Had NC State entered the Clemson game 7-0 like most of us hoped when the schedule was unveiled, I imagine I'd have very different emotions this morning. But the losses to middling programs to start ACC play revealed a Wolfpack still shackled by youthful indiscretion, curious play calling and clock management, and a narrowing but real talent deficit. So, rather than ACC title aspirations, I sat down to my trusty TV yesterday only hoping the Pack would earn a modicum of respect against quite possibly the best team in the country. I was hoping to have reason to watch the fourth quarter. I was hoping not to feel too guilty about skipping out on Halloween festivities with the fam in favor of football. Done and done and done.
Sure, I could be my normally flippant and sarcastic self and boil the above down to this: "Lower your expectations and you'll never be disappointed!" But yesterday was not about lowered expectations. Yesterday confirmed that the program is heading in the right direction, but the climb is not linear and it's longer than any of us would like. That was a helluva football game and one of the few times I feel oddly content after a loss. The Pack put up 41 points, y'all, or the same number the Tigers had allowed in their last three games combined, and that bodes well for the future.
- Clemson came in allowing 4.1 yards per play (6th nationally). NC State averaged 5.7.
- Clemson came in allowing 2.9 yarder per rush (6th nationally). NC State averaged 5.0 (and really quite honestly walked the tiger in the run game when you consider that NCAA stats count sacks as negative rushing plays. Throw out the sack yardage, and the Pack averaged 7.73 yards per rush).
- Clemson came in allowing 5.9 yards per pass (21st nationally). State averaged 6.2.
- Jaylen Samuels Jay-Sammed the Jay-Samming fool out of some fools with his Jay-Samness. His Jay-Samhighness had eight catches for 74 yards and a score through the air to go with six runs for 71 yards and a score on the ground. (Of course this raises the age-old question: why not more touches?)
- Matt Dayes was really good as well before getting dinged, gaining 78 yards on nine carries. He needs just 165 more for a thousand.
- David J. Grinnage, inspired by Steven's revelation that the J stands for Jtouchdown, ended his season-long hibernation with a seven-catch, 82-yard performance (that included a Jtouchdown). He had just five catches for 60 yards previously, with nary a JTD.
- Jacoby Brissett was a warrior in the face of pretty constant pressure, completing 24 of 41 throws for 254 yards and three scores.
- The return game continued to be a huge weapon, headlined by a Nyheim Hines' 100-yard TD. When the Tigers thought better of kicking it deep, Bra'lon Cherry made them pay with a 47-yard run back after an up back pitched him a squibber, and Cherry added a 14-yard punt return that put the Pack in position to actually take a 27-19 lead (or 26, with our kicking situation) into the locker room.
- (longass bullet warning) The bullet above is a lovely segue to the game-turning badness that marked the end of the half. The Pack had held Clemson to a couple of field goals and then consecutive punts—four drives for just six points—and we looked to REALLY have ourselves a ballgame after Cherry's punt return put the Pack in Clemson territory to start the drive. With less than a minute to go in the half and facing a third and four from the 22, the Pack went with a swing pass to Dayes. There were literally seven defenders waiting for him. He lost five yards. He got fucking hurt. Clemson called timeout to get the ball back with some time left after what would of course be a missed field goal. Shitty kicker shitted a shitty kick. SHIT! Missed FG indeed. Clemson scores on two (TWO!) plays, including a long TD on an obvious offensive pass interference call that was not called. RAGE! Huge momentum swing. I hate everything.
- OK, as noted in the intro, I'm somewhat over it this morning, but why does Matt Canada insist on calling east-west plays that could lose a chunk of yards during the most crucial play calls? Run it up the middle for two yards and Clemson probably doesn't stop the clock, as if they do they are giving you more time for six points instead of a FG try if you convert fourth and short. Run the clock all the way down after you made a little headway on third, then try to kick a much shorter field goal. Or GO FOR IT on fourth if a north-south run doesn't work on third. Either way, you most likely eliminate any chance Clemson has to get points there if you don't lose five yards and then give them good field position with the missed FG. Bad play calling. Bad clock management. Bad officiating. It all added up to a huge points swing and even more important momentum swing.
- And Clemson STILL likely doesn't get points IF the PI is called. (OK breathe.)
- Clemson fumbled three times but our dumb fumble luck continued, as we recovered just one. What's that? Oh, well yes we did recover TWO, but replay, though conclusive enough for the broadcasters in the booth to say it was a fumble, was not conclusive enough for the refs to change it. State would've had the ball around the Clemson 25 down 13; instead, the Tigers pushed the advantage back to 19. How might the game have turned had Clemson faced the pressure of only being up a score late?
- For all of his brilliance and unquestionable toughness, Brissett missed Hines open in the end zone with a couple of minutes left. Sure, you're probably talking must-have onside kick at this point, but the Pack did have a chance, officials be damned, to get to within a score and really make the Tigers sweat, and they ultimately didn't get it done.
- The defense gave up 623 yards and twice as many points as it had allowed in a game this season. That is all.
- A FRONT PAGE article on ESPN states that an NC State assistant "shoved" DeShaun Watson on the sidelines. Replay of the "event" shows Watson put his finger in Des Kitchings' face—you know, TAUNTING A COACH. Kitchings removed it with very little force (and certainly not a shove). Watson even intimated that Kitchings took a swing at him in the post-game interview. Oh for fuck's sake. ESPN YOU HAVE THE NARRATIVE COMPLETELY WRONG HERE AND THIS SALACIOUS CLOWN STORY IS ALL THAT IS WRONG WITH SPORTS.
- Did I mention Dayes got hurt?
- UNC is still undefeated in ACC play, likely to be ranked next week, and likely to play for an ACC championship.
- The unconscionable screwjob perpetrated on Duke (which benefitted UNC) might be the ugliest sports event of the season. Seriously, why do we even have instant replay if we don't overturn calls that were clearly wrong?
Welp, that's it for this morning after segment. Got a little more ranty than I expected. Please send all of your good juju to what must be a pretty emotionally and physically spent team. May they avoid the trappings of the nooner at BC so this is a much happier space in a week's time.