What Went Wrong?

I may have to update my list of Data Analysis Mistakes to include the nuances of summer football speculation. Let’s review some “notable predictions” from the last few off-seasons:

– The 2003 defense was going to be just fine, even though 6 or 7 defensive linemen were graduating. The top-10 recruiting class was going to make up for the lack of experience with talent.

– The 2004 offense was going to be just fine after Rivers left because all State needed was someone to “manage” the offense. There was enough talent on offense that State didn’t need the QB to win the game.

– The 2005 offense was going to be just fine because Jay Davis had over 2000 yards passing in 2004 and was going to be much improved.

– The 2006 offense was going to be just fine because State had a 6-1 record after Marcus Stone became the starting QB.

I’m not going to waste the time/space to point out just how horribly (and predictably) wrong each one of these “conclusions” was. I just wanted to remind everyone of the recent past as a prelude to dissecting this year’s preferred “analysis”. Namely, State is going to do much better this year because TOB is going to correct the horrible problem with penalties that plagued Amato’s undisciplined players.

There is a slight twist to this off-season’s mindless chatter…the penalty/discipline problem is being parroted by media types from all over the southeast and not just repeated endlessly on the message boards. I attribute the media attention to two different types of sports writers:

– Those writers that don’t want to give up their running battle with Amato. They now have an opportunity to get in some shots while Amato is gone and won’t be able to get any jabs back at them. (Thanks to streaming media, we’ve gotten to hear some of Amato’s shots, even if they didn’t end up in print.)

– Those writers that are either too stupid or too lazy to do their own work. These writers simply recycle anything catchy that they read somewhere else.

Let’s look this “Penalty/Discipline Problem” from several different angles.

1) I work with a guy that used to be a sports writer at a small paper in Florida and covered Florida State. During Amato’s first tenure at FSU, he was known as the disciplinarian. The players didn’t mind being called into Bowden’s or Andrew’s office…but they wanted no part of Amato.

Now I’ve read and heard similar versions of this story in other places. But since this story comes from someone I know, I give it a lot more credence even if it doesn’t mean anything special to you.

I guess that Amato just turned into a mindless softie once he became the head coach.

2) Thanks to RAWFS for finding this quote from TOB on spring practice:

I don’t want to comment on anything in the past. But I haven’t seen any real discipline issues since we’ve been here and on the field. I’m happy with these kids. They’re attentive. They’re listening. They want to do the right things and they’re working hard to do the right things.

I think that if “discipline” were a real problem, it would take longer than just spring practice to get it worked out.

3) Here’s what Terry Bowden had to say recently about penalties and the “problems” that they create:

How many times have you heard the saying that penalties will get you beat? …Of the top 10 teams in college football last season in least yards penalized, six of them had losing records…Incidentally, the national champion Florida Gators finished the season ranked 109th out of 119 schools in least yards penalized and only one team in the final top 10 made it into the top 35 least-penalized teams.

It looks like quite a few people need to work on their cause/effect relationships.

4) Lastly thanks to pointer from legacyman, here is how State and BC compared on penalties last year:

NC State
– 7 penalties per game
– 58 penalty yards per game

Boston College
– 6 penalties per game
– 44 penalty yards per game

No one is saying that penalties are not A problem, but can I have a show of hands of those people that really believe that State can make a dramatic improvement in the W/L record just by “improving” the penalty situation to match BC? (All those with hands raised, I have a unique business opportunity that I would like to talk to you about…)

So what was the real problem? It should come as no shock to any of our regular readers that I have prepared a table to show what really needs to be corrected:

NC State’s National Rank





















For the last three years, State has ranked in the bottom third of Division I in almost every offensive category. I don’t understand how any State fan that has watched the last three seasons can reach anything other than the most obvious conclusion…a woefully unproductive offense directly led to three mostly forgettable seasons.

The following list summarizes the most commonly blamed reasons for the offensive woes:

– The consistently worst QB play in Raleigh since the mid-80’s (ie before Erik Kramer).

– An offensive line that couldn’t provide protection for the QB or running room for the RBs.

– Offensive coordinators that weren’t qualified to handle play-calling duties for a Pee-Wee league. One OC had the imagination of a pumpkin and the other dreamed up hopelessly complex schemes that produced even worse results than the Pumpkin.

– Position coaches that couldn’t teach and develop the players they had. Or sometimes, the recruiting is blamed for not getting better players.

So what was the chief reason for the offensive woes?
WHO CARES!!!!!!!!!

What are you going to do even if you could blame only one area or person? I really don’t understand the need to search for a witch to burn. From where I sit, there are plenty of reasons to place the blame on several different areas.

