NC State earned a hard-fought 10-7 win over Connecticut in East Hartford, Conn., Saturday afternoon. Now it's time for a final look at the game with some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
At the rate the offenses were playing Saturday, a two-possession lead had the feeling that it could be insurmountable. NC State reached that point with 8:34 left in the third quarter.
Fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Glennon, with a breezy wind to his back, got rid of the football just in time before UConn star defensive end Trevardo Williams was about to nail him from behind.
Running down the sideline to Glennon's right was redshirt sophomore receiver Bryan Underwood, who reached out fully extended and hauled in the pass with his fingertips without losing his balance and barely breaking his stride. He was able to dive into the end zone for a 46-yard touchdown that put NCSU up 10-0.
Three things that worked:
The numbers speak for themselves. NC State held Connecticut to just 11 first downs and 239 yards of total offense. The Huskies were only able to rush for 35 net yards on 32 carries.
2. Winning the turnover battle
In a game where offenses are not moving the football consistently, the biggest factor would be turnovers. Such was the case Saturday. NC State was able to turn Connecticut over four times, including three interceptions. The Pack however only gave it up once, a first quarter fumble by redshirt sophomore running back Mustafa Greene.
3. Gutting it out
The bottom line is this: a win is a win. Winning on the road against a BCS opponent is typically not easy, and Connecticut presented a stiff challenge for the Pack's offense. Despite not playing its best football, NC State was able to make the crucial stops on defense at the end of the game to preserve an ugly but also gutsy win.
Three things that did not work:
1. Moving the football
Again, the numbers tell the story. NC State ran for just 54 yards as a team on 41 attempts. Yes, that includes six sacks on Glennon, but even without the sacks and the final-second kneel down, State ran 34 times for 100 yards, or 2.9 yards a rush.
Glennon did not have much luck in the air either, completing just 15 of 30 passes for 204 yards.
2. Protecting Glennon
Last week, State could not get any pressure on Connecticut junior quarterback Tyler Bray. This week it was the reverse problem. They could not keep Connecticut's front seven off of Glennon. The six sacks included two from Williams, giving Williams 22.5 sacks for his career now.
3. Putting the game away
Just as State gets credit for gutting out the win, you also wish they had put Connecticut away earlier. The best chance came after Wolfpack junior cornerback David Amerson picked off UConn sophomore quarterback Chandler Whitmer on the first play following the long touchdown pass to Underwood.
State got the ball at the UConn 34 with 8:14 left in the third quarter. The Pack probably could have been aggressive there to go up 17-0, but instead ran three running plays, including a two-yard loss on third and one, setting up a 44-yard field goal attempt for sophomore Niklas Sade that missed wide right.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. Connecticut's front seven
Not pretty. Containing Connecticut's elaborate blitz schemes was a chief concern that grew even greater when junior left tackle Rob Crisp did not make the trip with an unspecified injury. Crisp is arguably State's most athletic lineman, and he would have been a much better matchup against Williams, runner-up in the New England 100-meter sprint while in high school in 2007.
NC State's front seven vs. Connecticut's OL
This was a much better game for State's front seven. The defensive line in particular did a good job containing the line of scrimmage. The front seven had seven tackles for losses and three sacks. The game might have also been a breakthrough for sophomore outside linebacker Rodman Noel. He had six tackles, including one for a loss.
NC State's WR vs. Connecticut's DB
Connecticut's solid secondary did a good job covering State, but the Pack was able to exploit gaps over the middle, and Underwood and redshirt junior Quintin Payton were able to make tough catches down the field.
NC State's DB vs. Connecticut's WR
Like NC State's front seven, this was a good matchup for NCSU. The Connecticut receivers did not challenge the Wolfpack secondary nearly as much as Tennessee had a week before.
Neither Glennon or Whitmer played great, but Glennon gets the nod because he did not turn the ball over, whereas Whitmer threw three interceptions.
The running was tough for both teams. Connecticut sophomore Lyle McCombs averaged exactly three yards a carry, rushing 20 times for 60 yards, which was better than any of State's three backs, who all averaged less than three yards a run. McCombs also had a crucial 43-yard catch-and-run to set up Connecticut's lone score, so he gets the edge for being the best back on the field Saturday.
A week after having a solid game against Tennessee, NC State's tight ends did not factor into the passing game at all Saturday, not catching a single pass. Meanwhile, the Connecticut duo of John Delahunt and Ryan Griffin caught four passes for 37 yards, but Delahunt had a big fumble as well.