The general sense I have of the NC State/UNC series over the last five years is that we haven't had the better talent, but we have had the better quarterbacks, the better luck, and perhaps, an edge in terms of motivation. The motivation bit and its theoretical effects (which are probably overstated) could be debated for ages.
I was curious about the last half decade's numbers in aggregate... was UNC really markedly better on a per-play basis, which would point to the talent differential and luck factors? Which specific categories have had the biggest impact on this series of late?
For the most part, the figures don't make any major statements, but they do reinforce one obvious point, which is that turnovers are pretty damn important.
|Last 5 Meetings||Yds/Play||Yds/PassAtt||Yds/Rush*||TO Margin||FGM%**||3rd Down Conv%||Sacks|
*Yds/Rush calculated after sacks were removed from the equation.
**Percentage of field goal attempts made. Makes and attempts in parentheses.
NC State is +10 in the turnover category over the last five games against UNC and did not have a negative turnover margin in any of those games. The Pack was +6 in the 2008 blowout, finished +2 twice, and was even another two times. The two pick-sixes thrown in the 2007 game aside, there have been no turnover meltdowns for State.
State sacked UNC quarterbacks 17 times over the last five years, but it's worth noting that 11 of those sacks came after Jon Tenuta was hired prior to the 2010 season. With sacks included, Carolina averaged just 1.7 yards per carry over the last five meetings. The Heels' combined rushing yardage from the last two meetings is -4, and they've been held under 15 yards rushing three times. Hell, they only cracked 60 yards once. But even after taking sacks out of the picture, the Heels managed just 3.2 yards per carry.
Making the Heels one-dimensional during those years was hugely beneficial for the Wolfpack because the quarterbacks UNC had under center could be counted on to do some dumb stuff. While the team's average per attempt is solid, Carolina threw five touchdowns and nine interceptions over the last five meetings, compared to 10 touchdowns and four interceptions for NC State.
It seems State's edge at quarterback, the turnover margin, and State's ability to negate Carolina's ground game have been the major factors in making this winning streak possible. It hasn't always been pretty. And sure, we've had the good fortune of the occasional two-yard hail mary, blocked field goal, or fumble recovery in the end zone. But the result has been a whole lot of happy.