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Film Room! Breaking down plays from NC State @ UVA

A lot to pick from!

North Carolina State v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Welcome back to the film room! Where to start? This post honestly got out of hand, I’m gonna have to cut this down if it will continue, haha.

There are honestly a lot of great plays to pick from in this game. The takeaway is how balanced NC State played against UVA. The rainy conditions made it difficult to throw so they shifted to the run in the second half, all while the defense stood strong and really came to play.

No, the game was not perfect. I hope the staff focuses on cleaning up the coachable mistakes (looking at you, Tanner Ingle) and makes sure the team does not overlook Duke. They have a prime chance at going into Carter-Finley North with both teams ranked for the first time in a generation. Oh boy that makes me nervous just thinking about it.

One note I had was it was clear that Conservative Dave came out when trying to protect the lead. One of things I liked about the last few wins has been maintaining momentum rather than trying to kill the clock. Ultimately a 17 point win is hard to sneeze at, but continually running on 2nd and long is a pet peeve. If you run on 1st and and again on 2nd down it puts you in an obvious passing situation in 3rd and long. Bam Knight did end up breaking several long runs throughout the game, so I can’t fault the strategy too much. It’s just something to keep an eye on.

To steal the line, “Let’s go to the video tape!”


3rd & 7, 1st Quarter, 11:46 remaining, NC State 35 yd line

Before jumping to that Porter Rooks coulda-been touchdown, I wanted to highlight this pass to Thayer Thomas. Sometimes I feel like we don’t pay enough respect to Thayer. He’s one of the best slot receivers this school has seen, and is always reliable for these 3rd down situations.

Masked LB blitz, with #6 and #56 dropping back into coverage. Leary finds the gap just between them and gets it to Thomas in double coverage. This was a tight window, honestly a risky throw but Leary and Thomas make it happen with a fake to the outside and cuts to the middle. First down, 18 yard gain.

3rd & 9, 1st Quarter, 10:16 remaining, UVA 34 yd line

Maybe the best play by a true freshman in quite a while. I followed Porter Rooks recruitment and was very excited when he committed since it seemed like he could make the kind of plays he shows here. Turns out recruiting 4 stars can be very helpful.

Favorable coverage. LB’s stayed underneath and Rooks streaked right past him on a post route. Putting trips right forces single coverage and Rooks just burns him. Watch the corner come on a delayed weak side blitz completely untouched, Leary launches the ball just in time.


Ugh. I mean. TECHNICALLY, the edge of the ball seems to touch the ground before he can cradle it. I think it was the right call but it’s still really hard to make the case that is indisputable evidence to overturn the call on the field.

If nothing else this shows Rooks’ great hands and focus to corral the ball while falling after running at full speed.

Here’s a view of that corner blitz. Tyrone Riley and Ricky Person see it too late but Leary stood in there and made the throw before the hit.

They reviewed the play and overturned the TD but that doesn’t make it any less spectacular of a catch. This bodes well for Porter Rooks’ future. Hold that thought.

2nd & 6, 1st Quarter, 6:58 remaining, UVA 36 yd line

Play action got ‘em. Not quite the same formation as the last pass to Rooks, only 2 wide this time. Leary brings Devin Carter in motion so Rooks is on his own. As soon as this happens the defense shifts and commits hard to the run as Leary does play action. #7 realizes it’s a pass and tries to drop back far too late. By then Rooks has already beat his man on the long post. For added measure Emezie takes his man into the endzone.

UVA ends up bringing a ton of pressure but gets greedy, tack on 15 yards for roughing the passer.

The extension by Rooks and to control the ball by turning his shoulder down before hitting the ground is very impressive for a guy that was in high school last year. This time it’s definitively a catch as he turns his elbow under it.

2nd & Goal, 1st Quarter, 6:01 remaining, UVA 5 yd line

A Trent Pennix sighting. I was legit considering writing a post posing the thought whether he should shift out of the logjam at RB and move to CB. Considering his size and speed it could still be a good fit. But I’m happy for him to get a look here, designed play for him.

