The NC State football team (4-4, 1-3 ACC) traveled to the BB&T field to play the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (7-1, 3-1 ACC) over the weekend, but came back home with a difficult 44-10 loss at the hands of the No. 23 Deacs. Neither side of the ball looked fantastic, but being matched up with such a prolific offense did numbers on a damaged Wolfpack defense. Let’s take a look at how each defensive grouping performed.
The defensive line had absolutely zero impact on the game whatsoever. The Wolfpack had just two sacks in total, but neither came from the D-line, and hardly any pressure was applied to Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman.
Defensive linemen came away with just five solo tackles the entire game, and despite graduate James Smith-Williams coming away with two quarterback hits, Newman had plenty of time in the pocket to throw the ball down the field.
NC State linebackers were statistically the most “dominant” on the field for the Pack, but still struggled mightily. Redshirt freshman Payton Wilson and freshman Drake Thomas continued to impress, combining for 19 total tackles, eight solo tackles, two pass deflections, three tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
Despite the impressive numbers from the Pack youth, other linebackers on the team did not fare as well in the blowout loss. The rest of the linebacking corps had three tackles for loss, and overall, linebackers accounted for six of the Wolfpack’s eight tackles for loss. Even still, Wilson and Thomas were the only two linebackers to stick out once again.
The linebackers and D-line did allow Newman to rush for 30 yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns, but the defensive breakdown shown during his first rushing touchdown, a 20-yard carry, was not the case for his second, as the whole defense broke through on a goal-line rush.
The Deacons rushed for 123 yards in the game and no Wake Forest rusher had an average more than 3.5 yards per carry, but that is not enough to redeem the performance of the linebackers.
The Wolfpack was without senior cornerback Nick McCloud and junior Chris Ingram against the seventh-ranked passing offense in the nation. Sophomore De’Von Graves and redshirt freshman Malik Dunlap started in their place and combined for an impressive four pass deflections, as well as .5 tackles for loss and six solo tackles. Despite the signs of growth from the NC State depth and youth corners, the secondary still allowed 295 yards in the air.
Newman had little issue picking apart the injured Pack secondary, throwing for 287 yards on 65.8% completion, along with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Even veteran safeties sophomore Tanner Ingle and redshirt senior Jarius Morehead could not stop the assault, with three Demon Deacons going for over 60 yards, and allowing tight end Jack Freudenthal to catch three touchdowns in the red zone.
On Freudenthal’s third touchdown of the game, redshirt senior Stephen Griffin blew the coverage on a judgement error, likely thinking that Freudenthal was acting as a blocker as he slipped by for the easy touchdown. Graves also got beat by Freudenthal, as the 3-3-5 defensive scheme was torn open by the Deacons.
Overall defensive grade: F
Next up: After allowing 418 yards of total offense and five total touchdowns, the blows do not stop coming for the Pack, who has to take on the fourth-ranked Clemson Tigers, a team that NC State lost to 41-7 last season in Death Valley. The team will play another home ACC game following the home Clemson game against Louisville the next Saturday.