Welcome back to the Film Room! Sorry for the gap in this
long short-running series. These are fun to do, just tough when I also have to at least make the attempt at being a father IRL.
Bottom Line up Front: I think we were all very happy with the version of Bailey Hockman that showed up against FSU last weekend. I’m hoping he doesn’t reach that Markell Johnson territory of “which Bailey will show up?” status, but if THIS Bailey shows up in every game down the stretch, NC State could be at 8 wins and that is not something many people predicted prior to the season even WITH Devin Leary at QB.
My impression with his passing is less about the completion percentage, and more about the WAY he’s passing. He was candid in his pregame interviews this week talking about how he felt the game was slowing down now that he’s gotten a lot of real game reps. He reminded the media that he’d missed a lot of time during the transfer process, and hadn’t seen much in-game action for quite a while. He attributed his struggles early on to just needing more reps. If reps is what he needs, then reps he shall have.
Hockman started off 8 for 8 with a TD on the first drive. He was clearly locked in and focused. Perhaps he knew there was chatter about him being benched for Finley Jr. if things went south. Or maybe the coaches assured him the job was his and he could go out there and calmly execute. Regardless, there was a lot to like, especially on this drive.
Second play of the game, first pass:
The LB shifts slightly to his right, opening up a very tight passing lane for Thayer Thomas on the slant (more on him to come). I showed a very similar clip earlier in the season of Devin Leary making a very similar pass, noting that this is the type of timing we had been missing with Bailey Hockman. Now, if you’re going to nit-pick you can say the pass was a hair late and a smidge outside when it should have been inside to help with YAC, but it is a marked improvement over passes we’d seen earlier in Hockman’s tenure.
Play action, safety blitz is coming. The pocket collapses as they were all playing the run, and Thayer picks up the first down on a short post. Watch Bailey snap has feet back to set after the play action, he’s moving much more decisively and even though the pocket is falling apart he’s not panicking looking for the run.
BUT, immediately after this the pocket completely imploded and Hockman gets blown up for a 10 yard sack. Good thing for him he has one of the best safety valves in college football:
Thayer Thomas bobbles the pass at first as he has a dude wrapped around his waist. Then he still has the presence of mind to stay with the ball and come down with it in traffic. I wish I was good at youtube (I’m barely good at making gifs) because I would make a super cut of all his great catches. Career day for Thayer, I hope he’s here for another 10 years.
That pass set up arguably Bailey Hockman’s play of the game (his career?) on this 3rd and 12:
I’m not sure what was up with the offensive line in this game, but the pocket was unstable most of the night. Credit to Hockman to doing the one thing everyone said Devin Leary was better at than he was: stepping UP in the pocket. This is really hard for QB’s to do, because it’s counter intuitive in the moment. You see a rush of bodies coming at you, so why would you think this is the direction I should be going? Because inevitably the space they have just left to run at you is now unoccupied. He slips, puts his hand to regain his footing, and keeps pushing forward to find Thayer (again with this guy) for a huge first down.
Watching it in real time I was sure he’d crossed the line of scrimmage before passing. Upon review, honestly I think his toe is over the line, but hey they didn’t call it so FIRST DOWN.
This drive ended with a sweet TD catch and run by Emeka Emezie:
This was on 1st and 20, mind you. Both LB’s bite on the play action. The CB is playing very soft coverage for some odd reason. Hockman has man coverage for his best wideout, who is just standing there waiting for the pass. Even before the pass it’s very poor defense by FSU. Then Emezie does the shake and bake to make two guys miss to dive in for the TD. The way he cradles the ball as he falls in the endzone makes me wonder if he still has flashbacks to that fumble on the goalline in Winston his freshman year. He was over the line that time, btw.
I feel bad for the intern responsible for cleaning Mike Norvell’s face mask. Ugh. I hope they just trash that thing after the game.
This next play after this display of grossness is very interesting. Another of the criticisms of Hockman has been downfield arm strength. He showed this in the Miami game, he had a play where he motioned the receiver to go long as if they’re playing in the backyard.. and then really under threw the pass.
The ball is on the 35, Hockman rolls back to the 45 to get space, then throws it the full 45 yards in the air to Emezie. The FSU DB doesn’t around to look at the ball, forces contact, easy DPI call. At first glance, this looks like an impressive show by Hockman to get the ball way down field and put either his receiver or the referee to make a play or throw a flag, respectively. Upon watching this gif 20 times, it does seem like if the pass had been thrown just a yard or two further along that same line then it could have resulted in a TD. Maybe he shouldn’t have run 5 yards back from where he was already 5 yards back in shotgun? He was also getting consistent pressure, so it was likely by design to get space and also allow Emezie time to get down there.
This drive ended on turnover on downs with Ricky Person getting stopped on 4th down at the 10 yard line. I don’t mind this call, even though many fans were yelling “take the points!” Well, lots of fans were complaining about Dave taking his foot off the gas and not trying to score touchdowns instead of playing for field goals. Obviously the situations are different, this was not 10 point lead in the 4th quarter against the #11 team on the country who was on the ropes. But I digress.