Play action got ‘em again. Credit to UVA for being disciplined and understanding State’s historical tendency to run in the red zone. Word is probably going to be getting out now that Tim Back likes to pass down there. UVA’s RT would have had a clear shot at Bam Knight if not for Pennix coming in motion. Credit to the Pack receivers holding their blocks down field to allow for Pennix to use his speed and just waltz in untouched. Great play.

2nd & 7, 1st Quarter, 1:44 remaining, UVA 32 yd line

FLEA FLICKER!! Executed flawlessly. UVA bites on the run, then thinks it’s an end-around as Person flips it to Rooks. By this point the defense has probably been told to watch out for #14. Cary Angeline really delays his release until just the right time while Keyon Lesane slowly goes upfield.

From the defense’s perspective, it makes sense that this will be a run, until it’s something else, and then when it turns into something else else entirely, it’s far too late. Humorous subplot is the Pack receiver at the top of the screen literally stands still and stuns his defender.

Angeline used all of his massive wingspan to bring this ever so slightly overthrown ball in. Credit to Leary for the throw, watch how he basically has the ball in his hands for one step and flings it like Scott Wood pulling a catch and shot off a screen.

3rd & 8, 2nd Quarter, 10:19 remaining, NC State 3 yd line

After the goal line stand (see below), NC State was buried near their own endzone. Beck dials up a QB sneak that goes for 20 yards.

Remember last year when Dylan Autenrieth was injured? Watch how he fakes with the run to the left and turns back in time to pick up the OLB blitz. If he doesn’t make that block it’s at best a run for no gain. Instead Leary gets one of his biggest runs ever. Turns out having guys healthy is quite helpful.

This drive ended in a punt, but at least flipped field position. Or at least it would have if Gill hadn’t done a rugby style punt that went for all of 31 yards. Not sure about that one.

2nd & 12, 2nd Quarter, 2:50 remaining, NC State 35 yd line

Yo. This Porter Rooks kid might be something.

UVA only rushes 3, does not get pressure. Rooks runs a great post to get behind the underneath LB. Then Leary fires a straight dart to a spot only Rooks could catch. Also, look at Autenrieth near the bottom. He is clearly a decoy and UVA should’ve known better.

This dude will only improve over the next couple seasons. I have a feeling the types of catches we grew accustomed to see from Harmon & Myers (sounds like a law firm) on a regular basis might be in his future. I’m really glad Thayer Thomas is here for another year too.

This play leads to the following a few plays later.

2nd & 10, 2nd Quarter, 2:10 remaining, UVA 35 yd line

Bam Knight had enough of all this passing stuff, he was ready to get some lovin’ too.

This is a clinic on blocking. Everyone is doing their part. Angeline normally isn’t known for blocking. He shifts at the last second and helps double team the RT with Ikem Ekwonu, who then releases and keeps pushing downfield for another block.

Bam makes a very good cut to go inside of Joe Sculthorpe as there was just enough daylight to get through. Then he turned on the jets for 6.

4th & 3, 4th Quarter, 11:22 remaining, UVA 19 yd line

As soon as I saw Chris Dunn do that little stutter step in his approach I said, “he’s gonna miss.” There’s just something about the routine kickers have in their approach. Can’t mess with it.

It ended up being fine since Alim McNeill had his pick 6 the very next play, but this was the worst day of Dunn’s career as he went 1/3.

3rd & 5, 4th Quarter, 5:14 remaining, UVA 41 yd line

As soon as I saw this, I knew something was amiss:

Oh no

Like. No. Just...ugh. No, please. God, no.

Alec Lower is spinning in his fishing boat with just the thought of this.

Not that this play should be defended in any way shape or form, if he HAD gone through with the handoff to Pennix, it might have actually worked. But no.


