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Time to give some credit to Bailey Hockman

The junior QB has grown quite a bit when the team needed him to.

North Carolina State v Wake Forest Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Bailey Hockman has been criticized a lot this season, and not a lot of people have had more to say than me. I wrote this after the Virginia Tech loss, the gist of which was a confused and lengthy rant about why it took so long to bench him. And it’s not that the criticisms of the junior signal caller have been invalid. Prior to losing his starting quarterback job, Hockman had largely struggled his whole career at NC State.

The Hockman experiment in 2019 was messy and seemed far from inconclusive. Following an aberration of a first half against Wake Forest in 2020, Hockman completed 11 of his next 27 passes with one touchdown and three picks before he was yanked, seemingly for the last time.

Until he was thrust back onto the field, that is, following the injury to Devin Leary. State had ripped off three straight wins to reach 4-1 and set itself up for a remarkable bounceback season, an accomplishment that now seemed very much in jeopardy if its backup quarterback couldn’t elevate his play.

For the most part, Hockman has answered the bell. Since he was forced back into the starting lineup against UNC, he’s completed 65% of his passes for 1195 yards, 10 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, one of which was absolutely not his fault. That’s a significant improvement from the career numbers prior to UNC, which are an eyesore.

Bailey Hockman Splits

Pre-Leary injury 77 136 56.62% 2 7
Post-Leary injury 98 151 64.90% 11 5

Most importantly, he’s 3-2 since returning to the lineup. Winning games with a backup quarterback is a team effort. State isn’t sending him out there to win the team games, just to do his part, and he’s done that. He balled out against Miami, nearly upsetting a top 15 team, and then played another strong game the following week against FSU. While Liberty was a poor effort from the junior quarterback, the defense picked him up in that game, and then Hockman and his receivers ended up carrying the team across the finish line seven days later against Syracuse.

It’s ironic that Hockman played such a pivotal role in saving State from soiling its bounceback season as the Pack dangled a win in front of a terrible Syracuse team, given that so many of us thought he was the reason it would be ruined. I assume, and hope, Hockman doesn’t read any of the things written about him, but he knows what’s out there. You have to admire a dude who took that level of abuse, saw his career likely end, and then stepped back out there and made the most of it when his team needed him. Now he has a chance to lead NC State to four straight wins to finish the year.

So yes, he’s far from a perfect quarterback. He threw the ball out of the back of his own endzone on Saturday, a strategy that has rarely proven effective. There is a lot of room for him to get better, but Hockman sort of embodies this team. He’ll make his mistakes and shoot himself in the foot, but it’s on to the next play. That’s certainly one area of growth, because I did not get that vibe from him early in his career, and it paid off with a three-touchdown second half on Saturday that featured some really big throws.

Obviously, the offense will have a higher ceiling with Devin Leary, who has so much talent coming out of him that he can’t figure out where to put it anymore. But for now, it’s Hockman’s team, and he’s earned that.