Three quarterbacks are jockeying for NC State football’s starting job, and in the Wolfpack’s annual Kay Yow Spring Game, redshirt sophomore quarterback Matt McKay showed why he’s considered the leader to start come this fall. McKay led all quarterbacks with 182 passing yards and a touchdown on 14-of-24 passing, adding in 28 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
“He’s just comfortable, I think that’s the easiest thing to see,” said head coach Dave Doeren. “He’s not pressing, he’s been through this… He’s just in a more comfortable space than the other guys. These guys gotta catch up, because they’re not as comfortable as him. They all have good skill sets, that’s what you like, but he’s definitely the most comfortable guy.”
McKay struggled in the first quarter, with three passes batted down or deflected, as well as a nice deep ball that redshirt sophomore slot receiver Thayer Thomas couldn’t haul in. In the second half and beyond, McKay settled in, showing off his accuracy with a perfectly thrown 40-yard pass to redshirt junior C.J. Riley.
“I started slow, but I feel like I picked it up,” McKay said. “Just executed my plays, and I feel like I had a couple nice drives.”
Redshirt freshman quarterback Devin Leary established himself as McKay’s closest competition with flashes of great play. Leary went 12 of 23 for the day with 104 yards, a touchdown and an interception, the only turnover of the day. Leary was hot and cold, giving up drive-ending sacks on one possession and leading a touchdown drive on the next.
“I feel like a strength is definitely my arm strength and being able to fit the ball into tight windows,” Leary said. “Something I have to work on is just continuing to improve myself, to develop in gamelike situations, and this is a great first start for me.”
It’s evident that redshirt sophomore quarterback Bailey Hockman is still learning NC State’s system. On his first snap of the game, Hockman attempted to hand the ball off, but there was no running back on that side. Hockman held onto the ball for much longer than the other two signal-callers, often to his detriment. Still, the Florida State transfer settled in and ended his day with 135 yards and a touchdown, bolstered by a 61-yard pitch and catch with redshirt sophomore receiver Max Fisher.
McKay and Leary had strong days, but the duo understands that there is a long way to go until NC State opens the season with ECU on Aug. 31. With summer practices around the corner, the Wolfpack’s QB room has an eye on improvement, especially in game-defining situations.
“I have a lot of room to work on,” Leary said. “There’s a long way to go until the season, but I feel like it was a good first start. Getting out there to compete, being able to actually play in Carter-Finley stadium, I enjoyed myself, but tons of room for improvement, and I’m never satisfied.”