N.C. State figured out the hard way that you can’t win a game in the first quarter but you can lose it.
The Wolfpack couldn’t overcome a 35-7 hole in a 45-34 loss to No. 11 North Carolina on Saturday.
North Carolina scored on its first five possessions while the Wolfpack defense searched for answers.
N.C. State coach Dave Doeren said his team was flat. Defensive end Mike Rose chalked it up to bad tackling. Cornerback Juston Burris said it was a matter of execution.
“We can’t come out flat like we did and let them get up 35-7,” Burris said. “You can’t have that.”
N.C. State got a 4-yard touchdown run from quarterback Jacoby Brissett to cut UNC’s lead to 14-7 at 5:41 in the first quarter but everything else was all UNC.
The Tar Heels ran for 214 yards and had 308 total yards in the first quarter. Running back T.J. Logan sliced up N.C. State’s defense for touchdowns of 42 and 40 yards. Elijah Hood had 89 yards on eight carries in the opening quarter.
“We just missed a lot of tackles in that first quarter,” Rose said.
Both quarterbacks, Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky, threw for a touchdown. Williams hit a 53-yard home run over the top of N.C. State’s defense to receiver Mack Hollins, which has been a trouble spot all season.
But N.C. State’s defense did adjust. UNC didn’t score in either the second or third quarters.
“We made adjustments throughout the game,” Doeren said. “Some of the adjustments were just, ‘Hey, guys, we’ve got to tackle better.’ Or, ‘Hey, we can’t let (Hollins) get behind us.’ We knew what he was. He’s fast. That’s why he averages 26 yards a catch. You have to stay on top of that kid.”
N.C. State’s defense had an interception in the second quarter and forced two fumbles in the second half.
Doeren told his team at halftime there was still a chance.
“We talked at halftime with the guys and said there have been a lot of crazy games in college football this year,” Doeren said.
N.C. State did cut UNC’s lead to 35-23 in the third quarter, after Brissett’s second touchdown run.
The Wolfpack also had a touchdown called back in the fourth quarter on a block in the back penalty. Instead of seven points, the Wolfpack had to settle for a 34-yard field goal from Kyle Bambard and cut UNC’s lead to only 42-26.
The Heels only scored 10 points after the first quarter and were out-scored 27-10 after the opening blitz.
“From the second quarter on, we started to execute better,” Burris said. “If we would have played the way we did in the last three quarters, we would have been in that game and possibly won that game.”
The offense found its stride with 308 rushing yards – 287 came after the first quarter. Brissett threw a pair of touchdowns to tight end David J. Grinnage and Jaylen Samuels caught six passes for 97 yards.
“Since the first quarter we played great football,” Brissett said. “We did what we wanted to do but we came up short.”