The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Behind enemy lines: North Carolina State

Chris Honiball
Vanderbilt defeated the NC State Wolfpack 28-24 in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Dec. 31, 2012. The win placed the Commodores at 9-4 for the season and was its seventh straight win, the longest win steak for the team since 1945.

The Vanderbilt Hustler sports editor Robbie Weinstein and the Technician sports editor Daniel Lacy discuss the state of North Carolina State ahead of the Camping World Independence Bowl. Vanderbilt will face the Wolfpack in Shreveport, Louisiana, on December 26.

Robbie Weinstein: NC State wound up right where it was picked in the preseason coaches poll by finishing fourth in the ACC Atlantic Division. But with the 6-6 overall record and 3-5 conference record, how did the Wolfpack’s performance this year stack up with team, fan and local media expectations?

Daniel Lacy: At the beginning of the season, NC State was widely regarded as a six- or seven-win team by anyone who was being realistic because of a slightly more formidable non-conference schedule. However, not all of those wins and losses were expected. For example, the Wolfpack suffered a pair of rough losses to ECU, which ended up going 3-9, and Boston College, which had lost its previous 12 ACC games coming into the matchup.

Despite that, the team came away with victories against Notre Dame, partially because they played in a hurricane and Notre Dame was worse than originally expected, and bitter rival UNC-Chapel Hill in a big road upset that ultimately got the Pack into this bowl game. A bowl game was in doubt after home losses to Boston College and Miami, but NC State ultimately got its six wins, just not in the easiest or most expected manner.

RW: Aside from the victory over North Carolina, NC State’s wins weren’t over impressive competition. Was there a trend with what went wrong against stronger opponents that resulted near-misses against Clemson and FSU?

DL: The trend the team kept referring back to was that it was “one play away” from winning those games. Which is partially true, because it’s easy to say that if kicker Kyle Bambard had made the 33-yard field goal at the end of the Clemson game or if safety Shawn Boone had come down with the interception against FSU, the team would’ve won. However, there were multiple other mistakes in these games that if the Wolfpack had limited, it wouldn’t have been in those situations.

Against Clemson, the team committed a whopping 13 penalties for 120 yards that hampered multiple scoring opportunities. Against FSU, NC State didn’t score a touchdown in three red zone trips. Even throw in the ECU loss, where the team missed two field goals (in a three-point loss) and quarterback Ryan Finley misfired on a wheel route to running back Matt Dayes that would’ve been an easy touchdown. As previously mentioned, while the team referred to the theme of these losses as “one play away,” I’d personally refer to it as “missed opportunities,” more than merely one play that decided these games.

RW: NC State appears to have plenty of balance offensively, but it also looks like the offense has been inconsistent in producing points this year. What are the offense’s strengths, and what weaknesses resulted in the team scoring fewer than 20 points in five different games?

DL: That’s an excellent point, as NC State didn’t score more than two touchdowns in six of its last eight games. A lot of that was due to missed opportunities in the red zone or penalties driving the team back. But anyway, the strength of the offense is definitely the running game. Dayes was a workhorse en route to becoming NC State’s first 1,000-yard rusher in a season since 2002. If he had a bad game, the offense was doomed, and losses to Louisville and Boston College backed this up. Tight end Jaylen Samuels also provides a spark to the offense, as his versatility to play anywhere on offense keeps the defense guessing.

However, while the offense has occasionally shown big-play ability, Finley has struggled to push the ball downfield, most notably towards the sidelines, as he’d typically either airmail them or throw them into traffic and rely on the receiver to make an insane catch. His red zone woes were well documented as well, as losses to Clemson and Boston College ended with him throwing interceptions in the end zone. If NC State looks to get the offense going, it will have to get the ball to its playmakers and keep mistakes to a minimum.

RW: Many know NC State for its impressive defensive line, but how would you rate its secondary?

DL: The defensive line is probably the best position group on the entire team, but the secondary is a different story. Losing cornerback Juston Burris, who was drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round of the 2016 NFL draft, hurt, but the improved play of cornerback Jack Tocho and safety Josh Jones in coverage balanced it out. However, it still gave up a plethora of big plays and was picked apart by simple slant routes, and most quarterbacks had one of their best passing games against this defense. Part of this was due to the fact that the stout defensive line stopped the run (only allowed one 100-yard rusher all season) and forced opposing teams to pass, but this secondary has struggled over the past few years.

RW: Bowls often seem to be about which team comes into the game with more motivation. How would you characterize the Pack’s excitement, or lack thereof, for this game?

DL: The Wolfpack should have plenty to be excited for coming into this game. If it didn’t upset the Tar Heels on the road in the final game of the season, the team wouldn’t even be playing in a bowl game, so it should make the most of this opportunity. Additionally, the school announced that head coach Dave Doeren kept his job, so he should have his team motivated to end the season strong.

RW: How do you see this one playing out? Feel free to give a score prediction, if you like.

DL: This should be a good matchup between somewhat evenly-matched teams that each upset rivals in their final games of the season. However, NC State doesn’t have the best history against SEC opponents, so I’ll predict that Vanderbilt wins, 27-21.

View comments (1)
About the Contributor

Comments (1)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
All The Vanderbilt Hustler picks Reader picks Sort: Newest
Notify of
1 Comment
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Wildcat of One
7 years ago

I predict the “Wildcats” D front line dominate the Vandy O-Line and produce 5 sacks on the day.