Friday showed again that NC State’s in much better shape than UNC

Friday’s bowls featured great individual performances from players like Louisiana Tech’s Houston Bates and Rutgers’ freshman backs. Friday also saw awful ball from North Carolina, a young team with hard questions.

Here are the big numbers from Friday’s bowl wins by NC State, Louisiana Tech, and Rutgers.

2.0

Illinois outgained Louisiana Tech by 90 yards while snapping the ball 21 more times. Reilly O’Toole and the Illini offense controlled the ball, and averaged a decent 5.6 yards per play.

So how did the Illini lose by 17 points? Blown opportunities. Illinois created nine scoring opportunities (first downs inside the opponent’s 40), scored two touchdowns, settled for four field goals (missing two), lost a fumble, turned the ball over on downs, and punted once. Points per opportunity: a ghastly 2.0.

Tech created only five opportunities but scored four touchdowns. Points per: 5.6. When you’re that efficient, you might be able to afford to blow a chance, like Tech did with a missed 44-yarder. A controversial pick six — one that included a blatant defensive holding penalty that went uncalled — gave Tech an unearned cushion, but Illinois’ offensive failures assured that Tech would probably win regardless.

7.9

Rutgers’ season was partially defined by an inability to keep running backs upright. Star junior Paul James lasted four games, and primary backup Desmon Peoples lasted 10. In the Quick Lane Bowl, the Scarlet Knights turned to two freshmen: Josh Hicks and Robert Martin. They responded with 38 carries for 302 yards (202 from Hicks) and three touchdowns (two from Martin). Nothing like ending your season averaging 7.9 yards per carry.

Both Hicks (6’0, 200) and Martin (5’11, 205) look the part. And in theory, by the bowl game of your freshman year, you are a freshman in name only. While UNC struggled for any hint of maturity, these two backs ran circles around them.

Throw in a strange performance from quarterback Gary Nova — he completed only 45 percent of his passes, but made huge throws into tiny windows and averaged 20.4 yards per completion — and you’ve got an unstoppable offense. A lot of offenses became immortal when facing UNC, but at the very least, Rutgers played its part by taking what it wanted, not just waiting for UNC’s charity. The Knights gained 524 yards in 62 plays and raced to a 40-7 lead before UNC made it closer in garbage time.

14

In a 20-possession span from the beginning of the NC State game deep into garbage time in the Quick Lane, North Carolina scored two touchdowns, missed two field goals, turned the ball over four times (two picks, two punts), turned the ball over on downs once (on a nightmare of a fake field goal attempt), and punted 11 times. Total points: 14.

Here’s your reminder that UNC made a bowl because of its offense. The Heels went 6-6 despite having the No. 108 defense, according to Def. F/+. They gained 592 yards in a 45-20 rout of Duke, and they scored 40-plus on five other occasions (twice in losses).

But when the Duke game ended, so did UNC’s season. Even though there were two games left.

A clearly unhappy Larry Fedora stops for the playing of the school song with a few players. pic.twitter.com/IEbFcX5r4x

— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) December 27, 2014

Most of the players had already hit the tunnel, Fed was walking slowly, head down. He heard the song and stopped. Was all alone at first.

— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) December 27, 2014

Fed: ‘Not the way we wanted to finish the season, but it is what it is.’

— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) December 27, 2014

On embarrassing losses: ‘we shoot ourselves in the foot from the very beginning.’

— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) December 27, 2014

Asked Fedora about why people should remain optimistic about program — he answered at length about youth, returning players.

— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) December 27, 2014

Marquise bluntly says it’s obvious certain guys ‘don’t care’. Tim Scott says lots of ppl ‘we’re happy losing as long as they got their stats

— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) December 27, 2014

From Ryan Switzer: We’ve got some soul-searching to do. A lot of guys need to really figure out whether they really want to be here or not.

Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) December 27, 2014

Switzer: ‘We have to set a new standard at North Carolina. The last couple years we haven’t gone anywhere.’

— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) December 27, 2014

More Switzer: “I just don’t understand, that all the work that we put in – for it to come out to this. It was a waste.”

— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) December 27, 2014

No naming of names in the postgame but wow – that was a blunt description, from players, of a broken locker room.

— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) December 27, 2014

Should note Switzer defended coaching staff while criticizing players. Said: “I 100 percent believe in what coach Fedora is doing here.”

— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) December 27, 2014

More Swiz: “I trust in our staff, and we’ve got a lot of guys that do trust in our staff. And it’ll start to show who doesn’t and who does.”

— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) December 27, 2014

It’s going to be an interesting offseason in Chapel Hill.

22.5%

Illinois made plenty of positive plays. Mike Dudek caught seven passes for 73 yards and took an end around 50 yards to set up a score. Josh Ferguson carried seven times for 50 yards and caught six passes for 54. Malik Turner (six catches, 84 yards) had a nice day, and despite getting sacked six times, quarterback O’Toole avoided the pass rush quite a bit and made plays outside of the pocket.

But O’Toole did get sacked six times, and it killed a lot of Illini possessions.

Tech’s ability to match fire with fire helped the Bulldogs to a victory. Their Havoc Rate (tackles for loss plus passes defensed plus forced fumbles divided by total plays) was an explosive 22.5 percent. Levander Liggins had a TFL and two breakups, and Mitch Villemez had 1.5 TFLs. But the star of the show was senior end Houston Bates, an Illinois transfer who recorded 5.5 TFLs and 4.5 sacks.

Bates came up big in key moments. His second solo sack turned first-and-goal into second-and-salvage-a-field-goal. His third helped to knock Illinois out of makable field goal range late in the first half. His fourth prompted a three-and-out that set Louisiana Tech up at midfield in the fourth quarter. He was a one-man, nuclear field position weapon, and Tech might not have won without him.

48.1%

It was an old-school passing day at the Bitcoin Bowl. NC State’s Jacoby Brissett and UCF’s Justin Holman combined to complete 48.1 percent of their passes (38-for-79) and got sacked five times, but their 38 completions averaged nearly 15 yards each, making for an inefficient but explosive day at the office. Eight different Wolfpack players (including Brissett on a trick play) had at least one reception of 18-plus yards, and UCF’s Breshad Perriman ended up with nine catches for 138.

The difference in State’s 34-27 win came in who could actually run the ball. As has been the story for much of the year, UCF couldn’t; William Stanback gained 38 yards in 12 carries. But Wolfpack backs Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes (another good-looking freshman) combined to gain 174 yards in 30 carries. They were instrumental in allowing the Wolfpack to build a 34-13 lead in the fourth.

Of course, if Wednesday’s Bahamas Bowl taught us anything, it’s that no fourth quarter lead is safe. UCF scored a couple of touchdowns, and State went into a shell — last 12 plays, not including kneeldowns: 24 yards (Brissett’s last seven passes: one completion, 13 yards) — but the cushion was big enough. The Wolfpack recovered an onside kick with under two minutes left, and that was that.

After going 3-9 in Dave Doeren’s first season, State executed one of many second-year turnarounds and finished 8-5. It will be a happier offseason in Raleigh than in Chapel Hill, especially with Brissett, Thornton, Dayes, and company scheduled for a 2015 return.

27,283

Average attendance at Friday’s three bowls: 27,283. Bowl TV ratings are just fine, as evidenced by the relegation of Saturday’s Kentucky-Louisville basketball game to ESPN2 while ESPN shows the Military Bowl.

But in cavernous stadiums designed for larger crowds (the combined attendance of all three bowls could have fit into the Cotton Bowl), 27K is … sparse. Atmosphere only matters so much — there appeared to be about 17 people in attendance at the eventually amazing Bahamas Bowl — but rows of empty seats aren’t fun. I’d say smaller stadiums are in order, but that seems unlikely.

December 27, 2014 by : Posted in Uncategorized No Comments

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