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NC State’s 4th quarter problem

State tends to fade late ... what do we make out of this?

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at Boston College Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

After the loss to South Carolina in the season opener, I did something I often do when trying to cope with NC State athletics: I sought solace in numbers. I wanted a way to quantify what went wrong. Unfortunately, it was difficult to determine because the numbers so obviously favored the Wolfpack. The offense was dominant, and looking at the yardage numbers only leads to confusion and frustration. What ultimately did stand out to me was the 3rd quarter. USC outscored NC State 14-0 in the 3rd, and it was obvious while watching the game that NC State was disoriented for most of the quarter.

I developed a theory that Coach Doeren is rigid in his halftime adjustments, thus leading to poor 3rd quarter performance. I decided to analyze some data on NC State’s quarter-by-quarter performance under Doeren to see if this theory held water. It did not. Coach Doeren’s teams have actually performed well in the 3rd quarter, but the data did have another interesting result: the 4th quarter performance has been pretty bad. Here is a graph with a breakdown of State’s average net points per quarter during the Doeren era:

As you can see, each year there is a dip in net points in the 4th quarter. I looked at several other teams, including all of the ACC teams, and found that no other team had a similar trend. The consistency with which we have dropped off in the 4th quarter is rare. Further, when filtering out early season games against bad teams, the data becomes even more clear:

Performance by Quarter

Quarter Total Net Points Against Quality Opponents
Quarter Total Net Points Against Quality Opponents
1 -45
2 -85
3 -3
4 -90

The performance in the 2nd and 4th quarters is far worse than the performance in the 1st and 3rd. These pairings make sense, they are quarters that are similar to each other in terms of clock stoppage rules and clock management techniques.

Taking all of this into account, I see several possible explanations for the poor performance.

1. Poor Clock Management

I don’t think that it is any secret that Doeren does not do a wonderful job managing the clock. The Clemson game last year provides plenty of evidence of that. This is the most likely problem, though I do believe it is a mixture of this and several of the others listed that are ultimately what is causing the lack of success late in each half.

2. Poor Kicking

In Doeren’s tenure, NC State has missed 24 field goals. That is 72 points left on the table. Not all of the misses occurred in the 2nd and 4th quarters obviously, but there is reason to believe (coupled with clock management) that a majority of them did. Losing large amounts of points like that is devastating, and very likely contributes to our poor performance late in the game.

3. Poor Adaptability

The gameplanning from the coaching staff appears to be good and the halftime adjustments seem to work, but once both teams recognize the others’ gameplan and begin to adapt NC State may be falling behind. This is tougher to gather strong evidence for, so it is merely speculation.

4. Poor Play-calling

Similar to adaptability, this is tougher to gather convincing evidence for, but it seems (in the Drinkwitz era in particular) that NC State throws everything they have at teams early on in games. All the trick plays seem to be in the 1st quarter, and the running game is being used far less this year without Hurricane Matthew Dayes in the backfield.

5. Poor Strength and Conditioning

This is very much less likely than the others…does everyone know Kentavious Street can bench 700 lbs? That being said, it must be something considered when looking at why a team is underperforming late in each half.

6. NC State Sh*t

From dropped interceptions to incomplete passes that hit receivers in the hands, this does still seem to be very much alive.

If Coach Doeren is able to make adjustments to his clock management or any of the other things outlined above, this team can still turn this into a fantastic season. If not, we may be in for more heartbreak.