NC State never trailed against South Florida on Saturday and scored five first-half touchdowns on the way to a comfortable 49-17 win over the Bulls. The Wolfpack got balanced and effective production out of both the passing and the ground game, and the defense had its finest performance of the season by a wide margin.
The Wolfpack's first possession would be an omen of a whole lot of bad things to come for South Florida. The offensive line was outstanding in pass protection and on running plays, and State marched 88 yards for a score in just seven plays. The domination of the line of scrimmage on that drive would become a theme the rest of the afternoon; USF was able to briefly pull even on its next possession, but in hindsight the Bulls were never really in the game, because they were never going to be able to find traction.
State answered that USF first-quarter touchdown with six unanswered TDs to put the game well out of reach less than halfway through the third quarter. Before the Pack started to pump the brakes in the second half, it had gotten whatever it wanted against the Bulls' defense--a defense that had looked solid in the team's first couple games.
Jacoby Brissett was composed and efficient, and he probably owes the offensive line a meal or two for the way they made his job a piece of cake. He rarely was pressed for time in the pocket, giving him plenty of opportunities to work through his progressions and find open receivers, or get out of the pocket and find running room.
With such little resistance, State's offense looked as good as it ever has under Dave Doeren. The Wolfpack was able to do exactly what it wanted, which was limit South Florida's rushing attack, put the Bulls in a hole, and force them to try to throw their way out of it. It was a disaster in every sense for USF.
For the Pack, it's a modest step forward, but nonetheless something to build on from a psychological standpoint, which is still really important right now. Maybe South Florida isn't as good as Georgia Southern or even Old Dominion, but the manner in which State went about dismantling USF was a breakthrough of sorts. They looked like a different team this week--one that could genuinely assert its own will on a game--and I think that's big for these kids.