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Recap in Brief: NC State Outduels Wake Forest, 45-42

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This is a recap this time, I promise. Not 3U3D this week though, for reasons I’ll get into.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Michigan State v Wake Forest Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

Okay, so let’s be honest. Any game where your offense puts up 42 points, there’s basically no reason you should ever lose. Sam Hartman wasn’t flawless, but had a solid 23/36 for 236 yards and a touchdown. The real star of the game, though, was Kenneth Walker III. The sophomore running back was an absolute workhorse, with 27 carries for 131 yards and three touchdowns, including one from the wildcat. You might think that 4.9 YPC isn’t mind-blowing (though it is really, REALLY good), but Walker more than any other player absolutely would not be denied. He ground down the NC State defense over multiple drives, and continued almost to the very end.

Sadly, though, the defense...was the defense. The defense gave up 463 yards, 8 YPA through the air, and a staggering 270 rushing yards with 5.5 YPC. Infuriatingly, there were three three and out drives for NC State, including one at a key point that gave the Deacs one last shot at a drive to tie or take the lead with just over 2 minutes left. To put it in perspective, Dave Clawson went for it on 4th and 5 with three timeouts down 3 inside his own 40 late in the 4th...and I promise you, it was the right call. It wasn’t even that the defense was without big plays; they even had a defensive score in the form of an incredible pick six by Ja’Sir Taylor. The problem was that all NC State had to do was do anything to stretch the defense in the form of outside runs or screens and they could feast all night. The defense didn’t get beat over the top, they just repeatedly allowed short or even nothing plays to turn into big gains through missed assignments, whiffed tackles, or getting blown off the line of scrimmage. That’s pretty much why this isn’t a 3U3D. The downs would more or less be Defense, Defense, and Defense.

Also, Ivan Mora had 4 punts for an average of 29 yards. That’s bad. What’s worse is that that includes a literal 5 yard punt in the game. How does that even work exactly? How is that possible?

It’s not even that Wake Forest didn’t show fight. The Deacs battled back from a 14-0 deficit, then yet again from a 35-21 deficit, and even took the lead after that second deficit. But fight isn’t always enough. I’m not mad at the fact that we’re 0-2, considering our schedule started with Clemson and @NCSU, plus the fact that I’m writing off this season anyway. It’s just so weird, and everything has been thrown off: timing, rosters, scheduling, you name it, not to mention the general chaos of the world in general. I said to begin with last week that I don’t think this season should be used to harshly judge any coach or program, and I absolutely stand by that. Doesn’t mean this doesn’t hurt, though.

This season is going to be brutal, but there was a hell of an effort tonight, and in my estimation Coach Clawson and his staff have earned a LOT of benefit of the doubt, even during normal times, which these are not. I don’t know what exactly to think about the defense, but boy howdy do they need to get their stuff sorted out, because if we’re going to win ANY games, they need to, and the offense more than pulled their weight tonight.

All I can say is, on to the next. On to the future. And as always, Go Deacs.

—SF