The bottom line is that the offense has stunk and needs major improvement before State fans can expect to see substantial improvement in the W/L column. Unfortunately, it’s not immediately obvious to me that just changing coaches will be enough to fix these problems by this fall.

There are certainly legitmate questions/concerns about several different areas of the team, but droning endlessly about penalties/discipline is essentially the same thing as arranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

About VaWolf82

Engineer living in Central Va. and senior curmudgeon amongst SFN authors One wife, two kids, one dog, four vehicles on insurance, and four phones on cell plan...looking forward to empty nest status. Graduated 1982

'07 Football General NCS Football

83 Responses to What Went Wrong?

  1. beowolf 04/16/2007 at 7:02 PM #

    VA, since I predicated my prediction of a winning season on overcoming discipline problems, I feel compelled to respond and defend.

    It’s not just penalties. I see TURNOVERS as another issue of team discipline. Well disciplined teams generally have a good turnover margin. They protect the football better.

    I don’t know BC’s turnover margin, so maybe there’s another troubling statistic there. Still, when most of our losses last year were MARGINAL losses, then MARGINAL improvements could very well be enough to turn them into MARGINAL wins.

    I choose not to think much about last season, but there were several instances where a single mistake basically cost us the game. So eliminating some mistakes might eliminate that “one” fatal mistake.

    If you don’t like this, well, you’re arguing with an economist; it’s all about the margins, baby.

  2. CarnifeX 04/16/2007 at 7:18 PM #

    Although this is much more difficult to prove and an issue addressed during basketball season, I think more than the numbers of penalties to a certain team is the timing of penalties. Penalties on third and short, penalties to put a team out of field goal range, etc. Very similar; but on the other side of the ball (i.e. self inflicted), to the “why everyone hates Duke” post that was run a few months back.

  3. CarnifeX 04/16/2007 at 7:19 PM #

    a.k.a. well said beo (i didn’t see your post when I started mine).

  4. VaWolf82 04/16/2007 at 7:34 PM #

    VA, since I predicated my prediction of a winning season on overcoming discipline problems,

    I hope you didn’t back your predictions with money you can’t afford to lose. 😉

    If you don’t like this, well, you’re arguing with an economist; it’s all about the margins, baby.

    And I see alot more “margin” for improvement in the dismal offensive stats.

    Lawyers, a banker, and now an economist. The engineering alumni need more representation around here.

  5. MadWolf92 04/16/2007 at 7:39 PM #

    I see a difference between “Behave!” discipline and “Know your responsibilities!” discipline. The former we had no problems with. Did they keep a clean locker? Who cares?? It’s the second that I saw issues with it, and it was *typified* by the kinds of penalties we had. Punishing someone for doing something bad and coaching them on how to prevent it are two different things. It’s the second one in which I see room for improvement.

    That said, I see 6-6 as a reasonable goal.

  6. MadWolf92 04/16/2007 at 7:40 PM #

    As a follow up (after seeing VaWolf’s response), I’d argue that improved *general* offensive discipline (especially on the OL) can help that tremendously.

  7. Primewolf 04/16/2007 at 7:42 PM #

    good points SFN.

    Like you, I don’t expect miracles this year. A few reduced penalties won’t make the season.

    The lack of ability of the offensive line and the repeated penalties and other mistakes of the Oline seemed to be near the top of the list of issues, in my mind. Not only were they ineffective as blockers, but they seemed to make more mistakes than the rest of the offense combined.

    A marginal improvment in Oline won’t cut it, baby econ.

    It is going to take a increase in the beta by at least 15% to make a difference.

    Our receivers couldn’t get open and the QB didn’t have enough time to drop back.

    We need one real receiver burner threat that folks have to double team and an Oline than can occasionally open up a big hole.

    I predict we squeak into a minor bowl.

    My main hope is that we all know how important coaching is. I would give Amato and crew a D- for coaching the past few years. If TOB and staff are a solid B+ in coaching, well that in itself is not a marginal difference.

    We will beat Wake this year.

  8. packpigskinfan23 04/16/2007 at 7:44 PM #

    I think BC’s turnover margin was REALLY good. I could be wrong.

    I think the offense will improve this year from what I saw with the spring game. The OL looked a bit better. I know its REALLY hard to tell at these things, but I still think its gonna help. I dont think its going to be DRASTICALLY better offense, but enough to get us more W’s than L’s…..

    I hope.

