It’s pretty easy to grade a game where the final score was 38-3. Pretty much every aspect of the team was on point. The offense racked up just shy of 400 total yards (even with backups playing the final 10 minutes of the game), converted on all 5 redzone trips (4 TDs), and only had to punt twice. The defense held Wake to under 200 total yards, only allowed 12 first downs (3 in the 2nd half), and had 14 TFL. The special teams got in on the action too as they did better on kickoff/punt coverage, converted our only field goal attempt, and recovered a fumble on a muffed punt. Since there was so much positive things happening I’m going to change it up this week. It’s easy to give the whole team A’s, but there are a few highs and lows that deserve something else so I want to spotlight them. Here they are.
Nate Irving – Grade: A++++++++
Nate has been without a doubt the team MVP. I think it’s time for Javon Kearse to pass on his nickname, “The Freak”, to Nate because that is exactly what he has been this year. Everybody knows about the horrific car accident that Nate was in before last season that darn near took his life. He started out slow this season in his return to football, but it didn’t take long for him to get back in the groove of things and now he looks better than ever. Saturday was his last ever game at Carter-Finley and boy did he go out in style with, a new NC State school record and FBS record, 8 TFL.
Team Captains – Grade: A+++
Nate Irving, Russell Wilson, and Jarvis Williams had great Senior Days to lead the team in this rivalry game rout. Not only were they good Saturday, but they have been good all year. All of the preseason predictions had the Pack in the bottom half of the Atlantic Division with only scant hopes of making a bowl. The leadership these three guys have shown all season did not allow the team to accept that fate and has the Pack 2 wins away from an appearance in the ACC Championship Game. Remarkable.
Chris Hawthorne – Grade: A+
I’ll pretend like I didn’t see that kickoff that went out of bounds. Other than that Hawthorne had an exceptional day. He nailed his only field goal (25 yards), converted all 5 PATs, and boomed his kickoffs deep with good hang time. He had a lot of confidence in himself and didn’t look like a walk-on true Freshman. The Pack will need him to keep this up because at some point he will have to come up big for this team in a pressure-filled situation.
Running Game – Grade: F
In 7 of the first 8 games we rushed for over 125 yards and in those 7 we had a 153 yards/game average. In the last 2 games we rushed for under 65 yards and the yards/carry was 2.2 and 2.7 respectively. In 3 of the last 5 games Russell Wilson has been the team’s rushing leader and our team yards/carry has been 2.7 or less. I think it’s a combination of bad play design (I swear it looks like we only have 3 different running plays), subpar offensive line run blocking, and matching up against some tough defenses (although Wake is definitely not in that category). Going forward the running game needs to step up and be more consistent to take pressure off the passing game because we are only 1-2 in games where we had over 42 passing attempts.