The optimist in us can point out that NC State—with eight new starters on defense—is allowing just 10 points per game on its way to a 2-0 start. Alabama, for a point of reference, led the nation last season by allowing just 11.9 points per game. The pessimist in us would note that Georgia State had a TD taken away by penalty, dropped a sure pick six, missed a field goal, and had another field goal blocked. State had similar luck against James Madison when Ben DiNucci fumbled just shy of the goal line. The Pack ended up punishing the Panthers, scoring 41 unanswered points to win going away, 41-7, but if ever a 34-point blowout was closer than the final score indicated, this was it.
Had Victor Heyward not dropped a sure pick six, the Panthers would’ve had the Pack in a 14-0 hole. Had Tanner Ingle not made a slobberknocker hit for a fourth down stop, and if that early fourth-quarter score not been negated, Georgia State might’ve been in it, if not until the end, at least long enough to make things uncomfortable. The Pack certainly doesn’t seem able to salt a game away on the ground after struggling for a second straight week in the running game.
I should probably feel better about things this morning. Breathe. Perhaps it’s a testament to having high expectations if I’m a bit nonplussed by a blowout win because it wasn’t always pretty. Hey, Atlanta (home to Georgia State), which dubs itself Hop City, is a pretty good beer town—segue!—which brings us to this week’s ATL-themed mixed six. (No, seriously, I was in an Atlanta Kroger a few months ago and there were three aisles of craft beer and one little six-foot section of swill the likes of Natty Light. My hepatologist thanks you, Atlanta Kroger.)
First beer—Terrapin Cinnamon Roll’d Oatmeal Stout: You have to be efficient for a noon-thirty kickoff, so why not get your alcohol AND breakfast in one 12 oz. bottle? Nothing like 9.4% ABV to get the tailgate off on the good foot. Speaking of good feet (segue!), Chris Dunn was a perfect 2-for-2 in his field goal attempts (though they were chip shots) and banged home five extra points in five tries. Kyle Bambard bombarded five touchbacks, and A.J. Cole averaged 47 yards on two punts (not that I condone punting). NC State’s past special teams woes…well let’s not even go there. Let’s just say that it was a stout effort by the kicking folks. More of this please.
Second beer—Burnt Hickory Brewery’s Big Shanty Graham Cracker Stout: This beer has BIG and STOUT in the title, two words that describe Pack defensive tackle Eurndraus Bryant. After a scary moment in the opener that saw Big E carted off on the Deere, it was worthy of raising a glass in his honor simply to see him healthy and back on the field. But Bryant didn’t just play, he led all defensive linemen with four tackles and also blocked a field goal attempt.
Third beer—Burnt Hickory Brewery’s Charred Walls of the Damned: This Belgian Quad, packing an impressive 13% ABV, will burn you…like an NC State wide receiver. Thayer Thomas charred the Panther secondary for nine catches on nine targets good for 114 yards and a sick one-handed score. He tossed a 56-yarder to Trent Pennix on some trickeration for good measure and has cemented himself as scrappy-former-walk-on-fan-favorite-gym-rat-student-of-the-game-coach-on-the-field guy just two games into his redshirt freshman campaign. Let’s hope Jakobi Meyers, who sat out with a bum ankle, gets well soon, but it’s good to know that his backup is equally capable. Figuring out how to get them both touches is a good problem to have. And Thomas wasn’t even the Pack’s leading receiver; Kelvin Harmon had a team-high 129 yards on eight catches as the Pack put up 426 yards through the air.
Fourth beer—Burnt Hickory Brewing’s Noggin Knocker: Kudos to BHB for having so many football-applicable brews. True freshman Tanner Ingle is quickly becoming the head head-knocker. He buried Penny Hart, GSU’s most explosive player, for a six-yard loss on a fourth-and-one reverse gone wrong to help stymie the Panthers’ hope of a comeback. Ingle shared the team lead with seven tackles and his bruising style of play also led to a forced fumble. It was a good day of firsts for freshman, true and redshirt alike, as Ingle topped the tackle chart for the first time and Pennix and Matt McKay notched their first career touchdowns. Pennix put up 94 yards from scrimmage. Another freshman, Alim McNeill, recorded the first 1.5 sacks of his career. State had five total TFLs covering 22 yards, while GSU managed just two stops behind the line for three yards.
Fifth beer—Orpheus Brewing’s the 12th Labor: Finley was picked on an underthrow that should’ve been a touchdown, and he had a bad-decision throw dropped that would’ve been six the other way, but he was otherwise impressive, completing 31 of 38 throws for 370 yards and two scores. He’s eclipsed 300 yards in both games this season and in 12 of his 28 career starts for the Pack. It was Hercules who endured the 12 labors, but since Finley is putting up Phil Rivers’ numbers, I chose this fertile (13% ABV) stout as a nod to PR’s impressive stats in a different type of labor. Rivers has seven kids…so far. May Finley be as fruitful on and off the field as his forebear.
Sixth beer—Creature Comforts’ Awaken, My Love: Brady Bodine’s 39-yard TD notwithstanding, State struggled yet again to move the ball on the ground. Reggie Gallaspy managed just 24 yards on 11 carries for a paltry average of 2.2 yards per tote. Overall, State managed just 2.5 yards a carry on the 30 runs that weren’t Bodine’s long TD. The running game ain’t woke, my love. That’s a problem. Depth at receiver isn’t a problem, but losing Stephen Louis to a concussion sucks. The way he was motionless after the hit makes a concussion almost feel like a relief; let’s hope the senior, who has battled back from a string of injuries to be honored with the #1 jersey, is able to safely return to the field soon.
Parting shot—Smooth Ambler’s Big Level Wheated Bourbon: The parting shot comes from West Virginia’s award-winning Smooth Ambler distillery because 1) I know for a fact that the owner hates UNC and 2) hosting the top-15 Mountaineers will be a big level up in competition. Will Grier will come to Raleigh with a 229.4 passer rating. For comparison, as good as Ryan Finley has been, his rating is 158.3. And Grier has the added bonus of a balanced offense producing over 200 yards a game on the ground. Actually, forget the shot and pass me the bottle.
State’s young defense will need to continue its good red zone fortune—opponents have scored on just 57.14% of their trips inside the 20—or actually play as well as the points per game allowed makes it seem like they’ve played. If not, the Pack is going to have a hard time keeping up next Saturday. Of course, State could also employ its secret weapon, the hurricane.
Batten down the hatches and bottoms up!