The NC State football (4-4, 1-3 ACC) team was absolutely dominated by Wake Forest (7-1, 3-1 ACC) Saturday afternoon by a score of 44-10. Redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Leary struggled in his first collegiate start. Both the offense and defense for the Wolfpack were plagued with injury, especially the defense’s secondary which allowed Wake’s QB Jamie Newman to have a field day with 287 passing yards, three passing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns and no interceptions. Even though there were multiple injuries on offense, the Wolfpack underperformed against a weaker Wake Forest defense which recently gave up 62 points to Louisville.
There is no denying the fact that Leary played poorly in his first start at QB. Leary threw for 149 yards and a passing touchdown while completing 17 of his 45 passes for a 37.7% completion percentage. He also threw two interceptions, one coming from a deep ball on double coverage and the other coming from being read by a cornerback on a comeback route.
Despite the poor statistics, Leary did show flashes of his potential, making very tight and accurate passes that the other NC State quarterbacks probably could not have made. He also showed a strong presence in the pocket and extended plays on a few occasions.
Leary’s supporting cast did not help him much either in his first start with injuries causing the Wolfpack to only have one true running back in freshman Jordan Houston. This allowed Wake to sit back in conservative pass defense the entire game with a comfortable lead from dominating on offense. Also, play-calling on passing plays were very questionable at times, with a deep ball to Emezie in double coverage leading to an interception and a wide receiver screen on third-and-13 on the opening drive of the game.
The running back corps started the game with sophomore Ricky Person Jr. already out with a lower leg injury. Freshman running back Zonovan Knight left the game early with an unspecified injury and is questionable to play against Clemson.
Before being injured, Pennix rushed five times for 44 yards while Knight rushed three times for 8 yards. Houston was the only true running back after the injuries and rushed for 48 yards on 11 carries. Houston also had a solid breakaway run for 22 yards where he surprisingly broke off a few defenders. Houston’s speed and lack of strength makes him more of an outside running threat, leaving no inside threat for the Wolfpack after the injuries.
The injuries in the running back position hurt the entire offense, allowing Wake to take advantage of this and sit back in conservative pass defense. This also left the run-game to be one-dimensional with them only able to utilize one speed-back. Despite all of these disadvantages, the Wolfpack still managed to rush for 116 yards compared to Wake’s 123.
The NC State receivers did not have much to work with the inconsistent accuracy that Leary showed and the conservative Wake Forest pass defense. The deep ball was never successful in the game with there only being one reception over 25 yards by redshirt junior tight-end Cary Angeline. Angeline was also the leading receiver for the game, catching three passes for 46 yards. Redshirt freshman receiver Devin Carter followed with four receptions for 44 yards. Junior receiver Emeka Emezie continued to struggle with only four receptions for 30 yards. The team finished overall with 149 receiving yards compared to Wake’s 295.
There could have been better route-running by the wide receivers since they were tightly covered a majority of the game. However, a conservative pass defense and instances of poor play-calling makes it difficult to consistently find open receivers.
The tight-end receiving game was on point with Angeline receiving three passes for 46 yards and being the leading receiver for the team. However, the run-blocking at the position has struggled with the absence of redshirt junior and Captain Dylan Autenrieth caused by a season ending injury.
The tight-end run blocking did contribute more than against Boston College where the Wolfpack rushed for only 56 yards but rushed for 116 against Wake. There was also more production from the tight-ends in the red-zone with the only passing touchdown being caught by Angeline. The tight-end position has somewhat held up its end of the job despite injury.
The offensive line has been the only position to do their job every game this year. They only allowed Leary to be sacked twice the entire game, which could be due to the conservative pass defense implemented by Wake. Their loss of redshirt junior tackle Justin Witt and solid performance shows the depth at the position and could be considered the Pack’s greatest strength on offense. Run-blocking could be better with creating gaps on the inside, but pass protection has been on point as always.
NC State’s pile of injuries continues to build, but there needs to be adjustments made to make the offense more versatile to open up the opposing defense and keep them guessing. Wake Forest was able to take away the NC State’s passing game for the most part by sitting back in pass coverage due to a large lead and lack of running backs.