NC State let Furman hang around for a bit, and had PJ Blazejowski had the competence to hit a couple of wide open receivers that slipped into the secondary uncovered, it might’ve been a four-quarter game, but ultimately the Pack put it away with a 21-point third quarter and won by the comfy margin of 49-16. Perhaps more importantly, for the first time this season State appears to have escaped a game without a major injury in the secondary.
Now things get real, and while there was a lot more good than bad (or ugly) in week three, I’m left with the feeling that the Pack better have a lot that they haven’t put on film yet, especially defensively, if they’re going to spring an upset next Saturday in Tallahassee and become a player in the ACC Atlantic.
Without further ado, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from State’s move to a game over .500 in week three:
· Whether it’s due to the FCS competition or the return of Will Richardson from suspension is hard to say, but the run game finally got going. The Pack amassed 257 yards on the ground, averaging 6.2 yards per carry, and scored the ball via the rush five times.
· Nyheim Hines led the way with 92 yards on just 11 carries. Jalen McClendon covered 67 yards on six keepers in garbage time (and I’m not sure I wouldn’t like to see him when the game is still in doubt in a few select packages like last year). Jaylen Samuels had three rushing scores. The goal line kept getting in his way or he would have had much more than 3.2 yards per carry, but I like that he was more involved in the running game. And Dakwa Nichols finally got some run and made good with a TD that saw him plow three guys into the end zone.
· The offensive line allowed just one sack, and, in their defense, it was a well disguised delayed blitz on a play that took a while to develop.
· Ryan Finley didn’t need a 300-yard game for a third straight week, but he was very efficient when called upon, completing 22 of 27 throws for 231 yards (and he probably would’ve had two or three more if not for slips and drops). The grad transfer is connecting on over 75% of his throws and has yet to get picked in 127 attempts.
· JaySam led the receiving corps with 75 yards on six catches, including two more of the spectacular variety. He made a quick adjustment to haul in a deflected ball and made another juggling grab despite contact that would’ve driven a lesser man off the ball. He’s pretty good. He doesn’t care to roll anymore.
· Three games and three TDs in the two-minute drill just before the half.
· Defensively, the Pack did an excellent job keeping the option off schedule with TFLs. Darien Roseboro led the way with nine tackles, including two for a loss that included a half sack.
· Roseboro’s pressure led to a Shawn Boone pick six and the Pack won the turnover battle 3-0. That’s two games in a row without a turnover.
· Kentavius Street added a pair of TFLs and James Smith-Williams had 1.5, including a half sack.
· Despite a Triston Luke run of 45 yards on a missed assignment, the defense was very good against the always mind-numbing challenge of option football. The Paladins needed 47 carries to gain 133 yards and managed just 1.9 yards per carry on all the runs that weren’t that one Luke busted for a long gain.
· The D has allowed just three points in the last two second halves of games and also shutout USC-East in the fourth quarter, which suggests both good conditioning (Thunder Dan!) and good coaching adjustments (Yay, Hux. The sun is our friend!).
· Even the special teams showed some life, with Stephen Louis deflecting a punt that led to a 16-yard stinker and a short field. Hines took advantage of a great block from Cole Cook to capitalize with a sixer shortly thereafter.
· Five touchbacks! I am all for scrapping the try to pin them deep with a kick inside the five strategy. Just Bambard that thing into the painted part of the field.
· The Purple Paladins’ helmets have the phrase “FU all the time” emblazoned on the back of them!
· Bradley Chubb’s unnecessary roughness penalty (though a bit of a touch foul) gave the Paladins an extra set of downs in the opening frame, eventually leading to three points. Just don’t.
· I mentioned the missed assignment allowing Luke to bust one, but holding an option team to just one big run is solid. But then there’s that pesky forward pass. Alas, the eyes of the linebackers and secondary got caught in the backfield a few too many times, leading to a 71-yard catch and run TD to Andy Shumpert. Fortunately, Blazejowski airmailed two other receivers who ran past a peeking second level into WIDE OPEN space. Had he connected on either of them, this game is still in doubt in the fourth quarter.
· Gavin Locklear helped keep Furman in it by muffing a pitch on a gadget play and dropping what would’ve been a first-down toss on the opening drive of the third quarter.
· Didn’t break 50.
· Mike Cofer is not walking through that door.
I for one am ready to give Kyle Bambard another shot. If he misses, I vote we literally NEVER attempt another field goal this season. Go for it. Every time. The only possible exception would be if we’re down by one or two and it’s from extra-point range. No. Nope. Go for it.
Thanks to Irma, State will face an FSU team that hasn’t played a game since September 2nd. Of course that means that the Noles will have had a long, long time to prepare, but it also means that they may have some rust. They lost their starting QB in the opener, so true freshman James Blackman will truly be thrown to the wolves, having not had any game action to prep for ACC play. If the Pack can continue to play turnover-free football, this should be a ballgame, but I think they’re going to have to be better than what we’ve seen so far to escape with a W.
Remember to get your drinking in early, as it’s another nooner. At least this time it’ll be nationally televised, so you don’t have to play the blackout game.