Chris Colmer missed most of the Maryland game with a shoulder ailment. All this just means younger players are going to have to step up, but for once I'd like to see what a fully healthy NC State team could do the entire season.
Forcing Turnovers?: It's becoming a broken record, but NC State didn't force any turnovers... for the third straight game. Amazingly, NC State's 2-1 in those games and could have been 3-0. With Miami the next team on the schedule, NC State has to start forcing turnovers on defense. They'll need to give their offense easy chances to score and provide them with great field position.
Deraney Getting Tired?: Could handling all three aspects of the kicking game be taking a toll on John Deraney? The sophomore missed three field goals against Maryland, but did a solid job punting. However, in the past two games, as the game progressed his kickoffs were shorter and shorter, possibly showing fatigue. Maybe NC State needs to find another kicker to take over one of the duties so Deraney can focus on less. He's solid in all three areas, but I think he could be great as a kicker or punter if he could focus on just one.