Not being able to run the ball effectively, losing the turnover battle and a nonexistent vertical passing game make it hard to win football games at any level. Factor in poor weather conditions and a comparable opponent, and winning becomes an even mightier task. NC State (4-1, 0-1) did just that Saturday as they lost 20-13 to visiting Louisville (2-3, 1-1).
The Wolfpack defense started the game like gangbusters, sealing the edges to corral true freshman quarterback Lamar Jackson in the running game. That would only last two series as Jackson would slice through the NC State defense a few times before ultimately scampering for a 68-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter to put the Cardinals up 7-0.
NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett and the offense would not fare so well to start the game. Their first three possessions were two punts and a Jumichael Ramos fumble, which led to the Jackson touchdown run.
The Wolfpack offense made their name with their offensive balance early in the season, but their strengths were not on display: the strong running attack of Matt Dayes and efficient passing from Brissett. NC State only rushed for 45 yards on 30 attempts, and Brissett finished the day 16-for-28 for 183 yards and touchdown. The lack of rushing and passing yards can be attributed to Louisville loading up the box all day and daring Brissett to go downfield.
With the Wolfpack struggling offensively, the Cardinals took advantage of a less than dominant NC State defense. Midway through the second quarter, Louisville capped off a drive with 20-yard touchdown pass from Jackson to Devante Peete to give the Cardinals a 14-0 lead they would not relinquish.
NC State entered the second half down 17-7, and tried to assert themselves rushing early. On their second drive of the half, they fed the Cardinals a steady diet of Dayes and Jaylen Samuels to score on a 10 play, 80-yard drive capped off by a Samuels 28-yard touchdown catch. The extra point was missed, and State would get no closer than 17-13.
After the first couple of possessions, both teams played ultra-conservatively the rest of the way, which was something Louisville could do with the lead. Facing a loaded box much of the day, Brissett never stretched the field, and the Wolfpack could not threaten late in the game down 20-13.
Gaudy stats: Brissett leading the nation in completing percentage; the defense allowing 49.5 yards rushing; Dayes entering the game with nine touchdowns; and racking up points all went out the window when NC State faced comparable competition.
2-0: NC State lost the turnover battle 2-0. Louisville was able to convert Matt Dayes’ and Jumichael Ramos’ fumbles into 10 points, which were the difference in the game.
23: The Wolfpack only ran 23 plays in the first half. It’s hard to score many points when you don’t have enough opportunities. NC State had six drives in the first half, which averages to roughly 4 plays per drive.
45: The Wolfpack entered the game averaging 259 yard rushing per game. They finished the game with only 45 yards rushing on 30 carries for a measly 1.5 yards per rush average. NC State is not expected to average 259 yards in ACC play, but they have to be somewhere in the middle if they want to compete moving forward.
203: Defensively, NC State was only allowing 49.5 yards rushing per game. Louisville completely destroyed that with 203 yards rushing on the day.
What needs work
- Here is the broken record: Jacoby Brissett has to become a better downfield passer. The Cardinals have provided NC State’s opponents with a blueprint – load the box and make Brissett beat you downfield.
- Even though the box was loaded, the offensive line has to do a better job at the point of attack and reaching blocks. If teams are going to load up, and they will, NC State has to find a way to overcome that.
- Work on ball security this week for the offense, and takeaways for the defense. Two turnovers does not sound like a lot, but they are when you don’t get any in return.