NC State lost a game on Saturday that did not matter. The game sucked to watch, but it’s a really easy one to get over. Notre Dame is really good. Notre Dame is better than NC State. So be it. The Pack might not be ready for the real big time yet, but this is a team in its building stage. That happens to be a lengthy stage for a program whose history is dripping with mediocrity, but State still feels like it’s moving on up in the world and knowing that makes this one easier to swallow. So does the fact that the Pack still controls its own destiny in its quest for the much more realistic goal of an ACC championship.
All that said, let’s assess what happened on Saturday.
Notre Dang Son!
Notre Dame is legit. That rushing attack is frightening. Everybody knew this game would be decided at the line of scrimmage and it was. State lost on both sides of the ball. Finley was pressured and hit more in this game than probably the last six combined, and it threw a major wrench into State’s gameplan. On the other side, that is probably the best offensive line the Pack will face all year. It was most certainly the best to this point, and it showed. There were big holes for Notre Dame running back Josh Adams to stroll through. No real secrets to unravel here. Notre Dame was just better at the point of attack.
This was the most frustrating part of the game to me. I’ve been up and down on Drinkwitz since his hiring and I’m sure I’ll be up again soon, but right now I’m down. The playcalling on Saturday seemed as though it was coming from someone who was unsure how to adjust to a game going differently than usual. For most of the season Finley has had eons to stand in the pocket and do his quarterbacking thing. This was not the case in South Bend, but I’m not sure Drink ever realized it. Also that run on 4th and 1 made me throw up in my mouth a little.
Another reason this game isn’t worth worrying about is that State was at least a little more competitive than the final score would indicate. Injuries hindered the offense, especially losing Hines, who also would have been a threat to make a game breaking play on special teams. That’s the type of player you don’t just get past losing. It certainly doesn’t change the outcome of the game though. The officiating was also trash, but I won’t get into that or I’ll end up writing a 2000 word rant about the utter stupidity of pass interference and how nobody wearing stripes knows that penalty actually entails.
State still has everything in front of them. Losing to Notre Dame eliminated the Pack from the playoff, which ironically made the Notre Dame game matter exactly zero going forward. Clemson is what matters now. The ACC championship is what matters now, and beating Clemson would mean State would have to win just one more ACC game to clinch the division.
Clemson presents similar problems as Notre Dame did for the Pack’s offense. State is not going to be able to keep the Tiger’s defensive line out of the backfield for the entire game. How they adjust and deal with that from a playcalling perspective could be huge.