Hey there, Wolfpack faithful. For many years, your Sunday morning BTP check in has beckoned you to feast your eyes on “The Morning After with Omega” feature. This day-after musing was designed to be a “cold take” that explored Pack football in greater depth than the lightning-fast game story Steven Muma provides (literally seconds after the game is over; seriously, does he prewrite 1,000 different outcomes and then select the most appropriate one?). It is good to let the body process the alcohol and take a breath before delving in, but the “good, bad, and ugly” format—and the seemingly never-ending bullets—was growing a bit stale and unwieldy (or tl;dnr for you kids in the audience). In the same “cold take” spirit, this year I’ll be offering up a truncated version of the morning after I’ve dubbed “Mixed Six with Omega.” It’s all the same goodness—just shorter—and now with alcohol!
Here’s your mixed six and a parting shot from the Pack’s 24-13 win over James Madison.
First beer—Three Notch’d Brewery’s Jack’s Java Espresso Stout: Let’s give JMU its due by starting off with a craft beer from the state for lovers. It’s good to be able to combine caffeine and alcohol to properly pregame for a nooner. The Dukes allowed a ridiculously low 11.1 points per game last season, and I think we can all see why. Despite some attrition from last year’s squad, an injury to its top corner, and a suspension to its most productive defensive end, JMU held NC State to just 24 points. The Pack averaged better than 32 points per game a year ago. The Dukes made the Pack one dimensional by stuffing the run game; State managed just 83 yards rushing on a paltry 2.9 yards per attempt.
Second beer—NCSU Brewery’s Brickyard Red: Ryan Finley is a bit of a ginger, thus the choice of Dr. Sheppard’s inhouse red brew. Finley was just fine, thank you, and then some. The cagey vet completed 29 of 43 attempts for 309 yards, two touchdowns, and nary a pick to pace a Pack offense that was playing without wideout Stephen Louis and a running game. State came away with just three points in its first two red zone trips, which dredged up memories of red zone bugaboos past, but Finley was excellent after that, hitting Thayer Thomas and C.J. Riley for scores to put the Pack up 10 at intermission.
Third beer—Highland Brewery’s Mandarina: On a 90-degree day with a heat index bumping 100, sometimes you need a crisp, refreshing brew (with just 5% ABV) that you can go to over and over. Mandarina is that brew. Jakobi Meyers is the beer equivalent at wide receiver. Finley found Meyers, who was clearly playing much of the game exhausted and banged up but kept answering the bell, 14 times for 161 yards. Pack wideouts combined for 315 yards receiving, which is playing to your strength, though it’s a little concerning that Pack tight ends and running backs combined for one catch for -6 yards. (I miss you JaySam.)
Fourth beer—Deschutes Brewery’s Fresh Squeezed IPA: Ben DiNucci squeezed everything he could out of an NC State defense that was in full bend but don’t break mode. (Deschutes is located in Bend, Oregon; see what I did there?) DiNucci completed his first 15 throws (!) and led the Dukes in rushing with 79 yards, mostly on broken contains on QB scrambles, but he couldn’t cash in on red zone opportunities. The Dukes reached the red zone five times but managed just one TD and two (gutless) 19-yard field goals. Redshirt freshman Ibrahim Kante was instrumental in thwarting a pair of drives with the first two sacks of his career, including one which forced a fumble that was recovered by Eurndraus Bryant (more on that later). JMU moved the ball but ultimately were held without a TD after the first quarter and tallied a pedestrian 5.4 yards per play. Germaine Pratt didn’t make any big plays but was in on 12 stops, and newcomers Isaiah Moore (10 tackles) and Larrell Murchison (four tackles, 1.5 for a loss) looked ready for primetime.
Fifth beer—Mikkeller Brewing’s Big Picture: The UNC fan in your office will politely ignore the Heels’ inability to convert a single first down in the first half against a meh Cal team and try to rag on you for the Pack’s inability to blowout an FCS team, but don’t forget that JMU was 28-2 over the last two seasons (including a natty) and finished 44th in the Sagarin ratings last year, 27 spots ahead of the sheep (and ahead of 27 other power five schools). The Dukes have a really good program regardless of classification, and 1-0 is the first step to 15-0.
Sixth beer—forgotten Natty Ice plucked from a cooler of lukewarm water: We really need to work on ball security with Big E. He’s now robbed us of two potential fat guy touchdowns with those butterfingers (remember the BC game a couple of years ago?). Okay, so he probably wasn’t going 90 yards to the house, but I was so crestfallen when the ball slipped from his fingers. But that was nothing compared to what I felt when he got crunched in the head area and ended up getting taken off via the Deere after he fumbled his recovered fumble. Bryant has been a productive player when his number has been called, and the guy donates his time and money to feed the homeless. He deserves to have his time to shine as a senior, and while his injury left a bitter taste in our mouths (like a warm Natty Ice), the good news is that he made it back to the sidelines after X-rays on his neck were negative. He said he could play. I believe him, and I believe he’ll be back. State had a lot of injury woes, with Bryant, Meyers, James Smith-Williams, and Terronne Prescod all hobbled at points during the game (and Louis and Stephen Griffin unable to go at all). Hopefully everyone will be ready to line up next Saturday.
Parting shot—Coa reposado tequila (seriously, pick up a bottle): NC State played a game JMU squad with a brand-new front seven and without the services of Jaylen Samuels (sniffle) and Nyheim Hines, and it escaped with the “W” without too much drama. There are certainly justified concerns about the running game and intermediate passing game without those two, but Georgia State offers the perfect opportunity to develop some more weapons for Finley. Apologies for bulletin board material, but Georgia State is not particularly good at footballing. The Wolfpack will be 2-0 in a week’s time, and 2-0 is the second step to 15-0.