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Monday morning quarterbacking: Wake Forest

NC State is now 3 for 3 against in-state Division I-A rivals. The Pack upset Wake Forest 21-17 at Carter-Finley Stadium last Saturday, improving their record to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the conference. Next up is the showdown with archrival North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Before that though we take a look back at the win over the Deacs in this edition of Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
The last drive decided the contest. Things looked like they may be destined to go Wake Forest's way when junior quarterback Riley Skinner bobbled and then picked up a low snap but still found a way to run for 10 yards and a first down on fourth and eight at their own 45-yard line.
Wake reached the 25-yard line and had a third and six when Skinner lofted a pass deep over the middle into the end zone for receiver Marshall Williams, who had a step on fifth-year senior cornerback Jeremy Gray. Williams though could not haul the pass in, and NC State lived for another down.
On fourth and six, Skinner could not find anyone open and scrambled to the right. Redshirt junior defensive tackle Alan-Michael Cash was in pursuit though, and he surprised Skinner with his quickness. Cash sacked Skinner, who fumbled the ball out of bounds for a two-yard loss, and State would win the game.
Three Things That Worked:
1. Running the football
Had it not been for a pair of kneel downs to end the game that cost the team six yards rushing, NC State would have been over 150 yards rushing for the fourth straight game. They officially ended the game with 39 rushes for 149 yards, but taking out the final two snaps, it would have been 37 carries for 155 yards, a healthy average of 4.2 yards per rush.
2. Russell Wilson
Wilson was a major reason for the success on the ground, as he carried for a career-high 69 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Although his passing numbers, 16 of 33 for 152 yards and two touchdowns, are modest, they would have been substantially better with a little help from his receivers.
3. Nate Irving
The redshirt sophomore was good against Duke, but versus Wake Forest he started looking like the Irving from earlier this season. Irving had a game-high 13 total tackles, including two for loss and a sack. Both tackles for loss came at crucial times. He stuffed Wake rookie running back Brandon Pendergrass for a two-yard loss on third and two at the NC State five-yard line, forcing a field goal in the third quarter. His sack came on a third and 11 play from the NC State 42-yard line, preventing Wake from getting into position to go for it on fourth down or even try a long field goal
Three things that did not work:
1. Receiver play
You hate to pick on sophomore receiver Owen Spencer, but he did have several drops Saturday. Overall though, the receivers did not exactly have a stellar game. Redshirt sophomore Jarvis Williams led the wide outs with just two catches for 27 yards, and overall the receivers accounted for a total of five receptions for 54 yards.
2. Defending the trickery
NC State was controlling the action early in the game when it looked like Wake Forest was running a reverse to Demir Boldin. However Boldin, who goes by D.J., had the option of the pass. Redshirt sophomore cornerback DeAndre Morgan left his receiver, Marshall Williams, to try and contain Boldin, who lofted a pass to Williams. The result was an easy 64-yard touchdown pass that gave life to Wake Forest.
3. Pass coverage
Boldin finished with eight catches for 66 yards and a touchdown, and Williams added seven receptions for 118 yards and his score. Overall Wake Forest was able to complete 22 of 34 passes, 64.7 percent.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. Wake Forest's front seven
The running back duo of senior Andre Brown and redshirt junior Jamelle Eugene did not have any great big runs, but they were only tackled for losses of three yards during the game. The pass protection was not great, allowing three sacks and six more hurries. Overall though, the offensive line did a good enough job.
NC State's front seven vs. Wake Forest's OL
The Pack's front seven had six tackles for losses of 26 yards, including four sacks that dropped Skinner for a total of 23 yards. There were a couple of pressures on Skinner. Running the ball, State did a good job bottling up Pendergrass in the first half (five carries, 17 yards), but he ran much better in the second half (11 carries, 55 yards).
NC State's WR vs. Wake Forest's DB
NC State's receivers dropped passes and overall had just five catches. Wake Forest's defensive backs got the better of the match-up here.
NC State's DB vs. Wake Forest's WR
Boldin and Williams combined for 15 catches for 182 yards and two touchdowns, and Williams nearly hauled in a 25-yard touchdown with less than a minute remaining that would have probably given Wake Forest a win. The defensive backs continued to tackle better however.
Both quarterbacks played well, but the difference may have been that Wilson, the rookie, handled the pressure slightly better than Skinner, the veteran. Skinner several times in the fourth quarter ran into a sack or a bad situation, whereas Wilson did a great job buying time and scrambling for yardage.
Running backs
Pendergrass ran well in the second half, and Wake Forest's running backs combined for 20 carries for 89 yards, a not so bad 4.5 yards per carry. NC State's duo ran 23 times for 89 yards. Overall pretty much a draw.
Tight ends
The duo of fifth-year senior tight end Anthony Hill and redshirt freshman George Bryan won the match-up here, combining for four catches for 37 yards and both touchdown receptions. The two tight-end set is also helping to established NC State's running game.
Special teams
The quiet play of the game may have been Bradley Pierson, NC State's senior punter, making a leaping catch to haul in a high snap that would have sailed out of NC State's end zone with under three minutes remaining. Pierson got off a 41-yard punt instead, much of it on a nice roll.
Wake Forest also roughed Pierson on one play, although it did not come back to harm them. Those two plays though probably give the edge to NC State, who did not make a mistake on special teams.