Nothing is finer than beating North Carolina for NC State fans. The Wolfpack did just that last Saturday at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C., rallying from 10 down at halftime for a 28-27 win. Now, it's time for some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
NC State made the winning plays and UNC did not with the game on the line. The Heels looked like they were driving for the lead late in the fourth quarter. UNC had a second down and six at the NC State 19-yard line, when they called a reverse to freshman receiver Jheranie Boyd. NC State fifth-year senior defensive end Shea McKeen blew the play up, but could not wrap up and bring Boyd down. Boyd though would make a rookie mistake.
Instead of taking a basic loss, he tried to reverse field. Fifth-year senior defensive end Willie Young would drag Boyd down for an even bigger loss than had McKeen tackled Boyd, who lost a total of 12 yards on the play back to the NC State 31. A quick slant from redshirt junior quarterback T.J. Yates to junior receiver Greg Little got 10 yards to the 21, and forced a 38-yard field-goal attempt from sophomore kicker Casey Barth. NC State fifth-year senior defensive tackle Alan-Michael Cash blocked the low kick, preserving NC State's 28-27 lead with 4:44 left.
NC State would then get three first downs behind hard running from fifth-year senior tailback Toney Baker, and clever play-calling from coach Tom O'Brien on its next drive, forcing the Heels to burn all their time outs and effectively ending the game.
Three things that worked:
1. Russell Wilson and the offensive attack
Some reporters were asking UNC defensive players after the game if NC State redshirt sophomore quarerback Russell Wilson was a "Tar Heel beater." Wilson completed 20 of 27 passes for 259 yards and most importantly no interceptions.
Make no mistakes, NC State had a strong performance against a very good defense. Only three other teams had piled up more than 300 yards of offense on UNC this year, and only Florida State scored more points against the Heels. UNC came into the game leading the ACC in scoring defense (15.9 points a game) and total defense (261.6 yards per contest). NC State scored 28 points and had 335 yards of offense.
2. Second half defense
UNC probably should have been up by more than 10 points at halftime, but the second half belonged to the Pack. Carolina had just 168 yards of offense in the second stanza and scored only three points. The Pack's defense bent at times, but State also came through by forcing a turnover on downs, blocking a field goal and intercepting a pass.
3. Staying focused
No one would have been surprised to see NC State quit when they were down 10 quick points at the end of what had been a disappointing season. Instead, the Pack stayed focus and allowed UNC to unravel to the tune of 10 penalties for 122 yards. The more disciplined team won this game.
Three things that did not work:
1. Stopping the big plays
Carolina had five plays that accounted for 256 of their 481 yards of total offense. Their other 49 plays totaled just 225 yards. The Heels scored on touchdown passes of 35 and 70 yards and a reverse run of 40 yards. One of their two field goals was set up by a 42-yard halfback pass. UNC only methodically scored once in the game with a good drive down the field.
2. First half defense
Truth is that four of the five big plays came in the first half, and that's why UNC had a stunning 313 yards of total offense, including 206 yards passing on just eight attempts from Yates. UNC's offense had been described as inept all season, and to pile up such production in a half was a bit shocking, even with NC State's woes.
This will be a major area of concentration for NC State in the offseason. Redshirt junior Jeff Ruiz averaged just 35.6 yards per punt and that was thanks to some friendly rolls. Redshirt junior Josh Czajkowski's five kickoffs went for an average of just 52.8 yards, which is around the 17-yard line. NC State covered well, but the returns were starting way too soon.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. UNC's front seven
The Pack had a hard time containing UNC junior defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who had seven tackles, two sacks, assisted on another hit for a loss and recorded a quarterback hurry. Sophomore defensive end Robert Quinn had 1.5 tackles for a loss and forced a fumble, fifth-year senior end E.J. Wilson added two tackle for losses, and redshirt unior linebacker Bruce Carter was all over the field with 13 tackles, including 1.5 for losses. However, NC State's offensive line held up reasonably well against a front seven that's likely to see many of its players in the NFL, and the Pack seemed to be wearing UNC down as the game went along.
NC State's front seven vs. UNC's OL
Yates did a good job of buying time in the pocket the few times he did get pressure, and UNC ran for an impressive 159 yards, although much of that came on reverses. Overall, UNC's offensive line had a pretty good perfrormance Saturday.
NC State's WR vs. UNC's DB
The starting receiver duo of redshirt junior Jarvis Williams and junior Owen Spencer combined for 11 catches for 180 yards and four touchdowns. They were getting open in the red zone and on deep routes. Simply put, they were better than UNC's defensive backs Saturday.
NC State's DB vs. UNC's WR
After playing a couple of solid games where they actually held down the production of the receiving corps from Clemson and Virginia Tech, NC State's defensive backs were burned Saturday. The Heels had two receivers go over 100 yards in Little (159) and Boyd (105).
Yates had some nice big plays in the first half, and had a solid effort overall, completing 13 of 19 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns with a pick. The UNC fans blaming Yates for the loss are off-based. Wilson though was the MVP of the game.
NC State actually held junior running back Ryan Houston in check. He carried 17 times for just 58 yards, an average of 3.4 yards a rush. NC State's duo of Baker and fifth-year senior Jamelle Eugene ran 29 times for 94 yards, just 3.2 yards. The best running back on the field may have been redshirt junior Johnny White for UNC, who ran seven times for 83 yards and a touchdown on the reverse.
Redshirt sophomore George Bryan did not catch a pass in the game for the first time this year. UNC junior Zach Pianalto hauled in a pair of catches for 34 yards, but overall the Pack had good coverage on Yates' security blanket.
The play of the game may have been Cash blocking Barth's field goal. Other than that though UNC's special teams were a little better, although NC State junior receiver Donald Bowens did have a nice 28-yard kickoff return.