Chris Crane threw the ball 51 times and was only hurried or sacked six times, so hats off to the offensive line for the total effort. They controlled throughout and had very few breakdowns. Consider all of what follows as nitpicks. Castonzo still has the occasional breakdown on the zone runs to his right as the NC State End came crashing down the line to catch Haden on an early run. Castonzo was very good in pass protection. Ramsey was excellent in both areas again. His one mistake was a holding call that cost us a critical first down. Tennant was very good again (although Crane saved him on a high snap on one of his TD runs). Claiborne was decent. My gripe with him was that he was passive and/or whiffed in a few goal line situations. Lapham got called for a crucial false start. He also struggled in some of the goal line rushes. His assignment stopped Crane on third on the one drive where we ended up kicking the field goal. Another Lapham whiff (which Doc Walker called him out) led to a Crane sack.
In this space I’ve given sympathy for our Receivers this season. I never thought they’d see another 50 pass game again. I guess I was a little premature. They were excellent and tough. How many times were you watching as they hung onto slants over the middle and got popped? Many also made good adjustments that helped Crane look that much better and there were only a few true drops. Gunnell put his name in the BC record book. He did a great job finding the soft spots in the zone. But what impressed me about his day was how he got better as the game wore on. His TD catch showed great focus and hands. His run after the catches also improved in the second half. Like Gunnell, Robinson found many open spots. At the same time he took a beating again and hung on. Jarvis’ adjustment on his TD catch was great. Then he made the play look even better by breaking tackles, breaking away and covering the ball well. If he keeps playing like that, his size and skill might get a BC wideout in the NFL for the first time in a decade. Larmond’s catch was nice, as was Momah’s with a man on him. Megwa's fumble killed a critical drive. He’s got to do a better job hanging on to the ball. Purvis first catch was impactful. The second was the one that sent him to the sidelines. Anderson filled in well and made huge catches late in the game. Anderson also showed nice skills running hard with the ball after the catch.
Because we were slinging it around so much the running backs weren’t able to get as many touches. McCluskey played very well. He runs hard and has good vision out of the spread dives. He also showed very good hands as Crane’s check down in the passing game. And he had good run after the catch yards. Haden’s catch was nice. He also runs very hard for a little guy. He showed good burst too. Smith wasn’t used as much. We knew Harris could find the soft spots and cut back in the stretch plays, but he also did a decent job running between the tackles. His blitz pick up was very good too. His one big mistake was not adjusting to a Crane throw in the passing game (it would have been a huge play).
Jags and Logan (and TOB) all said that they knew Crane had this day in him. I know they had confidence, but I doubt they felt this sort of game was in him after Georgia Tech. Crane was very, very good. His throws weren’t all perfect. His receivers bailed him out with some good adjustments, but by my count he only had 10 bad throws but nothing as atrocious as some of the clunkers he threw early in the season. He showed nice touch on some lob type throws for the first time. His one INT was a little late, but it was also a great play by the DB. What most impressed me about Crane was his poise. With the game on the line he moved the ball without pressing. I also have an appreciation for Crane on the option reads. The TV broadcast had a great replay focused in on his eyes as he faked the DE. His runs off of those reads also showed a toughness and quickness. He lumbers but he gets there and makes plays. We are not out of the clear yet. He still locks in to his reads too early and he hasn’t shown how we will do against constant pressure but this was a hell of a game.
What is there to criticize about the game Logan called? He put some unlikely names in the BC record book and produced 581 total yards. I appreciate that he came into the game wanting to throw and did it well. I also liked his adjustments. In the second half NC State became a little more aggressive and added some new wrinkles to the zone. Logan could have gone conservative. Instead he went empty backfield over and over. The five wide countered their new looks and really confused them more.
Before I get into specifics on the D, I want to put out a few stats about their performance. NC State was 3 for 11 on third down and 0 for 1 on fourth. They were held to 35 rushing yards and only 218 passing yards. They only averaged 4.6 yards per play (for reference, BC averaged 7.1). They had five sacks. Despite giving up 24 points, they were not the weak link nor were they exposed. Like I said, a couple big plays made this game closer than it needed to be.
Raji was outstanding. He’s really putting together a hell of a season. He brought pressure and forced much of NC State’s action outside the tackles. He was also the only guy who could close on Wilson. Brace did a good job containing the inside. Ramella did a decent job in run stopping. My criticism of Ramella was his inability to get to the QB. The one time he did it was after the play and he got called for a critical roughing the passer. Giles played well. The second teamers did not get as many snaps (which was unfortunate). Newman was fine. Willette and Scafe were good. Ramsey lost contain on one of Wilson’s TD runs.
Like Raji, Toal is using his final year to make plays. He tripped up a run that would have been a TD and NC State settled for a field goal. He was very active and made many good tackles. Herzy was good in pass coverage and made many big tackles. He allowed one big play in pass coverage but it was more of him being one on one with a little gnat RB. He also had a chance at Wilson on one of the TD runs but got out of position. McLaughlin was okay. Francois didn’t get as many reps. Thompson also saw limited time.
Anderson has been unpopular with many BC armchair QBs (including this one) but he is playing very well of late. He had another solid game Saturday. He’s become a very reliable tackler and is good in coverage. Davis got burned on the long TD that moved the score to 31-24. He didn’t have the speed to stay with the play but it wasn’t all his fault (no pressure on Wilson and the Corner didn’t bump the WR). Fletcher was not tested as much but looked good although he did allow Wilson to run by him on two plays. They went after Rollins often and he played well and did a good job containing big plays. Akins was good.
Spaz had the advantage going against Bible, but that also works both ways. I think Bible called a few big plays he knew would be there including the bomb in the early fourth quarter. Spaz kept his rotations short but the first teamers were pretty effective. We brought a decent amount of pressure (at least 11 blitzes). And also brought more pressure as the game got close (the opposite of what we did in Carter-Finley two years ago). Honestly the scheme was good. Wilson just made plays. By my count Wilson had six broken plays that went for positive yardage. Stop him on half of those and it is a different game. Now the broken plays issue is becoming a recurring theme that Spaz will need to account for in prep for Virginia Tech.
Special Teams: C-
Ugh. This nearly cost us the game. First the good.
Although he didn’t break anything, Jeff Smith did a good job on the returns (averaging 23.5 yards a return). Gunnell showed some aggressiveness on punt returns (which we haven’t seen lately). Aponavicius made his PATs and the short field goal. The punts were solid.
The fake punt was called at the right time and executed perfectly.
The kick coverage was horrendous (and hasn’t been that good this year). It is not Bennett’s fault. He’s booting them. We are just not making tackles. I know Graham is good, but that doesn’t excuse the continued breakdowns. Find different guys for the team or tell them to do something different. Boek, Herzy, Thompson, Anderson, and Fletcher all got twisted and turned around on the returns. This was NC State’s starting field position off of our kick offs:
Now I appreciate that we started squibbing but even then NC State took advantage. Bennett can now kick it straight and deep. We shouldn’t waste that talent. We need to improve this unit before VT.
This game could have gone much differently. I give Jags credit. When the game got close we got more aggressive with the offense (five wide) and more aggressive with the D (blitzes). The fake punt was also a game changer. Those decisions are the type of things that we didn’t often see with the guy on the other sideline. Jags is emotional but I appreciate that he keeps calm. I think it rubs off on a guy like Crane who was able to keep it together on the final drive. This was a good game and a good win. I think the team is positioned well for VT.