There were periods of doubt, as there always are, and at times NC State was its own worst enemy, which is hardly unusual. But the Wolfpack was the better team on Thursday night, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, and it’s reflected in State’s 39-25 victory over Louisville.
The Wolfpack got on the board first with a bomb strike from Ryan Finley to Kelvin Harmon for a 48-yard touchdown. Despite its red zone issues, NC State never trailed in this game. One reason for that was the State offense’s near-perfect performance between the 20s. Ryan Finley was fantastic, and the passing game dictated terms.
Louisville’s defense had few answers for Finley or State’s offense, rarely forcing the Wolfpack to punt. When State failed to finish a drive, it was usually State’s fault. Finley finished with more than 360 yards passing on nearly 12 yards per attempt.
NC State has not been known for big plays this year, but it was the Wolfpack that had the edge in big explosive plays tonight, and that was a huge deal. First there was the 48-yard shot to Harmon, and later in the half, a 70+-yard shot to Jaylen Samuels.
Louisville chose to play a lot of man coverage in an effort to put early pressure on Finley and the passing game, which backfired. Kelvin Harmon in particular feasted on this defensive approach, hauling in several big catches in one-on-one situations. Finley was patient, and as usual, was very accurate with his throws toward the boundary.
All of that helped account for the offense’s mistakes in the red zone, and there were plenty, including the requisite missed chip shot field goal by Carson Wise. (That’s not really on the offense, but still.) Where it was inefficient in easy scoring spots, it was great everywhere else, and that was the primary difference tonight.
Oh, and also Bradley Chubb and the defensive line were hugely disruptive over the first two quarters, limiting Louisville to only 10 points in the first half. Man those kids are good. Bradley Chubb is a damned miracle.
Great team win tonight. Not without stress, but definitely without stress we need worry about. NC State is 5-1 and 3-0 in the ACC.