Second Half Run Defense: After getting mashed by the UNC ground game in the first quarter, the Pack defensive front played extremely well from that point on. The Tar Heels rushed for 108 total yards in the first period but finished the game with just 123 net yards rushing and averaged three yards per carry. The Wolfpack defensive front seemed reactionary in the first quarter and, as a result, got pushed around on numerous running plays. However, they adjusted and attacked much more- particularly in the second half and were able to get penetration into the Heels backfield regularly.
John Deraney: Deraney was good on field goals of 44, 22 and 41 yards. He has now connected on 11 of 15 field goals so far in 2006. He averaged a respectable 40.5 yards per punt and had two touchbacks on kickoffs.
Defense as a whole: Make no mistake, the NC State defense had it's fair share of mistakes in losing to UNC but overall, played well enough to help the Wolfpack win. The Pack defense held UNC to just 260 total yards on offense despite the Heels having good field position all day. Their average starting field position was the UNC 32. State also gave up no points to UNC on three Wolfpack turnovers. Conversely, NC State's average starting field position was the State 17. Pat Lowery was a standout on the Wolfpack defense, tying for the team lead with eight tackles while also adding a tackle for loss and a fumble recovery. Although it is little consolation after such a painful loss, the Wolfpack defense has now broken into the top 50 nationally on total defense and is ranked No. 46 in the country. Given the losses to the NFL and graduation after the 2005 season, we said before this year began that a top 50 defense would be a nice accomplishment for the Wolfpack defense.
Imaginative Play-Calling: The Pack came up with several imaginative play calls on offense Saturday. They ran a double reverse, flea flicker, attempted to set up a half back pass and a screen to Eugene after Evans set up behind just the center and two guards. Unfortunately, none of the plays were particularly successful except for the screen to Eugene.
NC State fans: Although it's impossible to get an accurate number of Wolfpack fans that showed up in Kenan Stadium on Saturday, it was clear that they came out in big numbers. There was a red tint throughout the stadium and it was another impressive road showing by the Wolfpack faithful. Although State has struggled on the field this year, few fan bases have been as loyal.
Turnovers: Daniel Evans had a miserable day protecting the ball- throwing three picks and fumbling near the UNC goal line late in the fourth quarter. While the three picks didn't result in any points for the Heels, they effectively killed three drives and allowed UNC to keep the Pack bottled up with terrible field position.
Penalties: NC State is ranked No. 101 as the most penalized team in the nation and they didn't do anything to help the cause against UNC. The Pack was whistled nine times for 82 yards. The biggies were a personal foul call on DeMario Pressley that helped UNC on it's first scoring drive. Another personal foul moved the ball to the NC State 21 and helped set up the Heels' second score. A 28 yard run off of a reverse by Darrell Blackman was nullified when the Pack only had six men on the line of scrimmage.
Inability to run the ball: After running for 174 yards against the nation's number 18 rush defense, Toney Baker could muster just 68 against the No. 103 rush defense in the country. The Wolfpack was without starters Leroy Harris and Curtis Crouch and that obviously hurt the run game to some extent. However, the Pack could never get anything going on the ground consistently and decided to take their chances through the air. State ended up passing the ball 45 times versus just 23 rushes. On first down, the Pack passed 20 times against just 10 runs.
Pass protection: Again, the absence of Crouch and Harris definitely hurt in this department. Evans was sacked four times and never seemed comfortable in the pocket. Some credit must be given to the UNC secondary as well as often-times, Evans seemingly had nowhere to go with the ball. Perhaps no play epitomized the Pack's ineptness in pass protection than at the end of the game when State was attempting a fourth and seven. Melik Brown was completely unaccounted for and came off the edge untouched to sack Evans for a 13-yard loss. Evans fumbled and the Heels recovered for a touchdown.
Pass coverage by the safeties: Overall, the pass defense numbers put up by the Wolfpack defense were not bad. Heels' QB Joe Dailey completed just 8 of 15 for 137 yards. However, things could've been a lot worse had Dailey completed several wide open passes. UNC did a good job of getting their wide receivers matched up against our safeties and on several plays were wide open for huge gains- only to have the passes over thrown by Dailey.
Pass Rush: The Wolfpack pass rush was almost non-existent as State managed only one sack and never was able to consistently harass Dailey on passing plays. Much of that was due to the UNC scheme. UNC effectively ran a bootleg play where Dailey would roll out with a run/pass option. He hit the back on four occasions and State never seemed to be able to adjust to shut it down.
Field goals instead of touchdowns: In the last five games NC State has scored just four touchdowns. Instead of seven points, more often than not the Pack has had to settle for three and that was the case again on Saturday. On the final drive of the first half, the Pack chewed up nearly 35 seconds of clock on a five yard run by Toney Baker. State was able to move the ball downfield and would eventually kick a field goal but better clock management may have given the Pack a shot or two at the end zone.
Earlier in the first half, State had a first and goal from the UNC eight yard line. Evans dropped back to pass but never saw Marcus Stone come open in the left side of the end zone. He threw the ball away and State ended up kicking another field goal.
State was on the march in the second half and had picked up three consecutive first downs. However, the Pack attempted an apparent half back pass by Andre Brown that resulted in him being tackled for a six yard loss. An incomplete pass on second down and a two yard scramble on third down resulted in yet another field goal by the Pack.