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NC State was competitive for three quarters, trailing just 21-14 at that point to No. 21 Georgia Tech. Then a flurry of fourth quarter GT touchdowns put the game away, and the Jackets pulled away for a 45-35 win at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh Saturday afternoon. Now it's time for the Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
NC State had the momentum in the third quarter. They had owned the second quarter, but trailed 21-7 at halftime. State then forced a Tech three and out to start the second half, and junior running back James Washington ran for a 46-yard touchdown on State's first play of the third quarter, cutting Tech's lead to 21-14.
The Pack had a goal line stand, stopping the Jackets on a fourth and one at the NC State 3. The Pack got of the shadow of its own end zone and had a second and nine at their own 30 when redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon took a crucial sack, stalling the drive.
After a State punt, Tech had a fourth and one at their own 42. The Jackets lined up to draw State offside, and that's exactly what happened. Tech then overcame a chopping penalty to drive the field for a touchdown to give the Jackets a 28-14 lead with 12:29 left in the game. The drive was aided by another NC State offside on fourth and one at the NC State 5.
On State's first play of its next possession, GT sophomore safety Isaiah Johnson stepped in front of a slant pass attended for redshirt freshman receiver Bryan Underwood and returned the pick 34 yards for a back-breaking touchdown with 12:15 left.
Three things that worked:
1. The running backs
Washington had probably his best performance in a Wolfpack uniform. He ran 20 times for 131 yards and a score and caught five passes for 35 yards. Redshirt freshman Tony Creecy added 12 carries for 77 yards, mostly in the fourth quarter. The fullbacks caught five passes for 37 yards and two touchdowns.
2. Winning time of possession
One of the first complaints Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson had after the game was the fact that his team lost the time of possession battle to NC State. The Pack had a 32:09 to 27:51 edge in that category, and sometimes against Tech the best defense is simply keeping their offense off the field.
NC State was outmanned Saturday afternoon. Down 11 players going into the game, State lost freshman punter Wil Baumann during pregame warm-ups, senior fullback Taylor Gentry at halftime and redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Darryl Cato-Bishop in the third quarter. Despite all that, State had chances to make this game interesting if they could have made a play here or there. The defense held Georgia Tech to 217 total yards under its season average and almost 103 yards below its rushing average. The Pack also held Tech to season-lows in both stats.
Three things that did not work:
State jumped offside three different times on fourth downs, two of which resulted in crucial first downs for the Jackets. Fifth-year senior tight end George Bryan also had a disappointing personal foul flag when State was in the midst of its 19-play second quarter drive. Instead of second and goal at the four, since it was a dead ball flag, State had second and goal at the 19.
2. Containing junior running back Orwin Smith
Smith has emerged this season as Tech's most dangerous player in its offense, and he did not disappoint Saturday. He led the Jackets with nine carries for 74 yards and added a 30-yard reception. Smith had three rushing touchdowns.
3. Catching a break
When you are outmanned, the ball needs to bounce your way. Early in the game, that did not happen. State was dealt an unexpected blow when Baumann strained his groin stretching in the pregame. Then the refs missed an obvious pass interference call on Glennon's deep throw to senior receiver T.J. Graham's on the game's first play. On Tech's first offensive play, Smith fumbled, but the ball trickled harmlessly out of bounds. Then on the Jackets' second scoring drive, sophomore linebacker D.J. Green was flagged for a questionable horse collar penalty that gave Tech first and goal at the seven instead of third and long.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. Georgia Tech's front seven
This is the second ACC game in a row where the Wolfpack's offensive line had a relatively good game. The Pack gave up just two sacks, and the running backs were never once tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
NC State's front seven vs. Georgia Tech's OL
Last year against the Jackets, State's front seven dominated against GT. This year, the Pack did not have as much success, but that's not surprising considering the personnel available. The Pack had just one sack and three tackles for losses in the contest, but the good news is that fifth-year senior defensive lineman J.R. Sweezy had a solid game in his first action of the year, making two tackles, including the sack.
NC State's WR vs. Georgia Tech's DB
Georgia Tech's defensive backs handled their most important assignment well. They shut down Graham and did not allow him to catch a pass. The possession receivers, fifth-year seniors Jay Smith and Steven Howard, did have perhaps their best games of the year.
NC State's DB vs. Georgia Tech's WR
Georgia Tech had some open receivers that junior quarterback Tevin Washington flat out miss, but that's the hope you need to have when defending Tech because the focus is on stopping its relentless ground game.
Glennon had the biggest mistake in the game when he threw the pick six, but he had solid numbers, completing 20 of 29 passes for 163 yards and two scores. Washington was held in check by State's defense and not near as dangerous as he had been earlier this year.
As mentioned above, this was a big game for State's running backs, but Tech's backs, especially its A-back duo of Smith and senior Roddy Jones, did big damage. Jones ran four times for 26 yards and added a 38-yard touchdown catch.
NC State fifth-year senior George Bryan caught three passes for 26 yards. Tech does not have a tight end in its offense.