RALEIGH – The Furman Paladins (0-3) traveled to Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, NC this Saturday for a 12:20 p.m. game against the NC State Wolfpack (2-1). The Wolfpack were favored heavily over the Paladins from the FCS. Furman has struggled this season, losing two close games to FCS foes Wofford and Elon before losing 49-16 to NC State. Furman was simply overmatched against a bigger, faster and stronger Wolfpack team.
NC State came into the season with a lot of hype. They are an experienced football team with talent all over the field. They hit a setback in week one when turnovers and poor special teams play cost them a game against South Carolina, something many Wolfpack fans are becoming used to. The offense has played well in the first two games, aside from some problems in the run game, and they were looking to continue that hot start against a Furman team that yields 400 yards per game to opposing offenses. The front seven has been solid and needed to be again against the triple option attack of Furman. Coming into the game the matchup to watch was the run game for Furman vs. the run defense for NC State. The Wolfpack were also looking to clean up their special teams play and run game before heading to Tallahassee next weekend for the ACC opener.
The Wolfpack had to be pleased with the way their offense started the game. The offense scored on four of their five first half drives, with the one drive stalling due to a sack. The one thing the offense was looking to improve on in this final non-conference matchup was the run game. In the first half, the Wolfpack looked much improved in that area, rushing for 96 first half yards and scoring three times on the ground. Ryan Finley was 19 for 23 with 194 passing yards and one touchdown as well. The offense continued their dominance in the second half, scoring on two of three drives, until the starters were pulled from the game in the fourth quarter. The Wolfpack quarterback, Ryan Finley finished 22 for 27 with 231 yards and one touchdown. The leading rusher was Nyheim Hines with 92 yards on 11 carries and the leading receiver was Jaylen Samuels with 75 yards on 6 receptions. Samuels also had three rushing touchdowns to add to his big day.
Coming in NC State also wanted to improve in special teams. They did that today, converting on every extra point and forcing the Paladins to start on their own 30-yard line or worse on every possession of the game. The Wolfpack also blocked a punt and had 50-yard kickoff return. This is a huge improvement, given the same unit had missed one field goal and one extra point in the first two games and allowed 2 kick return touchdowns (one being called back due to holding). The one negative, was NC State placekicker Carson Wise’s missed field goal in the 4th quarter. The game was already decided at this point but NC State will need someone they can trust in ACC games, and so far, they have not found that person.
The defense is the one thing that you could say did not look to be improved. The NC State defense allowed 76 rushing yards and 114 passing yards in the first half. They also allowed Furman to score on 3 of their first 5 possessions (2 field goals and 1 touchdown). This is something that NC State will need to fix if they are hoping to compete in next week’s game in Tallahassee. The secondary, which is the most concerning part of the defense, seemed to be outmatched again against a Furman team that is not known for throwing the ball. Luckily for the NC State defense, they were able to fix most of their mistakes in the second half. They stopped the run effectively, giving up just 57 second half rushing yards. The Wolfpack front also had three tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles. The struggles in the secondary remained evident however, giving up multiple big pass plays and allowing 196 passing yards for the game. They made up for some of their mistakes with a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown on a poor throw by Furman quarterback, PJ Blazejowski.
The Wolfpack continued to look strong on offense in this game and the special teams play was much improved. The front seven was able to buckle down in the second half and cause two turnovers but the secondary still looked questionable at best against a Furman team that struggles to throw the ball effectively. NC State will need to continue to improve their special teams and secondary play this week during practice if they want a chance to beat a top 10 team in Florida State.
NC State returns to action next Saturday against Florida State in Tallahassee and returns home on September 30th to play Syracuse.