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Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Instant analysis: Champs Sports Bowl

By Brian Bennett

Instant analysis of the Champs Sports Bowl, where NC State beat No. 22 West Virginia 23-7:

How the game was won: Did the coaching chaos of the past few weeks distract West Virginia? Possibly. Were the Mountaineers hurt by the loss of top cornerback Brandon Hogan (injury) and starting center Joe Madsen (academics)? Definitely. West Virginia was out of sync all night on offense and special teams (two missed field goals), while Russell Wilson did a magnificent job of spreading the ball around to lead NC State to the most points scored against the Mountaineers' defense all season.

Player of the game: Wilson. The Wolfpack quarterback completed 28 of 45 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns as NC State looked to pass a lot on first and second down to loosen up Jeff Casteel's defense. Wilson, as expected, extended plays with his mobility, especially on his final touchdown throw after he eluded Bruce Irvin and J.T. Thomas to find a receiver in the back of the end zone.

Turning point: You could say it was when Madsen failed to make his grades. The West Virginia offensive line certainly suffered, with guard Eric Jobe forced to move to center. NC State got in Geno Smith's quarterback face all night, and outgoing Mountaineers' offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen had few options as a result.

Stat of the game: 5-0. That was the turnover margin, in NC State's favor. The Mountaineers were plagued all year by turnovers, a major reason why they lost to Syracuse and Connecticut in Big East play. They lost four fumbles, and Smith threw an interception. Speaking of which ...

Play of the game: NC State's Brandan Bishop made a spectacular diving interception at the West Virginia 10 in the fourth quarter as Smith tried to hook up with Jock Sanders. Had the pass worked, the Mountaineers could have cut the lead to 16-14 with plenty of time left. But Bishop wasn't having that.

What it means: Paging Dana Holgorsen ... The Champs Sports Bowl illustrated every reason why Oliver Luck decided to change directions with this program. The Mountaineers looked ill-prepared and unable to sustain anything on offense. West Virginia's goal this year was to reach the 10-win mark, but instead the team finished 9-4 for the third straight time under Bill Stewart. One has to wonder how much better things will be next year with the coaching transition and with all the important seniors the Mountaineers lose. This was the highest-ranked team in the Big East (or the only ranked one, depending on which poll you use), and West Virginia laid a big egg for the conference.