NC State gets its first easy win of the season, knocking off South Alabama 31-7 Saturday evening at Carter-Finley Stadium. Now it's time for a final look at the game with some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
The tone was set with State's opening drive in this game. The Pack went down the field 80 yards on 12 plays for a touchdown, capping the march off with a 33-yard scoring pass from fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Glennon to redshirt junior receiver Rashard Smith.
Glennon carried the drive, completing 9 of 10 passes for 75 yards.
Three things that worked:
1. First half offense
NCSU had 230 total yards at the break and scored touchdowns on four of its seven possessions. Glennon in particular was sharp, completing 16 of 23 passes for 179 yards and three scores.
2. First half defense
South Alabama had just seven first downs in the first half and was held to 122 total yards. State also forced two first half turnovers and almost had a third. The Pack particularly held on third downs, preventing South Alabama from converting on any of its six third downs. That trend continued in the second half when State did not allow a single third or fourth down conversion for the game.
3. Getting reps in
True freshman quarterback Manny Stocker was able to see his first live action, as did redshirt freshman center Joe Thuney. In the secondary, redshirt freshmen Hakim Jones and Juston Burris saw noticeable extended snaps.
And the inexperienced linebacker corps continues to show signs of obvious improvement with each game. Sophomore Brandon Pittman played well to lead State with eight tackles, and his classmate Rodman Noel recorded his first career sack.
Three things that did not work:
1. Second half offense
Whether it was because State became very vanilla on offense in the second half or because the offense just didn't play well, the Pack was held to a meager field goal in the final 30 minutes. They had 154 yards of total offense.
2. Fourth quarter defense
After pitching a shutout for three quarters and holding South Alabama to just 202 yards of total offense up to that point, State let up a bit in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars scored a touchdown and piled up 112 yards of offense in the final 15 minutes.
The point of the first two things that did not work well is that NCSU did not have a consistent, complete game Saturday. At halftime, one would have figured that NCSU was on their way to a lopsided 40-plus point win. Instead they were outscored by South Alabama 7-3 in the second half.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. South Alabama's front seven
Statistically, NCSU giving up four sacks and rushing for just 3.0 yards per carry is worrisome. A couple of those sacks seem to come from the left side though, where State is still missing junior left tackle Rob Crisp. Stocker was also sacked in the fourth quarter. The top two running backs also ran well, averaging 4.5 yards per carry on 22 rushes.
NC State's front seven vs. South Alabama's OL
NC State finished with seven sacks, which is more than any total they had in the 2011 season and likely the most since they took down T.J. Yates of UNC seven times in 2009 in Chapel Hill. South Alabama's running backs though did rush for an average of 5.6 a carry in their limited action (11 rushes).
NC State's WR vs. South Alabama's DB
This seemed to be the third straight solid game for the receiving corps. Redshirt junior Quintin Payton continued his development with five catches for 61 yards and his first career score. Redshirt sophomore Bryan Underwood caught a touchdown for the third straight game.
NC State's DB vs. South Alabama's WR
Other than Corey Besteda, who caught three passes for 68 yards, including a 43-yard haul, the Pack was able to hold South Alabama's receiving corps in check.
Glennon played his best game of the year and gave Pack fans hope that NC State's passing attack may be getting back on track after a slow start. But the combination of C.J. Bennett and Ross Metheney, a Virginia transfer, played well for South Alabama. They combined to complete 24 of 35 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Metheney in particular seemed to move the ball more effectively on offense.
Without redshirt sophomore Mustafa Greene, redshirt sophomore Tony Creecy and senior James Washington carried the load. Creecy ran 15 times for 68 yards and a score, and Washington had seven carries for 31 yards. Neither ran for a big gain, but neither was stopped for a loss as well.
South Alabama's Demetre Baker had a very good all-around game. He rushed seven times for 45 yards and caught five passes for 55 yards.
The best tight end in the receiving game Saturday was South Alabama's Wes Saxton, who caught four passes for 72 yards. For NCSU, fifth-year senior Mario Carter caught a couple of passes for 14 yards.
NCSU sophomore place kicker Niklas Sade had a 39-yard kick bounce off the upright. The good news is that it hit high off the upright. He connected on a 22-yarder in the third quarter but is just 2 for 5 to start the season.
Sophomore punter Wil Baumann had an effective game, averaging 42.8 yards on six punts. That's far better than South Alabama's Scott Garber's 37.6-yard average.
NCSU also seemed to have better returns, and was overall more effective on special teams.