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Countdown Q&A- Week 10, NC State

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NCAA Football: Syracuse at North Carolina State
NC State is having a season to sneeze at...
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

After a rough week on the field at Miami the Cards are looking to bounce back in the win column and once again become [whispers] bowl eligible. While the staff is treating the “B” word like ‘Fight Club’ I’m all for putting some focus on the fact that one more win allows this squad an extra month of practice and forces me to convince my wife that the ‘Beef O’Brady’s Poinsettia Car Care Bowl’ is must see TV on a Tuesday night in December.

To make all this magic happen the Cards will have three more chances to pick up win number 6. I’m gonna throw out a crazy idea and suggest we just go ahead and win this week and get it our of the way. The challenger is none other than North Carolina State, easily our fourth biggest Power 5 rival in the state of North Carolina. My man Steven Muma from ‘Backing The Pack’ sat down with me earlier this week and knocked my hard hitting questions out of the park. Fortunately this is a football post those long-balls are worthless in this arena and provide his team no advantages. Wasted dingers, Muma.

Steven, the long running joke about NC State football was that they were the model of consistency. It seemed as if every year they were a “potential breakout team” and then finished around 7-5, just like the season before, and the season before that, BUT, to their credit 2017 and 2018 were back to back 9 win seasons, something that’s challenging to do in any Power 5 conference. Now, instead of building on that things it appears to be going in the opposite direction. One year later, why are we seeing a team that is fighting to make a bowl? Loss of talent? Coaching? To many trips to the Gonza Tacos y Tequila?

Maybe not enough tacos. Maybe that’s been the problem this whole time. I’ll mention that to the staff.

Transitioning from a reliable, above-average quarterback is not always a simple thing, and it’s fair to say that NC State’s transition has been about as painful as conceivably possible. It turns out there might not be a competent power-conference quarterback on this roster, and the passing game has been so bad this season, it’s taken the entire offense off a cliff.

The defense has been fine, or comparable to what we’ve gotten from that side in recent years, but without any help whatsoever from the offense, the results have been unpleasant.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

So the offense stinks, the quarterback play is putrid, and also like half the team is hurt to one degree or another. It’s not only that the injuries have it at thin positions, which they have—multiple corners are out for the year, ditto offensive linemen. It’s also that they hit veteran leaders on a young team—guys NC State was counting on to lead on the field. That includes starting corner Nick McCloud, who was hurt in week one and only just came back against Clemson. It includes tight end Dylan Autenrieth, who is a team captain. And defensive end James Smith-Williams, who has been limited with one thing or another all year.

The 4-5 record obviously isn’t ideal, but if you just look at the wins and losses on paper it isn’t horrible, especially when doing a comparison with Louisville. NC State’s losses thus far are on the road to West Virginia, Florida State, Boston College, and Wake Forest, and at home to the Death Star of Clemson. Louisville also lost to FSU and Clemson and was in a fight till the end with BC and Wake. The big difference of course is point differential. Not only did NC State loose to FSU, they lost by 18, and to BC by 21, and to Wake by 34, and Clemson by 45. The offense is out here looking like Mack Brown dancing, struggling to put up points (12th in ACC) and appear coordinated. Is it a result of QB play?

That’s the biggest factor for sure. To some extent I think the wide receiving corps has been a disappointment, as I didn’t expect to miss Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers QUITE this much given that this position was pretty deep. But maybe I overestimated what State had there.

No getting around the QB as the major source of the problem, though. Any time you’ve been compelled to try three different guys under center, uh, things have not gone smoothly. These quarterbacks aren’t efficient, and they aren’t hitting on big plays. Bad combination.

Out of the backfield, the running back room looks pretty young with a couple freshman (Knight/Houston) getting the majority of the reps. Is Doeren taking the running back by committee approach with the youngbloods for strategic purposes, or out of necessity?

It’s been a necessity since injuries have hit here as well. Sophomore Ricky Person hasn’t played since suffering a leg injury against Florida State, and he was the most experienced back on the team. Zonovan Knight has also had some nagging issues.

But Knight and Jordan Houston also give you different things, so their use has been defined by the situation at times. Knight is better between the tackles, while Houston has outstanding speed and has been effective on outside runs.

On the defensive side of the ball NC State is well….meh. I mean as the most respectfully “meh” possible, mind you. As a Louisville fan I’d take “meh” right now in a heartbeat. What I mean is that statistically they’re not all that good, but also not all that bad, not a ton of star power, but seem to be adequate in most areas. Who is a guy or two we should be looking out for on Saturday?

Larrell Murchison has had a fine season at defensive tackle and has been one of the few constants for the entire team this season. Or at least it feels that way. When he is disruptive, NC State’s defense looks a whole lot better. He lived in Florida State’s backfield earlier this season, keeping the Pack in the game longer than it would have been otherwise.

NCAA Football: North Carolina State at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Tanner Ingle is also having a nice season out of the nickelback spot and NC State pretty much has to have him play well every week for the defense to be successful. There have been too many personnel losses in the back end, leaving no margin for error from the guys with experience State still has out there. Ingle also leads the team in tackles.

While the win column isn’t stacked with powerhouses the Wolfpack are 4-1 inside Carter-Finley Stadium this season. Even with the disappointing record you think the crowd will be there for a night game against the Cards? What type of environment should we expect to see (assuming there isn’t a soccer match between Syracuse and Wake Forest that goes into overtime and the ACCN actually decides to broadcast the game)?

Maybe this is the first game where we start to see attendance wane a little bit—hard to tell. Usually the fans do a good job of showing up regardless of the team’s performance, if for no other reason than folks love to get out there and tailgate and hey, might as well go in to the game while we’re there.

It’s not going to be a vintage Carter-Finley night game crowd, though—that would require stakes of some kind. Those walked out the door a month ago.

What’s an outsiders perspective of what Satterfield and this staff have done in year one?

I’ve been impressed with how quickly he was able to get that roster to buy in to his message and play hard. I wondered how much damage the tail end of Petrino’s tenure might have done on the mental side, but I don’t see any lingering effects, which is a credit to that staff.

And I definitely didn’t think Louisville’s offense would reverse fortunes quite to the extent it has. Just a good coaching job all around.

Quick side note, I know NC State was missing a couple guys but….how do you lose to Pastner, man?

RUDE.

Please do not make me think about the fact that Josh Pastner seems to have our number for some reason.

Alright, Cards are looking to become bowl eligible again, Pack is going to have to win 2 out 3 to get there themselves. A couple lopsided scores in both directions in this game the last few years. What do you think we see on a brisk night in Raleigh?

After last season, you all know better than most how rough it is when you head into any given week not sure how invested your team is in playing. I think we’re at that point now, between the youth on the roster and how physically worn down they are. If NC State gets down a couple scores early on, I could see it snowballing the rest of the night. These guys badly need a fast start to help talk themselves into a good effort, but with this offense … well, I don’t know that it’s likely. Give me the Cards by 10.

***

Huge thanks to Steven for stopping by and allowing me to pester him with Pastner. It’s a worthy of giving him a follow and the site a follow if you please. I also answered some questions for him over at BTP, and probably made some folks made in my responses. It’s all jokes people!!

While not quite to the same level NC State is experiencing some ‘2018 Louisville’ type stuff right now on the field and I have some empathy for them. I’m still 100% down to beat them by 50 on Saturday, just understanding of their plight. Now go destroy them!