  9. gopack968 04/16/2007 at 8:22 PM #

    There are penalties, and then there are STUPID penalties (defined for this discussion as avoidable mental breakdowns that occur at the worst possible moment).

    I am willing to bet that Florida, despite its apparently low ranking nationally in terms of penalties, did not give many opponents an extra down, after stopping a third down attempt, with a STUPID offsides penalty. No, it was not the raw number of our penalties the past few years, but instead the terrible timing of so many of those penalties. How many first downs were called back? How many successful third down defensive stops ruined? How many good kickoff/punt covers blown? How many successive penalties that turned first and ten with good field position into first and 25 on our own 12?

    No, from my seats it seemed as if the Amato Wolfpack had nearly perfected the art of the STUPID penalty. It was painful to watch and actually getting fairly predictable – Good 15 yard gain, probably a hold… Short yardage for a key first down, yup, offsides… Stop a kick returner on the 6 yardline, start looking for the flag…

    And once we had this reputation the refs seemed to start looking for us to screw up, only making a bad situation worse. We received some of the lamest penalty calls I have seen in years. And yet I could not help but think that in some ways that was of our own doing. We developed a reputation as an undisciplined team and the refs calls reflected that. They were wrong, but knowing that did not put points back on the board.

    Mostly it all seemed to be a lack of mental discipline, of concentration on the task at hand. It certainly seems that TOB has much more mental discipline that CTC. I really hope he does – and that it is reflected by his players. We seem to have the talent, we certainly have the desire, we just have to stop shooting ourselves in the freaking foot!

  10. choppack1 04/16/2007 at 8:29 PM #

    This is from 11-07-06 when BC was 1st in TO ratio…Here was the to ration compared to the conference ranking at the time: (the reall cool and visually demonstrative graph didn’t paste.)

    Team Conference Rank TO Conference Rank
    WF 1 3
    GT 2 2
    Umd 3 8
    BC 4 1
    VaTech 5 4
    Clemson 6 6
    Uva 7 7
    Miami 8 5
    FSU 9 9
    NCSU 10 11
    UNC 11 12
    Duke 12 10

    VaTech – one thing to remember, your ability to overcome the penalties is pretty important. Our offense couldn’t overcome a 5 yard penalty much less a 10 yard holding.

    I don’t know what exactly was wrong w/ Amato’s teams ability to EXECUTE on Saturday. They always played hard, but they always found a way to undo their hard work.

    To me, the moment things started going south was the FSU game at Tally Philip’s senior year. We went into that game 4-2 w/ a chance to win out and claim a share of the conference title if we beat our last 2 opponents.

    Against FSU, we dominated the first half – leading late in the first half w/ just seconds to go until half time we hand the ball off to TA – fumble. We were leading 20-10 and had the ball – the Noles would score off the TO – 20-17 halftime lead…We fight tooth and nail and have the ball 2 minutes left in a tie game. The table is set for the perfect ending….Rivers hits Brian Clark w/ a strike that should give us the ball right around the 50…Clark fumbles, FSU recovers. We lose in OT.

    The UMd game was very similar. This year, the game that caused our season to do a second 180 was Wake Forest. Like the FSU game, we had a late TO that cost us valuable first half momentum after establishing dominance throughout much of the second half. Like the Wake game, it looked like we were driving to win but had another TO.

    I don’t know why our team didn’t execute when the chips were down or had brain farts late in the first half. I do know that there are things that winning teams somehow manage to do and things that losing teams somehow manage to do. That we basically had a 4 year history of mental mistakes undoing really impressive efforts all 4 of those years can’t be dismissed as a fluke.

    We can’t say it was getting better or that if ever would. There was no evidence whatsoever that it was getting better.

  11. beowolf 04/16/2007 at 8:31 PM #

    I would also say that the discipline problem — or at least the umbrella term “discipline problem” as I see it — pertains also to the coaching staff consistency and loyalty, and HC as manager.

    While I understand the need to avoid getting overly optimistic under a new regime and place unnecessary expectations on the new coach, I don’t understand the need to dampen expectations such that you expect that the new coach will perform just as poorly as the one you just fired.

  12. drewhuff 04/16/2007 at 8:43 PM #

    UF had a much larger margin for error. We had to play nearly perfect football to beat teams last year.

  13. choppack1 04/16/2007 at 9:20 PM #

    For the record, it looks like BC was 2nd in the country in TO margin. State was tied for 112.

    They actually tied for first in TO’s caused…Kentucky was up there w/ 32 caused. When it came to causing TO’s we were very low in those categories.

    Even in the year we had a defense rated very high statisically, I think we stunk in TO’s created. One has to wonder if Amato’s tendency to avoid blitzing and rely on man to man coverage led to this.

