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October 24, 2011

Monday morning quarterbacking

For the first time this year, NC State has a winning streak to its credit. The Pack proved to be the better team in a 28-14 win at Virginia in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday afternoon. Now it's time for a final look at the game with some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

Key moment of the game:

NC State led 21-14 late in the fourth quarter when redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon was unable to connect with fifth-year senior receiver Steven Howard on a third and four at the Virginia 38. With 6:19 to go, the Pack punted. Freshman Wil Baumann's kick was caught and downed out of the air by freshman long snapper Scott Thompson at the Virginia 4.

After Virginia freshman quarterback David Watford threw an incomplete pass on first down, he dropped back to throw on second and 10. This time his pass bounced off the intended receiver Darius Jennings and was snagged out of the air by sophomore corner David Amerson for NC State. Amerson raced 12 yards, diving into the end zone for the pick six to put the Pack up 28-14 with 6:08 left in the game.



Three things that worked:

1. Defense
The much-maligned defense deserves all the credit it receives for this performance. It was not perfect, but they gave up just 249 yards of total offense, and held a UVA team that was averaging almost 200 yards a game rushing to just 124 yards. The Pack also picked off three passes to win the turnover battle that was going to be crucial in a game like this. State held UVA to 5 of 17 on third down conversions.

2. Bryan Underwood's speed
The redshirt freshman receiver showed his playmaking skills in this game. He burned the UVA secondary for a 33-yard touchdown with 4:27 left in the first half, and he turned a simple out route into a 79-yard catch-and-run down the sideline, outracing several Cavalier defensive backs to the end zone late in the third quarter.

3. Managing the game
NC State's offense was not a thing of beauty Saturday, and Glennon did throw two interceptions over the middle, but overall the Pack's offense managed the game fairly well. They committed to a balanced attack with 38 rushes and 36 passes, did not give up a sack, converted a respectable 7 of 19 third downs and won the time of possession battle 32:13 to 27:47. The latter was especially important given UVA's physical attack on offense.



Three things that did not work:

1. Special teams
Freshman kicker Niklas Sade had a 41-yard field goal blocked in the first quarter. Baumann struggled all afternoon with his kicks, averaging just 34.3 yards per kick. The coverage units also had difficulties trying to contain UVA's kick returns. The Cavs averaged 30.8 yards per kickoff return. State had a punt interference penalty as well, although that was a questionable flag.

2. Receiving corps consistency
Glennon completed 20 of 36 passes for 231 yards and three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Those numbers though would have been better if he had more help. There were a noticeable number of dropped passes (at least five perhaps?), and a couple of times the receiver appeared to run the wrong route.

3. Third quarter offense
If it had not been for Underwood's big 79-yard touchdown catch, the offense in the third quarter would have been anemic. State punted on four of its first five possession in the third quarter, and the other ended with a Glennon interception. On those five drives, State gained 33 yards. After Underwood's third down touchdown catch, the Pack had a three and out on its final third quarter possession and did not gain yard on that drive.



Breaking down the position battles:

NC State's OL vs. Virginia's front seven
Is NC State's offensive line turning a corner? Virginia is a physical defense, but the Pack held up. Glennon was not sacked for the second time this season (he was also not tackled at Wake Forest), and junior running back James Washington was not hit behind the line of scrimmage once in his 25 carries. On the flipside though, Washington only averaged 3.3 yards a rush.

NC State's front seven vs. Virginia's OL
State at times struggled to get pressure on the Virginia quarterbacks, getting just one sack courtesy fifth-year senior defensive tackle Markus Kuhn. However, the Pack held up well against UVA's well-regarded rushing attack. The Cavs averaged just 3.8 yards a carry and were limited to 124 yards rushing. The Wahoos had not been held under 150 yards rushing in a game this year prior to Saturday.

NC State's WR vs. Virginia's DB
The good news for State was that Underwood proved to be a difficult assignment for Virginia's secondary because otherwise the wide outs had a quiet afternoon, although fifth-year senior Jay Smith had a solid effort with four catches for 41 yards.

NC State's DB vs. Virginia's WR
Other than the 60-yard touchdown bomb from Watford to sophomore Tim Smith, the Pack's secondary was up for the task. They helped to hold UVA to just 11-of-35 passing for 125 yards. That was a season-low in both completion percentage and passing yards for the Cavs, and the three picks were the most UVA had thrown in a game.

Quarterbacks
For the second straight game, Glennon completed 20 of 36 passes, so expect the Pack to call 36 passing plays next Saturday at Florida State. In all seriousness, UVA's biggest weakness right now is behind center, and Glennon at this point is playing like a potential all-conference quarterback along with Wake Forest's Tanner Price, Clemson's Tajh Boyd and UNC's Bryn Renner.

Running backs
Washington ran hard for 82 yards on 25 carries, and redshirt freshman Tony Creecy was an all-around factor with his 28 yards rushing and 42 yards receiving, including 5-yard touchdown. That was slightly more effective than UVA's group. Redshirt freshman Kevin Parks was neutralized with just 18 yards on seven carries, a new career-low in both categories. Junior Perry Jones was solid however with 15 carries for 62 yards.

Tight Ends
A tight end did not catch a pass Saturday, and fifth-year senior George Bryan had another drop in what is turning into a tough season for the Wolfpack's offensive captain.

Special teams
We already documented how State's special teams struggled Saturday. Virginia's special teams were not outstanding, but they were better than their counterparts.


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