Virginia came to Raleigh averaging over 30 points and 200 yards rushing per game. The Wahoos didn’t approach those totals in a 35-21 loss to NC State. But, while the defense shined against dynamic Hoos’ QB Bryce Perkins, it was State’s ignition of its own dormant running game that was the story Saturday from Carter-Finley. Ryan Finley’s right arm is quite good, but thus far this season it had been the sum of State’s offense. If the balanced offense—and more than serviceable defense—is the new normal, the 4-0 Wolfpack might be in for some fun this fall.
Let’s take a look back at Saturday’s win with our mixed six.
First beer—Fortnight Brewing’s Off with Her Red: Usually when we have the much-ballyhooed noonish start, a lovely coffee-infused libation is in order to get the party started, but Omega ain’t burying the lede here. It’s time to off the red(shirt) talk for Ricky Person, who has been battling injuries pretty much since he arrived on campus. Even though he said he was only at 75 to 80%, his breakout performance (14 carries, 108 yards, 7.7 ypc), coupled with the normal bruising from Reggie Gallaspy, has the Pack finally firing on all cylinders. Person is the Pack’s first 100-yard rusher of the 2018 campaign, and the team’s totals of 176 yards and 4.5 yards per carry are both season highs. Off with Her Red is a sour raspberry ale, but for once there was nothing sour about the taste the running game left in our collective palates. And Person apparently isn’t even at full strength…yet.
Second beer—Random Row Brewing’s Locked Gate Lager: We always like to give a nod to our opponent’s brew scene, thus the selection of this highly drinkable Charlottesville lager. The Pack defense wasn’t totally impenetrable, but it locked up half the dual in dual-threat QB Bryce Perkins. Perkins came in averaging almost 80 yards a game on the ground but was held to just 24 yards on 1.7 ypc by a disciplined Pack D. State had done an excellent job of limiting the big play so far this season but it hadn’t generated many negative plays. Not so Saturday, as State, led by Larrell Murchison’s three sacks, tallied nine tackles for a loss. I’ll buy some of that Murch! As a team, Virginia totaled just 93 yards rushing, a sum less than half of its average (216.5) coming in. The Hoos managed just 21 yards rushing in the first half as the Pack built a 13-point lead.
Third beer—Fortnight Brewing’s Call the Hops: Somebody better call the hops—uh, cops—because we stole something (namely, the football). State was +2 in turnover margin thanks to picking Perkins twice. Nick McCloud jumped a route before halftime for the first pick, which led to a gorgeous 44-yard Chris Dunn field goal. (WE MADE A LONG FIELD GOAL!!!) Dexter Wright’s tip drill to himself INT extinguished any slim hopes of a miracle comeback in the fourth quarter. (Also, if you like IPAs, seriously go pick up a six pack of Call the Hops right now. 10/10 will drink again.)
Fourth beer—Reason Beer’s Hardly Working Farmhouse IPA: Both NC State and UVa came in among the nation’s top 10 teams in third down conversions, but when the Hoos faced a third down, their plays were hardly working. Virginia managed to make the line to gain just once in its first six third-down attempts and just four times all game. Meanwhile, Finley, facing many a third and long, guided the Pack to first down pickups on eight of 13 such downs. State has moved the chains on 59.3% of its third down attempts on the season. That’s really good. Reason Beer, another Virginia brewery, is also really good, but Virginia was not good on this day on third down.
Fifth beer—Bond Brothers Beer Company’s Obfuscate IPA: Eli Drinkwitz loves him some trick plays, but an early flea flicker didn’t obfuscate the Wahoo defense. But that didn’t matter to Emeka Emezie, who fought through double coverage to bring down a 40-yard bomb. Emezie, who finished with five grabs for 90 yards, also stepped in front of a Hoo DB on a rare errant throw from Finley and wrestled the ball into his possession for six. He later snagged a two-point conversion. Kelvin Harmon added six catches for 94 yards and a score on a finely executed Finley back-shoulder toss in the red zone. The physical presence of Emezie and Harmon, along with Cary Angeline using his size to haul in his first career TD, made the Pack formidable in the red zone. They scored on all five trips inside the 20.
Sixth beer—Upright Brewing’s Supercool IPA: You know what’s supercool? Kicking the ball through the uprights. Chris Dunn has done done it on eight of ten tries, including Saturday’s 44-yarder, and he’s perfect on PATs. The Pack haven’t had a kicker finish the season at better than 80% since Niklas Sade in 2013 (82.6%) and has hovered around 50% since Sade exhausted his eligibility and returned to Germany to open a lederhosen factory. *(Aflac trivia question: who is NC State’s all-time leading scorer?)
Parting shot—Bully Boy Straight American Whiskey: Let’s down a shot of South Boston’s Bully Boy in memory of Tom O’Brien. And maybe have another one for Addazio’s dudes. But there’s one dude that’s dinged. AJ Dillon hobbled off the field in BC’s win over Temple Saturday and did not return. He’s got an ankle, which in football speak means he’s got a bum ankle. This is bad news for a BC team that seems to have come back to reality over the last two weeks, even if it did come from behind to clip the Owls. Hopefully the Eagles will be playing a ranked Pack, and hopefully State doesn’t suffer the same fate of BC and Duke, who both puked upon creeping into the top 25. BYU (#20), Duke (#22), Mississippi State (#23), Cal (#24), and Texas Tech (#25) all lost Saturday, opening the door for the Pack to be ranked, but hopefully not play rank, for our next nooner.
Cheers to more morning beers!
*Sade is NC State’s all-time leading scorer.