Independence Bowl: NC State 41, Vanderbilt 17, 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017?
NC State’s defense rose up early, and the special teams came through late as the Wolfpack beat Vanderbilt 41-17 in the Camping World Independence Bowl.
The ACC got its strong start
With Boston College getting past Maryland in the Quick Lane, and with NC State blowing out Vanderbilt in the Independence, the ACC passed the big Monday of bowl games with flying colors.
These were two of the league’s iffy bowl teams, but for NC State to close out with a win over North Carolina just to get eligible, and then to rip through an SEC team for a post-season victory, the season all of a sudden turned around late.
Talk all you want about bowl games being meaningless to the overall world of sports, but for head coach Dave Doeren and NC State, after an ugly four-game losing streak, and losing five games in six before the Tar Heel win, winning the Independence makes 7-6 look a lot better than 6-7 – or not going bowling at all.
Some teams just aren’t built to make big comebacks
And Vanderbilt is one of them. Kyle Shurmur had an awful day, completing just 19-of-46 passes for 158 yards with three interceptions, and that all but spelled doom. Ralph Webb and the ground game did a nice job – he ran for 111 yards and a score – but NC State got up 14-3 at halftime, made the big defensive plays in the third, and forced Vandy out of its comfort zone. The Commodores didn’t come up with the explosive plays needed to counterbalance …
Jaylen Samuels & Nyheim Hines
The Commodores couldn’t figure out Samuels, who caught six passes for 104 yards and three scores, highlighted by a weaving 55-yard touchdown play that turned into the backbreaker. Hines caught six passes for 69 yards and ended any Vandy comeback dreams with a kickoff return for a score.
The Wolfpack defense was able to limit everything midrange and didn’t allow anything deep – giving up a few big runs and just one big pass. The State ground game got stuffed, but Samuels and Hines made up for it. They made the plays the Commodores couldn’t get. With just one turnover and several key third down conversions, the State offense did its job.
What’s next for NC State in 2017?
The offense that was ultra-efficient in key stretches, and stunningly poor at odd times, should be solid with the return of QB Ryan Finley and a great group of targets, starting with Nyheim Hines. Dakwa Nicholas and Reggie Gallaspy will combine to try filling the shoes of Matthew Dayes in the backfield, and they’ll have a great line to run behind with four starters back.
The defensive line is certain to lose a few parts early to the NFL, but there aren’t any seniors and the backups are just good enough to keep the production going up front. Losing corner Jack Tocho hurts, and Dravious Wright was a good hitter, but at the moment, six of the top seven tacklers should return.
What’s next for Vanderbilt in 2017?
The offense might have been up until late, but the potential is there to be far, far better. RB Ralph Webb is just a junior, and three starters are back on an okay line. The hope has to be for QB Kyle Shurmur to make a big jump up in Year Three under center, and he should be stronger with all his top receivers coming back.
The defense is almost certainly going to lose LB Zach Cunningham to the NFL, but it he’s back, look out. Adam Butler is gone off the nose, but the rest of the front seven returns intact, including a great rotation at outside linebacker. The secondary might lose star corner Torren McGaster, but the other three starters are back, and they’re all seniors.