NC State FINALLY won a football game with fundamental play on Saturday.
NO TURNOVERS and a strong performance in the kicking game from Steven Hauschka provided the (suddenly) hot Wolfpack its third consecutive victory since the mid-season bye week. Hauschka hit four of five field goals on Saturday, including the 42 yard game winner in overtime. (Link to WRAL-TV’s game entry)
The game also served as Coach Tom O’Brien’s first ever win against Miami…providing his ‘Boston College critics’ a stick in the eye for criticizing O’Brien’s inability to beat Miami while in Chestnut Hill. After today, obviously the issue wasn’t the coach.
The Wolfpack’s gameplan and strategy heading into Saturday was simple – stop the run and make the worst quarterback that we will face this year beat us with the throw.
That was easier said than done as Miami controlled State’s defensive line and the Wolfpack’s linebackers failed to make key tackles throughout the day. Down three points with the ball and less than five minutes to go, Miami refused to pass the ball and hammered FIFTEEN CONSECUTIVE RUNS against a seemingly defenseless Wolfpack before needing to pass to manage the clock. Even on a key 3rd and 6 with less than three minutes to go Miami ran for 8 yards and a first down. Behind the run, Miami was able to tie the game on a field goal with 0:19 seconds remaining.
Mike Archer’s defense was able to partially mitigate the Hurricane’s running attack by intercepting Kirby Freeman three times in only fourteen attempts. Freeman managed to complete only ONE pass in regulation. That one pass was a busted play for the Wolfpack’s pass coverage and went for an 84 yard touchdown. For some inexplicable reason, the ESPNU announcers made NO mention or issue of this phenomenal statistic.
With ^this as a backdrop, the world KNEW that Miami was not going to risk throwing the ball in overtime unless the Wolfpack MADE them. Even with 3rd down and 9 yards to go in the first overtime the Hurricanes chose to run up the middle and attempt a field goal that was missed wide to the left.
The half empty Orange Bowl was relatively quiet most of the day, with the roar of “Wolf / Pack” from NC State’s crowd resonating on television as loud as any Miami cheer of the afternoon.
After two consecutive wins, the NC State of the last two seasons returned for most of the first half of the Wolfpack’s visit to the Orange Bowl today. Untimely penalties. Very poor offensive line play. Allowing inexplicable big plays on defense while otherwise containing the opponent. Even Steven Hauschka missed a 30 yard field goal after nailing 10 straight to open the season.
The Wolfpack’s offense found a little stride in the last six minutes of the second quarter. While using the pass more effectively than earlier in the game, State put together two good drives with one resulting in a touchdown and headed to halftime down only 10-7.
In the second half, State managed to keep the Hurricane defense on the field and smartly shifted to a no-huddle offense when Miami showed some fatigue. Additionally, an outbreak of dropped passes and untimely penalties impaired State drives and forced the Wolfpack to resort to kicking. With 6:55 to go in the game, place kicker Steven Hauschka hit a forty-seven yard field goal to give the Wolfpack a 16-13 lead. Hauschka has hit 3 of 4 field goals today and has consistently boomed his kickoffs deep into the end zone.
D’Andre Morgan came up large for the Wolfpack with two big pass break-ups in the end zone in the last 35 seconds of the game.