I was pretty surprised to find I was the only one of my esteemed clownblogging colleagues that picked this one to be somewhat close. It’s tough winning on the road in the ACC—just ask Clemson—but Jaylen Samuels wasn’t going to let me gloat about being right, breaking off a late 40-yard TD to make the final margin 35-17. In the end, not so close after all, but this game was scarier than I thought it was going to be even though the final margin was wider than I expected.
NC State’s offense was totally non-existent outside of one Nyheim Hines run in the first half, and Pittsburgh had the momentum and the ball to start the second half, but the Wolfpack defense dominated after the break, allowing the offense to finally put it away on Samuels’ second rushing touchdown of the half.
Big picture: State is 6-1 and the lone unbeaten team in league play from the ACC Atlantic. That’s good. Really good. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from week seven:
· After trailing for the first time in ACC play all season, Hines answered Pitt’s first touchdown with an 83-yard scoring run en route to a career-best 135 yards on the ground. For good measure, Hines took a punt 92 yards to the house the very next time he touched it, putting the Pack up 14-7. They would not trail again.
· Let’s enjoy this nugget: State has trailed for 28 seconds against ACC opponents. Never having trailed was better, but that’s still pretty impressive.
· Back to Hines: the junior finished with 249 total yards after going for 225 against Louisville. Dude is dangerous. He’s got 648 rushing yards on the year and is on pace to give the Pack back-to-back 1,000-yard rushers.
· For good measure, Hines also downed a punt deep in Pitt territory.
· Of course of the team’s regular ball handlers, the leading rusher, in terms of yards per carry anyway, is JaySam, who chipped in 62 yards on just six carries. Samuels is averaging 6.2 YPC for the season; Hines is averaging an also impressive 5.6. (For comparison, Matt Dayes averaged 4.7 YPC last year.) Hines (6) and JaySam (7) have combined for 13 rushing scores.
· Samuels, who added 28 yards on four catches, needs one more TD to tie Stan Fritts for second in Pack history with 42 career TDs. He needs 10 to catch Ted Brown and who am I to tell him he can’t?
· State finished with 248 yards rushing and averaged 6.5 yards per carry. The former is the second highest total of the season and best against FBS competition, while the latter is the Pack’s best YPC mark of 2017.
· Sophomore Kelvin Harmon eclipsed 100 yards in the receiving game (three catches, 113 yards) for the fourth time this season and fifth time in his career. His go up and get it catch in the fourth quarter on a jump ball put the Pack in position to take a two-score lead.
· Kudos to an offensive line that not only paved the way to a big day on the ground but also kept Ryan Finley upright. The line didn’t allow a sack against the Panthers and has allowed just eight sacks on the season.
· Defensively, Germaine Pratt followed up his game-clinching pick six with a team-high nine tackles and a fumble recovery. Pretty impressive for a guy who doesn’t start.
· Darian Roseboro, playing days after the passing of his father, forced the fumble. He led the team with three tackles for a loss and recorded the Pack’s lone sack.
· Bradley Chubb had a scary moment with a dislocated finger but shook it off and returned to break up a pass while dropping into coverage on a zone blitz. He also had two QB hurries.
· Pitt’s “leading” rusher for the game totaled 18 yards.
· After missing much of the season with injury, Mike Stevens is looking more and more like his old reliable self, and he picked a pass to help the Pack finish +2 in turnover margin.
· The Pack were penalized just thrice for 39 yards.
· NC State is bowl eligible and playing for bowl position (playoff position?!?!) in mid-October.
· Ryan Finley, though his receivers were certainly complicit in the ineptitude, got off to a 1-for-7 start. Finley did recover to go 13-for-18 after the slow start and has yet to throw an interception on the season.
· An unwarranted offensive pass interference call took six points off the board which helped keep the game close for longer than it needed to be.
· Dave Doeren punted on fourth and four from the 37 in a tie game. The defense was certainly outplaying the offense at the time, but just no. Don’t do that.
· Jester Weah hauled in seven balls for 106 yards because we must allow at least one 100-yard receiver every game.
· Carson Wise missed a field goal by about 30 yards wide left and it wasn’t like he shanked it. It looked like he didn’t even know where the goal posts were and was aiming for the corner of the end zone or something. I just don’t know anymore. Bring back Bambard? Go for it on all fourth downs? Hold open tryouts during the bye week? I just don’t know anymore. I JUST DON’T KNOW ANYMORE. You’ve got to believe the futility in the kicking game is going to cost us a game at some point.
Ah, the bye week. It couldn’t come at a better time with Notre Dame and Clemson up next; heal up and get those unstoppable game plans together, fellas. But with a six-game winning streak and two huge games to get amp and hype about, it’s going to feel like an eternity. I’ll miss you, football.