Despite some of the same injury issues that plagued last year’s NC State football team recurring this year, the Wolfpack offense this season feels completely different than it did last year.
NC State’s offense has only scored less than 30 points twice this season through eight games, despite facing some strong defenses. Last year, the Wolfpack scored under 30 points in nine of 12 games, a stark contrast despite housing many of the same pieces on offense.
This steep difference in offensive energy is due largely in part to the NC State receiving corps, which has seen a complete shift in results. Senior receiver Emeka Emezie has been the biggest beneficiary of this shift after he had an abysmal year last season, as he already has double the amount of touchdowns he had last season.
After changing his number to Kelvin Harmon’s old number, Emezie was expected to fill the void of former NC State receivers Harmon, Jakobi Meyers and Stephen Louis. Instead, Emezie finished 2019 with just 576 yards and two touchdowns as the No. 1 receiver. After the year, Emezie changed his number back to 86 and already has 515 yards and four touchdowns with three games to go.
Emezie is on pace to eclipse his receiving yard total from last season in nearly 20 less receptions. The senior receiver also has increased his receiving average, going from 10.3 yards per catch to 16.6, a huge difference maker and indication of the sheer amount of big plays Emezie has secured this season.
Emezie isn’t the only receiver to see a huge difference in his level of play. Last year, Emezie, Tabari Hines, Thayer Thomas, Devin Carter and Keyon Lesane, the Pack’s five top receivers from last season, combined for 1,861 receiving yards on 169 receptions, a poor 11 yards per catch average. The five also only combined for seven touchdowns, while, this year, Emezie and Thomas alone have seven touchdowns combined.
This year’s top five most-used wide receivers, Emezie, Thomas, Carter, freshman Porter Rooks and freshman Anthony Smith, have 1,405 yards on 98 receptions and a 14.3 yards per catch average through just eight games. This group has already combined for 10 touchdowns.
This big play ability was capitalized by Thomas’s big game against Florida State, who finished the game with 135 yards on 11 receptions and two touchdowns.
What further bodes well for these Pack receivers is the fact that they have favorable matchups in each of the last three games of the season. While ranked and undefeated, the No. 21 Liberty Flames have allowed six receiving touchdowns in their two games against ACC opponents thus far. Those teams, Virginia Tech and Syracuse, rank dead last in the ACC in terms of passing yards per game and near the bottom of the conference in total passing touchdowns.
Meanwhile, NC State ranks fifth in the conference in passing yards per game and almost has the same amount of passing touchdowns as Virginia Tech and Syracuse do combined.
After Liberty, the Pack gets to play Georgia Tech and Syracuse, with Georgia Tech allowing the most touchdown passes in the conference and Syracuse being average in passing defense.
With these three games, the NC State receivers have a huge opportunity to help the Wolfpack offense finish the year strong and put an exclamation point on what has been an impressive season for this group.