I’m old enough to remember when any single win against FSU was a big deal. It will never not feel good to win in Tallahassee. This game went mostly according to plan. Yes, it had long stretches of frustration. But in the end the Wolfpack took care of business, setting up a massive encounter with Wake Forest on Saturday.
Let’s go to the video tape!
- We’ll start with the defense. Derrek Pitts had himself a day. On 3rd and 6 for FSU, Pitts comes in for the pass breakup to stop the Seminoles opening drive. FSU had bunched trips right. This can sometimes allow for a mismatch or an open receiver, but NC State matches up one on one with Tanner Ingle over the top.
On the ensuing drive, on first down Devin Leary wastes no time at leaving with a touchdown pass to CJ Riley. I am so happy and proud of Riley. The guy was poised to be the fastest player on the team two years ago before suffering a season ending injury. He’s spent time on and off hurt since then but has stuck with it and stuck with this program. In this day and age that’s commendable, especially as Devin Carter has largely taken his position in the lineup. It has been great to see him get some increased love in the passing game, scoring the last two weeks.
The LB’s keyed on play action, #7 on FSU did a horrible job trying to tackle and CJ burned him. This is why the running game is one of the keys to beating Wake Forest. The second level has to buy that the Pack is going to run, which opens up the field for Devin Leary to cook. “Let Devin Cook” doesn’t happen in a vacuum if the offense becomes one-sided.
Looking from the reverse angle. I’ve dinged Leary a bit this season on his downfield passing accuracy this season. As good as he’s been, this area was one where it seemed he could improve. Against FSU he was much better with the long passes than he’s done previously. He gives it to Riley in stride, dropping it right in the basket. It was ever so slightly underthrown but it was still a great throw and much improved from Week 1 to now.
Single play touchdown drives are kind of my jam. They should do that more often. That was fun.
2. The defense was able to get FSU into third and long scenarios in this game often, allowing them to end drives and get off the field. This was a very good stop by Tanner Ingle when it seemed for a second the FSU receiver was going to slip forward to keep the drive alive. Clean hit, solid open field tackle. When not asked to match up in man coverage, Ingle has really improved his safety play this year.
Coach Doeren said after the game this was probably Ingle’s best game of his career. This comes a week after Drake Thomas had his best game. Doeren also said when injuries pile up the next man up has to fill the gap, but it also requires the remaining players around them to play that much better to make up for the void. So far, Tanner and Drake (sounds like a good country duo) are leading by example.
3. NC State interceptino by Josh Pierre-Louis. He took advantage of honestly a horrible throw by Milton. There was a low snap, and Milton threw it into traffic. Never should have thrown into that swarm of NC State jerseys.
Cory Durden had a great game against his former team. Here, he had a perfect angle on the QB. Milton saw he was about to get hit so he just launched it into traffic. Credit to JPL for sitting in there and securing the ball.
I’m honestly not sure where he was throwing it, but I’m glad he did. That hit look like it hurt.
As always. Bone me, please.
4. Trent gill is such an asset, we need to acknowledge him. Here he had a perfect punt dropped inside the 5. The only thing that can top this is the old fashioned coffin corner, but you don’t see much of that anymore
5. Leary with a great long pass to Trent Pennix. Pennix and Chris Toudle are expanding their roles in this offense not a moment too soon. They are matchup problems for defenses. They’re faster than LB’s and bigger than DB’s. And when Leary can drop straight up dimes like this there’s really nothing you can do to stop it. Pennix isn’t the first option on this play but Leary quickly finds him.
The reverse angle shows what a gorgeous throw this was. Leary has clearly been working on his long ball and timing with the receivers. The throw is over the defender (who was the top DB for FSU, btw), in stride, leading his receiver perfectly. The tackle saved a big gain, maybe even a touchdown. Pennix finished with three catches for 97 yards, pretty nice average.
6. Speaking of Toudle. Here on third down, Toudle releases on a delayed screen for the first down. He’s lined up on the left side of the line.
In this angle, see how Toudle throws a fake block, feints like he’s staying in coverage then leaks out. Leary with another pass on time to allow his guy to not break stride and gain YAC.
Doeren said this week that he’s glad Tim Beck and Joker Phillips are rewarding players who have been doing all the “dirty work”. Guys like Toudle and Dylhan Parham do a lot of work play to play in pass and run blocking, it’s been great to have them included in the fun of scoring touchdowns. It’s nearly the holiday season and Leary has been in the giving spirit recently, spreading the ball around to eight different receivers.
Seeing the TD from this angle, it looks like the pass was high to the right. Toudle did a great job adjusting his leap to make the catch and secure the ball.
7. This FSU bobbled pass could’ve been another interceptino. Little plays like this could make the difference, it would have been nice if the DB’s had been able to make a play on it. They still stopped FSU short of the first down. The Noles then went for it on fourth down, got a very generous spot for the first down.
