It appeared NC State was finally in for a challenge Saturday when South Alabama easily drove 75 yards for a 7-0 lead in the game's opening drive. It would indeed be a different result for the Pack; they answered with a 28-point run to cruise to their most lopsided win of the season. State ran up a season-high 586 yards on 8.6 yards per play en route to a 63-13 win on the road in Mobile.
As our esteemed colleague Mr. Muma noted earlier in the week, more efficient offenses win 83% of the time, but, while efficient, the Pack lacked explosion in their first three tilts. State got the message, and by being more efficient and more explosive, Dave Doeren's squad won by half a hundred to move to 4-0.
- State amassed seven plays of 30+ yards offensively and in the return game; let's record them all for posterity below.
- Matt Dayes used great edge blocks from Cole Cook and Jaylen Samuels to go for 77 yards on a sweep to tie the score at 7-7 just three plays after USA took the early advantage.
- Shadrach Thornton put the Pack on top for good with a 39-yard bust up the gut.
- Jacoby Brissett deftly dropped a bomb to Samuels between three defenders on a wheel route for 42 yards.
- On the next play, Brissett's back shoulder throw to Bra'Lon Cherry covered 33 yards and got the Pack down to just about the one on the way to another score.
- Trying to keep the ball out of the hands of Nyheim Hines, who had a 90+ yard kick return negated by penalty, USA pooch kicked to Cherry, who went 37 yards to midfield. Pick your poison.
- Cherry's fantastic field position altering continued with a 51-yard punt return later in the game.
- Prior to that, Samuels took a shovel pass 33 yards to the house off an option look in what may be my new favorite play.
- The Pack erased any thought that they might not have been ready to play after allowing that early score by blistering USA for 241 yards on just 13 plays in the first quarter. State needed just one third down conversion on its way to scoring 28 points in the opening frame.
- Dayes eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the fourth straight game, getting 104 yards on just eight carries. He added 46 yards through the air with a team-high six catches.
- Thornton got his first 100-yard game (114 yards on 12 carries) of the season and combined with Dayes to account for five of State's seven rushing touchdowns.
- Reggie Gallaspy II got into the act with his first two career rushing touchdowns in garbage time, which was basically all of the fourth quarter.
- Samuels led state in receiving with 84 yards and went over 100 total with his rushing added in. He of course notched his self-imposed limit of two scores per game. It just wouldn't be sporting for him to take it to the house four or five times a game like he could.
- Samuels actually trails Dayes by a score this season; combined the two are averaging 25.5 points per game and both rank in the top nine in the NCAA in scoring per game.
- Brissett had his typical highly efficient game, completing 18 of his 23 throws for 218 yards and a pair of scores. He was sacked just once in this game and rarely harried.
- Kudos to the offensive linemen. Even the second string, which included a walk on at right tackle, opened big holes and kept the QB clean.
- Tenacious blocking tight end Cook got rewarded for his hard work with his first three career receptions covering 34 yards. He is no burner, but Cook looks to have good hands and he ran hard after the catch.
- Speaking of State's plentiful depth at tight end, there was a David Grinnage sighting on a well-executed tight end delay throwback that covered 20 yards. Doeren has mentioned that they haven't unveiled the full Grinnage package yet. That's more to think about for opposing defensive coordinators who already have their hands full with the Dayes-Thornton-JaySam triumvirate.
- Speaking of defense, the Pack only allowed 183 yards and a pair of field goals after the lackluster effort on the opening drive.
- State stuffed USA to the tune of just 45 yards on 26 rushing attempts; the Pack is third nationally, allowing just 49.5 yards on the ground per game.
- Jerod Fernandez nearly made the explosive play list with a 27-yard interception return, and the Pack, after managing just two takeaways in their first three games, got three turnovers in this one.
- Despite the low season total of takeaways, State is 22nd nationally in turnover margin thanks to having yielded just one giveaway in four games.
- Cody Clements managed three passed of 36 yards or more, but he was harassed into an inefficient day, completing just 42.4% of his throws and tossing two picks (the other snatched by Germaine Pratt).
- Darian Roseboro notched his first two career sacks and also was in on a tackle for a loss.
- Against better competition, it might not be so easy to recover from an opening punch in the mouth drive. Let's not get in a habit of giving up a 47-yard bomb on the first play from scrimmage please.
- Jumichael Ramos went without a catch and whiffed on a couple of blocks on the first drive that led to State's only third down faced in the frame. Thankfully, Dayes' 77-yard scamper on third and shortish made up for it.
- I'm starting to think that having a traditional downfield passing game to those wide receiver fellows is not necessary to be either efficient or explosive, but it is a little concerning that State's receivers combined for a mere five catches for 51 yards. Most of that came on Cherry's 33-yard grab.
- It was another longish one at 41 yards, but Kyle Bambard's field goal attempt was never on line and he is now just 1-for-4 on the season. Jackson Maples was once again good on kickoffs but inexplicably booted one out of bounds, and AJ Cole airmailed a punt into the end zone. I'm nitpicking a little on the last two, but we are definitely seeing some of the expected growing pains in the kicking game and that promises to bite us when and if we're in a close contest.
- Nooner'd. After playing its opening four games at 6 p.m. or later, State returns to Raleigh for the start of ACC play with the always dreaded 12:30 start (also known as the TOB slot). Kick times shouldn't matter, but I worry about how the change in routine and early start might affect the team and our drunkenness levels. So we can be sure to do our part, please list your favorite breakfast cocktails in the comments below.