NC State football report card vs. Maryland: Who got a D as Wolfpack struggled in Mayo Bowl?

David Thompson
The Fayetteville Observer

CHARLOTTE – NC State football ended its season with a 16-12 loss to Maryland on Friday afternoon in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

The Wolfpack (8-5) finished a win short of its fourth nine-win season in the last six years and remained without a bowl game victory since 2017 while failing to score a touchdown against the Terrapins.

Here’s how we graded the performance.

RECAP:What went wrong as NC State football falls flat in loss to Maryland at Duke's Mayo Bowl

FAB 5:Fab 5: NC State football will miss these seniors most next season

Offense: C-

Sure, the Wolfpack were missing key pieces including two All-ACC linemen and a handful of skill position players, but too much was put on quarterback Ben Finley in his second career start. Finley threw the ball 48 times while the running game produced a meager 27 yards on 18 attempts. Chris Dunn scored all 12 points on field goals as NC State squandered its best touchdown-scoring chance with three throws from the 2-yard line in the second quarter. Finley also threw two picks, including the final pass of the game to Darryl Jones which was picked off by Maryland’s Jakorian Bennett. The offense went 5 of 18 on third-down conversions and was held to under 300 total yards.

Defense: B+

The defense has been the backbone of NC State’s success this season and the final game was no different. The Wolfpack defense held Maryland to 16 points and forced starting quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa into two interceptions and under 100 yards rushing. The trio of linebackers, Drake Thomas, Isaiah Moore and Payton Wilson combined for 32 tackles, three sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss. Thomas and Moore are gone next season with Wilson still waiting to decide if he’ll return, transfer or head to the NFL.

Special teams: A+

Dunn, the recent winner of the Lou Groza award for the best placekicker in the country, scored all of NC State’s points for the second time this season. Both games ended in a loss.

Coaching: D

Give credit to Dave Doeren for keeping MJ Morris out of the game and protecting the future at quarterback instead of risking his health. Besides that, it’s hard to find a lot of compliments, particularly on the offensive end of the field. NC State could’ve found some creativity, especially on their rare opportunities near the end zone, that may have sparked the offense and lifted Finley’s confidence. It became obvious in the second half that the offense didn’t have enough to win, and the coaches didn’t do enough to change that outcome.

Overall: C-

The outcome of this game doesn’t change much about the future, but like mayo (at least for some people), this loss will leave a bad taste in the mouths of fans heading into the offseason.