N.C. State’s defense needed more from defensive end Bradley Chubb than what he provided in the first two games. The junior captain was better and more active in Saturday’s win over Old Dominion.
Chubb had a key stop on ODU running back Jeremy Cox on second-and-goal from the 3 with N.C. State ahead 7-0 early in the second quarter. It was one of two tackles for loss that Chubb had in the game, and he finished with four tackles.
ODU had to settle for a field goal on the drive after taking over on N.C. State’s 17-yard-line. The Monarchs hit a couple of big plays, Cox later had a 65-yard touchdown run and receiver Zach Pascal finished with 104 yards, but it was a much better performance by N.C. State’s defense and by the defensive front in particular.
Darian Roseboro, who played both defensive end and tackle, finished with three of the team’s five sacks. As a team, N.C. State only had two sacks in the first two games.
Three of N.C. State’s remaining nine games after its open date this weekend are against teams ranked in the top 25 in total offense and that group doesn’t include North Carolina, Clemson, Florida State or Notre Dame.
So no matter how well the offense plays (7 touchdowns, 470 yards), the defense needs help out in order for the Wolfpack to get to a bowl game.
▪ The goal-line package with Jalan McClendon at quarterback, which netted three touchdowns, was a nice change-of-pace. There was also a lot more to it than just bringing in McClendon for starter Ryan Finley.
Tight end Thaddeus Moss, running back Dakwa Nichols and receiver/quarterback Jakobi Meyers were also part of the personnel set. Moss had a key block on McClendon’s first TD run and was rewarded later with the touchdown pass from McClendon.
Nichols, one of the better blocking backs, came in motion from the receiver spot on the three plays from that set. It will be interesting to see how that package expands given that Meyers is the receiver on the other side of the formation.
Meyers, who is still the third-string quarterback, had his most productive day with three catches for 50 yards. He also ran the read option once for a pickup of 2 yards.
▪ While McClendon delivered with his goal-line chances, Finley picked up a new fan in Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder. Finley finished the game 24-of-28 for a season-best 284 yards and three touchdowns.
Finley, a graduate transfer from Boise State, leads the ACC, and ranks second in the country, in completion percentage (76.3) and hasn’t thrown an interception in 80 attempts.
“He was on everything,” Wilder said. There were times tonight we were in really good coverage, and he just put the ball in really good spots.”
Finley’s decision-making in particular impressed the eighth-year ODU coach.
“He is a 3-, maybe 4-read guy,” Wilder said, noting Finley’s work through the progression of each passing play. “There is not a lot of those in college football. There were times tonight I thought he was on his second and third read and we couldn’t get to him.”
Wilder said Finley “looks like a next-level guy to me.”
N.C. State already has four former quarterbacks in the NFL.
As for the breakdown of Finley’s passing chart on Saturday, he was 19-of-19 on pass attempts less than 10 yards (for a total of 165 yards), 2-of-4 on attempts between 10 and 20 yards (for 26 yards) and 3-of-5 on attempts longer than 20 yards (for 93 yards).
All three of his touchdowns were less than 10 yards and two were of the shovel pass variety.
▪ Jaylen Samuels scored two more touchdowns and increased his unofficial lead in “touchdowns without being touched by a defender” but it was a truncated outing for the junior fullback/tight end/H-back/slot receiver.
Samuels played his fewest snaps (unofficially 25) and his lowest percentage of snaps (35.2 percent) of the season. He dinged up his right foot on a 17-yard end-around early in the fourth quarter. (He still had an ice bag on his foot after the game).
Even before the injury, Samuels was on the field less than he was in the first two games. Samuels was on the field for only 13 of 38 snaps in the first half. He was on the field for 47 of 87 snaps (54 percent) against William & Mary and 46 of 63 (73 percent) against ECU.
Samuels finished with three catches for 28 yards and two touchdowns. The first score, a 19-yard shovel pass, is the ode to Urban Meyer’s Florida playbook and incarcerated New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez (hence my nickname for the play the “Dirty Hernandez.”)
Samuels also had three carries for 22 yards. For the season, he has six touchdowns on 25 touches.
The unofficial “JaySam” snap chart for the ODU game: slot (14), H-back (4), running back (3) wide receiver (3), tight end (1).
That means 74 of his 118 snaps through three games are as a slot receiver.
▪ Bra’Lon Cherry developed into one of the best punt returners in the ACC last season. He had a 70-yard punt return for a touchdown called back after offsetting penalties, including block in the back by freshman Trae Meadows, in the first quarter.
But Cherry was sloppy on returns after his touchdown was called back. On the redo, he made a strange effort to catch the ball with one hand and then chased after it after it rolled down to the 5-yard-line.
He didn’t field any of the next four punts costing the offense yardage on all but one touchback. N.C. State’s coaches must have noticed the same thing because in the second half he called for a fair catch on the only punt he fielded.
▪ After an error-filled loss to ECU, N.C. State cut down on its penalties against the Monarchs. The Wolfpack was officially flagged twice for 25 yards. Meadows’ illegal block on the punt return was offset by an illegal formation penalty by ODU.
Guard Tony Adams was flagged for a holding call on N.C. State’s second drive and freshman Nick McCloud was called for an unnecessary roughness personal foul on a bizarre kickoff sequence in the second quarter.
ODU returner Kesean Strong was indecisive after he caught the kickoff from N.C. State’s Kyle Bambard. He hesitated near the goal line and while in the process of taking a knee. Referee David Epperley, minutes after provided the comic highlight of the night, hesitated to make a call while Strong hesitated.
The only person who didn’t hesitate was McCloud, who tackled Strong. Epperley, who never made an initial signal to rule Strong down, threw a flag and penalized McCloud. Instead of two points for a safety (since Strong took the ball past the goal line), N.C. State saw ODU gain an extra 15 yards and start the drive on its own 40.
Even after the great field position, the Monarchs punted, so the penalty and officiating error didn’t matter.
Epperley had an interesting first half. He stopped the game with 13:50 left in the second quarter after seemingly innocent 1-yard run by Cox. Cox didn’t fumble and he didn’t have the ability to pick up a first down (it was third-and-goal from the 5), so it was a mystery as to what Epperley wanted to review.
Even ESPN’s Forrest Conoly asked during the broadcast: “You have to wonder what they’re looking at on the replay?”
Turns out, there was some confusion over what down it was.
“After review, there was a question as the number of the next down,” Epperley informed the Carter-Finley crowd. “The down is correct, fourth down.”
It was actually amusing, although somewhere former Missouri coach Bob Stull, who infamously lost a game to Colorado in 1990 on a “fifth down,” was no doubt screaming: “Finally!”