For the first time since 2012, NC State blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead in last Thursday’s 27-23 home loss to Wake Forest. The 2012 loss, a 43-35 embarrassment against UNC that saw State outscored 18-0 in the final frame, was the death knell for Tom O’Brien. The primetime collapse against the Deacons most certainly won’t spell the end for Dave Doeren, whose program is on a decidedly different trajectory than O’Brien’s was at the time, but it was certainly hard to stomach. It’s taken me nearly a week to approach the keyboard to sum up my thoughts. But I promised a “mixed six” for every game, so, unlike the Pack last Thursday, I’m going to deliver.
(But seriously if you want to go on pretending this debacle never happened, feel free not to read on. Links to the game recap and box score on gopack.com are broken, so trying to pretend it didn’t happen is a thing that’s going around.)
First beer—Colt 45 malt liquor in a brown paper bag wrestled from a homeless person under a bridge: It appeared Wolfpack faithful were on their way to witnessing some sweet poetic justice when Emeka Emezie grabbed a touchdown to put the Pack up 23-13 early in the fourth quarter. Emezie was devastated a year earlier when the TD that should’ve beaten Wake was ruled a fumble, reducing the young man to tears and saddling the Pack with yet another loss against a perennially less talented Demon Deacon squad. But losing to Wake is just what we do, so naturally a previously ineffective third string quarterback caught fire and the Deacons scored more points in one quarter than they had managed in the first three to pull out the win. No redemption for Emezie as the Pack again wrestled defeat from the jaws of victory.
Second beer—Foothills Brewery’s Torch Pilsner: It appeared State would keep Greg Dortch, who has gone for at least 90 yards receiving six times this season, from torching its porous secondary, but after doing a commendable job on Wake’s leading receiver for 54 minutes, he managed to somehow get 10 yards behind everyone for an easy 19-yard score with six minutes left to bring Wake to within three. Worse than that was Sage Surratt, whose previous career high in yards receiving against power five competition was 56 yards. The bro of UNC’s Chazz caught eight balls for 109 yards. And Jack Freudenthal was untouched on his 32-yard game winner with 30 seconds left…quite the Freudian slip. (I’ll show myself out, like hopefully everyone in charge of coaching State’s secondary after the season.)
Third beer—Steel Reserve 211 found bobbing in water at the bottom of a cooler: One sip of this room temp beer with surely induce vomiting, kind of like this stat: Jamie Newman, making his first career start, threw for 234 yards in the second half. That’s about 100 more yards than he had managed in his entire career, including the first half of the game, where he managed just 63 yards while leading Wake to a meager three points. Halftime pass-outs have gotten a lot of criticism as often the Carter is half empty for the third quarter, but it’s really gone too far when apparently the entire defense goes out to the parking lot to drink.
Fourth beer—Foothills Brewery’s Craft Happiness IPA Project Sustain: I had planned on writing this entire feature with nothing but craft happiness project IPAs, as Foothills rotates a new IPA each month and donates a portion of the proceeds to charitable groups, a thing that deserves attention. Sustain’s proceeds go to the Yadkin Riverkeepers. Good on you, Winston-Salem-based brewery, for giving back. Obviously the outcome of the game necessitated some edits to the beer list. So anyway, imagine this delicious IPA was floating by you on the river, just at the edge of your reach, on a hot summer day. Ah it would be so refreshing, but as you plucked it from the river, it slipped from your grasp…like so many dropped footballs. NC State receivers dropped a pair of would-be touchdowns, a ball on the goal line that might’ve resulted in a score, and a put-the-game-away pass on fourth down. For all of its woes, the defense never should’ve been in a position to lose this game. In the midst of historically bad seasons, Louisville and Florida State hung 35 and 38 points, respectively, on this Wake defense. Thanks to drops, a punchless run game, and going a combined 6-for-18 on third/fourth down conversions, State could not sustain drives and thus could not sustain the lead. Put up 40+ like every other decent program has done against the Deacs, dammit, and the secondary would get to go a week without getting pummeled in this space.
Fifth beer—Prism Brewing’s Red Zone (which is described as a football seasonal red ale with maple syrup): Don’t look for this beer, as it’s retired. Also don’t look for State to score a TD in the red zone. The Pack’s 54.2% TD rate inside the 20 ranks 111th in the land (out of 130). But, hey, we’re only one spot behind UNC! And ECU is 128th. Perhaps we have some dramatic field goal battles to look forward to down the stretch. In case you’re wondering, we’ve never converted better than 60% of red zone trips to TDs (or finished better than 73rd in the nation in this category) in the Drinkwitz era. We’ve also had Kelvin Harmon for the entire Drinkwitz era.
Sixth beer—Foothills Brewery’s Thousand Smiles Gold Ale: Speaking of Harmon, he needs just 35 more yards receiving to break 1,000 for the second straight year after earning yet another ACC receiver of the week honor for his performance against Wake Forest (15 catches, 134 yards). Jakobi Meyers added 117 yards on 10 grabs, and Emezie had 83 on five catches. Meyers has 658 yards on the season despite missing a game and could conceivably break 1,000 as well, though it’s a longshot. It almost seems like our passing game could be a strength, though don’t expect a departure from running the ball on nearly every first down.
In hindsight, this game was probably over after Maurice Trowell’s opening 47-yard kickoff and Wake’s muffed punt inside the 15 resulted in a whopping three points for the Pack. Wake was ready to let this one get away from them but the Pack wouldn’t oblige. And the result is what happens when you let an inferior opponent hang around and gain confidence. On to the next one…
Parting shot—Fireball cinnamon whisky: Yeah yeah I know. We’re going to Kentucky and I’m taking a shot of fireball? Sacrilege! But, fireball reminds me of Bobby Petrino’s red face bubbling out of that neck brace in those wonderful memes celebrating his misfortune. There’s “fire” in the title and he got shitcanned. And Fireball’s slogan is: “Tastes like heaven. Burns like hell.” That pretty much sums up this season. The first five games were heaven, since then it’s been hell. But it can still be a helluva year (by historical NC State standards anyway) if Doeren can right the ship and win out.