The NC State football offense had another lackluster performance at Florida State on Saturday, Sept. 28. Following a bye week last week, the Pack will take on Syracuse at home in an 8:00 p.m. Thursday primetime matchup.
NC State quarterbacks vs Syracuse cornerbacks
NC State played all three of their quarterbacks at some point in the game at Florida State.
Redshirt sophomore Matthew McKay, the original starter, was 3 for 7 with 20 yards. Redshirt sophomore Bailey Hockman was then given the job and completed 21 of 40 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter. After a hard hit on Hockman, Redshirt freshman Devin Leary had an opportunity at the position, where he completed 4 of 5 passes for 54 yards.
Earlier today, it was announced that Hockman will be the starting quarterback for this week’s game, and Leary will be the backup. The Pack is looking for a change on offense, and Hockman must make strong, confident throws with the intent of reaching key receivers, rather than just throwing the ball away in an attempt to avoid a sack, something that happened all too often during the first five games of the season. Junior wide receiver Emeka Emezie, redshirt sophomore wide receiver Thayer Thomas and redshirt junior tight end Cary Angeline will need to step up to help the new quarterback.
Syracuse’s defense has let up 280.2 passing yards on average per game. Compared to the 250.2 the Orange normally averages per game, this is an area where NC State could shine if executed correctly.
NC State offensive line vs Syracuse defensive line
The NC State offensive line has continued an average job of protecting its quarterback throughout the season. Against Florida State, they only allowed two sacks and overall kept a decent pocket.
Redshirt junior offensive tackle Justin Witt will be out for the Pack on Thursday after suffering an injury in last week's game. He’s started all five games this season and has been a key part of the Pack’s defensive line. With this loss, graduate student Emanuel McGirt will start at right tackle, and freshman left tackle Ikem Ekwonu will get the opportunity for his first career start.
In five games this season, the Syracuse defensive has recorded 18 sacks with 112 yards lost as well as eight fumbles. The defense is led by senior linebacker Lakiem Williams, who has 16 total tackles and 23 assists on the season, and senior linebacker Andrew Armstrong, who has recorded 15 solo tackles and 12 assisted.
The key for the Pack’s defense will be to continue to create those pockets and limit Syracuse’s sack opportunities, especially with the loss of Syracuse’s defensive backs sophomore Andre Cisco and redshirt sophomore Ifeatu Melifonwu due to injury.
NC State wide receivers vs Syracuse secondary
Working to improve their passing game this week is a key factor in a win for the Wolfpack over Syracuse. In last week’s loss against the Seminoles, sophomore running back Ricky Person Jr. was injured, which means this week’s running game will be led entirely by freshman running backs Zonovan Knight and Jordan Houston.
Combined, all three of NC State’s quarterbacks were able to throw for over 280 yards against the Florida State Seminoles. This week, they’ll be playing against a defense that lets up about that same amount of passing yards on average per game. Emezie, one of the Pack’s star receivers, only recorded one touchdown and 29 yards against the Seminoles. This was the Wolfpack’s only receiving touchdown of the game. Redshirt freshman Devin Carter was the top receiver of the night with 68 yards.
The Orange has a primarily experienced secondary, but with key injuries, as mentioned earlier, the Wolfpack has an opportunity to take advantage and have another great passing game as they have had earlier in the season.