This is the first installment in a mini-series I’ve written about some parts of the 2022 football season that stood out to me. I hope you enjoy reading and come back for part 2.
On October 8, 2022, for a few hours shortly after 10 PM, a new sport briefly existed. It was called footballball. The goal of the game was simple. Two teams try to play football against each other, and whichever team’s effort most closely resembles football wins, or loses, honestly I can’t remember.
The Florida State-NC State game has to be the gold standard of weirdness in college football this year. The only game I’ve ever seen that featured such repulsive self-destruction was the hurricane game in 2016 against Notre Dame, and the football gods dumped 14 inches of rain on that game. On October 8, those football gods were nowhere to be found. They had completely forsaken this one.
Most of the first half was pretty bland and sad, with the Noles opening a 14-3 lead behind a big second quarter and an NC State offense that was way out of sorts. State was going to limp into the half down 11 as it punted with less than a minute to go, but the Noles’ bizarre punt return gag at the end of the first half opened some sort of portal to a nearby universe where they still play football, but it just looks a little different.
Right before half is when the wrong wires got crossed, and what it produced was the most glorious, hilarious, undefinably silly assault on modern football you’ve ever seen. Let’s begin.
NC State completes 5 passes in the second half, comes back to win
The Pack would rally from the 14-point deficit in the second half to win despite completing 5 passes in the entire half. Devin Leary would throw a touchdown early in the third quarter to give the Pack a chance, but would exit with an injury two drives later. State completed just one pass over the final 25 minutes, and it would have been better off if that number was 0, as Thayer Thomas’ completion to Jack Chambers went 5 yards in the wrong direction. Yes, the only completed pass was thrown by a wide receiver.
Only teams that run the option win games with these types of stat lines, and those teams are really good at running the football. NC State is not good at running the football, has not been in a while, and it was up against a sound rush defense. So how did the Pack manage to be productive on offense? It’s a complicated question with a simple answer: it didn’t.
Following Leary’s exit, the Pack produced 71 net yards of offense for the rest of the game. It would score three times, moving the ball a total of 56 combined yards on said scoring drives. That’s an average of 18.6 yards per scoring drive.
NC State reshapes modern football with a -23 yard scoring drive
State was seemingly scoring against its will in the second half of this game. At no point was it trying harder to stop itself than when it took over at the FSU 13 following a hysterical special teams gaff by the Noles (we’ll get there in a second). Here is the drive chart for the ensuing series.
The saddest scoring drive in history
|Down & Distance||Result|
|Down & Distance||Result|
|1st and 10 at FSU 13||Thayer Thomas pass complete to Jack Chambers for -5 yards|
|2nd and 15 at FSU 18||Jack Chambers rush for -5 yards|
|3rd and 20 at FSU 23||NC State holding penalty|
|3rd at 30 at FSU 33||NC State holding penalty|
|3rd and 40 at FSU 43||Jack Chambers rush for 7 yards|
|4th and 33 at FSU 36||Chris Dunn 53 yard field goal is good|
State actually went 30 yards in reverse before a seven-yard run on third down and 40. Again, NC State scored here.
I don’t have a database to confirm that this was the least offensively productive scoring drive in NCAA history, but I feel pretty confident it might be in the top 5. A less successful drive producing points borders on the edge of statistical impossibility.
Let’s use some (very shoddy) math to take a look at the likelihood of this monstrosity coming to pass.
Your drive must begin in the red zone
- A -23 yard scoring drive that started on the 20 would require a 60-yard field goal. It is safe to assume this situation has never materialized.
- Stadium examined more than 6,681 drives from the 2018 college football season. 134 of them (2.01%) began in the opponent’s red zone.
You must actually go backwards 23 yards
- This is really hard.
- According to collegefootballdata.com, in that same 2018 season, only 13 out of 21,750 drives produced a result of at most -23 yards (.06%).
- Based on the available numbers here (and some hard-working extrapolation), the likelihood of a drive starting in the red zone and traveling at least 23 yards in reverse is .0012%, or roughly 1 in 83,238.
You have to actually kick and make the field goal
- State’s scoring play was a 53-yard field goal. Many teams wouldn’t even bother with this. Stadium analyzed all 1,329 field goal attempts by power five schools in 2018. There were only 46 attempts of 53 yards or beyond.
- A -23 yard drive that started somewhere in the red zone could only produce a scoring play of a field goal between 40 and 60 yards long. Extrapolating the above data, the conversion rate on +40 yard field goals in college football last year was 56.84%.
- If we make the assumption that the field goal is attempted every time, which is an inaccurate assumption, the likelihood of a drive starting in the red zone, going backwards at least 23 yards, and then producing points is .00068% or 1 in 146,442.
- If you change that assumption to the field goal being kicked half the time, which is still probably too high, that number goes down to an incredible .00034% or 1 in 292,884.
- Again, this is all very shoddy math, but I got a B- in calculus so you’ll just have to trust me.
Florida State fakes a fake punt
Believe it or not, there is a solid case for the -23 yard scoring drive NOT being the dumbest thing that happened in this game. Florida State punter Alex Mastromanno’s apparent fake fake punt was a worthy challenger.
While one could certainly be forgiven for forgetting the rules here given the game’s lack of resemblance to actual football, they do still apply, and you still cannot run past the line of scrimmage and then punt the ball.
Mastromanno appeared to bail on punting due to pressure applied by NC State’s Julian Gray. The FSU punter then appeared to decide on the fly to turn his punt into a fake when he discovered that nobody was going to stop him from running for a first down. He easily would have made it too, but instead changed his mind again? It’s not abundantly clear what the plan was here. The sequence looked like the man simply forgot what his job was, got scared, ran away, and then remembered. He proceeded to boot the ball while very obviously beyond the line of scrimmage.
The funniest part was the illegal kick resulting in a loss of down, which just gave the ball to State at the original line of scrimmage. ESPN’s play-by-play has nothing for this. It does not understand what happened. We broke it, guys. It has acquiesced.
ACC Network’s condensed game video available on YouTube does not include this play in order to avoid violating YouTube’s terms of service
Florida State out-implodes NC State
Prior to Florida State’s final drive, the Noles had moved the ball three total net yards in the second half. NC State had a great defense all year, but the second half of this game was an experiment in what happens when a relatively stoppable force collides with an immovable object. FSU’s offense recorded their own respective desecrations of the game with drives of -8 and -12 yards in the final two quarters. QB Jordan Travis also threw two picks, one at his own 40 yard line. Ironically, NC State went five yards forward on that ensuing drive and did not score.
Travis’ second interception came at the end of a 70 yard drive with a minute to go, and it occurred in NC State’s endzone with FSU on the edge of field goal range trying to win the game on the same smash concept play it scored on earlier. It was a fitting finish that the Noles tried to replicate something that worked in the first half and it exploded in their face.
The first half of the game was football. Football things happened. The second half was something else entirely. It’s your own fault, Mike Norvell, for trying to do a football thing in a contest that was so far removed from football and expecting that to work. It was not nearly wacky enough. Maybe you should have tried going backwards, or faking a field goal on second down, or maybe putting snakes on the field. I don’t know, I’m just trying to help.
NC State did not score a touchdown over the final 24:49 of this game and won. Over the next three weeks, it would extend its touchdownless streak to 122 minutes and 7 seconds of game time, which would span parts of three separate games. NC State went 2-1 in these games.