Coming in from The Wolfpacker:@TheWolfpacker/N.C. State on Rivals.com…..
The Overview look at N.C. State’s football victory over the Pittsburgh Panthers, from back on Saturday, at Pitt…
Three Things That Worked
1. Making the decision to go with Devin Leary at quarterback. The choice was not made official until NC State’s opening drive, but it was clearly the right call. If you didn’t know better, it was almost like Ryan Finley was back at quarterback and throwing to Kelvin Harmon, Jakobi Meyers and Stephen Louis.
In some ways, Leary was even better than Finley. Leary was 28-of-44 passing for 336 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. He become the first QB at NC State to throw for over 300 yards and four scores in a game without a pick since someone named Russell Wilson also did it, ironically against Pittsburgh in a Wolfpack win in 2009.
Leary also led a game-winning score in the final drive, something that eluded Finley in his Wolfpack career.
2. Stopping the run. We wrote in our breakdown of the game on paper, “this game may represent an opportunity for the Wolfpack run defense to redeem itself a little” after a couple of poor outings. The Panthers were not a great rushing team, and NC State finally was able to taste some success in stopping the run.
Pittsburgh ran 37 times for 92 yards, or just 2.5 yards per carry. Their running backs accounted for just 52 yards on 21 carries.
3. Seizing the opportunity. Make no mistake about it, Pittsburgh somewhat made itself ripe for an upset Saturday. Thirteen penalties for 125 yards highlight that as much as anything. A receiver also stumbled in what should have been a touchdown, setting the stage for a dramatic goal line stand for NC State’s defense to prevent any points from being scored. A dropped two-point conversion helped keep the margin down late in the fourth quarter.
But when given the opportunity to take advantage of an opponent’s miscues, you still have to actually do just that. NC State was far from perfect itself (see the game’s second play and a 75-yard uncovered touchdown pass), but it did the better job of making the most of the other team’s errors.
Three Things That Didn’t Work
1. Running the football. Kudos to offensive coordinator Tim Beck for starting with the run and getting what he could because the reality is Pittsburgh was very tough to run against. Statistically speaking, the Panthers are second best in the country at stopping it.
NC State finished with just 62 yards on 30 carries. Forty-four of those rushing yards came on the Pack’s opening possession, which produced a touchdown.
2. Defending Kenny Pickett. The senior for Pittsburgh seems to be a bit of a polarizing signal caller among Panthers fans, but they had nothing to complain about Saturday.
Pickett delivered in a major way, and he was really the sole reason Pittsburgh had a chance. He finished the game completing 22 of 39 passes for 411 yards and a score and also added 40 yards rushing with two more touchdowns.
3. Playing a clean game defensively. As well as Pickett was playing, NC State didn’t need to help him. Not covering Pitt’s leading receiver on the game’s second play resulted in true freshman Jordan Addison having the easiest touchdown he will ever experience in what looks to be a very promising career for Pitt.
There was also a defensive holding flag on what should have been an incomplete pass on third and 16. That penalty would lead to a touchdown that put Pittsburgh up 20-17 in the third quarter. A roughing the passer with targeting wiped off a pick six for NC State sophomore safety Jakeen Harris, and instead Pittsburgh would eventually get a field goal.