After the first down, Milton connected on this long pass. Maybe the defense hadn’t recovered from giving up the first down? It’s unclear, but these are the types of plays that will need to be avoided against Sam Hartman. He’s too good at finding spots like this. If he strings multiple deep throws together, then hold onto your butts.
As they have usually done, the defense settles back in. Here, Tony Gibson dials up the heat. Out of this look, five rushed with Vi Jones and Drake Thomas coming in late when they identified it as a run.
Devon Betty got a big TFL, with the rest of the crew helping out soon after. Betty played well for his first start. Credit to all the reserves for being game-ready. This lack of drop-off is new for this program, everyone is locked in whether they’re starting or not. I’ve always been jealous of other programs that have been able to accomplish this.
He came around the edge unchecked. That’s usually a recipe for success. Having fast LB’s is pretty cool, I tell ya what.
On third and long the Pack get a stop with this sack. Speaking of fast LB’s, Vi Jones came in on a delayed blitz. An interesting wrinkle was increasing the use of a LB as a fourth rusher.
Jones just blew by the FSU LT, and started the beginning of the end of this play. His teammates were not far behind as the FSU offensive line woes continue (how many years has this been going on?). Because the LT had to shift left to cover Jones, Durden was going to come in for a clear shot with the others joining soon.
This honestly looks terrifying if you’re the QB. To stand there and see that many holes in your line and white jerseys coming after you. Sucks to be you, dude.
8. I liked this Leary scramble on third and long, with a pass to Porter Rooks with YAC for the first down. The drive ultimately stalled but it shows good effort. They were continuing to fight even on the drives where they didn’t score.
9. Onside kick. Remember when we all complained about when the team wouldn’t come out ready to start second halves? Well, come on, now. This can’t happen. And it probably won’t happen again for a very long time, but still. This led to a fired up FSU offense on their opening drive, going down for a score. It was a potential 14 point swing since NC State was robbed of the opening possession of the half.
Honestly great execution by the kicker, and great hands to secure the ball when he knew a collision was imminent.
Here, Milton with another long pass. His receiver takes a big hit and holds on. I like the 3-3-5 as a concept, but it leads to these gaps in the field that are what worry me about facing QB’s like the two Sam’s. We need to expect a couple to breakthrough vs Wake, but it can’t be all day or the Pack is sunk.
Milton scrambles for TD pass. Low snap again, but he recovers. Milton needs to pay Russell Wilson some royalty fee on ripping off his trademarked material for this kind of maneuver. Not a fan of the copyright infringement, not at all.
FSU started with trips left, this helped them throw off the defense. Then this guy trekked all the way across the endzone. Gotta stay with him. Milton got him the ball at really the last absolute moment.
The foot drag is honestly impressive body control and footwork. With a trio of defenders chasing you. I’m not mad I’m impressed
10. Then NC State answered well on the following drive. This second down pass for the first to Ricky Person keeps the drive moving. Leary went through his progressions to see his down field receivers were all covered before checking down to Person. It seemed like Leary was gearing up to take a big shot down field but held off. I like the restraint. “Simple” plays like this lead to sustained drives and points.
Speaking of points, here is Pennix with a long TD. FSU #27 does a horrible job taking a line at the tackle.
Look at Devin Carter maintaining this block down field. This made the touchdown happen, apart from Pennix’s juke on #27.
If I’d told you before the game that NC State’s top three receivers would combine for three catches (Emeka Emezie with 2, Thayer Thomas with 1, Devin Carter with 0) for a grand total of 11 yards, would you have thought NC State would win the game?
It’s a credit to the culture of inclusion that Doeren and his veteran players hold that these guys can do all the grunt work opening up opportunities for other players even if they don’t get action themselves.
Leary on the play action naked bootleg. Watch Carter at the bottom. See how he initially came out running a hook route as a receiver. Technically, he was open but as soon as he sees the pass going to Pennix he turns and looks for the block. The little things matter when you’re trying to win a conference championship.
After Pennix runs past Carter’s block, FSU #27 had a clear line to Pennix but he overshot it. It will never not be weird seeing FSU players lacking fundamentals like this
11. I believe this was Milton’s lone long scramble of the game, here for a first down. The team practiced for Jordan Travis all week. They mostly contained Milton, with the sacks he finished with 3 yards rushing, but he still got free here to extend the drive. This drive led to a score so this one was tough. Derrek Pitts might have gotten held near the end of the run, it was weird how he couldn’t break off the receiver's block.
This led to FSU going for it on fourth and one from the three. NOTE: This is only the second rushing TD given up by State all season. They were first in the nation in rushing TD’s allowed, and are now tied for second with Georgia, not bad company to keep.
Good second effort for the dive on the wildcat. The defense should have been able to get him down. Tanner Ingle did a great job rushing and grabbed the runner's ankle but he squeezed out of it. This should have been a stuff, if the guy hadn’t hit the old school B button to spin out of it.