We’re at the point now where opposing defenses see the wildcat, know it’s a one dimensional play then just feast on it. It doesn’t work often enough to justify its place in the playbook. Rip the page out, shred it then burn the shreddings.

2nd & 8, 4th Quarter, 3:57 remaining, UVA 21 yd line

The play to KEEP in the book, however, is handing the ball to Bam Knight. His added weight in the offseason shows here where he just refuses to quit and drags UVA defenders to a first down.

Note, this is happening LATE in the 4th quarter, not early in the game. His strength and conditioning coach must be good at his job or something. Nothing to analyze here. This is just a man’s run.

He scored two plays. The TD looked relatively easy:

But Knight has to thank the line full of blockers that helped him walk in for the score. It doesn’t happen without blocks from Ekwonu, Autenrieth, and redshirt senior TE Thomas Ruocchio. The latter of which helped screen a trio of Cavalier defenders.

Maintain offensive line play like this, and who knows where this team can go.


Great first half, middling for most of second half until finishing strong. NC State showed just how many weapons they have, especially young talent at receiver. Good performance given the weather.


3rd & 11, 1st Quarter, 8:46 remaining, UVA 33 yd line

State shows 6, rushes 3. LB’s drop into underneath coverage taking that option away. UVA only sends 3 receivers, so the Pack have them outnumbered. Add to that an honestly horrible throw by Armstrong. Slot receiver goes 15 yards out and stops, wide receiver cuts in. I guess Armstrong thought he was going to cut outside but he definitely did not.

Shyheim Battle just stayed in his spot and let the ball come right to him. This is another highly touted redshirt freshman seeing serious time and showing signs of success early. He had one play in the 3rd quarter where he broke up a pass and shook his talking trash. Then literally the next play got beat for a big pass gain. So he’ll be good, just needs consistency.


3rd & 10, 1st Quarter, 5:12 remaining, UVA 25 yd line

Not much to say except let’s admire the Wolfpack’s pursuit of the QB here. He was scrambling, the secondary took away his passing options and the Pack just swarmed him for the sack. Really enjoyed this one.

Payton Wilson is a maniac in his pursuit, he should get credit for the assist.

2nd & 8, 2nd Quarter, 14:34 remaining, NC State 30 yd line

Gibson dials up the heat and gets a pressure sack on Armstrong.

NC State ends up giving up a 4th & 2 conversion two plays later via an offsides courtesy of Payton Wilson. He’s an awesome player, he just needs to turn his 11 down to a 9.5. His teammate’s reactions are hilarious like, “goddammit Payton not again.”

But State was legit about to bring the house on that one. Just mis-timed it.

Back to back offsides plus a nice pass by Armstrong set up 1st & goal.

1st & Goal, 2nd Quarter, 12:38 remaining, NC State 5 yd line

—-> Slight tangent here. Chuck Amato era defenses were marked with certain signatures. They were going to out-intensity people with the great athletes they had on the field. This often resulted in frustrating penalties like the Wilson one above. When asked about this, Amato would shrug and say, “what do you want me to do, slow these guys down?” That never felt like a satisfying answer, as the high risk high reward nature of these defenses gave up as much as they took.

Two other signatures were great special teams play, either punt returns or punt blocks (stay tuned), and goal line stands. It was very cool as a student to be sitting on that side of the field watching them stuff an opponent short of the endzone.

Now, I’m not saying that Tony Gibson is the second coming of this style of defense. All I’m saying is a lot of these features were reminiscent of this era. Case in point, let’s just run the goal line stand back to back to back to back.

1st down - Tanner Ingle doesn’t bite on the fake

2nd down - Taulapapa initially gets the TD call but it’s reversed since his elbow touched first just short.

3rd down - Ingle blew this up immediately. Losing him later on the targeting call was worrisome, but the rest of the team stepped up. He needs to be better. Yes it was a close call, but that was a play around the sideline which get extra scrutiny.

