NC State needed a win on Saturday against Miami to become bowl eligible and extend a three game winning streak entering the game. The Pack put together it’s most impressive running game of the year and made several key stops on defense to record a 38-28 win over the Canes. Pack Pride takes a look back at the Wolfpack’s huge win.
Defenses pick their poison: Miami primarily used man coverage in the first half against NC State which resulted in huge running lanes for QB Russell Wilson. With the receivers running the DB’s off, Wilson finished the first half with 74 yards rushing and the Pack was able to put up 17 points.
In the second half, Miami played more zone which allowed them to keep Wilson in check on the ground but the freshman responded by completing 6 of 8 passes for 149 yards while the Pack would put up 21 points.
Wilson has become a true example of a player that has learned to take what opposing defenses are giving him.
Offense has turned it on: During NC State’s four game winning streak, the Pack has averaged 31.75 points per game which would make it No. 31 in the nation in scoring offense.
Defense has been even better: Over the last four games the Pack has averaged giving up just 18 points per game which would rank it as the nation’s 17th best.
Wilson and the deep ball: While everyone seems to focus on Russell Wilson’s ability to scramble and make plays, not much has been said about his ability to deliver the deep ball. On Saturday he hit on two more beautiful long passes- one was a 42 yarder to TJ Graham and the other, a 32-yard touchdown strike to Owen Spencer on the very next play.
Pierson a tackling machine: K Bradley Pierson proved to be quite the weapon on kickoffs Saturday. While most kickers are content to lay back on kickoffs and be the last line of defense, Pierson sprinted down and made two impressive tackles. On one in particular he burst between two teammates to drop Graig Cooper. When was the last time a kicker recorded three tackles in one game?
Defense continues to make plays: It wasn’t a dominant performance by any stretch but the Pack defense continued it’s recent stretch of getting big plays at crucial times. Deandre Morgan got a pick in the end zone that thwarted one Miami scoring drive.
With Miami nearing midfield in the second half, Jimmaul Simmons picked off QB Robert Marve to end another drive.
The Canes threatened again later in the game but Jacory Harris was intercepted by LB Nate Irving at the NC State 28 yard line and returned the ball to the Miami 32. State would score off the turnover and basically put the game out of reach.
CB Jeremy Gray would snare the Pack’s fourth interception on Miami’s final drive to seal the game.
Floyd steps up: Bobby Floyd was asked to step up this week after starter Clem Johnson was injured during the UNC game. The walk-on safety responded. Used primarily on running downs, Floyd recorded five total tackles and a fumble recovery. He was just the latest unsung NC State player to step up when needed. Many observers still take for granted that State is still a team very reliant on walk-ons. On Saturday, walk-ons or former walk-ons were responsible for 20 of the team’s 70 tackles.
South Florida seems like years ago: A potential bowl game was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind after a 41-10 drubbing at the hands of South Florida back in September. However, as Russell Wilson and others gradually made their way back into the lineup, things began to click. Even in consecutive losses to Boston College, Florida State and Maryland, the Pack seemed to make progress in each game and you could tell it was just a matter of time before the team put it all together. You can’t give the Wolfpack coaching staff enough credit for holding this team together and pushing the right buttons when times were tough. While O’Brien probably won’t be named coach of the year in 2008, no one has done a better job of turning a team around given the seemingly insurmountable odds.
Big recruiting day: NC State hosted it’s largest group of recruits this year on Saturday. While the weather may not have been ideal, the Wolfpack coaches couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. There appeared to be roughly 50 or so unofficial visitors in attendance, including several major prospects for the class of 2010. While there is still much work to be done on this year’s class, the Pack’s recent turnaround may be the biggest dividends with the rising senior class.