Well folks, Dave Doeren has still never beaten a ranked opponent. I think it's up to 0-10. He's 2-5 against power five opponents + ECU in games decided by eight points or less, with those scant two wins coming over an unusually awful Notre Dame in a hurricane and Syracuse on a miracle interception return. I'll let you decide if that's coaching, bad luck, or two small of a sample to be meaningful. Meanwhile, NC State has three games to win two to get bowl eligible.
Doeren's mantra in interviews all last week was, "We're so close to being 7-1." And you can't argue with him. He can add one to that seven in this week's pressers, but you also can't argue with the real record. It's 4-5. Does reality trumps progress in year four?
After a week off from our usual good, bad, and ugly bullets, preempted in order to call for Doeren's head after an uninspiring loss to Boston College on homecoming, let us return to our usual format. Here we go:
- The defense played inspired football, limiting FSU to 24 points and 393 total yards. The Noles came in averaging 34.8 and 480, respectively.
- More importantly for us stats geeks are the yards per snap. FSU managed 6.2 yards per play, which is a bit under its 6.4 yards coming in to the game. The defense wasn't exactly dominant in the per-play category, but it did its job thanks to limiting FSU to just 4-for-11 on third-down conversions.
- Conversely, State was a solid 8-for-16 on third down.
- Heisman hopeful Dalvin Cook was bottled up to the tune of just 65 yards on 18 carries, including 12 yards lost on negative plays. As a team, FSU managed just 2.6 yards per rush. Boom? Boom!
- The Pack did not abandon the running game, as has been the case in recent weeks, and Matt Dayes rewarded that decision with another 100-yard game. He had 104 yards on 23 carries and is up to 831 yards on the season.
- Jaylen Samuels has had a disappointing junior campaign, but the choo-choo train did flash a little Jay-Sam of old with a 23-yard rushing TD. He's averaging 5.7 yards per carry but inexplicably has a mere 23 attempts on the ground all year, or less than three carries per game. (Oh, wait...this is the "good" part. Sorry)
- Ryan Finley had managed just a 123.9 QB rating against P5 opponents, which is not much better than John Wolford-like production, but stepped up under the lights with a 300-yard passing effort. No, he did not engineer a Philip Rivers/Russell Wilson/Mike Glennon winning drive. But, damn, he was pretty good and certainly not the reason the Pack lost.
- Nyheim Hines had a coming out party with 11 grabs for 124 yards. More of this, please.
- Bra'Lon Cherry has been quiet in the return game, but he broke a short pass for a TD for a second straight week, taking a crossing pattern for 28 yards and a score.
- The Pack finished with 76 more yards of total offense against the ridiculously NFL-talent-laden Noles. State held a 31-20 advantage in first downs and had just one non-sack running play lose yardage all game.
- After Kyle Bambard missed five of seven field goals, Doeren FINALLY gave Connor Haskins another shot. The graduate transfer did not disappoint, nailing both of his tries.
- Penalties have been drive killers for the Pack too often this season, even negating touchdowns, but that was not the case this time. State was penalized just three times for 28 yards.
- B.J. Hill had just one assisted tackle. He's managed just 1.5 tackles for a loss and no sacks on the season. Hill commands a lot of double teams, but it's surprising that the defense has been so much improved this year despite his huge drop in production.
- The team got burned again on a running back pass, with this one resulting in a pass interference to set up the Noles' first score.
- Finley threw for 208 of his yards in the first half. The offense seemed to get more conservative, and predictable, once State took a two-score lead and couldn't turn it back on once that lead was squandered.
- Finley shook off his early interception and did a nice job buying time in the pocket against the rush, but the pick he threw was both a bad decision—throwing a jump ball against a much taller corner—and poorly executed—he put it to the inside where the defender had the better shot at it.
- Jackson Maples kicked one out of bounds. That's four kickoffs out of bounds on the season, the fifth highest total of any team. State's kickers have just nine touchbacks on the season. Their 19.2% touchback rate is 109th in the country.
- The Noles were allowing an average of 37.8 points per game on the road; the Pack managed just 20. Even worse, those 20 points are the most State has posted during its four-game slide.
- NC State is now 114th out of 128 programs in red zone scoring percentage at 75%. So many wasted opportunities. FSU was 4-for-4 in its trips with three TDs, while the Pack were 2-for-3, with two field goals, including one from the three yard line. There's your ball game.
- Bambard missed another one, and had State been down one instead of four, that last drive may have turned into a winning drive. I don't blame the kid; Doeren waited way too long to make the change.
- Shawn Boone dropped what may have been the game-sealing interception, then got beat for the game-winning touchdown on the next play. The kid's had a nice year and is a big part of the defense's improvement, but you've got to make that play. If you don't, you've got to forget it and come back and make the next play.
NC State played well defensively and was the more explosive team with a TD pass of 28 yards and a TD run of 23. And still found a way to lose. Perhaps next week is the week Doeren turns the corner despite all the mounting evidence to the contrary.