NC State

Game review: Five key plays in NC State football’s loss to FSU

Technically, N.C. State’s loss to Florida State this past Saturday night took 3 hours and 43 minutes.

Unofficially, the Wolfpack (3-2, 0-1 ACC) lost the game on three series in the second quarter. Three times N.C. State moved the ball into FSU territory in the first 10 minutes of the second quarter and three times it failed to reach the end zone.

N.C. State ended up with six points on those three key drives. The Seminoles, lucky to be down 6-3, ended up breaking the game open with a pair of long touchdowns in the final 5 minutes of the second quarter.

Five key plays in N.C. State’s 31-13 loss to FSU:

1. Bad trip

Score: FSU 3, N.C. State 0

Time: 15:08, second quarter

Field position: third and 2 at the FSU 7

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Florida State linebacker Dontavious Jackson (5) reacts after N.C. State quarterback Bailey Hockman (16) tripped on the foot of Grant Gibson while dropping back to lose five-yards on third and two during N.C. State’s game against Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Quarterback Matt McKay started and in the first three series of the game, N.C. State went three-and-out, three-and-out and then six plays for 23 yards and a punt.

On the fourth series, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren turned to Bailey Hockman. The sophomore transfer from Florida State had the benefit of taking over at the FSU 30-yard line after a terrible punt.

Hockman’s first pass attempt led to a pass interference penalty by FSU. Then a pair of runs by Ricky Person got the ball down to the FSU 7 on third down.

For the first time, Hockman then went under center to take the direct snap (instead of in the shotgun). As Hockman pulled away from the snap, center Grant Gibson stepped on his right foot and he fell backwards for a 5-yard loss.

On fourth and 7, sophomore kicker Chris Dunn ended up making a 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 3.

2. Costly fumble

Score: FSU 3, N.C. State 3

Time: 11:42, second quarter

Field position: second and 10 at the FSU 37

On Hockman’s second series, running back Bam Knight was getting into a groove (two carries, 16 yards) and Hockman had connected with Cecil Powell for an 8-yard gain.

An 11-yard run by Knight moved N.C. State to the FSU 37. Hockman missed Powell on an out pass on first down and then Knight got the ball on second down.

Knight pushed through the middle of the defense for 3 yards before defensive end Dennis Briggs knocked the ball loose. Safety Cyrus Fagan recovered the fumble and N.C. State had no points to show for what started out as a promising drive.

3. Short-passing problems

Score: FSU 3, N.C. State 3

Time: 6:37, second quarter

Field position: second and goal at the FSU 9

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On second and goal, the ball passes by N.C. State’s Ricky Person Jr. (8) after a bad throw during the first half of N.C. State’s game against Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

A bugaboo for both McKay and Hockman has been short passes to the running backs. N.C. State has been inefficient in screen or swing passes to its backs.

That’s a problem because Knight, Person (before he hurt his left ankle in the third quarter) and Jordan Houston are N.C. State’s best options to turn a short pass into a long gain.

For the most part, neither McKay nor Hockman have been able to hit the running backs in stride or give them a chance to make a play after the catch because they’ve had to work too hard to adjust to make the catch (or dropped it, in the case of Knight a couple of times vs. Ball State).

This series illuminated those problems. On second and goal from the FSU 9, Hockman made a poor throw on a short pass to Person towards the N.C. State sideline.

On third down, Hockman tried to give tight end Cary Angeline a chance to make a play in the back of the end zone but didn’t realize he had Person all alone in the flat.

The pass was too long for Angeline, who was bumped before the ball got there, and Dunn ended up coming out for a 26-yard field goal.

With just a little better execution, N.C. State could have had at least a 17-3 lead here. Given the fragility of FSU’s program, after coughing up leads against Boise State, Virginia, Louisville and Louisiana-Monroe, who knows how the Noles would have reacted had they fallen behind by two touchdowns early.

Instead, it was 6-3 and FSU was about to take advantage of N.C. State’s generosity.

4. Fourth-down failure

Score: FSU 10, N.C. State 6

Time: 2:54, second quarter

Field position: fourth and 1 at the FSU 36

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Florida State’s Cory Durden (16) and Dontavious Jackson (5) celebrate after N.C. State running back Ricky Person Jr. (8) was stopped on fourth and one during the first half of N.C. State’s game against Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Injuries have hurt N.C. State at key positions. The absence of cornerback Nick McCloud was felt in the second quarter when FSU receiver Tamorrion Terry was able to beat cornerback Chris Ingram for a pair of touchdowns.

There is some hope that McCloud, who injured his left knee in the opener, will be back at some point this season. The open date before the Thursday night game with Syracuse on Oct. 10, can only help on that front.

But tight end and blocking specialist Dylan Autenrieth is out for the season with a knee injury he suffered in the loss to West Virginia on Sept. 14. Autenrieth is part fullback and part pulling guard in N.C. State’s offense.

His absence has been huge the past two weeks. In a 34-23 win over Ball State on Sept. 21, N.C. State was stopped short on a fourth-and-1 run in the third quarter.

At FSU, Doeren was aggressive again on fourth-and-short and again was stopped. With tight end Dylan Parham lined up as a fullback, in Autenrieth’s stead, N.C. State tried to run to the right behind guard Josh Fedd-Jackson and tackle Justin Witt.

The Wolfpack offense actually had numbers on the play with four blockers to three FSU defenders but FSU’s two defensive linemen got a push into the N.C. State backfield and Parham couldn’t get to Fagan, who was able to stop Person for a 3-yard loss.

5. More penalty problems

Score: FSU 10, N.C. State 6

Time: 2:54, second quarter

Field position: third and 9 at the 50

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Florida State wide receiver Ontaria Wilson (80) catches a 40-yard touchdown reception as N.C. State cornerback Taiyon Palmer (6) defends during the first half of N.C. State’s game against Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Doeren talks a lot about the best version of N.C. State and not making avoidable mistakes. N.C. State calls its Sunday film review with the team “Tell the Truth” Sunday. This series could not have been enjoyable in the defensive film room.

On third and 15 from FSU’s own 33, Terry dropped a would-be first down. Instead of the punt unit coming on, FSU got another chance because defensive end Xavier Lyas was flagged for a late hit on quarterback Alex Hornibrook.

Then on third and 9 from the 50, the drive was extended again after a drop by FSU receiver D.J. Matthews. Safety Tanner Ingle came in and hit Matthews long after the play was over and was penalized for a late hit.

With a third chance on the drive, the Noles pounced and Hornibrook hit a deep shot down the left sideline to receiver Ontaria Wilson for a 40-yard touchdown.

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Joe Giglio has worked at The N&O since 1995 and has regularly reported on the ACC since 2005. He grew up in Ringwood, N.J. and graduated from N.C. State.
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