After a start that would be kind to call rocky, NC State gave itself a chance to salvage its season by not losing to Syracuse and getting to 1-1 in the ACC. That chance was dealt a significant setback on Saturday when the Pack got ran out of town by Boston College.
Following two weeks of quarterback play from Bailey Hockman that could accurately be described at “not terrible,” the hope would be that his third game as the primary signal-caller would continue an upward trajectory. Instead, it went off a cliff.
Hockman was so bad on the first two drives that it was physically painful to watch. It was disheartening how utterly shellshocked the quarterback looked after essentially two full games of him not looking like that. State didn’t sniff a running game all day either, so the offense was dead in the water from the very first play.
Despite the horrible start, the game could have been tied at 10 deep into the second quarter, which would have felt incredibly fortunate as a State fan. In fact, it probably should have been. Hockman had Thomas on fourth-and-goal on the Pack’s third drive, but threw the ball into the stratosphere instead, and linebacker Isaiah Moore had David Bailey stopped to set up a 3rd and long for BC that likely results in a punt. Moore missed the tackle and Bailey housed it. Missed tackles would then become a theme.
Devin Leary was the lone bright spot
It was eventually Devin Leary time because what the hell else was State going to do, and hey! This kid can play! It was actually a pretty dang impressive performance. His completion percentage wasn’t great, but there’s context for that. Mainly, his receivers dropped like five passes and State was already behind by multiple touchdowns when he came in, which means it’s time to take your shots.
One of the first things you notice about Leary is his ball placement is very advanced for a Freshman. He’s good at putting the ball where only his guy has a chance at it, and that, along with throwing accurate passes in general, is something only he has displayed the ability to do so far.
Leary is obviously the guy for the rest of the season, and any other decision would be malpractice after Saturday. It’s fair to question what took so long for a guy who so clearly looks like the best quarterback to get to QB1. It’s not really fair to assume the reason, and ultimately it doesn’t matter now. It is what it is and he is the guy.
NC State lost the battle in the trenches, so it lost the game
Boston College was not in the business of trying to fool NC State. There was not a lot of complexity to their game plan, especially with a backup quarterback they don’t trust. BC had a couple of creative screens as wrinkles for when it needed them, but State was up against a team that it needed to go toe-to-toe with at the line of scrimmage. State’s toes were nowhere to be found.
State’s defensive front, which was dominant over the last two games, was anti-dominant on Saturday. They were straight-up pushed around by BC, which exposed the Pack’s dominance at the line of scrimmage as something at least partially fueled by the ineptitude of previous opponents. The Eagles basically opened up holes at will, and the Pack’s complete inability to tackle at the second level turned good runs into touchdown runs.
The Eagles were perfectly content bringing in as many blockers as it legally could and just moving the Pack front out of the way, because there was no reason for them do anything else. It was total dominance. Boston College blocked well, State did not get off those blocks, and when it did, nobody could tackle the running back anyway.
When you play a 3-3-5, you sacrifice some strength and size upfront for some more speed at the second level of the defense. That can benefit you a lot against a spread team, and it can hurt against a team that wants the play the game in a phone booth like it’s 1962. That matters, but it ain’t the reason why BC rushed for 429 rushing yards, or State had exactly the same number of missed tackles.
The Pack also lost at the line of scrimmage on offense. Pass protection was a nightmare early in the game and there was nowhere to run the football for about the whole 60 minutes. The latter was a problem last year that made State one-dimensional last year, and despite some positive early returns, it looks it is heading that way again. The difference, of course, is that Ryan Finley and Kelvin Harmon are not there to bail everyone out.
This game hurts very badly because the most likely scenario now involves the Pack falling to 1-4 in the conference. Wake Forest isn’t actually very good, but those receivers are going to be a lot to handle for NC State’s eighth-string cornerbacks. Clemson, well. With sound quarterback play, there is a chance for State to still win a few down the stretch and get to a bowl, but it’s hard to see either of the next two falling into the win category.
- Yeah I don’t really have anything else. Let’s just move on.