NC State’s Ryan Finley and Kelvin Harmon bounced back from their anemic performances against Clemson with career best games against Syracuse, but the defense—with the exception of Germaine Pratt—never got off the bus in State’s 51-41 loss. The Orange came in averaging 32.5 points against ACC competition and had only hung half a hundred one other time in a league game (a 76-61 loss to Pitt) since joining the ACC. It was a historically bad performance for NC State.
Let’s drink this one away with your Cuse area craft beer scene’s mixed six.
First beer—Middle Ages Brewing’s ImPaled Ale: Let’s plunge into the painful numbers allowed by a defense that played like it was impaired. Eric Dungey threw for 411 yards and State surrendered a total of 480 yards through the air. It was only the second time Dungey had eclipsed 400 yards in this his 34th game, and his 188 QBR for the contest is nearly 60 points higher than his career average. This is a guy who was benched against UNC because he couldn’t pass. Sean Riley had just one 100-yard game in his career, against Connecticut (a 1-7 team ranked 167th in the Sagarin ratings), before exploding for career highs in catches (10) and yards (164). Nykeim Johnson matched his career high in receptions (seven) while notching a career high in receiving yards (136) in only his second 100-yard receiving performance. He needed double overtime to barely crack 100 against UNC. That’s 300 yards from just two guys. That’s our defense being worse than UConn and UNC’s units. And, in case you were wondering, the 480 yards passing was 52 more than the Orange had ever put up in a game. Ever. Like in the history of the program.
Second beer—Willow Rock Brewing’s Jim Brown Ale:
The teams combined for 1,102 yards of total offense, but Cuse great Jim Brown would be disgusted by both teams’ sad ground games. Missing Ricky Person to injury yet again, State managed a paltry 68 yards on 29 carries (2.3 ypc). Cuse wasn’t much better, gaining 81 yards on 37 attempts (2.2 ypc). For State, Reggie Gallaspy did extend his streak of consecutive games with a rushing TD to all of them; yup, he’s had a rushing TD in every game this year. Another great Brown, Ted, holds the Pack program record for consecutive games with a rushing TD with eight. If we go back to last year—Gallaspy had a pair of TDs in the Sun Bowl—he’s actually matched the record.
Third beer—Empire Brewing’s Strikes Bock: After Cuse scored on four of its first five possessions to take a 24-7 lead in the first quarter, Finley and Harmon struck back. Finley’s 473 yards passing were a career best and the most the Orange have ever allowed in a game. Harmon grabbed 11 balls for 247 yards, and his 74-yard TD grab was State’s longest play from scrimmage this year. Harmon’s effort was the second best in terms of yardage in school history (Torry Holt had a 255-yard game in 1998). Thanks to their efforts, the Pack was back within a score, with the ball, and with plenty of time before Tyrone Riley inexplicably whiffed on his block, leading to Finley’s lone INT on the day. Would love to have a do-over on that drive.
Fourth beer—Empire Brewing’s Lost Dog pale ale: The newcomers State was forced to employ: Riley at right tackle for an injured Justin Witt, and true freshman Teshaun Smith, he of five career snaps coming in, for banged up corner Nick McCloud, looked lost. Finley was sacked just once, but he was very often hurried and nearly every time it was a blown assignment or whiff from Riley, who a defensive end this time a year ago. The lack of development from Emanuel McGirt, a one-time elite recruit, has really hurt the Pack’s depth at tackle. Smith wasn’t toasted as badly as fellow true freshman nickel Tanner Ingle, who has been picked on in coverage all season, but he was flagged twice for pass interference, including one that extended the Cuse’s last drive on 3rd and 11. Instead of getting the ball back with two minutes left down three points, State surrendered the game over TD after Smith’s PI. And, remember, Cuse had the ball in the first place due to Riley’s whiff (on a three-man rush) leading to an interception. Dave Doeren has a long way to go in the developing quality depth department, and of course the injuries that have come are all in the areas where State is the thinnest (the secondary, offensive tackle, and running back).
Fifth beer—Middle Ages Brewing’s Swallow Wit: It had to be tough for Pratt to swallow the performance of his mates on Saturday, but you can’t find fault with the senior’s effort. He accounted for 50% of the team’s sacks (2.5 out of five) and made 25% of the total tackles (16 of 64) State managed. Actually, it wasn’t a terrible effort by the line as Darian Roseboro finally got his first sack of the season (though it was because he was the closest guy to the QB on an intentional grounding penalty), and Eurndraus Bryant notched a couple TFLs, including a sack. Unfortunately, when the line or Pratt didn’t blow up the play, the secondary was picked apart.
Sixth beer—Empire Brewing’s Black Magic stout: State had some serious black magic on third downs through its first five games, converting over 60% of the time, the best rate in the nation, and seemingly being better off on third and nine than third and one. That magic was snuffed out at Clemson, where the Pack managed just two third down conversions for the entire game. They were just 6-for-15 against Cuse in a game where a couple more sustained drives to keep the porous defense off the field was critical. State’s magical ability to avoid forcing turnovers continued, as it got none in the game and is 99th in the nation with nine takeaways on the season. Add in nine penalties for 95 yards and I’m going to need something stronger than beer.
Parting shot—Pinetop Distillery’s Carolina Moonshine: Nothing says coming home to Carolina like some ‘shine. Hopefully the much-maligned State secondary will have something for Deondre Francois on homecoming Saturday, but I expect another shootout. And, now that our expectations for this season have been rudely readjusted during this disastrous road trip, perhaps we can sit back and enjoy it, win or lose. It’s just a game after all. Sling it around. Have a little fun. Maybe tackle someone. Even with the four raging dumpster fires on the schedule to close the season after the Noles, I don’t see this team getting to double digit wins and playing in a meaningful postseason bowl, and those tempered expectations—and alcohol, of course—will help soften the blow of the next loss.