For the first time in actually forever, the NC State-Boston College game had bearing on the ACC Championship race for both teams. It was the biggest game of the year for the Pack and through a few mistakes they delivered an excellent 44 minutes of football.
We run the ball now
The biggest surprise of the day was how much better than Boston College NC State was at the line of scrimmage. The offensive line, which had struggled in earlier games to generate running lanes, has grown tremendously in just a handful of weeks. They’re having a lot more success delivering blocks on linebackers upfield and pushing defenders out of position.
It’s been a process, largely built around inserting the right personnel into the lineup, but now it’s starting to come together. Getting both starting tight ends back has been huge and Autenrieth specifically has been very good in run blocking. Adding Sculthorpe to the lineup has made a significant impact as well. The versatile interior lineman is a force in run blocking. Here he is absolutely destroying a guy.
State wasn’t getting that level of play from Fedd-Jackson. Sculthorpe is only a sophomore too. He’s setting up to be a staple on the offensive line over the next 2.5 years, all of which is quite noteworthy when you consider he had two offers out of high school (NCSU and ECU). The sophomore guard is yet another testament to the staff’s ability to sniff out talent.
Behind that line, the tailback play has really helped spur the ground game. Ricky Person’s game looks incredibly advanced for a freshman. He’s one of the most patient runners I’ve ever seen and he gets to top speed quickly enough that he can afford to be that patient. He breaks a lot of tackles as well, even though it doesn’t look like he’s doing anything on half of them.
Kelvin Harmon update: still good
Kelvin Harmon remains ridiculous. He is the best receiver in the country. Fight me.
Every game Harmon makes three or more catches that would be season highlights for most receivers. He is impossible to cover. What I’m saying is that he is really good.
I really liked some of the creative things State did with Steph Louis. There are too many good receivers available to feature all of them, but Louis is too good to be relegated as the fourth or fifth guy. The senior getting into some JaySam type roles on some plays was a nice wrinkle. It was unexpected but not because it was stupid, which was refreshing from a play calling perspective.
Defense rolled the run game
State’s defensive front locked in on BC’s run game and succeeded in slowing it down. It was the second straight week the inexperienced front seven put the clamps on a relatively potent rushing attack. Germaine Pratt’s big day had a lot to do with that. He was all over the field blowing up running plays and passing plays.
All that lost talent isn’t slowing down the defensive line, which won the line of scrimmage against a much more experienced offensive line. State just had better players. Look at Alim McNeil here. He just steamrolls his man. Purely, he’s just bigger and stronger, and he’s a true freshman. That’s insane.
Darian Roseboro and Eurndraus Bryant short circuit this zone run by just driving the line into the backfield. It completely messes up the rhythm of the play and a good read by the linebackers finishes it off.
When you allow yourself to engage in the overindulgent optimism that comes with being a fan, it’s hard to not feel like State is building a monster on both lines. They’re recruiting them well, especially on the defensive side. They’re building players well, and they’re starting to get into a cycle where they can reload instead of rebuild. I think I’ve said it like almost every week now, but this is where good football teams that can sustain a level of superior play are built.
State was lucky on the back end
The big secret of the game was that the secondary had its worst showing of the year. While noticeably better than last year, it’s still been an up and down season for the back end of the defense, and Saturday was more of a down. Dudes were running wide open down the field on several occurrences.
The Pack was on and off in its attempt to generate a pass rush, as speedy edge rushers are probably the only thing the line isn’t flush with, so it wasn’t the easiest task ever for the secondary. Still, State has been continuously burned by the same middle post route all year and was again on Saturday. This should have been a touchdown, and it would be with a quarterback that could find an inkling of accuracy.
State was bailed out of their downfield coverage struggles by Boston College’s insistence upon its sputtering running game, as well as Anthony Brown’s accuracy issues and seemingly endless drops. BC was really hapless for a large portion of the afternoon in its passing game, and there were plays to be had there.
Special teams continue to be an assembly line for catastrophic mistakes. The reasons for this grow more and more mysterious with each passing week. The Pack actually covered kickoffs quite well against one of the best return units in the ACC, but the punt units imploded instead. It’s always something, but rarely the same thing, so who the hell knows?
Overall it was an impressive 44 minutes of football for NC State. The team made some errors that should have impacted the outcome of the game, but through sheer dominance was able to overcome them. Two of the turnovers were freshman mistakes, which happens when you play freshman. That’s why they’re called freshman mistakes.
State doesn’t usually turn the ball over though, so nobody should be too concerned about a trend. Other than the turnovers, it was all Wolfpack. I’m having trouble coming up with too much to be upset about with the 44 minutes of football that NC State played on Saturday.
- Major shoutout to Dave Doeren and Eliah Drinkwitz for calling the pass play to seal the game. Let your best players win you the game.
- The running game has helped the redzone offense, but this was the first time I recall State scoring a redzone touchdown on a quick timing route. Seeing as that’s the bread and butter of their passing offense, you’d think they’d try to work that concept into that area of the field more, instead of abandoning it for the more popular “doing something dumb.” They did it at the end of the half and it went for six points. Good job.
- You can’t have a 21 yard field goal get blocked. You just can’t. Get that ball up.
- Did I mention that Kelvin Harmon is good?