This might actually be the most impressive play for me. First of all, solid protection. Ricky Person lands a last second block on the OLB coming on a delayed blitz. Cary Angeline is not the best blocking TE but holds up his end of the line without holding.
Then, Hockman (a leftie) rolls to his right, faints like he’s going to throw to Thayer underneath then squares his body all the way around and throws to the crossing Emezie.
This super blurry picture does a horrible job showing how tight this window was in:
The DB was right freaking there:
Now, it was a VERY good pass. Was it risky? Yeah, probs. State was only up 7-0 at the time, and seemed to be playing with fire a little bit. But it’s also the borderline dicey plays that can break a defense. Obviously we’re okay with it since it worked out, but it makes me nervous if this is the line we’re going to walk with Hockman moving forward.
A few weeks ago all anyone was expecting out of him was “game manager”. Well, that’s no longer suitable for winning as the offensive line blocking has been questionable, resulting in an inconsistent run game. So the team needs Hockman to step up and do a Devin Leary impersonation, throwing these types of passes.. ESPECIALLY in these 3rd down situations. I would rather have these types of plays then the predictable run up the middle on 3rd down to get stuffed play we’ve seen this year. I’m not pooping on the run game fully, I give Bam Knight some love below. But if winning the last 4 games is going to happen, it will be on Bailey Hockman’s arm rather than the RB’s legs. Therefore, he needs to get used to these kinds of throws.
Case in point, that specific throw set this up 2 plays later:
Obviously, great route by Thayer and great quick release by Hockman to get the ball out of there. But that’s not really what sold this play. Let’s back it up:
Safety blitz, but they start telegraphing it a second before the snap. This opens open the passing lane underneath for Thayer. It happened to be the perfect route for the situation even though they didn’t know the safeties would blitz.
The thing that really sells this play is the play action. Watch how the safeties bite on the run, converge on Person before realizing it too late they gave Hockman the extra half second he needs. The play still came very close to a sack. Bailey throws the ball on his back foot, but still accurately.
Touchdown, Wolfpack. Rock the baby:
The next sequence for Hockman I’ll show is a 3rd and 10, 5:56 left in the 2nd quarter:
This is the type of scrambling we saw a lot of in the early Hockman era. He was very quick to quit on plays and take off. He did not do that as much against Miami of FSU. On this play, the pocket again collapses and there’s no good options down field so he tucks it and tries to dive for the 1st down.
He ends up just short of the 1st down so I really like the fact that they ran right back up to the line for a quick snap without hesitation. In the past, this may have been a spot to take a timeout and talk about it, but Tim Beck knew they could take advantage of the defense not getting the chance to reset:
You can see all the confusion on the defense, they may not have been expecting NC State to go for it on 4th down and especially not so fast. This led to a mismatch and Porter Rooks was open for the WR screen pass. Now, it didn’t work because Devin Carter commits an egregious holding penalty, knocking the Pack back 10 yards and forcing a punt. BUT, I like the hustle, I like the aggressiveness, and I like the continued inclusion of Porter Rooks. Get him and Carter more looks, they are the future at WR. Rooks did have a nice end-around later in the game:
CARY ANGELINE SIGHTING!!
Seriously, though, speaking of getting more looks, you’ve got this massive 6’7” target, try to get him some more targets. I do appreciate that Beck has included him more than the previous play callers, so can’t complain too much. This play is similar to one above. Much better pocket protection, and just a great throw at the right spot by Hockman. It wasn’t particularly risky, just a solid 20 yard downfield completion. He had a second 20 yarder later. 2 catches for 40 yards is a pretty good average. More, please.
I definitely don’t want to knock the running game too much. All credit goes to those goes for earning every yard they do. I especially loved this run by Bam Knight for the TD:
A giant hole gets opened up by the offensive line, led by Ikem Ekwonu as usual. Ikey loves getting those pancake blocks, and he loves blocking guys TWICE on the same play just for good measure. It’s the “get down and stay down” mentality that I really appreciate. Also hats off to CJ Riley for the good downfield block to ensure this was a scoring run, not just a first down. Let’s slow it down:
Last but not least, this 24 yard TD by Thayer is a great example of the variation Tim Beck has brought to this team:
Thayer finished with 11 catches for 135 yards and 2 TD. A career night, indeed!
This play was on 3rd & 9, mind you (good blocking by Angeline, must say). This snapshot during the game really says it all:
The biggest jump there is obviously the redzone TD rate. Just seeing this number skyrocket has been the biggest factor in the team’s improvement this year. I hope the administration can do what it can to keep Beck paid and happy so he doesn’t get any wandering eyes. His prime recruit in Aaron McLaughlin is coming in next year, so I would be surprised if he left any time soon. But that’s not going to stop me from worrying.
Well that about wraps up another edition of the Film Room. Hope you enjoyed it, let me know your thoughts! As usual, I apologize for the grainy AF gif’s. They look clean on my computer but get pixelated when uploaded for some reason.