The State sideline looked lifeless as Cincinnati embarrassed the Wolfpack to the tune of a 44-14 beat down at Nippert Stadium last Thursday night. To make matters worse, the whole nation saw it happen- at least until halftime or so when they changed the channel to find something more interesting.
Sitting just a few rows behind the team, it was one of the weirdest things I’ve seen attending a game. As I sat amongst the State player’s families and friends, one could hear voices from the crowd, screaming at the players to “pick their heads up” or to “look alive.”
Even when T.J. Graham scored the first of his two touchdown receptions to cut Cincinnati’s lead down to 21-7 in the second quarter, an 87 yard pitch and catch on third down, the bench was lifeless. No cheering, no excitement, just defensive and special teams players putting their helmets back on and getting ready to go back on the field.
Graham, who now leads the nation in all-purpose yards, finished the game with 176 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Graham also added 160 yards on seven kick returns. He has been a huge surprise for the Pack’s receiving core, and without a doubt has been the team’s MVP for the season.
But Graham and the passing game can only do so much. Coming into the season, State’s passing game was the big concern, but after another 300+ yard passing performance against a BCS conference team, Glennon has put some of those worries to rest. As it turns out, the Pack’s rushing attack has been the Achilles heel for the offense. State finished with -26 yards rushing- yes that is negative 26 yards. The statistic includes sacks, but James Washington finished with negative one yards, and Curtis Underwood led the team with six yards on six carries.
A continuing theme for the Pack this season, as nine receivers caught a pass from either Glennon or backup Tyler Brosius, a redshirt freshman who is now 5-6 on the season. Graham’s seven catches for 176 yards led the Pack. But Glennon threw two costly interceptions, putting him at ten touchdowns and three interceptions for the season.
The defense was once again atrocious as Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros and running back Isaiah Pead ran wild on the Pack. Pead ran for 167 yards and a touchdown while Collaros ran for 52 yards and finished 25-34 for 263 yards with two touchdowns and one interception- by NC State sophomore corner David Amerson, who is now tied for first in the nation in interceptions.
That was the only positive all night from the Pack’s defense, as they gave up third-downs of all varieties, as the Bearcats finished 9-16 on third down conversions. Cincinnati finished with 503 yards of total offense and just one turnover.
If State continues to play with zero emotion it will finish this games miles under .500, and Head Coach Tom O’Brien will find himself without a job. Hopefully the Pack can shut down Georgia Tech like they did last season and get the win that saves the Pack’s season.
Player of the game: T.J. Graham. The senior now leads the nation in all-purpose yards after his seven catches for 176 yards and 170 yards on kick returns. Graham scored the Pack’s only two touchdowns on receptions of 87 and 49 yards.
What went right? T.J. Graham. Really, there weren’t any other positives the Pack could take away from this one. Special teams were competent, as freshman Niklas Sade was 2-2 on extra points and punter Wil Baumann had six punts for an average of 42.5 yards with a long of 52 yards.
What went wrong? Besides the obvious of the defense giving up 44 points, the rushing game was just as bad- well probably worse. As a team the Pack rushed for -26 yards, as Curtis Underwood was the only State player who finished in positive yards rushing (6), four others finished in the red.
What’s next? A home game against 21st ranked Georgia Tech, Saturday at 3:30 on ABC. State’s defense is banged up and missing a bunch of starters, this will only lead to disaster against the Yellow Jackets’ triple option offense. This could be a very long afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium, where NC State currently has a five game winning streak.