(Yds/carry stats are calculated after removing sacks from the equation.)
Here's the positive spin on this performance by the Pack: State did not go three-and-out over the final 40 minutes of the game, a span of seven possessions. Three of those possessions ended in touchdowns, two in field goal tries, and one was a turnover on downs. The Wolfpack averaged 7.4 yards per play in the second half, including the victory formation series to end the contest. Excluding those three downs, the Wolfpack averaged 8.0 yards per snap over the final two quarters.
All that without getting Bryan Underwood a single touch. It took time for Jacoby Brissett to get comfortable, but once he started to remember how to football good, State was moving consistently against GSU's vulnerable defense. The pass protection was generally solid, Bo Hines was as advertised, and Shadrach Thornton ran the ball effectively. These are the things to build on heading into week two.
NC State also ran 40+ plays from scrimmage in the second half, dictating tempo in important spots against a gassed Eagles defense. That's where the advantage over a (relatively speaking) scholarship-poor team can really show, and State did well to maximize it.
On the negative side of the ledger, NC State's defense looked unprepared for Southern's spread option looks, which is understandable to a degree because it is hard to replicate in practice the timing of an offense that runs the option on the regular. Still, there were fundamental breakdowns that gifted Southern yardage on the ground. Some mistakes in the secondary also allowed GSU to make big plays in the passing game.
The Eagles might only have scored six points in the second half, but they managed more than seven yards per play over those last two quarters. That they only managed a couple of field goals on three trips inside State's 15 is a damned Labor Day weekend miracle.
The pass defense's hiccups are alarming given that considerably more significant challenges lie ahead, beginning next Saturday, when Old Dominion and its veteran quarterback come to town. It's a pass-heavy team, and a savvy one at that. Bit of a jarring transition for NC State's defense.
I don't mean to make Old Dominion into a monster it isn't--State is a three-score favorite, because ODU's defense could not stop an inanimate carbon rod. But ODU is more capable of exploiting the creaks and groans that still exist in the Pack's secondary, that much seems clear.