Though the circumstances couldn’t have been more different, NC State took care of Marshall by a score of 37-20 for the second straight year. Last season, the Pack scored 27 unanswered points after spotting the Herd a 20-10 lead. Last night, the Pack took a 16-point lead into intermission behind an explosive first half from Ryan Finley and used a pair of picks to seal the deal.
The odds of having identical final scores in consecutive games is about on par with me being sober for a 7 p.m. kickoff, which brings us to our mixed six, Boogercats edition.
First beer—Morgantown Brewing Company’s Two Weeks Lager: This selection seems apt given that both programs got an unwanted bye thanks to Hurricane Florence (and it’s a West Virginia-brewed beer). After two weeks off, the NC State defense seemed, like us BTP faithful, to be starving for some football. In their first two games, the Pack “D” put the team in a 7-0 hole. Not so against Marshall, which was shut out in the first quarter after punting on its first three possessions. For the game, Marshall managed just one offensive touchdown and netted just 54 yards rushing (2.5 ypc). Most impressive, State, thanks to solid coverage from Nick McCloud and a lot of safety help, limited Tyre Brady to just three catches for 25 yards. Brady, in case you blocked it out, torched the State secondary for 248 yards a year ago. What a difference a year makes…even if the final score was the same.
Second beer—Bombshell Beer Company’s Six Shot: On a day when NC State receivers were taking shots—Thayer Thomas ended up in a sling, CJ Riley was helped off after a headshot on an ill-advised kickoff return, and Emeka Emezie took multiple, brutal hits—Kelvin Harmon stepped up with six physical catches covering 150 yards. That’s a tidy 25 yards per grab. Harmon’s ninth 100-yard game moved him past Jaylen Samuels into 11th in Pack history with 1,791 receiving yards.
Third beer—Fortnight Brewing’s Bring Da Ruckus: James Smith-Williams recorded the team’s lone sack, but State consistently got pressure on green Herd QB Isaiah Green and did so without losing contain. Green managed just seven yards rushing and was harassed into two interceptions, including a pick six by Jarius Morehead and a juggling catch from Chris Ingram. Those turnovers thinned the Herd’s hopes of a comeback. In all, the Pack was credited with 12 QB hurries in the contest yet never let Green squirt away for a big gain. That’s a good sign with a Virginia team coming to town that features a dual-threat signal caller in Bryce Perkins, who has rushed for 80 yards a game so far this season.
Fourth beer—Lonerider’s Gunslinger: Finley threw the ball 40 times for 377 yards, an average of better than nine yards an attempt, and he wasn’t picked. He pumped the brakes a bit after a first half that saw him throw for 286 yards as the situation and score dictated a slower tempo and a greater focus on the run game, but Finley still easily cruised to his fourth straight 300-yard game and 13th overall in his career. Only Philip Rivers (19) has more in Pack history. With a minimum of nine games remaining (I think bowl eligibility is a pretty safe assumption at this point) and no appreciable running game, Finley may well make a run at Rivers’ record of 300-yard games. The Boise State transfer moved past Mike Glennon into fourth for most passing yards in a Wolfpack career. Finley’s thrown for 7,633 yards and should cruise past Russell Wilson and Jaime Barnette into second by season’s end (though nobody’s catching Rivers for this record; the Chargers great and future NFL hall of famer amassed over 13,000 yards through the air during his QB tenure at State).
Fifth beer—White Street Brewing’s Hoptimist: Chris Dunn split the uprights with his first three field goal attempts, which put him at 6-for-7 on the season with the only miss from 40+ yards. Naturally, as soon I as I felt optimistic that our kicking woes were behind us, he doinked one off the upright from just 31 yards out. I’m going to blame that one on the rainy conditions and remain optimistic until proven otherwise. If he can maintain a 75% accuracy rate it will be a huge improvement over recent seasons that hovered around 50% and allow Dave Doeren more flexibility in his decision making. Seven is better than three, but coming away with nothing because you can’t trust the field goal unit is unacceptable. Those days may well be behind us.
Sixth beer—Conversion Brewing’s Belfry: After sticking to the Raleigh area for the last four brews, we head all the way to Oregon to find the right fit for Finley and the Pack’s knack for picking up third downs. State converted nine of 16 third downs against the Herd and is fourth nationally with a 58.5% rate on the season (and in good company: UCF, West Virginia, and Ohio State are the top three). Marshall is one of the many schools that rings the stupid third down bell (though it’s surely not a real bell in a belfry…just stay with me here), but it had little success in keeping State from sustaining drives. The Pack enjoyed a better than nine-minute advantage in time of possession. Upstart Virginia, which destroyed Louisville Saturday, is ninth nationally in third-down conversion percentage. State’s ACC home opener may come down to who can get the other guys off the field on third down, and you would be batty not to like the veteran Finley’s chances in that scenario.
Parting shot—Raleigh Rum Company’s Carolina Reaper Pepper Rum: The human-engineered reaper pepper, born in the Carolinas, claims to be the world’s hottest, so a spicy shot seems appropriate since this weekend was hot as fire for the ACC…just in the raging dumpster fire sense. Virginia Tech was embarrassed by an Old Dominion team that had never beaten an ACC or power five opponent in its 10 years of existence. Wake was obliterated at home against the Fighting Irish. The dudes at Boston College didn’t care for being ranked for the first time in a decade and got blown out by a previously 0-3 Purdue. Louisville looks to have hit the quit button already.
The two teams that saw their stock rise Saturday? NC State and Virginia. It might not be hyperbole to say that the Cavs look like the hardest non-Clemson team left on the schedule, so get your Funky Buddha Maple Bacon Coffee Porter on ice and get ready to be drunk and energetic by noon next Saturday.