There are any number of ways you can look at this one, but it boils down I think to two primary deals: the first of those is you just cannot come out playing soft, like it’s some flag football shit out there; the second is that Matthew McKay ain’t scaring anybody.
NC State was not sharp on Saturday, which is in keeping with the two weeks prior, but the Wolfpack also managed to get out of the first half in a tie. The defense was flat terrible for long portions of this game, and often you can easily explain a score away by noting discrepancy in explosive plays. West Virginia found a handful of those in the first half, and the Wolfpack, as per pattern, was just constipated.
The big plays matter because they cancel out inefficiency—that’s why they change games, why they can for at least brief periods make garbage offenses look functional. NC State did not adapt well to what West Virginia was doing, which was costly. State was badly caught off-guard in the first half.
But then we can roll around to the offense, which was methodical for a stretch in the first half, but honestly, that’s about the best you can ever say for State’s offense under Dave Doeren.
And when opposing defenses aren’t remotely worried about losing the top of their coverage, then the snowball starts to hurry downhill. NC State obviously is limited right now with what Matthew McKay brings to the table—and I actually thought he responded pretty well to the early pressure of this game.
As this game wore, though, you could see the assurance on the other side, even despite losing a defensive back to an early targeting call. This is a problem.
NC State did well to dig itself out from under an early deficit and take the lead late in the second quarter, and this game was perhaps yoinkable for a time—both there at the end of the first half, and later after Austin Kendall threw an interception in a one-score contest.
It did not work out. By virtue of its failure at the end of the first half, NC State had found little margin for victory later on. These things stack, and it’s no one person’s fault, because the defensive playcalling could have been better, and the effort overall could have been better, and I don’t know, maybe don’t let some guy wearing 42 run free and block a punt.
McKay will be the headliner in what he couldn’t do today. And I agree this is a sobering problem. A lot of what happened also was a young team running up against some never-encountered-before pushback and failing on their first-ever road trip. That’s not an excuse, that’s just what the hell happened.
There is a lot here that goes well beyond excusing, though.