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December 30, 2010

Monday morning quarterbacking

NC State ended a memorable 2010 season with a 23-7 victory over No. 22 West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 28. The win closed the Pack's year at 9-4. Now it's time for the last Monday Morning Quarterbacking of 2010.

Key moment of the game:

NC State led 16-7 with around 11:30 left in the fourth quarter when fifth-year senior kicker Josh Czajkowski lined up for a 22-yard field goal attempt. A delay of game penalty though pushed the Pack back five yards, and Czajkowski then booted his 27-yard attempt wide left.

The missed field goal seemed to spark some life into the West Virginia sideline, and it quickly showed on the field. On first and 10 at the 20, sophomore quarterback Geno Smith ran for 18 yards on a designed quarterback draw, and then on the next play he completed a nine-yard pass to redshirt freshman receiver Stedman Bailey. Senior running back Noel Devine rushed for a yard to get the first down on the next snap.

Running a no-huddle offense, Smith then connected with Bailey for a 13-yard gain to the NC State 39, and West Virginia had one of their best drives of the game going. That's when Smith decided to go deep to senior wide out Jock Sanders inside the 10-yard line. NC State sophomore safety Brandan Bishop had a read on the play however and made a leaping interception at the NC State 10 over an unsuspecting Sanders who was caught reaching out in front of him for a football that would never arrive.



Three things that worked:

1. Defense
There is no reason to count the number of times West Virginia reached the red zone because it never happened Tuesday night. The Mountaineers had just 17 yards of total offense in the crucial third quarter, and their lone touchdown came on a 32-yard jump ball in the corner of the end zone where Bailey simply made a great catch.

2. Russell Wilson
Playing against a very stingy defense with an unusual 3-3-5 scheme, NC State needed Wilson to play great, and he did. Wilson completed 28 of 45 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns and ran 14 times for 41 yards. He never turned the football over either.

3. Controlling the action
NC State set the tone early by stopping WVU's first drive with a sack, and then on State's second drive they marched down the field for the game's first touchdown. The Mountaineers did briefly tie the game at 7-7 in the second quarter, but junior receiver T.J. Graham's 46-yard kickoff return set up a field goal to give State a 10-7 halftime lead. NC State seemed to be in control of the game from that point forward.



Three things that did not work:

1. Finishing off WVU
It was not until a scrambling Wilson found fifth-year senior wide out Jarvis Williams for a seven-yard touchdown with 3:55 left in the game before the contest was truly over. When it seemed that all NC State needed was a touchdown to finish off West Virginia, they had to settle for a pair of field goals and missed another field goal attempt.

2. Fake field goal attempt
In the grand scheme of things the play did not matter, but NC State led 7-0 and lined up to take a 10-0 lead when Tom O'Brien called for a fake field goal. Holder Corey Tedder and Czajkowski though could not connect on Tedder's over the shoulder flick, and the play ended up backfiring on the Pack. Fortunately for State, WVU kicker Tyle Bitancurt missed a 43-yarder and no damage was done.

3. Kickoffs
Being a bit nit-picky here, but this was certainly not NC State's best game kicking off. Freshman Chris Hawthorne never reached the end zone on his three kickoffs, one of which was returned 60 yards by Sanders. Hawthorne would be eventually replaced by Czajkowski.



Breaking down the position battles:

NC State's OL vs. West Virginia's front seven
Nobody this year has stopped West Virginia junior defensive end Bruce Irvin, and NC State was no different. Irvin had two sacks and forced a fumble, but other than that, the Pack's offensive line held up fairly well against one of the better defenses in the country.

NC State's front seven vs. West Virginia's OL
The numbers are a bit misleading. West Virginia averaged 5.2 yards per rush, and Smith was only sacked twice, but the Pack's front seven played much better than those stats indicate. Devine had just one run longer than six yards, and he fumbled at the end of that particular 28-yard scamper. Smith was also hurried eight times.

NC State's WR vs. West Virginia's DB
NC State's receivers held their own in the match-ups. Six different wide outs caught passes for a total of 18 receptions for 205 yards and a score. The Pack though did have a few drops from the receiving corps.

NC State's DB vs. West Virginia's WR
Bailey made a heck of a catch over NC State freshman corner David Amerson for WVU's lone score, but overall this was a nice game from the secondary. Amerson finished with a team-high seven tackles, and Bishop had the big interception.

Quarterbacks
They did not reveal the vote totals, but it's hard to imagine anyone other than Wilson being considered for the game's MVP. Smith played a decent game for West Virginia, and he has an obviously bright future for the Mountaineers, but Wilson was simply the best player on the field in the Champs Sports Bowl.

Running backs
Neither team featured their backs much. Devine had eight carries for 50 yards, 28 of them coming on that one run. NC State's duo of sophomore James Washington and freshman Mustafa Greene ran 21 times for 75 yards. Greene also added a 16-yard touchdown catch.

Tight Ends
Early in the game NC State redshirt junior George Bryan showed why he is one of the country's top tight ends. He ended up with three catches for 25 yards, but he caught two for 19 yards on the first drive to set up the touchdown. West Virginia never even attempted a pass to their tight end.

Special teams
Czajkowski's three field goals from distances of 45, 38 and 40 yards highlighted what was overall a so-so special teams game. Czajkowski missed a 27-yarder, and the Pack had the botched fake field goal attempt.

West Virginia's Bitancurt missed both of his attempts, and both teams had one long kickoff return. The positives for both squads were that both their punters had solid games.



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