NC State may have reversed the course of its season with a 17-16 win over No. 3 Florida State Saturday afternoon. Now it's time for a final look at the contest with some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
There were many in the second half, but obviously the game-winning drive stands out. The Pack first got a blocked punt from redshirt freshman defensive end Mike Rose with 2:27 left in the contest that set NCSU up with great field position at the FSU 43.
The first do-or-die moment came after fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Glennon scrambled for eight yards to the FSU 35 on a third and 10 play. That set up fourth and two, and Glennon found redshirt junior tight end Asa Watson for a seven-yard gain.
After a pass interference penalty on FSU's Xavier Rhodes put the ball on the FSU 14, Glennon threw three straight incompletions to force another fourth down, this time fourth and 10. Glennon connected with redshirt junior receiver Quintin Payton for 12 yards.
Two pass incompletions sandwiched a run for no gain by redshirt sophomore tailback Tony Creecy and set up fourth and goal at the 2. Glennon though responded by finding a wide open redshirt sophomore wide receiver Bryan Underwood for the touchdown with just 16 seconds on the clock.
Sophomore kicker Niklas Sade made the all-important extra point to give NC State a 17-16 victory.
Three things that worked:
1. Controlling the line of scrimmage in the second half
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said repeatedly in his postgame press conference that they lost control at the line of scrimmage in the second half. NCSU shut down the Noles' offense, especially running back Chris Thompson. Offensively, NCSU protected Glennon long enough so that he could complete multiple underneath crossing routes.
2. Limiting mistakes
NC State has played well this year when they stay out of their own way. Saturday against an opponent like Florida State, NC State stayed out of its own way. Outside of a Glennon interception that came on third and 16 at midfield, there were few of the mistakes that have plagued State like turnovers, penalties, dropped passes, etc., in its two losses. The Pack played a clean game, and even the Glennon interception did not hurt since FSU went three and out after the pick.
3. Making winning plays
The main reason NC State won this game? They made winning plays and FSU did not. Here is a sample:
- The defense forced a three and out on the first possession of the second half and then the offense responded with a 6-plus minute drive that set up a field goal and started to gas FSU's defense.
- Redshirt freshman cornerback Juston Burris picked off FSU quarterback EJ Manuel in the final moments of the third quarter when the Noles were driving and potentially in field goal range to preserve a 16-3 score.
- Glennon hit freshman running back Shadrach Thornton on a crossing route out of the backfield that Thornton turned into a 24-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 16-10.
- Junior cornerback Dontae Johnson sacked Manuel for a huge 15-yard loss when the Noles had it third and two at the NCSU 19. A field goal there would have put the FSU lead at 19-10, but instead the Noles were forced to punt.
- The Pack defense holds for a three-and-out and were able to use all three of its timeouts when FSU had it first and 10 at their own 31 with 2:47 left. That forced FSU to punt on fourth and nine with 2:32 to go.
- Rose comes up with a blocked punt, and State's offense converts three fourth downs on the game-winning drive.
Three things that did not work:
1. First half offense
Offensively the first half was not pretty for NC State. The Pack had just four first downs and 68 total yards at the break, leaving many in the press box to wonder if the 16 first half points for FSU were already insurmountable.
2. First half defense
Conversely, FSU piled up 221 total yards in the first half. Thompson was slicing State's defense and ran for 115 yards on 14 carries. Manuel was 11 of 15 for 117 yards and a touchdown. The only positive for the defense was it held FSU to field goals instead of touchdowns.
3. Getting out of the game healthy
The bottom line is that it does not matter how you beat Florida State, just that you do it. The hope though would be you come out of the game healthy, and that did not happen. It appeared that redshirt junior defensive end Forrest West may have suffered a serious injury, and redshirt sophomore fullback Logan Winkles also went down in pain.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. Florida State's front seven
Someone forget to tell offensive line coach Jim Bridge and his crew that FSU had the best defensive line in the country and that NCSU's makeshift offensive line was no match. By the end of the game, Glennon had been sacked just once and the line more than held its own.
NC State's front seven vs. Florida State's OL
State ended up with four sacks and shut down Thompson in the second half. Thompson had 11 carries for 26 yards after halftime. Score this one a win for State as well.
NC State's WR vs. Florida State's DB
Payton caught six passes for 79 yards and was a tough cover for FSU. Underwood did what Underwood does and that is catch touchdowns. Overall a solid effort from State's receivers.
NC State's DB vs. Florida State's WR
Florida State's wide receivers made catches, and a couple of missed throws by Manuel bailed State out. But in the end NCSU achieved one of its biggest objectives on defense and that was not to give up the big play which has been the main problem plaguing State's D all season.
Manuel was more effective in the first half, Glennon in the second half. In crunch time though, Glennon delivered, thus he earns the edge in this matchup.
Thompson was the best running back on the field Saturday. What was surprising though was the FSU did not use its depth. James Wilder Jr. got just one carry. Thompson is not built to run 25 times a game.
FSU's Nick O'Leary caught a touchdown pass, but that was his only reception of the game. Watson was a surprise off the sideline, catching four passes for 38 yards, including some crucial grabs in the second half. Fifth-year senior Mario Carter also added a two-yard catch. Overall State's tight ends were better.
The blocked punt may be the play of the game, but it should not overshadow what was a good overall performance from State's special teams. Sophomore Wil Baumann averaged 43.0 yards a punt, and Sade connected on a 27-yard field goal and three of his four kickoffs went for touchbacks.
The Pack covered well. The only negative was that State could not get an effective return on FSU, but that's more of a credit to the Noles and its terrific kickoff coverage units.