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NC State 28 Virginia 14: Postgame Wrap

After taking a big step forward last week, upsetting previously undefeated Georgia Tech, the Hoos fell over themselves moving backwards tonight.  Though the team came in as favorites at home and talked about avoiding a letdown, the result was a listless 28-14 loss against an NC State team whose only win over a I-A team this year was against Central Michigan.  Blowing off some steam by posting a few quick thoughts from the game:

Staying Focused: After an intense performance led to a euphoric victory last week, coaches and players talked about maintaining their focus this week.  This notion was especially important to the players who experienced an 0-4 stretch run after a big upset against Miami last year.  Chase Minnifield was adamant about expecting, rather than celebrating, victories and immediately focusing on the next game.  The Cavaliers didn't back up their talk tonight.  While I am sure the players worked hard in practice and played hard to win, they lacked the willpower and intensity of the previous week.  While we came out flat, the Wolfback came off a bye and were out for blood.  Regardless of X's and O's and individual performances, this team mentality is difficult to overcome.

Stagnant Offense:  Assuming NC State would sell out to stop the run after UVA dominated the ground last week, the pressure was on Mike Rocco and David Watford to step up.  NC State loaded the box often, and our QBs failed to counter as both had miserable days.  Rocco was constantly off-target and out of sync with his receivers, though he did lead a nice 1st quarter touchdown drive.  What I thought was inexplicable was London's decision to put Watford in the game immediately afterwards; Watford threw a quick interception.  Rocco left with a 7-0 lead, returned minutes later down 14-7, and was never the same.  Watford came back in for good in the middle of the 3rd quarter and struggled, going 4-16 with 3 INTs and 1 TD.  On the bright side, that one touchdown was a GREAT 60 yard bomb to Tim Smith. 

Something has to happen with the offense, be it in play-calling, strategy, execution, or mentality.  Perhaps the two worst possessions were those immediately following big interceptions by the defense.  Both were quick three and outs (one a four and out actually), killing momentum and any positive thoughts bouncing through my head.  The QB rotation continues to be vexing, to say the least.  I will continue to wonder why we don't have more exciting or dynamic packages for Watford.  The offensive line got beat badly today, as our passers had little time to work with and our RBs were constantly stood up at the line of scrimmage.  Finally, multiple dropped passes exacerbated our offensive woes and directly led to two interceptions.  

Other thoughts:
-The defense played pretty well.  NC State's offense is decent, and the unit held their own, keeping us in the game until just minutes remained in the 4th quarter.
-Interesting game for the special teams.  We blocked a field goal and looked good returning kicks.  I am pretty sure we will get to a punt soon enough also.  On the punt return side, we are a mess; we muffed one (that was recovered by NC State) and got bailed out on a debatable interference call on the other.
-NC State brought a gigantic band, definitely more than the pep band visiting teams usually bring.  Super annoying.

What it means: The Hoos really couldn't afford a letdown versus an inferior team (yes, NC State is an inferior team), but failed to get the job done tonight.  Room for error is not something we had, and now it is razor thin.  At 4-3, we'll need to beat Duke and either take down Tech at home or steal one on the road to become bowl eligible.  There's no time to dwell on this one though, as the Hoos travel to Miami to play in ESPN's nationally televised Thursday nighter.  The short week also means a jam-packed few days of coverage on Streaking the Lawn of today's loss and the upcoming matchup with the Canes!