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October 18, 2010

Monday morning quarterbacking

NC State had a very disappointing Saturday afternoon, falling at East Carolina in overtime 33-27. The Pack enters its bye week at 5-2 overall and finish their non-conference slate at 3-1. Now it's time for some Monday morning quarterbacking.

Key moment of the game:

The game was decided in overtime obviously. ECU redshirt junior quarterback Dominique Davis appeared to be stopped on his sneak attempt from the 1-yard line on a third and goal play, but Davis would not be denied and on second effort found his way into the end zone. ECU kicker Michael Barbour though missed the extra point, seemingly opening the door for NC State win it in overtime.

Instead State freshman running back Mustafa Greene would be stopped for back-to-back one-yard losses, forcing a third and 12 at the 17. Redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson tried to force a throw to fifth-year senior receiver Jarvis Williams in the end zone, but ECU freshman safety Damon Magazu intercepted it.



Three things that worked:

1. Settling down on defense
ECU is a tough offense to prepare for, as both Virginia Tech and North Carolina found out. But both of those teams settled down after about two quarters, and NC State's defense did as well. NC State gave up just 195 yards of total offense in the second half and overtime combined. That's compared to 301 yards in the first half.

2. Mustafa Greene running the football
East Carolina's smallish defensive line has struggled to stop the run all season, and NC State was able to exploit that, overtime notwithstanding, to a degree. True freshman Mustafa Greene ran for 75 yards on 16 carries, an impressive average of 4.7 yards a run. State may have been better off giving Greene some more carries in this game.

3. Forcing fumbles
NC State's defense forced three fumbles and knocked a couple of passes loose just after they were caught by ECU wide outs. Every fumble forced by the defense was crucial. One set up a Wolfpack touchdown, while two others stalled East Carolina drives including one that was literally heading into the end zone.



Three things that did not work:

1. Making most of opportunities
This game set up almost exactly like ECU's other two games against ACC opponents. Both Virginia Tech and UNC struggled to shake the Pirates loose for over a half but eventually settled down and turned the game into a rout in the second half. NC State's defense forced four straight three and outs in the second half, including three after State tied East Carolina 24-24. If the Pack could have driven down and scored a touchdown after any of those plays State probably could have seized control of the game. NC State was also just 4 of 7 in the red zone.

2. Third down offense
NC State's offense piled up 476 yards of offense, which usually equates to much more than 27 points. NC State though was just 5 of 18 on third down plays.

3. Showing up to play
This team did not look like they were mentally focused and prepared to play this game. ECU had much more energy and was very sharp in executing their game plan as they marched down the field at will to score 21 straight points at the start of the game. Meanwhile State's offense struggled to sustain drives, and when they caught a break when ECU muffed a punt in their red zone, fifth-year senior Josh Czajkowski missed a 27-yard field goal.



Breaking down the position battles:

NC State's OL vs. East Carolina's front seven
Although ECU was credited with 11 quarterback hurries, it did not seem like Wilson was under that much pressure. He was never sacked, and ECU's only two tackles for losses came in overtime when they stopped Greene on back to back runs for a one-yard loss. NC State's offensive line did its job.

NC State's front seven vs. East Carolina's OL
East Carolina has a large offensive line, and that combined with the offensive schemes did a good job slowing down State's front seven to the point that the Pack used a three-down line nickel package for much of the game after the first quarter.

NC State's WR vs. East Carolina's DB
NC State had mixed results here. There were a few big plays, including junior T.J. Graham's 49-yard touchdown catch. Senior Owen Spencer dropped what would have likely been a big touchdown in the second half. Overall though ECU's defensive backs did a nice job.

NC State's DB vs. East Carolina's WR
Much like the defense as a whole, the defensive backs settled down in the second half and played much better after a shaky first half that saw Davis complete his first 14 passes.

Quarterbacks
Davis was the better quarterback Saturday. He completed 37 of 53 passes for 376 yards and two touchdowns and most importantly avoided the interception bug that has plagued him in recent weeks. Wilson on the other hand completed 26 of 52 passes for 322 yards with one touchdown and three picks.

Running backs
Greene ran well for the most part, and redshirt freshman Dean Haynes added 10 carries for 36 yards and a one-yard touchdown. ECU's Giavani Ruffin ran 15 times for 74 yards to spark the Pirates. Overall the running backs were a wash Saturday.

Tight Ends
ECU's tight ends were not a part of the offense Saturday. NC State's George Bryan, a redshirt junior, caught three passes for 29 yards.

Special teams
Czajkowski's missed field goal was a big play in the final outcome of the game. State also had a hard time containing ECU receiver Dwayne Harris on kick returns. State's own kickoff returns continue their struggles this year. ECU's special teams, which survived a muffed punt and missed extra point, gets the edge here.


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