NC State used a balanced attack, 262 yards through the air and 259 on the ground, to cruise past William and Mary 48-14 in its season opener. The Tribe, a top 10 team preseason in FCS polls, entered with a history of pestering, and sometimes upsetting, P5 schools but were never in the game after the Pack rattled off three unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter.
Now that we've had a short night's sleep to process the alcohol, let's take a step back and process the good, the bad, and the ugly from opening night of the 2016 football campaign.
- Matt Dayes, who had his 2015 season cut short due to injury, seems none the worse for wear. The senior rushed 23 times for 138 yards, or more than twice as many yards as W&M managed as a team (62), and scored twice. He added two catches for 18 yards.
- Jaylen Samuels did Jaylen Samuels things, catching a team-high five balls for 66 yards and a score and adding two more TDs in the run game. He's on pace for 36 TDs now, which actually seems a bit low.
- We have a quarterback who is at least an acceptable game manager. Ryan Finley was poised and accurate, completing 17 of 21 tosses with two scores and zero INTs.
- W&M is supposed to have one of the most experienced and high powered offenses at the FCS level, but after marching down the field for a score with little resistance on its first drive, W&M managed just three yards total on its next four drives. In all, the Tribe totaled a paltry 168 yards on 47 plays (3.6 per snap).
- The defense played fairly well on a down-to-down basis a year ago but was too often gashed for big plays. That was not the case in the opener. The Tribe managed just two rushes and three passes covering over 10 yards in the game. Four of their possessions netted negative yardage and two ended in interceptions.
- The front four consistently got pressure without needing help from a blitz.
- The Pack, while not exactly playing at a blistering pace on offense (it appeared more no huddle than up tempo), took 87 snaps. Having 40 more plays from scrimmage than your opponent is definitely a recipe for success, and it led to 521 yards of total offense.
- There was some life in the receiver corps: converted QB Jakobi Meyers made a difficult nine-yard grab for a first down when the game was still in doubt, true freshman Kelvin Harmon had a pair of catches for 53 yards, including the team's longest reception (29 yards), and Bra'Lon Cherry had three catches for 36 yards and a score.
- Johnny Fraiser made his much-anticipated debut and found paydirt.
- Eight guys got a carry and 11 got a catch. Way to keep everybody happy, Coach Drink.
- Cole Cook and Clark Eyers can block. Fun to watch those guys. And the offensive line, with three new starters, looked solid.
- Jalan McClendon appears to have a higher ceiling but lower floor than Finley, who completed a lot of balls but for just 8.3 yards per attempt. McClendon left the pocket unnecessarily and tossed a bad pick in his first drive. He was second string from there. Finley looked good, obviously, but did not show the ability to stretch the field and definitely doesn't possess McClendon's arm strength or athleticism. The screen game was working great against a suspect FCS defense, but against P5 competition the QB is going to have to be able to go vertical, and Finley hasn't shown that ability yet. Hopefully that's just because it wasn't needed. Finley certainly doesn't offer the QB as runner threat of a Jacoby Brissett; McClendon could offer that if only the game would slow down for him.
- Kentavius Street looked really good and perhaps is on his way to finally living up to his Big Time rep out of high school. But dude, no matter how much of a relief it was to break through and get that big sack, leave your lid on! That penalty could've been a game changer if not for Josh Jones' timely pick that bailed him out.
- A guy comes up the middle untouched to block an extra point? Sheesh.
- Speaking of the kicking game, Jackson Maples was not his normal boom it into the endzone self, even launching one out of bounds, and the kick coverage was suspect at best.
- We got stoned at the goal line. Four plays to put it in from three yards out and nope. The game wasn't in doubt, but that was still totally unacceptable.
Perhaps the best news from week one, other than enjoying a rare taste of tension-free victory, was that there did not appear to be any significant injuries on the State side. Additionally, playing a Thursday night opener leaves a little extra time to clean up some mistakes and prepare for the always frightening road test in Greenville. I believe I will start (uh, continue) drinking for that one right now.