schedule breakdown

Head coach Dave Doeren looks on towards his team during the 27-23 loss to Wake Forest on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, in Carter-Finley Stadium.

Aside from a tough day in Starkville, Mississippi, the No. 18 NC State football team has shown the ability to win in different ways, even going back to last year’s 8-4 campaign. Despite all the trials the team faced, the injuries, ebbing and flowing lack of discipline, the offensive woes; more than often it overcame its weaknesses to come out on top.

Murphy’s law states what can go wrong, will. It did for NC State (5-2, 2-1 ACC). Coming into this game with a national ranking, an undefeated conference record and plenty of bulletin-board material from the opposing quarterback, NC State fell flat in the marquee game of the late window, a 31-30 stunner from Manny Diaz’s Miami Hurricanes.

The Wolfpack has seen enough injuries over the past few years to last it a lifetime, and things got worse. With redshirt sophomore linebacker Payton Wilson, redshirt freshman defensive tackle C.J. Clark and graduate safety Cyrus Fagan already out for the year, the team was further hobbled by four other starters suffering various injuries. 

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Devin Leary appeared to have his wind knocked out of him, but returned to the game. Junior running back Ricky Person Jr. suffered a leg injury, but also returned. Most impactful, though, had to be the injuries to redshirt junior linebacker Isaiah Moore and graduate guard Chandler Zavala. The latter man didn’t even travel with the team as he recovers — his second straight week of not seeing the field — while the former was hurt early in the first half. Despite having a bye recently, this team is banged up, and it’s hurting, especially on the defensive side.

Routine plays weren’t routine against the Hurricanes. Whether it was holding calls lengthening drives for the opposing offense, jumping offsides on field goals to give up a first down or just dropping easy completions, NC State shot itself in the foot over and over. No one player lost the game for the team, but it’s easy to look back and find so many that it’s shocking at least one of them didn’t go the Wolfpack’s way.

Luck ran out for NC State in Hard Rock Stadium. The team forced no turnovers; it couldn’t get off the field on third down and converted at a horrendous clip on offense, and despite outperforming the Hurricanes in most statistical categories, it couldn’t ever make the one play needed to take the reins in the game.

The perfect example of this comes in the controversial third quarter muffed punt. Down 21-17, redshirt junior Trenton Gill punted the ball 46 yards to the Miami 12, where it was promptly muffed, recovered by Miami then fumbled again, recovered by freshman receiver Anthony Smith. Except Smith’s helmet had fallen off, making his continued participation a penalty which gave the Hurricanes new life as NC State was forced to replay the down.

Later, with the game where you want it, in the defense’s hands, the team gave up a 21-yard reception on third and 16 to put the game on ice. This was NC State’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, and it came at a very bad time for a team with ACC Championship aspirations.

Now the way forward is to simply not lose again. Win and you’re in, lose and this is just another year. But with the team’s luck running dry, injuries piling up and some dangerous foes looming, things aren’t looking for the best. 

“Right now you just got a bunch of dudes that are down in the dumps,” said head coach Dave Doeren. “We’ve just got to get them back and sit down with them tomorrow — at four in the morning — and then sit down with them and watch the film, [and] get their spirits back up. Get them as healthy as we can and go back to it.”


I'm Jaylan Harrington, Editor-in-Chief at Technician. I'm in NC State's class of 2022 majoring in communication. I've been at Technician since the fall of 2018. For more of my coverage, you can follow me @jaylan__1 on Twitter.