NC State never did get into a groove on Thursday night, and the end result of a mostly listless effort was an upset loss to Wake Forest. The Deacs drove down the field after getting a late fourth-down stop and scored the game winner with 30 seconds remaining.
Wake deserves plenty of credit for simply hanging around long enough to yoink this win away from the Wolfpack, but the game probably isn’t up for grabs at that late stage if NC State had been anything resembling good tonight.
All year long State has had its problems turning red zone possessions into seven rather than three, and I can’t say I’m surprised that this ended up being a big contributor to a loss. They’ve played with fire for too long.
The Pack first had to settle for three after being gifted a fumbled punt inside the Wake 15 and later drove inside the five before stalling at settling for yet another short field goal.
The offense had a surprisingly terrible time of it on the ground tonight, putting the offense’s success in Ryan Finley’s hands. Which may have worked out okay were the playcalling better and had the receivers not dropped a bunch of passes. The most notable of those was a drop in the end zone by Cary Angeline, and if he grabs that one, NC State goes up 20-6 in the third, not 16-6 after still a third short field goal.
C.J. Riley also accounted for a significant drop on a fourth-and-short play—and while you can definitely argue the play, there’s also no doubt that Riley should come down with that deep ball and give NC State another red zone shot.
Perhaps fittingly, it was another fourth down failure that allowed Wake Forest the opportunity for its last-ditch drive.
In many, many ways, this wasn’t State’s night, and Wake Forest was the better team for large portions of the game. It was a head-scratcher of a performance, with the Pack seeming at times disinterested, or maybe just way too relaxed after going up 10 points at halftime.
Whatever the case may be, it’s a tough loss to stomach, and it leaves a lot of lingering questions. Time will tell us how these guys respond.