The college football season is officially underway. NC State hosted South Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium on Thursday, September 3rd to kickoff the college season.
While most people probably would have agreed this game would have been a shootout, it turned into a 7-3 defensive struggle and a win for South Carolina.
Here's some observations from the game made from the Wolfpack point of view:
While the Wolfpack's offense was supposed be very dangerous coming into the game, it was their defense that was the dangerous unit. The only points NC State's defense gave up were off of a turnover that put the Gamecocks in the red zone to start with. South Carolina punched it in four plays later from the one yard line.
Most NC State fans were more concerned for the defense than the offense going into the South Carolina game, but the D gave the Wolfpack faithful some faith in their defense by only allowing seven points and just over 250 yards, especially since it was against a Steve Spurrier coached team.
The Pack only allowed 256 total yards and limited the Gamecocks to 2.6 yards per carry. South Carolina's starting running back had 23 carries for just 66 yards and had no run of 10 yards or more. That's a very good sign for the Wolfpack's run defense.
The only other remotely good thing was Rashard Smith, a freshman corner, running a punt for 31 yards. He also had a sack and four tackles on defense. Smith could have a good future in front of him.
Russell Wilson continued his streak of streak of ten games without an interception. He set an ACC record for most consecutive attempts without an interception with 272.
While the defense played well against South Carolina for NC State, nothing went the right way for their offense.
The offensive line was the main problem for the Wolfpack. They left Russell Wilson running for his life. They also couldn't make lanes for the running backs to run through. This resulted in six sacks (with a very mobile quarterback) and 59 rushing yards.
Toney Baker, who didn't play last season, fumbled on his first carry and first Wolfpack offensive play of the game. That play put the defense in a big hole, giving the Gamecocks the ball at NC State's 14 yard line. South Carolina scored their only touchdown of the game off of that turnover.
NC State's first punt was also blocked. This came on the possession right after the South Carolina touchdown, just setting the tone for a flat evening from the Pack.
Owen Spencer, who has been hyped as an All-ACC candidate at wide receiver also disappointed, catching only one pass for fifteen yards. He can't really be blamed though because the offense line didn't give Wilson enough time to deliver the ball down field where he is most dangerous.
Whatever anybody wants to say, they can't say this loss was Russell Wilson fault. Again he had no time to throw and his receivers were covered almost every time he dropped back to pass. He didn't look his best, but was still decent.
A telling stat of the night: the Wolfpack's 133 total yards were fewer than they had in any game last season.
If you take Toney Baker's fumble out of the equation, there is a good chance NC State would have won that game, but even with the fumble NC State should have won.
With around four minutes to go in the game Russell Wilson scrambled around and heaved it up into double coverage for redshirt freshman wide receiver Jay Smith. He split the defenders and the ball hit him in the hands. He had the game winning touchdown in his hands with four minutes to go in the game. That kind of stuff doens't happen on good football teams.
Next Game: vs. Gardner-Webb
NC State gets their chance to get back on track with a home date with Division 1-AA Gardner-Webb. This should be an automatic W in the win in the win-loss column.
The offensive line should push their defensively line around. If they don't, Wolfpack fans should be worried. If Russell Wilson gets sacked more than one or two times that will be a huge disappointment. They should get at least 150 yards on the ground as well.
We'll see if the defense is really a consistent force if they totally shut down the Gardner-Webb offense. One score should be a reasonable expectation. If they put in their second stringers maybe Gardner-Webb can put up more, but the NC State defense really need practice before they get into serious games. They still lost the South Carolina game, even if they did play well.