Who can complain with a win? No one, that’s who. Everyone is thrilled that NC State came away with a win in someone else’s house within the division, especially when it puts NC State in play for an ACC title appearance. Now that we have that out of the way, what exactly happened last Saturday? Why did NC State’s victory over a terrible Terrapins team require a long 43 yard kick by Nik Sade and a missed 33 yard field goal by Maryland with 2 seconds left in the game?
TIME OF POSSESSION
After the FSU upset, I explained how Tom’s dependency on strategy to compensate for recruiting can be seen in his time of possession statistics. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you have the experience and career track record that Tom O’Brien does. However, if he is going to use his aging knowledge of the college game to defeat his opponents, he must control the tempo of the game. Last Saturday, Tom did not win that battle. Maryland didn’t just edge NC State by a few seconds; the Terrapins held the ball 35:14 to NC State’s 24:46. That’s almost a 10-minute gap that NC State’s offense was kept off the field. So this begs the question: who dropped the ball on this one?
MAKING BAD OFFENSES LOOK GOOD
An opposing team having a superior time of possession is indicative of their offense being able to make steady progress running the ball combined with having success moving the chains. Coming into Saturday’s game against the Pack, Maryland was only averaging 14 first downs a game. They improved that number to 22 last Saturday. That is just one of many trend-breaking figures that Maryland posted against the Pack.
Or, if you would rather view how Maryland fared against NC State in a less numerical manner, you could opt for this…
Maryland looked good against NC State, but why? What on NC State’s defense wasn’t working?
WHERE DID STATE BREAK?
It’s hard to say exactly where NC State went wrong (that’s what coaches get paid the big bucks for), but a quick glance paints a concerning picture. While many fans were concerned about reserve quarterback Devin Burns rushing NC State into oblivion, Maryland had a decent passing game prior to his entry into the game. Maryland was able to complete 63% of their passes which is good by anyone’s standards. Contrarily, Glennon was completing only 49% of his passes and averaging only 6.5 yards per completion. For Maryland, this means their starting quarterback felt comfortable in the pocket and was able to find his receivers. The other benefit Maryland enjoyed was having a dual-threat offense featuring large running gains with an effective passing game. Given the known inability of our coaching staff to adapt to sudden changes, Maryland was able to effectively throw State and our staff a curve ball and we fell for it. When we executed to what we thought Maryland would do, we executed well (49 tackles, 10 for loss which is in-line with our season averages). Unfortunately, Maryland’s ability to convert 13 3rd downs helped them to chew up time and keep our offense off the field.
Speaking of offense, Glennon’s accuracy was poor (49% to his season average 57%) but his yards per pass was only have half a yard from his normal game (6.5 yds vs 7.1 yds). We should note that Bible called for about the same number of rushing plays as he did against FSU (26, 27), but we were unable to convert those attempts into yards earning only 40 yards against Maryland to 66 against FSU. That amounts up to 1.5 yards per rush to our average 3.5 yards. Looking at the numbers, it would appear that without a running game to speak of, we were forced to lay things on Glennon more than we wanted to. Maryland’s already decent (I said decent, not great) defense was able to read where we were weak, suffering key loses that we don’t need to get into here, and move to cover the passing game.
So where did NC State break? NC State was unable to read/cover a dual threat offense which resulted in Maryland’s very, very poor offensive squad who was then able to eat up the clock so Glennon couldn’t do his thing. Even when Glennon did get on the field, the entire game was placed on his shoulders by not having a running game to speak of.
LOOKING FORWARD TO CAROLINA
While Maryland ranks at the bottom of the ACC in most offensive statistical categories, Carolina currently sits in the top 3 or 4 in most of the same. Carolina out paces NC State (much less Maryland) in rushing yards, passing yards, points per game, third and fourth down conversions, and much more. On top of that, Carolina can also compete both on the ground and in the air.
While it’s safe to say that O’Brien isn’t going to walk away from Maryland with a strut in his step, this should be a warning to him that he has to prepare just as hard as Carolina is. If NC State repeats its Maryland performance against Carolina, O’Brien can kiss being undefeated against UNC goodbye.