12. Both defenses settled in to hold both offenses in check for a while. Here, NC State got a big sack on an FSU third down.
Vi Jones again added to the 3-man front to bring an extra rusher. He goes all the way around the line to get Milton from the left, got him stumbling and the others finished the job. This was a well designed blitz as the LT is not tracking Jones coming and when Vi gets to Milton the rest of the pocket has already collapsed. The three man front can work to pressure. It’s not designed to get constant sacks, but needs to make life difficult for the QB. Adding the wrinkle of a LB helps tremendously.
13. The 7 point differential lasted a long time, didn’t it? We went from 6:29 in the 3rd to 7:53 in the 4th without any scoring.
After a good throw to Emezie on 3rd and four to move the chains, this first down run by Bam goes for 18 yards. Great blocks open up the holes. You can complain about running on first down if you want, but if it leads to this then it helps open up the pass. Runs like this lead to the defense staying home on the RPO and play actions. Expect more runs on first down on Saturday.
The drive ultimately stalled because of a false start penalty, allowing a sack, an incomplete pass to Thayer, and another sack (there was also holding but it was declined) ... BUT it led to another amazing great punt by Gill to pin FSU inside the 5, downed at the two.
Great job by Anthony Smith on the recovery! Complimentary football, love to see it.
14. After the pinned punt, this is how you flip a field. Giving the defense 98 yards to get a stop is better than, well, less than that. FSU was feeling themselves a little bit at this point, and this fourth down stop put an end to that. A good move on the pass breakup by Pitts. State brought the blitz so Milton had to get rid of the ball quickly. The receiver was open but Pitts ended that drive.
15. On the ensuing State drive, they started from the FSU 43. Incomplete passes to Trent Pennix and Devin Cater led to this screen to Person.
Normally I’m not a huge fan of screen plays like this on third and long. They do have the upside of getting big yards when they work. When they don’t work they come across as gimmicks. If you’re going to go for 43 yards every time, then feel free!
Watch how Person breaks a tackle then gets a MONSTER block by #53 RG Derrick Eason. Eason initially helps open up the hole for Person. He threw his defender to the ground like a rag doll, this made him a second late for Person’s cut up field and he misses the initial block. Most would stop there but he didn’t quit on the play, he stays with the play to get Person the block he needed to fully take off.
See Eason here lined up at RG, then see how he’s just a meanie-pants to the guy trying to rush past him.
Eason threw down his blocker like a Black Friday shopper going after the last blu-ray player.
Then he moved up field, and we may have just witnessed a murder. He pulverized this dude to dust. If you’re a DB the last thing in the world you want is to see a 6’4, 308lb lineman barreling towards you at full speed.
#56 NC State RT may have gotten away with a hold, but let’s look past that. Person fakes staying in to block, then sneaks out on the screen. With the two incompletions, this was ostensibly another single play TD drive. Yes, please.
That block, tho.
16. Leary with a good run and slide. He can use his legs more if the openings are there. Wake Forest’s defense clearly has holes with all the yards they gave to dark horse Heisman candidate Sam Howell. I also like how Leary knew where the sticks were and thus when to slide to get the first down. The drive ended in a punt, but NC State chewed up about four minutes of clock in the fourth quarter on their last full drive, and did it mostly on the ground. This here was a run out the clock situation, and the Pack pulled it off well.
17. Ibrahim Kante is another reserve it’s nice to see come in and play well. He gets his second sack of the season on FSU’s last drive, a big momentum play since the defense had just given up a 28 yard pass.
In the end, Drake Thomas slams the door shut on FSU’s final fourth down attempt. #31 Vi Jones almost got a big nail in the coffin sack, and Milton barely escape. Again, NC State brought Jones as an extra rusher. I really like this flexible look, and expect to see more of it in the last five games (yes, five) of the season. He’s so good at getting past offensive tackles, and can open up rushing lanes just by forcing the LT/RT to slide to cover him. He’s a legit problem for the offensive line.
We can’t have a Film Room without an Ickey highlight. Leary’s interceptino-less streak ended on a hail Mary that didn’t mean much but look at Ickey’s tackle on the attempted return. He really enjoyed that. Dude just got swallowed up like a sandworm attack.
Tanner Ingle’s quote on Devin Leary says what most of us thinking, “(laughing) it’s like watching an artist out there. Leary he’s just dime-ing people up”. He went on to say how Leary’s play lifts the morale of the whole team including the defense. He finished with 300+ yards for the third straight game, and 4 TD’s for the second straight game. Again, we’re not counting that interceptino.
I’ll have more to say about the upcoming Wake Forest game tomorrow, but for now it was really nice to see the team calmly take care of business. FSU tried like hell to claw back in, but the Pack didn’t open the door. It was another great team win. There were things to nitpick, but collectively a great effort and sets up the mega showdown in Winston next week we’ve had circled on the calendar for weeks.