4th down - Armstrong tried to quick snap it but the Pack was ready. Great stand by the Pack two weeks in a row.

Very impressive stretch on defense.

2nd & 20, 2nd Quarter, 7:42 remaining, UVA 30 yd line

After UVA QB Brennan Armstrong tried to unsuccessfully scramble and Shyheim Battle tackled him for a 10 yard loss, it set up 2nd and 20. As he threw the pass, CJ Clark gets his hands up leading to a:


Josh Pierre-Louis is there and returns it for 20 yards. The credit for this one goes to Clark. A heads up play giving his teammates the chance to make a play of their own. I’d say this is also a benefit of the 3 down lineman. The Pack were not looking to blitz there and dropped into coverage, forcing Armstrong to make what would have been a tough throw anyway.

Watch after the pick. Intended receiver, #4 for UVA, gets drilled twice during the return. Jakeen Harris knocks him down right after the tip, then Wilson comes and licks him again before he has the chance to stand up. Just runs through him.

UVA starting QB Brennan Armstrong did not have a good day. Even before he was knocked out of the game, he was only 6/9 for 57 yards, 0 td and 2 int. Not a great half.

Then, in comes backup QB Lindell Stone with some serious Harrison Beck/Uncle Rico energy. This dude had all the trappings of a guy living his best life as a backup QB, not expecting to realistically play. He didn’t even take his wedding ring off before the game. All of a sudden, Bronco Mendenhall starts having him sling the rock all over the field. He would finish 30/54 for 240 yards, 2 td’s and 1 int. His whopping 27.8 QBR beats out Armstrong’s 1.9. Might want to have the punter start next week? Speaking of which:

4th & 5, 3rd Quarter, 3:40 remaining, UVA 45 yd line

Y’all. WTF.

If you see this formation, something’s fishy!

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised any time a kicker/punter makes a decent throw. They’ve been playing football for years, they should be able to make a throw. But this funky ass formation should have been blatantly obvious that something was up.

The team claims they knew it was a fake but still couldn’t make the play. Stacking the players at the bottom of the field as a diversion definitely helped. These are plays you MUST get. UVA got momentum and scored three plays later.

1st & 10, 4th Quarter, 11:19 remaining, UVA 20 yd line

Speaking of momentum, BIG MAN WITH THE PICK 6!

This play is all Alim the Dream. He came off a triple team where the offensive line actually backed off of him, which is weird. He had enough time to shift right and get directly in front of the pass and get his hands up. Then he has the presence of mind to look up for the ball, catch it and run in for the score. Uncle Rico went low for the punter-style chop tackle, robbing him of the opportunity to stiff arm him for good measure.

With everything the kids have been through this year just to play any football, let them celebrate without throwing a flag for crying out loud. I’m glad the NFL has finally relaxed this rule, it needs to make it’s way into college ASAP.

What a play.


Dave Doeren hasn’t fully given context to the Turnover Bone, but he has been pushing very hard the underdog narrative this season. He has these guys fully bought in on the “NOBODY BELIEVES IN US EXCEPT US!” narrative that has worked so many times in sports. They’re embracing their identity as underdogs, I mean they literally went into this game as 10 point dogs which was easy money in hindsight. So, dogs go get their bones, seems simple.

All that being said, they clearly let some air out of the balloon after that. UVA followed up that pick 6 with a 17 play, 89 yard, 5:02 drive resulting in a TD to bring them within 10 with 6:08 remaining. It was uncomfortably close there. State followed that up by recovering an onside kick and going 3 and out. The defense settled down on UVA’s ensuing drive, getting them to turnover on downs at their own 23 yard line.


Shutout first quarter. Bent but didn’t break. Gave up some momentum swinging plays and long drives. But, big man pick 6. Bone me.

Total side note: Loved the air time for Ruffin McNeill. The man has one of the best reputations in the country, and NC State is better for having him on staff.