Despite losing star redshirt sophomore linebacker Payton Wilson, as well as graduate safety Cyrus Fagan, for the season due to injury in its last game against Mississippi State, the NC State football team still put on a show on the defensive side of the ball in the 45-7 win over Furman.
Just how good was the Pack’s defensive unit in the blowout win? Let’s take a position-by-position look to find out.
The Pack’s defensive line certainly did its job against the Paladins even if its box-score statistics didn’t pop off the page. First, the D-line contributed three of the Wolfpack’s four tackles for loss, and completely swallowed up the middle, preventing any big runs from popping off. Freshman defensive tackle Davin Vann registered the team’s only sack of the night while redshirt freshman defensive tackle Joshua Harris led the unit in tackles with four.
Still, it would be nice to see the D-line put up numbers in the next few games. Through three games this season, the line only has one sack, and that came in the game against Furman. Most of the pressure on opposing signal-callers has come from the secondary or the linebacking unit, so there are still areas in which the Pack’s D-line could improve.
Losing Payton Wilson, the linebacker who led the ACC in tackles last year, was obviously going to sting. However, if there’s any place on the NC State defense that could “afford” such an injury, it is the linebacking corps.
Against Furman, the linebackers didn’t seem to skip a beat, proving Wilson’s sentiments about the group prior to the season.
“On the defensive side of the ball, we have some of the best leaders I've ever seen like Isaiah Moore, Drake Thomas,” said Wilson at the ACC Media Kickoff in July 2021. “The leadership varies throughout the team. … Everybody throughout the team has the same mission, the same goal, and we're all on the same page.”
The linebackers did a fantastic job of backing up the D-line, and put a significant amount of pressure on Furman’s quarterback, Hamp Sisson. The unit managed to snag four of the Pack’s seven quarterback hurries, while sophomore linebacker Drake Thomas and freshman linebacker Devon Betty each led the team in tackles with seven apiece.
Further, Furman only had 92 rushing yards on 32 carries in the contest, a mere 2.9 yards per carry. Redshirt junior Isaiah Moore and sophomore Jaylon Scott were also fantastic in the win, with each getting up for a pass deflection.
Overall, a fantastic day for a unit that desperately needed some juice following the depressing injury to Wilson.
Like the linebackers, NC State’s secondary did an excellent job of putting up numbers and causing frustration and disruption for the Paladins. Sisson ended the day with just one passing touchdown with one interception and had a disgusting 42.1% completion percentage to go along with just 86 yards in the air.
Graduate cornerback Derrek Pitts Jr. was phenomenal in the win and ended the day with four tackles and a pass deflection. Junior safety Tanner Ingle, senior corner Chris Ingram and sophomore safety Rakeim Ashford each had their moments, but it was junior nickelback Tyler Baker-Williams who came away with the game’s sole interception.
Even more impressive is the fact that the Pack didn’t allow any Furman receiver to get more than 31 yards on the day.
Overall, it was a fantastic week for the NC State defense, as to be expected. However, the Wolfpack will need to set its sights accordingly to next week, when a No. 9 Clemson team with something to prove comes to town.