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Sunday brunch with Omega: ECU edition

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NC State opens the 2019 slate with a 34-6 pasting of the Pirates

East Carolina v North Carolina State Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

With the advent of New Belgium’s Old Tuffy, BTP’s Sunday morning “mixed six” feature (example here, for any newbies) has been deemed obsolete. We’re all just pounding Old Tuffy now anyway, right? Alas, all these noon kickoffs result in some hard morning drinking (followed by day drinking, evening drinking, and late-night drinking), but, thankfully, your old pal Omega is here to help you with that hangover. This year our morning after adventures will guide you through a proven “hair of the dog” remedy and a three-course brunch to cure your worst alcohol-infused woes.

And, of course, this will all somehow be cleverly tied into the actual football game. Here we go…

Hair of the dog—third and long iced tea (one ounce each of vodka, gin, white rum, triple sec, and cola with three ounces of lemon-lime sports drink). I’m not sure why this is called a “tea” given its lack of, well, tea, but you’re going to need that alcohol to reverse your blood’s desire to purge what’s remaining from the night before, and of course those electrolytes are key to your recovery as well.

Speaking of lacking things—let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first—the vaunted third-down efficiency NC State enjoyed last year (47.3% conversion rate, 11th best in the country) was noticeably absent against the swashbucklers from that famed port city of Greenville (Greenville is not really a port city). The Pack managed to move the chains just four times on 12 third down attempts, and they were stuffed on their lone try on fourth down when, inexplicably, a QB sneak was called even though they needed two yards. That inability to maintain drives was all that kept State from hanging 50+ on the Pirates for the second time in as many years. Add in potentially serious injuries to C.J. Riley and Nick McCloud, and it wasn’t a perfect opener for the Pack.

First course—asparagus and new potato hash: The crispy new potatoes and the green of the asparagus pay homage to the new guys. State broke in three new starters with little playing experience on offense, including tackle Emanuel McGirt and center Grant Gibson, who helped pave the way for the most notable new face on offense, quarterback Matt McKay, who became just the third Wolfpack signal caller to surpass 300 yards in his first start. McKay was never sacked while completing 25 of 37 throws for 308 yards and a score. He added 35 yards and a pair of TDs on the ground. Tabari Hines, certainly not new to football but, as a grad transfer, new to the Pack, combined for 108 yards rushing and receiving and accounted for the game’s most explosive play, a 48-yard TD catch. Zonovan Knight averaged 4.7 yards a carry and accounted for one of State’s three rushing scores on the first touch of his career, while Jordan Houston showed explosiveness on a 22-yard scamper. “Bam” Knight and Houston are both true freshmen.

Ikem Ekwonu rotated in for a number of snaps at left tackle as a true freshman and looked great. He may be the gem of a class of freshmen linemen that Dave Doeren said was the best he’s seen since his days at Wisconsin. That’s high praise, as the Badgers are to the OL what the Pack are to the QB position.

Defensively, it’s a much more veteran group. The new thing was mainly a new look with a 3-3-5 formation rather than the 4-2-5 look of old. The extra linebacker helps accommodate a deep positional group and get new potato Payton Wilson on the field. Wilson did not disappoint, tallying six tackles that included two of State’s eight tackles for a loss in his first run with the Pack.

Trenton Gill made his debut as kickoff specialist and punter. The redshirt sophomore blasted three touchbacks in seven kickoffs and averaged 41.6 yards per punt. For comparison, Raiders punter A.J. Cole averaged 41.3 yards a punt as a sophomore at State.

Second course—cream cheese stuffed French toast: The formation and some faces may have changed, but it’s a Doeren hallmark to stuff the run, and the Pack defense didn’t disappoint in this regard, holding the Pirates to just 41 yards on the ground (at a paltry 1.4 yards per carry). ECU managed just 154 total yards after the first quarter, as State showed the ability to not only take away the run, but also to smother the Pirates’ short passing attack. Eventually, Holton Ahlers had to sit in the pocket in hopes that something would develop downfield, and that’s when State’s veteran defenders teed off, with James Smith-Williams, Larrell Murchison, and Isaiah Moore all notching sacks.

But Tanner Ingle was the cream of the crop on defense, recording eight tackles, breaking up a pair of passes, getting in on a tackle for a loss, and further stuffing the stat sheet with a QB hurry. Of course his most important stat was a forced fumble, as one of his vicious hits jarred the ball free from Ahlers near the goal line to thwart ECU’s best scoring opportunity. The move to safety seems to have been the perfect fit for Ingle.

Third course—pigskin pancakes: The pigskin found the ground four times in the game, with both teams putting it on the turf twice. State retained possession both times, including a great hustle play by McGirt to salvage a drive that would later result in a TD. In an endzone scrum, Jarius Morehead wrestled the fumble caused by Ingle away from a Pirate. I wouldn’t chalk those recoveries up to pure luck—give McGirt credit for staying with the play and Thunder Dan credit for Morehead’s muscles—but different fumble fortunes could’ve made for a very different game, not just for the potential 14-point swing, but also because of the momentum and confidence ECU would’ve gained by finishing its first drive with a touchdown.

Add in an excellent interception by Chris Ingram, and State finished +2 in the all-important turnover battle. You’re going to win a lot of football games that way.

Provided the entire eastern seaboard isn’t obliterated by Hurricane Dorian, join me next Sunday morning for more brunch with Omega after the Western Carolina game. The Catamounts are coming off a loss that saw them allow 42 points in the first half—not as some sacrificial lamb to a power five school—but to Mercer. Yikes.