“I’m just going to be blunt. If State cannot beat West Virginia, it is not a good football team. West Virginia does not look good.”
Usually, I rewatch the game each week before writing this. I always wanted this to be more than a game summary. I wanted it to be more of an analysis of why things happened. I thought people would enjoy reading that, even if it was only from me, your local idiot sports blogger.
But I would rather gouge my eyes out with a stapler than rewatch that turd bowl of a second half. So I’m not doing that. Every clip is from the first half, except one, which I sacrificed my eyes to get. I cann no lnger seee wt I am tyiing soi foun eioendof dsiof dsi apopn p.
The problem with the game was everything
From the very beginning, you could tell that State wasn’t ready for this. It’s so critical to start road games like this one well, but State came out shaky and got ran over on the Mountaineers’ first drive. It’s understandable for a young team to come into a game like this and look a little uncertain, but a good team will eventually settle down. State never really did, because it probably isn’t a very good team.
West Virginia’s opening drives were centered around neutralizing their disadvantage at the line of scrimmage. They used a lot of quick throws and got the ball to the edge in order to avoid taking on NC State in the box, where the Pack should theoretically dominate. It worked perfectly as State blitzed heavily and didn’t tackle well, basically giving the Mountaineers exactly what they wanted.
It’s almost as if the Pack came into this game thinking they were going to run over West Virginia’s offensive line and the Mountaineers were going to do nothing about it. I don’t know how you’re not expecting stuff like this. Here State shows blitz. Austin Kendall checks out of the play to a quick slant, State brings the house, and it’s an easy completion over the middle. State brought the house again the next play and an easy bubble screen went for a touchdown.
The Pack gave away 14 points before it adjusted to what its opponent was obviously going to do from the very beginning. How you’re not prepared for this from a fast team that can’t hang at the line of scrimmage is pretty baffling. Of course, it’s not all on the coaches. Somebody has to be able to get off their blocks and make a tackle.
You do have to give Neal Brown a lot of credit for finding a way to make that offense work with all its deficiencies. He really is a very good football coach. But none of us as State fans give a crap about that, nor should we, because State’s coaches should be able to make their defense do something that could be considered working given the talent on that side of the ball. They did not. The defense was confused the entire game. It felt like they were trying to catch up to West Virginia’s game plan for the whole 60 minutes.
State was never really able to impose itself at the line of scrimmage anyway, which was a hugely disappointing happening. They never really made Austin Kendall that uncomfortable and that was a major red flag. This was supposed to be where State would win the game, but it could never find a way to derail passing plays with pressure, and it certainly didn’t take the transfer quarterback long to find an open receiver.
The other problem was everything else
The offense kept State afloat in the first half despite the defense, which was not a sentence I was expecting to type. In fact, saying “kept afloat” might be underselling. It actually was pretty good. It was mistake heavy, but State had four long drives and scored 21 points. That’s not bad.
The Pack ran the ball well in the first 30, and McKay, well not great, hit some nice throws. He was inconsistent, but he made enough plays to sustain drives. The wheels completely vacated the wagon in the second half. Like they came off the wagon and then the wagon exploded and the wheels rolled all the way to the suburbs of Chicago where they started a nice little wagon wheel family and were free from being a metaphor for NC State’s sputtering offense.
State’s second half offense was just brutal. It was completely useless. You know it’s bad when your defense actually forces a turnover inside the other team’s 25 and you’re not even considering the chance that State could get six points out of it.
The Pack ran the ball effectively in the first half, which per the official rules means it isn’t allowed to run the ball in the second half. It was the only part of the offense that was consistently effective, and yet McKay threw 48 passes while Knight and Person combined for 23 carries. I praised the offensive coordinators for the last two games, but all the goodwill is gone. This was nonsense.
State also flashed the potential that guys like Tabari Hines and Keyon Lesane have when they get the ball in space. Apparently, we’re not doing that anymore either. Tabari Hines touched the ball twice. Lesane had one. I could deal with this if those plays were passed up for a between-the-tackles run game, which would make more sense given the strengths and weaknesses of the opponent. But that didn’t happen.
After two promising weeks, the offense reverted back to the same deliberate and stubborn approach that put a cap on it last season, except it was ignoring its cooking running game for a shoddy passing attack instead of the other way around. It’s incredibly frustrating to watch bad play-calling, and Saturday was an exemplar of what that is.
Alright, I guess we have to talk about the quarterback
For only the second time since 2008, NC State has a serious problem at quarterback. Everything that Matthew McKay was supposed to have going for him was not there on Saturday. He was far from comfortable in the pocket and he struggled with accuracy, especially in the later stages of the game.
Pressure forced McKay into two very poor throws on screen passes on the first drive of the game, one of which could have gone for a touchdown. He threw the second screen off his back foot and missed badly, even though pressure is expected on a play like that. This was the first sign he may not be comfortable.
This has been mentioned by just about everyone, but he is terrible about telegraphing throws. It’s not as big of deal when there’s no safety involved in the play because every throw is four yards, but it’s still a problem. This, combined with the fact that the Mountaineers had no fear of getting beat deep, made it way too easy for their defense to sit on those short routes and get great breaks on the throws.
The Pack is really without an immediate answer here too. I know people really want Devin Leary to be the guy, but he wouldn’t be third on the depth chart if he was ready to be the guy. Bailey Hockman wouldn’t have gotten nothing but garbage-time snaps against ECU and Western if he was on par with McKay. Simply playing another quarterback isn’t going to fix this, otherwise that guy would already be playing. It’s possible that McKay isn’t good enough right now but is also the best quarterback on the roster. That paints a pretty bleak picture, but it’s probably reality.
Things that were good
The band, I guess, was apparently pretty good. Zonovan Knight is good still. The Domino’s pizza I ordered for the game was alright I guess. My internet connection to stream the game was strong all afternoon.
The final take
I’m hopeful that this isn’t as bad as it seems. West Virginia looked pretty stunted in its first two games, but I’m hopeful it’s a little bit better than it let on after adjusting to deal with its personnel issues. This was also a challenging road environment for a young team, and things can go bad quickly when that happens. Genuinely, I feel like the doom and gloom reaction to this game is probably the correct one, but there’s some reason to think this may be a low point for the season instead of a preview of it.
State has a long way to go and like West Virginia, it has some personnel problems it probably can’t overcome. The right approach can mitigate the damage though, and the coaches publicly admitting their failures would in theory inspire hope that they see what needs to change to give State the best chance to be successful. We’ll see what happens from here on out.
- I’m not for a second insinuating that the game could have ended differently without it, but that pass interference call on Brock Miller was crap. It would have been nice to see State get the ball down four in the fourth quarter. But no. This happened. This is terrible. This is crap. This is indefensible garbage. Get this off my TV.
- It would have been good to remember that you’re supposed to try and block the guys rushing your punt. Letting them run right by you has never been a very effective strategy, you know, historically speaking.