NC State dropped its fourth straight game Saturday, this one a 34-20 home loss to Scott Satterfield’s up-and-coming Louisville squad. The Wolfpack gave fans hope this time around, entering halftime with the lead for the first time in over a month. The feeling quickly faded for Wolfpack fans, with NC State getting outscored 20-0 in the third quarter.
“We’ve got to make more plays that are there to be made,” said head coach Dave Doeren. “We had two third and 12s where defensively, they scored touchdowns on us. That should be off the field. [We] should be off the field. One of them is on us, we run a blitz and they get a mismatch in coverage. That was a good play by them on Brock [Miller].”
The bleeding started on Louisville’s opening drive of the second half. On third down and 9, at the Louisville 26, defensive coordinator Dave Huxtable dialed up the pressure, sending a cornerback blitz at quarterback Malik Cunningham. Linebacker Brock Miller was left alone with Tutu Atwell, who blew past him. There were two deep safeties giving help on the play, each in between the two receivers on each side of the offensive line. Atwell, the second receiver from the boundary, didn’t run a go route as the defense might have expected. The receiver instead went with a post route, getting away from redshirt senior safety Jarius Morehead, Miller’s help over the top.
“[Number] one, he’s real fast,” Morehead said. “We had a linebacker on him, and the quarterback just tossed it. [Atwell] didn’t run a nine route, he bent it. That’s one of our weaknesses. If number two bends it, he’s going to be wide open, and that’s what he did.”
On the ensuing possession, freshman receiver Keyon Lesane followed up a solid return with a fumble on a jet sweep to give the Cardinals the ball in NC State territory. Lesane ended up one of four players to fumble, something Doeren flatly attributed to the team’s youth. Turnover woes have haunted NC State all season long, with the team now at a minus-11 turnover margin for the year.
The Cardinals wasted no time taking advantage of the miscue. Against bunch formations, NC State opted to go cover one consistently in the first half, and Satterfield took notice. With their second play of the drive, Satterfield dialed up a wheel/go route combination. Presenting yet another bunch look and the nine route to occupy the deep safety, Louisville’s Marshon Ford was one-on-one with Miller, and the junior linebacker just couldn’t keep up. Cunningham’s pass hit Ford in stride on a wheel route for a 42-yard touchdown.
NC State’s freshman woes continued next drive, with redshirt freshman Devin Leary dropping the ball yet again while attempting a throw. This time he recovered the ball, but it still stalled the drive. The Cardinals methodically worked the ball downfield, garnering two pass interference penalties from NC State before causing a coverage bust at the goal line to get tight end Ean Pfeifer wide open in the back of the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown, completing the momentum shift. The Cardinals went from down 10-7 to up 27-10 in the blink of an eye and never looked back.