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October 10, 2011

Monday morning quarterbacking

NC State used a dominating third quarter to roll to a 38-24 win over Central Michigan Saturday afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. Now it's time for the Monday Morning Quarterbacking.

Key moment of the game:

It actually started in the second quarter and then carried over into the third. NC State led 21-17 after redshirt junior quarterback Mike Glennon tossed a two-yard touchdown to fifth-year senior Steven Howard with 3:30 left before halftime.

Central Michigan had won the coin toss before the game and elected to receive in the second half. With that in mind, they aggressively tried to get a quick score before halftime, and it nearly worked.

On first and 18 at the CMU 38, redshirt junior quarterback Ryan Radcliff connected with freshman receiver Titus Davis deep over the middle, and Davis was running free into Wolfpack territory with State junior safety Brandan Bishop in pursuit. Bishop managed to catch Davis and strip the ball out. NC State redshirt junior safety Earl Wolff pounced on the loose ball at the NCSU 12 and preserved the halftime score.

CMU's third quarter started like how the second ended, with a turnover. Redshirt junior linebacker Terrell Manning intercepted Radcliff on third down at the CMU 39. State took advantage when Glennon found classmate Tobais Palmer for a 10-yard score on third and five, putting the Pack up 28-17 with 11:57 to go in the third quarter.



Three things that worked:

1. Second half defense
The difference in this game was the Pack defense's ability to slow down Central Michigan in the second half. The Chippewas went into the break with 254 yards of total offense and 11 first downs. They had just 173 yards in the second half, 77 of them on one play, and six first downs. The Pack also forced four second half interceptions and held Radcliff to just 4-of-15 passing.

2. Overall offense
This was a solid game for NC State's offense. The Pack had 406 yards of offense with a nice balance in its attack. State rushed for 162 yards and threw for 244. NC State's offensive line gave up just one sack and allowed one carry for a loss by the running backs. Glennon managed the game well, and the offense did not turn it over once. With the ACC lacking stellar defenses this year, the development of the Pack's offense will go a long way into dictating the course of the rest of the season.

3. Running backs
A special shout out goes to the NC State running backs. For the second straight week they performed well. Junior James Washington went over 100 yards again with 109 yards on 25 carries and had a touchdown. He added five catches for 55 yards. His backup, redshirt freshman Tony Creecy, ran 16 times for 61 yards and caught two passes for 18 yards. Their success should start to create opportunities in the passing game.



Three things that did not work:

1. First half defense
This game was tight at halftime because State's defense got off to a slow start. Radcliff completed 15 of 17 first half passes for 198 yards and two scores as he picked apart the Pack's secondary. State did not get great pressure on him either, sacking him just once.

2. Special teams
Senior receiver T.J. Graham had a nice game on both kickoff and punt returns, but he had a crucial mistake when he muffed a punt in the first quarter that was recovered by CMU senior defensive back John Carr at the NCSU 25, setting up a touchdown that tied the game at 14-14.

The Pack's coverage units allowed the Chippewas to average almost 30 yards per kickoff return, and freshman kicker NIklas Sade missed a 27-yard field goal and booted the opening kickoff of the second half out of bounds. In the fourth quarter, CMU executed an onside kick that could have made the game interesting.

3. Offensive consistency
While the offense was solid for the vast majority of the game, there were moments were State could have put the game away but failed to capitalize. With the Pack up 28-17, sophomore corner David Amerson picked off Radcliff and returned it to the CMU 35. State though failed to get a first down and turned it over on downs. After the Pack forced a three and out, State got it at the CMU 49, but the Pack had three straight incomplete passes and punted.



Breaking down the position battles:

NC State's OL vs. Central Michigan's front seven
Two straight good games for the offensive line. As mentioned above, they gave up just one sack and one tackle for a loss on a running back. The Pack's line is getting deeper too with the return of redshirt junior guard Andrew Wallace, who dressed out for the first time this season Saturday. Wallace started every regular season game at left guard last year. The only negative of the day was CMU getting six quarterback hurries.

NC State's front seven vs. Central Michigan's OL
Manning and sophomore D.J. Green both recorded sacks, but the Pack only had one other tackle for a loss and four quarterback hurries. State did a better job in the second half, and the good news is with reinforcements coming back the Pack should be improved here for the second half of the year.

NC State's WR vs. Central Michigan's DB
This was the best game of the year for fifth-year senior Jay Smith. With teams scheming to take Graham out of the offense, Smith stepped up with five catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Palmer, who had been shut down in recent weeks, caught four passes for 34 yards. State would like to get Graham more involved however. He had just two receptions for 56 yards.

NC State's DB vs. Central Michigan's WR
Tale of two halves. In the first CMU's wide outs owned State, getting open and making plays. In the second half, the defensive backs hounded CMU's wide outs, and Amerson in particular made two nice interceptions to have six picks for the season now.

Quarterbacks
Glennon completed 20 of 36 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns, and he managed the game as well as he had all year. He threw scoring passes to four different receivers. Radcliff, as good as he was in the first half, made crucially bad mistakes in the second half, finishing with four picks.

Running backs
CMU senior Paris Cotton had the long 77-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to make the game interesting. Cotton had a nice game, carrying 13 times for 158 yards. State though had more depth with its duo of Washington and Creecy.

Tight Ends
The CMU duo of senior David Blackburn and sophomore Connor Odykirk helped get Radcliff in a good flow early in the game and finished with four receptions for 38 yards. NC State fifth-year senior tight end George Bryan caught an 18-yard touchdown pass to cap the game's first drive but was shut out after that.

Special teams
Neither team covered well, but CMU did not have the mistakes in their kicking game that State did. The Pack missed a field goal, muffed a punt and failed to cover an onside kick.


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