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October 31, 2011The Pack's offense was shut out while the defense allowed a season-high in total yards during a 34-0 loss at talented Florida State in Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday afternoon. Now it's time for a final look at the game with some Monday Morning Quarterbacking.
Key moment of the game:
In hindsight, for the Pack to have had a chance in this game, they needed to get off to a fast start, something State has not been known for this year. So when NCSU went three and out on its first two possessions and got just one first down on its third drive before punting, the Pack was in trouble. FSU responded by scoring a touchdown and field goal to take a quick 10-0 lead and never looked back.
Three things that worked:
1. Fifth-year senior defensive tackle Markus Kuhn
This is more of a shout out to Kuhn than anything. He has quietly had a very good season for the Pack in the middle of the defense. Kuhn entered the preseason with considerable hype after a strong spring practice, and he's lived up to expectations. He added five more tackles Saturday, including two for a loss and a sack.
2. Fifth-year senior linebacker Audie Cole
Cole had quietly racked up impressive tackles totals throughout the year, and Saturday may have been Cole's best game of the year. Officially he was credited with 10 tackles, but nine of them were solo. He also broke up a pass and was active all over the field.
3. Freshman punter Wil Baumann
Baumann had been struggling through an up-and-down rookie campaign, which was to be expected, but Baumann was solid Saturday. He was busy, punting seven times, but he averaged a good 40.6 yards per kick, including a season-best boom of 62 yards, and twice he pinned the Noles inside the 20.
Three things that did not work:
We named three individuals for things that worked because little if anything from a team aspect went well Saturday. It started with an anemic performance from the offense. The numbers unfortunately do not lie. State had a season-low 166 yards of total offense, almost half its previous low of 322 yards at Cincinnati. The Pack was shut out for the first time since the 2008 season-opener. The Pack's deepest drive ended at the FSU 30.
A lot of the blame from fans was geared towards the offense, but the defense had its issues as well. They gave up a season-high 444 yards of offense to Florida State. The Noles threw for 321 yards and ran for 123. The Pack could not contain Seminole redshirt junior quarterback EJ Manuel either. He completed 25 of 34 passes for 321 yards and a pair of touchdowns and ran eight times for 11 yards.
3. Special teams
Truth be told, this effort was not as bad as the offense or defense, but once again there were issues. Freshman kicker Niklas Sade didn't have a chance on a 52-yard field goal because of a bad snap from freshman long snapper Scott Thompson. Sade also booted a kick off out of bounds. One of the early big plays of the contest was an electrifying 28-yard punt return from FSU junior corner Greg Reid.
Breaking down the position battles:
NC State's OL vs. Florida State's front seven
This was a tough assignment for NC State. The Noles' defensive line is probably the best in the ACC and a challenge for any offensive line to block. There's a reason why FSU leads the ACC in rushing defense and sacks per game. Once again, FSU got the advantage on its opponent.
NC State's front seven vs. Florida State's OL
State did a better job containing FSU's ground game compared to recent opponents. FSU ran for over 200 yards in wins over Maryland and Duke, and State held them to 123 yards and 3.3 yards per carry. The Pack also had three sacks and got several good hits on Manuel. If there was a unit that somewhat held its own Saturday, it was State's front seven.
NC State's WR vs. Florida State's DB
One of the biggest problems the Wolfpack offense was facing this season was a questionable receiving corps, and against FSU's collection of talented cornerbacks the wide outs failed to get open often enough and almost never downfield. State's longest pass completion was 17 yards, and that was a quick pass to senior T.J. Graham that he ran for that total after the catch.
NC State's DB vs. Florida State's WR
FSU seemed to take advantage of whatever coverage they were facing. If the Pack was playing off, they dumped underneath. If they pressed, they went downfield. Five different wide outs caught passes for FSU, and four of them had a reception that went at least 18 yards.
In this game, redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon looked like a first-year starter while Manuel looked like the preseason all-conference candidate he was hyped to be. Glennon went 19 of 34 but for just 130 yards. He threw a pair of interceptions as well, one of them coming off a deflected pass. Manuel though showcased his talent and almost looked like Cam Newton out there.
Neither team got standout performances from its running backs. FSU junior Lonnie Pryor had an impressive 8-yard touchdown run, but overall the most effective runner for either team was the Noles' Jermaine Thomas, a senior. Thomas ran 11 times for 48 yards and caught five passes for 53 yards.
NCSU fifth-year senior George Bryan caught three passes for 17 yards, including one catch where he helped a scrambling Glennon get a first down. FSU promising freshman Nick O'Leary had a nice 25-yard reception.
FSU has one of the most impressive special teams in the ACC, and it showed outside some poor punting. Junior Dustin Hopkins missed a 52-yard field goal but otherwise was perfect, and the Noles did a good job containing Graham on his returns.