For anyone who either watched the game live, or watched the highlights on SportsCenter afterward, you know what happened down in Atlanta last night. The NC State Wolfpack, looking to deliver a big win for the program and the ACC, were manhandled by the SEC‘s Tennessee Volunteers in primetime. And despite a final score that may tell you otherwise, this one was never even close. And that’s a problem.
You see, for all the hype that the Wolfpack had received, it was all based on two constants: QB Mike Glennon would play at a similar (if not better) level than he had during last year’s stretch run, and star corner David Amerson would blanket any receiver that came near him. Neither of these things came true last night, and in fact, they were patently false.
After one quarter last night, you’d think that Glennon was the QB looking to finally deliver on his talents, while Tennessee passer Tyler Bray was receiving dark horse Heisman nods. Locked in from the first snap, the Vols’ quarterback executed well and simply looked better. For all the fanfare about former UT receiver Da’Rick Rogers‘ dismissal, it didn’t much matter for Bray, who still ended up with 333 yards passing. Most shocking, however, was the way in which he victimized Amerson. For a defender who likes to take risks to go for a big pick, it would make sense for the junior to be exposed by a veteran QB like Bray. But, for a guy that usually plays pretty tight coverage and knows how to put himself in position to make a play without allowing for the deep ball, Friday night’s performance appeared embarrassing. You could see the frustration on Amerson’s face, and the shock on everyone else’s. This defense, and it’s leader, have been shown to be vulnerable here in the first game, and the Tennessee blueprint will surely be employed by many of the Pack’s opponents going forward.
As for Glennon, the Heisman “campaign” is over, and if he doesn’t improve against the blitz sometime this season, so will talk of him as a legitimate starter in the NFL. Last year, he showed a hesitance, at times, against the blitz, and nothing’s changed. Those four picks were results of him panicking and trying to do too much with the football. And the 288 yards he put up on 46 attempts? Garbage-time stats. If not for a late run of completions in the fourth, his stat line would look even more shell-shocked. I’ll deservedly eat crow here in terms of his stature against other ACC QBs. But, I still believe he can turn things around and remain an effective option for NC State.
So what happens next? For the Woflpack, it’s time to regroup and get ready for your next opponent. Teams have disappointing early showings all the time, so they aren’t the first team, nor the last team to experience this. They way it gets buried in the rearview mirror, though, is to learn from it and improve upon your mistakes. Did this team allow the hype to get to their heads? I’m not sure. It could’ve just been a case of being badly outplayed on a national stage, thus magnifying the issues for a larger audience. However, if that’s what one of the top four teams in the ACC looks like against a squad that may not finish among the SEC’s top six? Well then it looks like we haven’t moved the needle one bit.
Enjoy today’s games everyone, and have a great Labor Day weekend!