A high scoring affair in Raleigh on Saturday means the offense will see some high marks, while the defense, opponent aside, still has some issues. Either way, the last two weeks have been an improvement in terms of overall play.
Jacoby Brissett had a solid game against the best defense they have played all season. He had three touchdown passes (season high) and a rushing touchdown as well as a season high in yards passing with 254. There were a few misses and a bad drop, but he still completed 24 of 41 of his passes. 33 yards rushing helps as well.
Matt Dayes got the unit off to a great start in the first half with 9 carries for 72 yards, including a 41 yarder that helped spurn the Pack's quick start. After his injury at the end of the half, NC State had to resort to a ton of passing. Dakwa Nichols had 2 carries for 7 yards, but other than that, the traditional running game went away with Dayes.
As usual, the receivers were not the main threats in the aerial attack, but they made a few plays. The group combined for 7 catches and 100 yards with a touchdown. Johnathon Alston's lone catch was a 28 yard touchdown to help keep State in the game, but outside of that, the group did not produce game-breaking plays.
Finally. Finally, the Wolfpack utilized David Grinnage as a weapon. Coming into the season he was looked at as a potential NFL player but had been used sparingly. Grinnage had his breakout game of the season in the biggest moment with his seven catches for 82 yards and a score. Most of this came at a crucial time in the second half.
Another solid performance from Samuels, who got back on track with his touchdown goal for the season, adding two on the night. He filled in as the main back when Dayes went down and did great. He also added a big touchdown catch, continuing his role as the most versatile player on the team. 139 yards on 14 touches is spectacular.
Despite giving up five sacks to the stellar defensive line, the offensive line did allow for some explosive plays to occur. Part of the reasoning for the sacks was the amount of passing necessary while playing from behind and missing a star running back, so all-in-all, not a terrible performance.
This was the strongest unit on the defense, but that is taken with a grain of salt when the defense gives up 56 points. They did create a few sacks, but Watson did have time to make easy throws quite often, with Wayne Gallman able to work the defense for 31 carries.
The triumvirate of Jerod Fernandez, Airius Moore, and Riley Nicholson played admirably, but were not difference makers. It was nice to see Nicholson get some time against such a good team as a freshman. They worked hard to support the line against the 40 plus runs by Clemson.
The back five got torched, but they also played perhaps the best skill position team in the country. Several long touchdown passes were back breakers, and Watson completed almost as many touchdowns as he had incompletions. So to conclude, they did not perform well, but they will not face a better unit all year.
In what is becoming a recurring trend, the special teams have been great and terrible at the same time. Punter AJ Cole was spectacular, averaging 50 yards per punt and putting three balls inside the 20. To counter that, Kyle Bambard shanked an extra point and badly missed a 44 yard field goal that turned the game around at halftime. In the return game, Nyheim Hines got his first return touchdown in the first quarter on an electric play.