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September 30, 2013

Monday morning quarterbacking



The Pack rolled with four touchdowns in the second quarter to break open the contest and rout Central Michigan 48-14. Now it's time for some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

Key moment of the game:

NC State's pick six by senior linebacker D.J. Green was the lone highlight in an otherwise sluggish first quarter. The Pack punted on all of its first three possessions, all of which came in the first quarter. On the first possession of the second quarter, NC State faced a fourth and one at the Central Michigan 45.

Head coach Dave Doeren made the decision to go for it, using the wildcat formation with freshman quarterback Bryant Shirreffs despite Shirreffs being stuffed for no gain on the previous play. Shirreffs gained nine yards on fourth down, and two plays later sophomore tailback Shadrach Thornton burst through the line for a 29-yard touchdown.

That opened up the floodgates, with freshman running back Matt Dayes getting a 42-yard touchdown run on the next possession, and then fifth-year senior receiver Rashard Smith returned a punt 67 yards for a score. Redshirt junior quarterback Pete Thomas closed the second quarter scoring on the next State possession with an eight-yard scramble into the end zone.



Three things that worked:

1. Defensive effort

Central Michigan totaled just 259 yards of total offense, much of that coming late in the third quarter and into the fourth when the game was well in-hand. Prior to CMU's last possession of the third quarter, which would develop into a 78-yard scoring drive, NCSU had held the Chippewas to 102 total yards. State also forced three interceptions, one of which they turned into a pick six.

2. Big plays

Green's 37-yard interception return for a touchdown was one of just numerous big plays. State had five plays of at least 20 yards, including the touchdown runs by Thornton and Dayes and an 80-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to redshirt junior wide out Bryan Underwood. Throw in Smith's punt return for a score, and NCSU did what teams are supposed to do against lesser competition, crush them with big plays.

3. Running game

Thornton got the start Saturday, and his insertion into the lineup seemed to give life to the running backs that have been inconsistent since the season-opening win over Louisiana Tech. Thornton ran 13 times for 71 yards, and when combined with the success the Pack had on jet sweeps with the receivers NCSU finished with an impressive 239 yard rushing.


Three things that did not work:

1. First quarter offense

As we mentioned earlier, it was a bit sluggish for NC State starting the game. The Pack had to punt on all three of its first quarter possessions, picking up just four first downs in the process and getting 87 total yards. Almost half of those yards, 37 to be exact, came on two jet sweep runs, one by Smith and the other Underwood.

2. Kickoff units

NCSU freshman receiver Johnathan Alston averaged just 17.0 yards on three kickoff returns, one of which he muffed before recovering, and Alston also got a 15-yard personal foul penalty after one runback. Conversely, the coverage units surrendered a 54-yard return to CMU's Courtney Williams, and overall the Chippewas averaged 31 yards a runback.

3. Preserving the shutout

It was a great defensive effort up until the point that NC State took a 38-0 lead in the third quarter. It's a bit nitpicky, but it would have been nice for the Pack to preserve that shutout all the way through four quarters. Instead, the defense gave up back-to-back touchdowns, including a nine-play, 78-yard drive and after that a 38-yard touchdown run for Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore.


Breaking down the position battles:

NC State's OL vs. Central Michigan's front seven

Statistically NCSU gave up just two sacks and averaged 4.6 yards a rush, both indicative of a good performance from the offensive line. However, it should be noted a lot of the success rushing came outside versus between the tackles.

NC State's front seven vs. Central Michigan's OL

An impressive performance for the Pack considering two of the four defensive ends in the rotation, fifth-year seniors Darryl Cato-Bishop and Forrest West, were out due to injuries. State had a pair of sacks, but more impressively recorded 10 tackles for losses and limited CMU to just 94 yards rushing. Central Michigan starter Saylor Lavallii ran 14 times for just 16 yards.

NC State's WR vs. Central Michigan's DB

This may have been State receivers' best game, and a large part of that is because Underwood seems to be getting on track in the new offense. The speedster caught five passes for 148 yards, including the 80-yard score and another 39-yard bomb. Smith caught three passes for 39 yards, and the freshmen duo of Jumichael Ramos and Bra'Lon Cherry combined for three catches for 25 yards. State also welcomed West Virginia transfer Travares Copeland for the first time. He had missed the first three games with a hamstring injury, and he caught a 10-yard pass Saturday.

NC State's DB vs. Central Michigan's WR

CMU receiver Titus Davis, called the Chippewas best player by coach Dan Enos after the game, was a handful to cover. He caught five passes for 80 yards, including a touchdown. Otherwise NC State had tight coverage and were seemingly in position to get even a few more picks than the three they ultimately had.

Quarterbacks

Thomas seemingly continues to get a little better each game, and completing the deep pass is a step in the right direction. He finished the game 14-of-20 passing for 244 yards and a touchdown pass and added 18 yards rushing and another score. Shirreffs also did well in the wildcat, rushing seven times for 29 yards.

Collectively, they were far better than CMU rookie quarterback Cooper Rush, who in his defense was third string signal caller before the season started and is being pressed into duty. Rush completed just 16 of 37 passes for 165 yards with a touchdown and three picks.

Running backs

Shoemaker's five carries for 63 yards and a touchdown look good until you examine how they came late in the game. The best back on the field was Thornton, and Dayes had the big 42-yard touchdown run himself.

Tight Ends

One are where CMU's unit shined a little more than State's. The Chippewas' Deon Butler caught three passes for 32 yards.

Special teams

The kicking numbers were good. Junior Niklas Sade made both field goal tries (distances of 46 and 34 yards), and junior punter Wil Baumann averaged a decent-enough 39.4 yards a kick, although it was not his best punting day. NCSU did struggle in kickoff returns and coverage, but made up for that with Smith's punt returning, which gives NCSU the edge in special teams.

In addition to Smith's punt return for a score, he also had a 20-yard punt return.



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