Sophomore running back Zonovan Knight carries the ball up the field at Carter-Finley on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. Knight had eight carries that totaled 37 yards throughout the game. The Wolfpack won 41-17 over the Orange.

It was quite the well-rounded performance for the NC State football team as it scored touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams in a 41-17 win over the Syracuse Orange.

It took a little bit of time for the NC State offense to get going, but after scoring its first touchdown on offense just after the midway point of the second quarter, the Pack scored a touchdown on a pick-six and kick return before the offense even got the ball back.

The offense accounted for 27 of the team’s 41 points, taking care of business after the defense and special teams opened the game up.


Redshirt sophomore quarterback Devin Leary completed 17 of 24 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns in the win. He has now thrown for 300-plus yards in each of the last five games, becoming the first NC State quarterback to do so since Russell Wilson, and his QBR of 91.6 was his highest of the season.

Two huge pass plays by Leary set up scoring drives for the Pack in the second quarter, the first being a perfectly thrown 49-yarder to redshirt junior wide receiver Thayer Thomas, and the other being a 58-yard bomb to redshirt sophomore Devin Carter. The latter play set up a wild 19-yard touchdown from Leary to redshirt freshman wide receiver Chris Toudle, which essentially put the nail in the coffin as the Pack went up 28-7 at the half.

Leary accounted for one more touchdown on a dump pass to Thomas for an 8-yard score, capping off another efficient day as he is now four passing touchdowns away from breaking Philip Rivers’ single-season record.

Grade: A

Running backs

The Pack totaled 96 yards on the ground, the most since its 31-30 loss to Miami. Junior running back Ricky Person Jr. scored the lone touchdown on the ground, a 15-yard scamper after the long pass play from Leary to Thomas for the game’s first points. Person also led the team in rushing with 50 yards on 12 attempts.

While sophomore running back Zonovan Knight stole the show with his electrifying 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, this is the offensive grades, not the special teams grades, so he will be evaluated on his eight-carry, 37-yard rushing performance. It is worth mentioning though, while on the subject, that in the last two games, Knight has five kickoff returns for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, and his return on Saturday was the third for a score in his career at NC State, breaking a school record.

Grade: B

Wide receivers

The NC State wide receivers were responsible for the big plays that got the offense going. Thayer Thomas hauled in the long pass from Leary that got the crowd into the game and gave the team a spark, while Devin Carter made a great catch on a slightly underthrown deep ball that set up what was essentially the game-sealing touchdown just before halftime.

Toudle made a great catch on the half-ending touchdown, and a total of nine players had receptions.

Grade: A

Offensive line

The offensive line gave up two sacks but was responsible for paving the way for the NC State running backs, who had one of their better performances in conference play. One play the unit might want to have back was a turnover on downs in which redshirt sophomore running back Trent Pennix failed to pick up a first down on a fourth down carry, and there was a costly false start penalty on another fourth down in the first quarter, but other than that, the O-line did its job in the trenches.

Grade: B

Senior Sports Writer

I'm Ben Ellis. I am in the NC State Class of 2023 majoring in history. I've been writing for Technician since November of 2019.