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NC State won Saturday, 35-13 at home over South Alabama, but the victory seemed to have left fans wanting, perhaps understandably, more. Now it's time for the Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
South Alabama had a golden opportunity to get back into the game with 7:26 left in the third quarter. They had just scored a touchdown on an 8-yard run from redshirt freshman running back Demetre Baker, cutting State's lead to 21-10. On the Pack's first play of the ensuing possession, redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon and junior center Camden Wentz had a second mishandled snap, and this time the Jaguars recovered at the State 39.
South Alabama got a first down and reached the 27 before having to settle for a field goal try. However, senior kicker Jordan Means' 44-yard attempt was wide left. The Pack made USA pay for not converting on their chance. Glennon led a 9-play drive 73 yards down the field, capped by an 18-yard pass from Glennon to fifth-year senior running back Curtis Underwood, Jr. for the score with 1:08 left in the third quarter, giving the Pack a 28-10 lead.
Three things that worked:
1. Throwing the football
When Glennon had time and receivers got open, he was almost flawless. Glennon completed 17 of 20 passes for 274 yards and four touchdowns without a pick. One of his incompletion was a throwaway, the other two were catchable passes. Redshirt freshman quarterback Tyler Brosius came into the game late and was 2-of-2 passing for 23 yards.
2. Getting yards after the catch
The Pack had a healthy diet of underneath crossing routes and dump downs to the running backs, and State was able to get sizeable chunks of yardage after the catch. That's the bonus of adding a receiver like redshirt junior Tobais Palmer, who can create in the open field. Redshirt freshman Bryan Underwood had a nice 30-yard reception that was mostly after the catch as well.
3. Getting the win
There was a lot to be frustrated about Saturday, but the bottom line is that State came away with the win. The offensive line was not nearly as solid as they were against South Alabama, the punting took a step back and there were a lot of issues on defense, but the Pack still managed to win by three touchdowns.
Three things that did not work:
Simply put there were way too many missed tackles in this game. If there were a stat released on yards after contact, South Alabama would probably have a pretty high total. State needs to tackle better.
2. Third down defense
A week after allowing Wake Forest to convert 8 of 16 third downs, State's defense gave up first downs on seven out of 15 third downs against South Alabama. That included conversions on third and 21 and third and 16. Two more third down conversions came from distances of seven and eight yards.
3. Ball security
Both of NC State's running backs put the ball on the ground. Junior James Washington's fumble probably cost State a chance of going up 14-0 after two possessions in the first quarter. The Pack was lucky to get Curtis Underwood's fumble back. State also had two mishandled snap exchanges in the game.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. South Alabama's front seven
After a strong performance against Wake Forest, it was surprising to see the offensive line give up four sacks to the Jaguars. The top two running backs averaged 4.0 yards per carry, but their longest run was just 12 yards.
NC State's front seven vs. South Alabama's OL
The Pack had four sacks, but that was expected. Having South Alabama redshirt freshman running back Kendall Houston run 18 times for 117 yards, average 6.0 yards per carry and never once get hit in the backfield was not expected.
NC State's WR vs. South Alabama's DB
Last year's receiving corps was tall and physical. This year it's shorter and fast. It's clear that Palmer has emerged as the second wide out on the team behind senior T.J. Graham. Graham caught five passes for 128 yards and a score, and Palmer added three catches for 28 yards. State needs more production though from fifth-year seniors Jay Smith and Steven Howard and redshirt sophomore Quintin Payton, the taller, possession receivers on the roster. They combined for two catches for 14 yards.
NC State's DB vs. South Alabama's WR
Today was a better effort in coverage for the defensive backs than what happened against Wake Forest, but there were still open receivers. The secondary was bailed out by a couple of dropped passes, but give credit to sophomore corner David Amerson and junior safety Brandan Bishop for making two crucial interceptions.
For all of NC State's struggles through three games, it's safe to say Glennon has done his part. He may have held onto the ball a tad too long on a couple of sacks, but it's hard to argue with 17-of-20 passing for 274 yards and four scores.
USA redshirt freshman C.J. Bennett has a nice future ahead of him. He completed 17 of 32 passes for 182 yards in the loss, but also threw two interceptions and had another one dropped by redshirt junior defensive end McKay Frandsen.
Houston was the best running back on the field. He was a load for the Pack's defense, and it seemed that on every contact Houston was falling forward for a few extra yards.
NC State fifth-year senior tight end George Bryan caught every pass thrown his way Saturday. The problem was it was only one pass, a 10-yarder. That was better though than Jaguars senior Kevin Helms, who had a couple of drops.
Means made a 45-yarder but missed a 44-yarder. NC State freshman Wil Baumann averaged just 35.0 yards per punt on three kicks after having such a strong effort at Wake Forest. Graham had a long kickoff return, but State's kick coverage unit allowed three returns past the 30-yard line in the second half.