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NC State lost to Miami but managed to foster a lot of optimism anyway

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NCAA Football: Syracuse at North Carolina State Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Sure, you could focus on the fact that Miami out-gained NC State by 210 yards and had a +1.0 YPP advantage; you could focus on how Bam Knight’s kickoff touchdown return was an unnecessary cruelty that simply clouded the run of play; you could do all that, if you wanted to.

I wouldn’t, personally, but that’s a thing you could do.

NC State came so close, painfully close, to delivering an upset win on Friday night, and as much as the result sucked, I woke up this morning feeling encouraged.

You can define a team’s quality by its margin for error, and what we saw from State’s defense in the first half was a disaster of errors, primarily in the form of penalties. Those penalties kept Miami in the game when State might otherwise have built a cushion on the scoreboard that would be necessary in the second half. Didn’t work out that way.

Still, State nearly overcame those mistakes. A bad team—the 2019 Wolfpack—gets buried by those penalties well before the fourth quarter. That’s the difference this year. State may still be its own worst enemy, but this is a setting from beyond the depths of despair. They can overcome these problems; they’re good enough.

And on the offensive side, they are capable of asserting their will on a good defense, even with a backup quarterback. That first quarter was flawless, and Bailey Hockman was really good. If Hockman can take that performance and build on it, then NC State is going to be fine, and there are several more wins ahead.

We’re having a lot of fun, aren’t we? I can’t get over the number of remarkable plays we’ve gotten this year, and Friday just added to the pile: Hockman’s touchdown on a trick play, with Ickey mauling a defensive back in the process, and Bam’s incredible kickoff return.

In the final accounting, it’s these signs of life that weren’t there last year that help ward off any despair this time around. This team is a lot better, and a lot more fun; those two things tend to correlate positively, but we’ve seen a lot more fun relative to the improvement, and that’s a fine silver lining.

All of this is a roundabout way of saying that I really like this team, despite its shortcomings. This defense may be bad, and this may be an offense without its starting quarterback, but these guys are working hard to overcome those faults. That effort was nearly good enough against a good Miami team on Friday night.

Dave’s got his guys playing hard. I don’t know what else you could ask for.