Well, here we are, officially halfway through the season. If we could have told you before the season NC State would be 5-1 after six games, I’m sure you would have taken that all day. If we had said that one loss was to South Carolina, you would have been like, wait, what, then still taken it if it meant wins over FSU and Louisville.
There’s a few questions we can discuss at the halfway point:
What impressed you the most about the win over Louisville, and the Pack’s performance overall so far?
TheRealEssad: CONFIDENCE! This team has all the talent, but they’re peaking in terms of being confident in their abilities. Doeren (aka DFD) has them all believing they are the best team in the country when the play that confidently. These guys haven’t backed down from any challenge yet this season. Chubb said it best, “They can’t hold us, bruh.”
Ejoebarry: Two things: handling success against Syracuse and how well we’ve played against Louisville and FSU. We played our best half of the season in the first half against Syracuse, which obviously coming off a big win was a huge deal. That tells me this team can handle success which makes me feel better about games against Pitt and BC. We haven’t trailed in three ACC games, but we also have room to improve. I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet, which says a lot, especially considering the games against FSU and Louisville were never really in doubt.
PirateWolf: What impressed me the most in the win over Louisville was the team’s ability to consistently counter-punch any Louisville momentum, keeping the Cards at arms length through the entire game. Previous Doeren teams seemed to ride momentum, whether it was for or against them. The display of this team to be momentum agnostic is a fantastic revelation. From an overall performance perspective, what has impressed me the most is that, despite being 5-1 overall, this team still hasn’t played a perfect or complete game. As well as this team has played (and they have put together some great performances), they still have room to improve... and that’s really freaking exciting!
Red zone offense was the main area in need of improvement from Thursday night. What other areas need to get better?
TheRealEssad: If they want to keep moving up the rankings, they can not afford to continue having slow second half starts. So far State has bent but not broken, but keep that up against Notre Dame and Clemson and it won’t last. Also, during halftime the staff preaches keeping up the tempo, but don’t back it up with doing so late in the game, when they all of a sudden switch to playing not to lose. FSU and Louisville almost came back because of this.
Ejoebarry: Kicking is the obvious answer, but if our red zone offense was better it wouldn’t really matter. The trick plays in the red zone have got to stop. Other than that, the secondary will get better as the season goes on, but there’s not much to complain about.
PirateWolf: Just to piggyback on that, yeah, it seems that the offense stalls between the opponent’s 5 and 15 yardline. Drink either gets too cute with the play calling or seems to get the, well... I guess it would be the play-calling equivalent of the yips. Other areas that need improvement: make the short FGs, stop pooch kicking kickoffs, and bring back the JaySam sweep and the Harmon fade in the red zone.
Which win was more meaningful to the program, FSU or Louisville?
TheRealEssad: Louisville. NC State has won big games before, especially against FSU. It’s the game after the game that they’ve struggled with. Going in as the underdog is one thing, but when you’re going in with all the momentum at your back and still come out on top shows true growth. Add to that all the pro scouts in the building, and a national TV audience. When you know everyone’s watching, and you put that kind of performance out there, that’s something very very special. Something’s brewing here.
Ejoebarry: FSU. This team needed a big win in the worst way and they finally got it against FSU. The Louisville win was a validation that FSU wasn’t a fluke.
PirateWolf: One without the other was meaningless, so I’m going to say “yes”. Proving that the program had turned the corner and could handle success was huge. FSU proved that this team could go on the road and beat a very talented team, while the Louisville game proved that the team could handle the pressure of the big stage.
It’s easy to get ahead of ourselves and look to Notre Dame and Clemson. Is Pittsburgh a trap game or are we past the point of worrying about the lower tier ACC foes?
TheRealEssad: Go ask the guys at Oklahoma if they needed to be concerned with Iowa State. Or if Florida thought, “hey LSU lost to Troy, we’re gonna roll these guys.” EVERY GAME MATTERS, and can not be overlooked. I have confidence in the staff to keep the team from losing focus.
Ejoebarry: It depends on your goals for the season. Every game is either a big game or a trap game from here on out, except for Wake Forest. I think our extra two days will help us out, plus the focus this team showed against Syracuse makes me feel a lot better as we go into this game. Plus, it helps the Pitt is bad.
PirateWolf: Pitt is absolutely a trap game. They’re probably not as bad as their record indicates or as bad as they showed in their one-sided losses to Penn State, OK State, and Georgia Tech (those are three solid teams), but they’re also not very good. They have a weak O-line and a porous secondary, which should play up to State’s strengths, but this game is going to be played in front of a mostly empty NFL stadium, so State’s going to need to provide their own energy. This team proved they can handle a trap game at home... can they handle a trap game on the road, too?
How long until Chubb breaks the school sacks (needs 4 more) and TFL (8 more) record? When will Jay-Sam break the receptions (25 more) record?
Ejoebarry: It would be awesome to see all three happen against Clemson, but I think that’ll be a game too early. I’ll say Jaysam breaks the receptions record against Wake, Chubb breaks the sacks record against Clemson and the TFL record against Wake.
PirateWolf: Pitt has a terrible O-line, so I’ll say he gets 1.5 sacks against them, then another 1.5 over the next two games against Notre Dame and Clemson. I say he at least ties it in the Boston College game. By at least the end of the Wake Forest game, that sacks record is his. I think he breaks the TFL record before then, in the Clemson game. As for JaySam, he breaks the receptions record in the Clemson game.
For these last six games, is it too Juneish to think up outlandish outcomes to the rest of this season? Or should we be disciplined fans and keep focusing on each week’s opponent?
TheRealEssad: Cue the JuneBuggy! This is a special season. We’ve had enough heartache to know that we don’t get to experience these kinds of years very often. The guys on the TEAM need to be focused on each week’s opponent, but as a fan it’s hard not to imagine WHAT IF. Other teams fans get spoiled being able to think big every year as a right. I am realistic in understanding this whole thing could come crashing down (I don’t think it will), but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.
Ejoebarry: Right now, yes it’s too early. If, and obviously it’s a huge if, we beat Clemson, that’s when you can think of outlandish outcomes. Personally, I don’t think a New Year’s 6 game is outlandish, so the only outlandish result for this season would be the playoffs, but it’ll be a moot point if we don’t beat Clemson.
PirateWolf: Absolutely. Have at it! We’re fans, after all, it’s what we should do. Let the team be focused on the next opponent, and let us fans have fun running the potential what-could-be scenarios. Besides, this is way too much fun to not actually, you know, have fun.
Finally, what is your predicted record for the back half of the season?
TheRealEssad: 4-2, with losses to Clemson and Wake Forest.
Ejoebarry: 5-1 with a loss to Clemson. Originally I had us at 6-2 in the ACC, losing to Clemson and BC in consecutive weeks. But the maturity this team has showed changed my mind about the BC game.
PirateWolf: Gimme dat June!
5-1 finish. 10-2 overall, 8-0 ACC. Pitt (W), Notre Dame (L), Clemson (W), Boston College (W), Wake Forest (W), North Carolina (W). ACC Championship Game, here we come!!! (The Wake and UNC-CH games scare the crap out of me, though... Wake is actually good and UNC-CH’s gonna throw everything they have at State)