I recently came to realize that Dave Doeren is basically the opposite of Tom O’Brien. His teams have mostly beaten everyone they were supposed to beat and lost to every team they were supposed to lose to. This season the Pack went 7-1 in games which they were favored and 0-5 in the games where they were the underdogs. The team was middle of the road in the ACC, and their play rarely deviated from that level through all 13 games.
Ending Streaks: Wake Forest and Boston College were terrible, but road wins at both these teams felt like progress to Pack fans, who hadn’t seen a win at Wake since 2001 and hadn’t seen a win in Chestnut Hill ever unless you have a time machine. State looked motivated to play these games, which was a welcome difference from previous years. I guess you could say that NC State football finally made some sense. There hasn’t been any losing to Wake but beating Florida State. Whether or not that is a good thing is up for interpretation.
Youth Gaining Experience: It’s no secret that there is a lot of youth on the NC State football team. A lot of young players flashed their potential in early playing time. Everybody got to see what kind of weapon Nyheim Hines will end up being, and while he didn’t bring the immediate receiving help some thought he would, he affected the game in other ways. The true freshman broke three (one was called back) kickoff returns for more than 90 yards, one of which went for a touchdown. He also played admirably when forced into action at the running back spot. Reggie Gallaspy was also forced into action at tailback as a result of injuries and those pesky moped incidents, and he averaged nearly five yards a carry. Eundraus Bryant and Darian Roseboro both played significant snaps on the defensive line as true freshman. Roseboro already looks like a stud. Riley Nicholson saw a lot of time at linebacker as well.
Bowl Game: Aspirations were certainly higher, but going to a bowl is always a plus, even though it is getting increasingly easier to get to one (now you can play in a bowl without even being bowl-eligible).
Catastrophic Mistakes and Mental Lapses: Quite a few game altering sequences went against the Pack this season, and they have nobody to point the finger at but themselves. The most notable was the end of the first half against Clemson, which featured an awful play call, followed by a missed field goal, followed by a two play 70-something yard touchdown drive for the Tigers. Instead of leading by 9 or more, State trailed by six at halftime and it felt like the game was over. Ramos’ fumble early in the Louisville game arguably changed the entire game. I suppose the entire first quarter of the UNC game can go here too. The Pack competed with every team that beat them except Mississippi State and arguably Florida State, but lapses such as whatever happened in the second quarter of the Virginia Tech game were too much to overcome. These kinds of things cannot happen if you want to beat the best.
David Grinnage?: I know there was an injury early on in the season, but seriously, why was this guy not used more? It’s well documented how good he is at catching the ball (see: Clemson game) and considering this team’s desperate need for a reliable downfield threat, not making him a major piece of the offense is ridiculous. I can’t help but feel like there’s some behind the scenes reason for this, because it just makes no sense.
Misfortunes: The two headed monster in the backfield never came to be in what was nothing short of a huge blow to the offense. You could’ve argued that Shadrach Thornton was the best player on the team heading into the season. You could’ve argued that Matt Dayes was the best player on the team during the season. The backs were also perfect compliments to each other with regards to style, so the effect of losing both backs cannot be understated. How much better would the Pack’s offense have been if Thornton and Dayes had played all season? Who knows, we don’t get to find out.
A lot of people think State regressed this year. They didn’t, but they also didn’t get any better. It was a completely stagnant season for the program. This year’s team felt just like last year’s, except with the wins coming more spaced out.