NC State's 34-27 loss at Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., was a reality check in some ways for Wolfpack nation. Now it's time for the Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
The Pack started to finally look like it was getting some momentum in the third quarter. The Pack had downed the Deacs at the Wake Forest 2 on a nice punt from freshman Wil Baumann with 3:35 left, trailing 27-6. The defense forced a rare three and out, and a short punt gave State the ball at the Wake 38. Two redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon passes later, the Pack was in the end zone, cutting Wake's lead to 27-13.
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The Pack may have been a defensive stop away from getting back into the game. Instead, Wake Forest freshman corner Merrill Noel returned the kickoff to the Wake 48. On the next play, Demon Deacon sophomore quarterback Tanner Price connected with senior receiver Chris Givens, who beat State sophomore corner David Amerson on the play, for a 41-yard gain to the NC State 11.
After a one-yard run from Wake sophomore tailback Josh Harris, senior receiver Danny Dembry ran a reverse 10 yards for a touchdown, reasserting Wake's control of the game as they took a 34-13 lead with 27 seconds left in the third quarter.
Three things that worked:
1. Glennon's second half
Did Glennon play a perfect game? The answer is no. Was Glennon the reason for the loss? The answer to that question is no as well. If you would have told Tom O'Brien before the game that Glennon would complete 24 of 41 passes for 315 yards and three scores, O'Brien probably feels great about State's chances. Glennon was 17 of 29 for 263 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.
2. Freshmen special teamers
After a rough debut, the three freshmen special teamers were good Saturday. Placekicker Niklas Sade made field goals of 45 and 37 yards and had a touchback on a kickoff. Baumann booted four kicks for an average of 41.8 yards, two of which were inside the 10, one at the two. Another punt was placed inside the 10 because of a penalty, and his fourth punt was a fair caught 47-yarder. Long snapper Scott Thompson also downed one of those punts inside the 10.
3. Offensive line
Maligned for their effort against Wake Forest, the offensive line played a much improved game in week two. They did not allow a sack, and for the most part they kept the pressure off Glennon. The running backs duo of junior James Washington and fifth-year senior Curtis Underwood, Jr. ran a combined 25 times for 105 yards, 4.2 yards per rush. Wake only had two tackles behind the line of scrimmage all Saturday.
Three things that did not work:
Bottom line is this loss starts with the defense. The expectations coming into this season was that the defense was going to have to carry the team while the rebuilding offense and young special teams come along. Giving up 438 yards of total offense and 34 points is not going to cut it.
2. Third downs
Of special concern on defense were third downs. Wake Forest converted 8 of 16 third downs, including four third downs that were of eight yards or longer. The Deacs added a fourth down and eight conversion for good measure. What particularly hurt was every third down conversion sustained scoring drives, and in one case led directly to a touchdown.
NC State was just 5 of 14 on third downs.
3. Disciplined play
The hallmark of O'Brien's teams have been disciplined play. That did not show up Saturday. There were dropped passes, costly penalties, blown coverages and too many missed tackles to count. NC State needs to get sharper.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. Wake Forest's front seven
As we mentioned above, NC State's offensive line improvement from week one to two was a pleasant development. The line had a costly chop block penalty and a bad false start, but otherwise played well.
NC State's front seven vs. Wake Forest's OL
Wake Forest starts four seniors and a junior on the offensive line, and their experience showed. NC State had some success, getting three sacks, but Wake's o-line seemed to wear the Pack out over time. The Deacs started running the football more effectively in the second half.
NC State's WR vs. Wake Forest's DB
NC State's speedsters, senior T.J. Graham and redshirt junior Tobais Palmer, gave Wake's young, aggressive defensive backs trouble. Palmer caught seven passes for 96 yards and a score (65-yarder), and Graham added six receptions for 117 yards and a touchdown (63-yarder). What was disappointing was that State's possession receivers (fifth-year seniors Steven Howard and Jay Smith and redshirt sophomore Quintin Payton) did not get open more often. They combined for four catches for 44 yards.
NC State's DB vs. Wake Forest's WR
This was perhaps the most disappointing part of the game Saturday. The Wake trio of seniors Chris Givens and Dembry and sophomore Michael Campanaro repeatedly burned the Pack's secondary. The three combined for 17 catches for 300 yards and two scores. Aside from junior safety Brandan Bishop's fourth quarter interception, this was an afternoon to forget for the Pack's DBs.
Price started out on fire, completing 10 of 12 passes for 131 yards in the first quarter. He cooled off a little after that, going 12-of-23 passing for 166 yards over the final three quarters. Glennon started slow but finished strong. Bottom line is both quarterbacks gave winning performances.
The Underwood-Washington combo ran well, and Harris ended the game with 23 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown. His 4.2-yards per carry was identical to what Underwood and Washington posted.
Wake Forest's tight ends did not catch a single pass, while NC State fifth-year senior George Bryan had three catches for 40 yards and a score, but he dropped two passes. Redshirt junior Mario Carter also had a dropped reception.
Both teams had similar afternoons in the return game. Both teams had a long return wiped away with a block in the back flag. Both also had a nice kickoff return to their credit. The edge goes to State though with its more consistent kicking game.