NC State was following a familiar path to defeat on Thursday night behind sloppy execution and inefficient offense, but flipped the script in the fourth quarter, nearly overcoming an 18-point deficit in the process. In the end, the Wolfpack didn’t have quite enough big plays, and Georgia Tech held on by its fingernails for a 28-26 win.
It’s amazing what a couple of takeaways can do. NC State’s second fumble recovery of the night ended a Georgia Tech drive in Wolfpack territory, and the offense turned right around and scored a touchdown to cut the Jackets’ lead to 28-20.
After Tech went three-and-out on its ensuing possession, the Pack put together a 12-play touchdown drive to close within two, but the two-point try extremely did not work. From there, the Jackets were able to pick up the first downs necessary to melt the clock away.
And this is ... disappointment, I think, that I’m feeling? Frustration at missed opportunities that were costly in a close game that State could have had? Weird, haven’t felt these things in a while. First time all year, now that I think about it, what with this being the first one-possession loss of the season.
In the second half, NC State showed exactly the sort of progress we’ve been dying to see from this group. The defense was solid, the offense was effective—and was flat out mauling Tech on the ground—while Devin Leary gained confidence and made good throws. Here was the promise that had been buried all year, and for the majority of the first half. Finally, things to build on!
Alas, decisively winning the second half wasn’t enough to deliver the game, because NC State still is not taking full advantage of its opportunities. Twice the Pack settled for field goals in the red zone and it also turned the ball over on downs at the Georgia Tech 10 in the first quarter. The Jackets were better at finishing drives and it made the difference.
The Pack ended up out-gaining Georgia Tech 457-395, but the Pack also didn’t apply any game pressure on the Jackets until that fourth quarter. Tech had the luxury of a two-score lead for more than 30 minutes, and perhaps if the game were tighter for longer, the Jackets would have walked into a few more mistakes.
With the defeat, NC State is assured a losing season for the first time since 2013. That’s painful, but if more of the losses were like this one tonight, I don’t think we’d be feeling so bad.