(Yds/carry stats are calculated after removing sacks from the equation.)
In many ways, that game worked out exactly as expected--Mike Glennon was pressured, the run game was mostly useless, and the offense had all sorts of trouble sustaining drives for most of the night. And yet Florida State was never able to capitalize on a first half in which it obviously outplayed the Wolfpack, and that opened to the door for the Pack in the second half. Really, this tweet from Bill Connelly sums up the whole game for FSU:
Fun w/box scores: Fla St made 6 trips inside NC St's 40, scored a TD, kicked 3 FGs, went scoreless twice. Always be closing, boys & girls.— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) October 7, 2012
Florida State missed a number of opportunities, but the Noles also deprived themselves of a few percentage points here and there with some strange decisions. Like punting rather than trying a field goal attempt from NC State's 34 with about 9:30 to play; the field goal would have re-established a two-possession lead. Or completely shutting it down on their last drive with the lead. These are the types of things that drive me nuts about football coaches. So you have the edge in talent and a really good defense--if you don't take things into your own hands at some point, then shit like what happened on Saturday can happen. One punt gets blocked and there go your best-laid conservative plans.
NC State ran over 50 plays in the second half, which accounted for two-thirds of its full game total. The Pack averaged a modest 4.8 yards per play over the final 30 minutes, but that was a massive improvement over the 2.3 yards it averaged per snap in the first half. The coaching staff managed to find some things that worked, Mike Glennon started making some really good throws, and the result was three drives of 10 plays or more in the second half. The offense's best drive in the first half went for eight plays and covered 25 yards. Five second-half drives covered at least 30 yards.
Florida State, meanwhile, was limited to just 3.7 yards per play in the second half. Coming into the night, they hadn't been held under 400 yards of offense or an average of 6.3 yards per snap, but NC State's defense kept them well below those numbers. Admittedly, it came with some help from FSU's offense. E.J. Manuel simply whiffed on a couple of plays that could have resulted in long scores and altered the outcome. But there's no doubt that NC State's second-half effort was really strong overall, and certainly when compared to what happened at Miami, the whole night was a drastic improvement. If we could see this sort of night-game-against-top-five-team focus the rest of the way, I'd feel pretty good.