  14. Mr O 04/16/2007 at 9:26 PM #

    Nice entry Vawolf82. The whole “discipline” issue was essentially a way for people to take shots at Amato. His downfall was clearly piss poor offensive play.

  15. beowolf 04/16/2007 at 9:35 PM #

    Oversimplification = nice.

  16. VaWolf82 04/16/2007 at 9:50 PM #

    Does anyone think that the penalities went up after PR graduated?

    2000……9 penalties/game……76 yds/game
    2001……7 penalties/game……64 yds/game
    2002……7 penalties/game……63 yds/game
    2003……8 penalties/game……70 yds/game


  17. choppack1 04/16/2007 at 9:50 PM #

    O – but we were also plagued by being unable to cause TO’s. Now, perhaps since we were almost always behind and unable to move the ball, teams could formulate and execute a conservative game plan and wait for us to self destruct.

  18. bTHEredterror 04/16/2007 at 10:17 PM #

    Discipline is about far more than penalties, it is indicative of your whole thought process as a football player.

    Defensive assignments are reflective of team discipline, that is not giving up third and 27 because you get beat over the top playing press instead of leaving a cushion, or jumping the snap count multiple times in one game, or giving a WR a love tap after the ball sails out of bounds.

    Offensive assignments like not letting a DE run free to double team the DT, or not fighting for an extra yard at the end of a half inside your own 20 only to be stripped for a devastating TD. Like not diving into the end zone unnecessarily for a touchdown, knowing we need to onside kick even after your tremendous punt return. Knowing as a QB never to throw late over the middle, especially not with a winning field goal in sight and two more downs to play with. Obviously knowing you’re own snap count. Knowing not to field a punt at your own 1 yard line.

    Also discipline indicates how well you are prepared to play, so you aren’t getting your first first down a minute before halftime because you didn’t think Akron had a right to be on the field with you.

    We go 7-4 maybe 8-3 this year, losing to FSU, the U, Louisville and maybe Clemson. Everybody else has serious roster losses to address, and if Clemson couldn’t find anybody better than Proctor last year, odds are they won’t this year either.

  19. MadWolf92 04/16/2007 at 10:51 PM #

    Or diving into the end zone … YET AGAIN.

  20. Mr O 04/16/2007 at 10:54 PM #

    Beo: I don’t mean to oversimply it, but IMO some people make it more complicated than it really was and then others(media and people who weren’t Amato fans) tend to focus on the “discipline” issue because of the reasons Vawolf82 described above.

    Chopppack does bring up turnovers which definitely deserve to be mentioned. Every since the Gator Bowl year, we stopped forcing a lot of turnovers for whatever reason. We also stopped scoring as many points on special teams as soon as our kickblockers started graduating.

    Losing the turnover battle and not as many making plays in the kicking game definitely hurt our offense because they always faced a long fields. So you and choppack are right that it was entirely the offense.

    I think most people realize we had a combination of issues which led to Amato’s dismissal, but I still the largest factor by far was our lack of offensive production.

  21. Mr O 04/16/2007 at 11:16 PM #

    Should have read:

    “You and choppack are right that it was NOT entirely the offense.”

  22. Tau837 04/16/2007 at 11:36 PM #

    From the new coaching staff, I expect better position coaching, better game coaching, better playcalling, and improved discipline. I expect better play on offense and defense and special teams. I don’t expect anything to be worse, with the possible exception of recruiting rank. Note that I said recruiting rank, not talent… there is a difference.

    Now combine that with the fact that (IIRC) 7 of our 9 losses last season were by 8 points or less.

    I think 7 wins is a reasonable goal to set for the team. I would be disappointed with fewer than 6 wins… not bitterly disappointed, but disappointed nonetheless. I would be very happy with 7+ wins.

  23. brickman 04/17/2007 at 6:13 AM #

    when did it become all about ctc or herb ? i for one love nc state and wanted change in both bball ,fball come on people we won 3 games last year and bc game was just luck !!!!!!!!! both coachs did not put us where i wanted nc state to be .so let the new coachs have there day .the whole pent. and disp. thing even when pr played he was able to over come a lot of that . because he was that good !!!!!!!!

  24. waxhaw 04/17/2007 at 6:55 AM #

    I’ll take Philip Rivers graduating for $500 Alex. (toss in a double jeopardy of offensive line woes)

  25. choppack1 04/17/2007 at 7:32 AM #

    waxhaw – Just think of Amato’s record if he never set foot on campus or if he left early.

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