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NC State defense shows up huge in Pack’s win over Notre Dame

Never look a gift horse in the mouth, and if you can, tackle said horse.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at North Carolina State Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

You can adjust these numbers however you want given the weather, and the weather was undeniably really really bad. Still, NC State’s defense managed to limit Notre Dame to 113 yards of offense on 64 plays. That’s an average of 1.8 yards per play.

The Wolfpack finished the day with five sacks on DeShone Kizer, who managed to complete only nine of his 26 passing attempts. The conditions in this game were ideal for defenses, and NC State made no significant mistakes on this side of the field.

That was crucial, because NC State’s offense made a lot of mistakes. In the first quarter, there was a mental error that brought back a Cole Cook touchdown pass. In the second half, State’s offense killed a potential touchdown drive with an ill-advised toss play or whatever it was supposed to be—it ended in a fumble recovered by State that lost 15 yards or so.

I’d say NC State made more critical mistakes overall, but State also was better down-to-down, and in the end, the Wolfpack made the game-changing play. That was Pharoah McKever leaping to block a punt and reserve defensive back Dexter Wright scooping it and scoring.

But we don’t get to that point without State’s defense, which never bought the idea that Notre Dame could run the ball and didn’t panic when Kizer was called on to throw it. They had the elements in their favor, and they leveraged that.

This game was a slow burn—slower than any of us would have liked—where the team that could actually run the ball would probably win. That proved true. The Pack’s defensive approach stayed true to that and it paid off.

There were lots of mistakes and turnovers involved in this slopfest, but don’t lose sight of how good NC State’s defense was despite all of the elements and other nonsense. They kept NC State in control of this game nearly from start to finish.