The precarious position of the NC State Wolfpack in the ACC title race got even worse on Saturday as the Syracuse Orange won their first game in their new conference. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Wolfpack were able to tie the game up 10-10 before the Orange ran away with the game, scoring the final 14 points of the game. As NC State looks for reasons for the loss, they can place plenty of the blame on their run defense which disappeared in their 24-10 loss.
Coming into the game, the Wolfpack looked very strong against the run. They hadn’t allowed any team to rush for more than 150 yards in the first five games and were averaging just one rushing touchdown allowed per game. The wins weren’t coming the last few weeks, but it wasn’t because of the rush defense. That certainly changed on Saturday.
Syracuse shredded the Wolpack on the ground, gaining 362 yards as a team with three rushing touchdowns and averaging over nine yards per carry. The Orange had two players rush for more than 100 yards with Jerome Smith (140) and Prince-Tyson Gulley (132) imposed their will on the ground. Gulley was unstoppable, getting his yardage on just nine carries for a ridiculous 14.7 yards per carry and each back broke a run over 50 yards.
Even the quarterback, Terrel Hunt, got into the action for Cuse. He ran the ball 11 times for 92 yards and a touchdown, putting his stamp on a game when the passing attack just wasn’t there. He completed just half his passes (10 for 20) for only 74 yards and threw a pair of interceptions to the Wolfpack defense. But he made up for the complete lack of passing attack with some huge gains on the ground.
If NC State loses the ability to slow down the running game, their poor start to the conference schedule will only spiral more out of control. That defense has to regroup in a hurry and get back to shutting down the running game if the Wolfpack hope to find some wins down the stretch this season.