There was no hangover for N.C. State after winning in Tallahassee—the Pack scored on their opening drive for the fifth time in five games and jumped to a 13-0 lead—but perhaps, after the emotional road win over FSU and rolling Syracuse in the first half, State slipped into coast mode a wee bit too early. To their credit, the Orange battled back from a huge halftime deficit and made it a game, but the Pack held on to win 33-25. If they were looking ahead, the Pack certainly set up an intriguing contest Thursday night in what could be a matchup of ranked teams against Louisville.
Nyheim Hines, after going over 90 yards in back-to-back games, broke the century mark for the first time in his career, and it was State’s running game that headlined a contest that, while unnecessarily close at the end, had a lot more good than bad and ugly.
· Hines had 115 yards on just 19 carries (6.1 yards per tote) as the Pack rolled up 256 yards on the ground.
· Conversely, State’s defense made Syracuse completely one dimensional. The Orange managed just 59 yards on the ground and got less than two yards per carry. The Pack averaged 5.4 yards per rush.
· Jaylen Samuels, who always needs more touches in the running game, had career highs of nine runs and 74 yards. He ran for a score and added 37 yards on five catches. JaySam’s average of 8.2 yards per carry edged his teammate, Ryan “Wheels” Finley, who chipped in 37 yards on five carries for a 7.4 average.
· Finley had a huge nine-yard scramble to keep a fourth-quarter drive alive that eventually culminated in seven all-important insurance points.
· Reggie Gallaspy didn’t have a great game in terms of ypc (3.3), but he got in on the act with a bruising, stiff-arming, beast mode TD that emphatically answered Syracuse’s lone first-half score.
· With the ground game churning out yardage, there wasn’t much to speak of through the air, though Finley dropped a dime on Stephen Louis on a fade route for six and kept his interception-less streak alive (thanks, again, to a PI penalty negating a pick).
· Finley also showed his flair for the passing game by turning receiver on a trick play and casually hauling in a one-handed grab on a play that covered 20 yards.
· Defensively, the Pack won the sack battle 3-0 with Bradley Chubb turning in another dominant performance. Chubb had 3.5 TFLs, including two sacks, leading to 24 yards in lost yardage for the Orange.
· Justin Jones accounted for the Pack’s other sack. Meanwhile, Finley hasn’t been sacked in ACC play.
· The defense held ‘Cuse to just 1.6 yards per play in the first half, and that will get your quarterback in dire straits against this defensive line. Chubb totaled eight tackles, Jones had seven, and B.J. Hill added six. That’s a lot of production up front.
· Not to be outdone, lineman Kentavius Street swallowed Eric Dungey whole on a fourth-and-one at the 20 to cause a turnover on downs with State leading 19-7 in the first half.
· Jerod Fernandez was in on 14 tackles; that’s even more impressive when you consider that he splits time with Germaine Pratt.
· Johnathan Alston had a nice pick in the first quarter that helped the Pack build their big bulge early in the game, and Mike Stevens finally got some run for the first time this year after suffering a knee injury in fall camp.
· Alston’s pick was the game’s lone turnover. State has won the turnover battle in four straight games thanks in large part to not turning the ball over in four straight games.
· State had too many penalties (six for 49 yards) but certainly showed more discipline than Syracuse on an afternoon when things were getting chippy and the hankies were flying. The Orange saw yellow 12 times and had 93 yards marched off against them. The biggest flag was an illegal formation call that wiped out a touchdown in the third quarter. That one was followed immediately with a personal foul that saw Chubb pull off a fine flop and do his best JaySam after a drop impression by rolling through the end zone.
· 344 yards and 26 points in a half is fun. Let’s do that again.
· 23 yards and no points in a quarter is not fun. Let’s not do that again. In fact, let’s never speak of the third quarter again.
· That’s correct. State had more points in the first half than it had yards from scrimmage in the third quarter. Dammit, I spoke of it again. Never. Speak. Of. This. Again.
· After holding the nation’s leading receiver to a scant one catch in the first half, Steve Ishmael went off in the second and finished with six grabs for 120 yards and a TD. Meanwhile, Ervin Philips had his way with the secondary like a coked-up Charlie Sheen at a strip club, notching an Orange record 17 receptions for 188 yards. We’ve seen receivers break records previously held by Art Monk and Randy Moss this season. It’s a work in progress.
· Though the running game was pretty much nonexistent for ‘Cuse, Dungey did rush for a score, the first rushing TD allowed by the Pack since week one.
· After abandoning the strategy of trying to pin them inside the 20 with a corner kick in favor of just booting the damn ball into the end zone, State, for reasons unknown, decided to get cute on kickoffs again, resulting in a shanked pooch that gave ‘Cuse a short field. Touchbacks, please. Nothing but touchbacks.
· A Louis drop on third down that resulted in the Pack’s first punt, and snowballing momentum in the wrong direction, in that quarter I promised not to talk about anymore.
· Kelvin Harmon and Airius Moore left due to injury with a short week to get well.
· Settling for field goals early, missing a field goal just before the half, and shanking an extra point. Those lost points were the difference between a Mike Tyson-like early knockout and a game that got too close for comfort.
· Having to watch the fourth quarter on replay thanks to the SEC apparently being more important than Wolfpack football. SERIOUSLY, if you’re going to cut away from the game at 3:30, please lift the blackout restriction so I can at least stream it in real time.
· If we’re going to have targeting penalties, maybe the Parris Bennetts of the world, who end guys’ careers with egregious face mask tackles, should also suffer consequences. Like sitting out forever. Dawka Nichols, who had a career high 12 carries for 78 yards in State’s blowout win over Syracuse last year, has his degree and is in graduate school. He’s got a promising life after football, but it’s a shame that after football came too soon. He’ll have surgery today.
NC State is 2-0 in league play for the first time since Chuck Amato’s 2006 squad played their fannies off to open the league slate with back-to-back wins over a pair of ranked opponents, Boston College and Florida State. Let’s just forget that the 2006 team went on to lose out and finish 3-9 and instead marvel in the deliciousness of opportunity. Exact revenge on the Cardinals, who blew the Pack off the field last year, and we’re in a race for a conference championship. Lose, and the path to a league crown and a historic season is all but derailed. No pressure.
And, seriously, it’s as criminal as Rick Pitino that nine carries was Jaylen Samuels’ career high. It’s time to take the governor off. Here’s to JaySam all the time in primetime Thursday night.