Pack Pride takes a look back at NC State's disappointing 25-23 loss to Central Florida on Saturday evening in front of a capacity crowd of 57,283.
It truly was a tale of two halves for NC State on Saturday night against underdog Central Florida. The Pack gave up 248 yards and 25 points in the first half while managing just a field goal and 73 yards of their own.
In the second half, the Wolfpack looked like a different team- yielding just 51 yards and two first downs on defense while racking up 284 yards and three touchdowns on offense. State managed to put together two impressive drives of 78 and 73 yards with both resulting in touchdowns. However, the Pack's late game heroics were too little too late and now face the daunting task of heading to Boston College at 0-1.
First down misery- The Pack struggled mightily in nearly every phase of the game during the opening half but this was especially apparent on first down. With Daniel Evans at QB, State attempted zero passes on first down with Evans being sacked the only time he dropped back to pass. On the ground, the Pack rushed eight times on first down for a net rushing total of -2 yards.
State opened it up a bit with Harrison Beck at QB during the second half and were much more balanced in their play calling. Beck completed 5 of 10 passes for 66 yards on first down and State rushed seven times for 55 yards.
Pack pushed around- Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the first half was watching both sides of the Wolfpack line being manhandled. With both teams fresh and at full strength in the early going, the Knights pushed State's offensive and defensive lines around consistently. They opened huge holes between the tackles for Doak candidate Kevin Smith. He then picked up chunks of yardage outside the tackles when State's defenders got sealed inside. UCF's defense completely stifled the Pack offense in the first half with the Wolfpack running backs often fighting just to get out of their own backfield.
Mistakes still a problem- It's been a familiar theme in Raleigh the last couple of years and it was obvious Saturday night that the system still hasn't been purged of the mistakes that have killed NC State in the past. A Daniel Evans safety and interception ultimately ended up in Central Florida running four plays for one total yard. Yet, they come away with five points. Other plays that proved critical at different stretches- Harrison Beck fumbles the snap on a fourth and one. The Pack has a drive stalled when, on third and one, they pick up a false start penalty. The Pack gets an illegal substitution penalty that enables UCF to get a first down late in the game. Another illegal substitution penalty costs State 15 yards and virtually any shot at a game winning field goal.
Wolfpack hit of the game- Nate Irving's bone-jarring tackle on the first play of the game had the crowd fired up early.
Fullback's split wide- State used an offensive set numerous times in the second that split the fullback out wide with two other receivers and left a running back in the backfield. With a UCF corner manned up on the fullback out wide- State was able to utilize the formation effectively on several consecutive plays with Beck hitting the back out of the backfield as well as the receivers coming across the field.
O'Brien shows guts- You couldn't help but be impressed with the fact O'Brien went for it on fourth down four times in this game. It was obvious he was trying anything to get his offense jump-started. Bible's play action pass call from Beck to Stone on fourth down late in the third quarter would probably be a play remembered for years by Wolfpack fans had State went on to win the game.
Punting woes- State averaged just 31.5 yards per punt Saturday evening. The bottom line is the kicking game is too crucial to average this poorly and many high school teams have better averages. With five kickers on the roster, the Pack has to do better in this department.
Impressive defensive stat- State forced five straight three and outs from Central Florida to start the second half and didn't give up a first down until midway through the fourth quarter.
Blast from the past- NC State recruiting fans probably remember the name Darin Baldwin. Baldwin appeared destined to play for the Pack along with teammate Javon Walker. However, he ended up at UCF and had a critical kickoff return of 42 yards right after NC State had seized the momentum with a touchdown that had closed the Knight's lead to just two points. Baldwin's run gave Central Florida the ball at midfield and despite not scoring, helped them eat up clock and put State in poor field position.
New tradition?- For those that didn't notice, NC State put a miniature wolf statue in the middle of the player's tunnel for the players to rub before they run onto the field.
Spotted before the game- NC State tight end's coach Jim Bridge escort Wolfpack commit Andrew Wallace down to where Nick Becton and RJ Mattes were standing in the end zone during player warmups. The three stayed together until being escorted to their seats prior to the game.
Headed forward- Should the Pack come out and play against Boston College the way they played in the first half against UCF, then State has no chance. However, Beck's play in the second half gave the Wolfpack faithful hope and it was one of the more impressive QB showings at NC State in years. His efforts should give the State coaches something to build on this week. The question now becomes whether Beck can do it consistently and avoid making costly mistakes against a team that will likely have better athletes and more of them.
Defensively, State will have to step it up several notches against one of the nation's top QB's. Against UCF, the Pack seemed uncomfortable at times in their zone defense but played better in the second half as they tended to use more man coverage. UCF's motion seemed to cause the Pack confusion on defense with a wide receiver coming uncovered across the middle several times. Fortunately, Central Florida was never able to take advantage of it. State's defense will need to be in perfect synch against Boston College, however. The Eagles will almost surely get their yards but if State can force them into field goals instead of touchdowns, create a couple of turnovers and avoid mistakes of their own- State could put themselves in a position to make it interesting.