Monday morning quarterbacking

Matt Carter, Editor
The Wolfpacker
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Ken Martin/The Wolfpacker

NC State avoided a letdown by beating Syracuse 33-25. Now it’s time for a final look at the contest with some Monday morning quarterbacking:

Key moment of the game:

After a dismal third quarter, NC State rebounded with a touchdown drive in the fourth that gave it a large enough cushion to hold on for the victory.

Redshirt junior quarterback Ryan Finley made a rare big play with his legs, rushing for 10 yards to the Syracuse 40-yard line for a first down on third-and-nine. Finley later connected with senior H-back Jaylen Samuels for what seemed to be a touchdown, but the official ruled Samuels was out at the 1-yard line. No problem for the Wolfpack. Junior running back Nyheim Hines rushed it in for the one-yard score, giving NC State a 33-17 lead with 9:52 left in the game.

Three things that worked:

1. Running the football

If you remove the kneel downs at the end of the game, NC State rushed 44 times for 260 yards, a very good average of 5.9 yards per rush. The kneel downs took four yards off the official rushing total, but NC State still set a season high for yards on the ground.

2. Stuffing the run

Syracuse is not a good running team. In an otherwise very impressive offense, it is the Orange’s Achilles heel. That said, for the Cuse running backs to have a collective 14 rushes for 15 yards is a strong defensive effort against any team in any game.

3. Starting strong

Syracuse has a rhythm offense that is dangerous if allowed to get into the flow of the game. NC State prevented that from happening by roaring out to a 26-7 halftime lead. In the first 30 minutes, NCSU outgained Syracuse 350-202, had 21 first downs compared to eight for SU and owned a 19:55-10:05 advantage in time of possession.

Three things that did not work:

1. Containing the passing game

For the 11th time in the past 17 games, NC State allowed a 100-yard receiver, and this time it allowed a pair to get there. Seniors Ervin Philips (an ACC-record 17 catches for 188 yards) and Steve Ishmael (six receptions for 120 yards and a touchdown) torched the Pack.

2. Special teams

It was not entirely bad. Junior punter A.J. Cole (51.8 yards per punt) had a strong afternoon and redshirt junior kicker Carson Wise did make a 48-yard field goal. However, Wise missed a 31-yarder and also an extra point, junior Kyle Bambard had a poor mishit on an attempted pooch kickoff and a 34-yard punt return by Syracuse sophomore Steve Riley set up the Orange’s final touchdown.

3. The third quarter

The numbers bear it out: Syracuse outgained NC State 169-23 in total yards, had eight first downs to just one for the Pack and outscored NCSU 10-0 on the scoreboard in the frame. What looked like a blowout at halftime became a tighter contest because of a dismal third quarter.

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Position-by-position battles

NC State’s offensive line vs. Syracuse’s front seven

NC State completely dominated this matchup. Finley was not sacked on the afternoon, and as noted above, the Pack churned up big yardage on the ground.

Syracuse’s offensive line vs. NC State’s front seven

Another lopsided win for NC State. Syracuse had no rushing attack to speak of, and the Pack sacked SU junior quarterback Eric Dungey three times.

NC State’s wide receivers vs. Syracuse’s secondary

The Wolfpack wideouts struggled to get yardage outside of short passes. Both redshirt junior Stephen Louis and redshirt sophomore Jakobi Meyers had their moments, with Louis catching a 20-yard touchdown pass and later a 30-yard gain, and Meyers making an impressive 16-yard catch over a defender, but overall the wideouts have played better than they did Saturday for NCSU.

Syracuse’s wide receivers vs. NC State’s secondary

It was only two receivers, but both Ishmael and Philips singled-handedly won this matchup for the Orange.

Quarterbacks

Finley was decent but not great Saturday. He completed 20 of 33 passes, but for just 186 yards. Dungey was the better quarterback this particular afternoon, throwing for 385 yards and rushing for 44 more. If he played for a better or higher profile team, Dungey would probably warrant consideration for being one of the better quarterbacks in the country.

Running backs

The trio of Hines, Samuels and junior Reggie Gallaspy each scored a rushing touchdown and finished collectively with 38 rushes for 222 yards. Hines in particular (19 carries for 115 yards) is running with a lot of confidence. They far eclipsed anything Syracuse’s running backs provided.

Tight ends

Samuels did what Samuels does. He rushed for 74 yards and a score and added 37 receiving yards and came within a yard of a touchdown there. SU’s tight ends were a non-factor in the game.

Special teams

Syracuse also missed a field goal, but that was a 48-yard attempt, longer than Wise's misfire. Overall, the Orange dominated this matchup.

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