Wolfpack defense finishes games strong
HUNTINGTON — It isn’t how you start, it’s how you finish.
That could be the mantra used to characterize the N.C. State football team’s defense so far in 2018 as the Wolfpack heads to Huntington for a 7 p.m. Saturday matchup with Marshall University in Joan C. Edwards Stadium.
Looking at video from N.C. State (2-0) victories against James Madison (24-13) and Georgia State (41-7), one dynamic stands out. The Wolfpack gets hungrier on defense as the games move along.
N.C. State’s defense yielded the first points in each of its contests, trailing 7-0 in both. However, it was lights out from that point as the Wolfpack gave up a total of six points over the final three quarters.
That statistic screams one thing: solid in-game adjustments.
In addition to adjustments, the Wolfpack showed strength in tough situations while backed up against its own goal line.
The Wolfpack got a pair of stops inside the 5-yard line resulting in James Madison field goals in the second half.
Marshall (2-0) got out of the gate well against its two opponents, opening two-score leads
after one quarter in against Miami (Ohio) in a 35-28 road victory and at home against Eastern Kentucky in a 32-16 win.
However, the Thundering Herd offense has sputtered through the middle quarters as teams made adjustments to what the offense was doing.
Given that Marshall quarterback Isaiah Green was in his first two games as a collegiate player that was to be expected, but improvement in adjusting and reading things on the field is needed Saturday to counter the N.C. State adjustments.
The strength of N.C. State’s passing game behind quarterback Ryan Finley means a lull in Marshall’s offense will put the Herd defense on the field for extended time. In those situations, Finley has proven his ability to break down a defense — especially in momentum situations such as third down where he has led the Wolfpack to a 60 percent conversion percentage (15 of 25) this season.
Marshall’s ability to stay consistent and engineer first downs to balance the time of possession is a critical piece as the teams get ready to lock up in Huntington this weekend.
FAKED OUT: North Texas perfectly executed a fake on a punt return Saturday against Arkansas.
In the Mean Green’s win over the Razorbacks, punt returner Keegan Brewer casually caught a punt at his own 10-yard line and proceeded to walk away as though he’d signaled for a fair catch. The punt coverage unit for Arkansas bit the fake en masse with players taking out mouthpieces and walking away from Brewer, who never flipped the ball to the referee.
After walking two yards downfield to distance himself from the Razorbacks, Brewer took off for a 90-yard punt return touchdown that served as a knockout blow in North Texas’ 44-17 road win.
ANOTHER LATE DISAPPOINTMENT: No matter who the opponent is, Western Kentucky is struggling with finishing games.
For the second consecutive week, the Hilltoppers surrendered a double-digit lead before an errant field goal led to their demise in the closing seconds. Western Kentucky led Saturday at Louisville, 14-0, late in the second quarter and 14-3 at halftime. After taking an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter, the Cardinals scored a pair of touchdowns and held off the Hilltoppers for a 20-17 win.
Western Kentucky’s Ryan Nuss had a chance to tie the game on the final play, but his 51-yard attempt went wide right, dropping the Hilltoppers to an 0-3 record.
Last week, Western Kentucky led Maine 21-0 before falling, 31-28. Nuss had a 48-yard field goal blocked in the final minute of that loss.
N.C. STATE (2-0) AT MARSHALL (2-0)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Joan C.Edwards Stadium
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: WDGG 93.7-FM, ESPN 94.1-FM and 930-AM, WMUL 88.1-FM