This was nice. More of this, please. It was nice having a nice, comfortable win. The game at BC was the same way. We could get used to this if half or more of the ACC games are going to be easy breezy wins, no complaints here. I honestly don’t have a ton of “analysis” this week apart from, “that play was good”. The team was clicking on all cylinders (apart from the first quarter).
Let’s jump right into the video tape!
1. The game started weird. There were tons of flags throughout the first quarter. Syracuse got away with a pass interference penalty against Emezie on a big pass play. This turned out to be a preview of NC State’s willingness to take deep shots. Then the State defense gave up one big penalty after another on Cuse’s drive. Daniel Joseph got called for a personal foul. There was a bang-bang roughing the passer penalty on Cory Durden that was borderline, but sure. And a pass interference penalty on Tyler Baker-Williams that was WAY softer than the one Syracuse got away with, but fine. As has happened throughout the season, the defense settles down and forces a punt.
After that, there wasn’t much to write home about in that quarter apart from this Devin Leary run. I was initially going to say this was good recognition on his part to see the wide open space on third and long and take off for the first down. I’ve been mentioning for a while now that the coaches should utilize his wheels a bit more, especially since working with running QB’s is in Tim Beck’s preferred wheelhouse. Upon further review of this play, it seems this was a designed clear out. All the receivers get sent on go-routes, and Grant Gibson steps up to block a remaining spy LB just in case. Smart play... but Leary really needs to work on his slide technique. It’s like he hit a divot in the grass or something.
Moving on to the good stuff.
2. a. Big screen pass play to Bam Knight with blockers leading the way. #50 Gibson and #54 Dylan McMahon create a wall for Bam.
b. Leary got ‘em with the little pump before turning his direction towards the screen. The drive later stalled due to a pocket collapse and giving up a big sack. The drive results in nothing but begins to set the tone for the offense.
3. a. BIG pass to Thayer. I ♥ him. This was set up by the Wolfpack committing to the run early and often. They got Leary out to his right with a sort of rolling pocket.
b. This look to Thayer is a change of pace for the usual slot receiver, I assume this contributed to catching the defense off guard. He’s such a reliable pass catcher that I’m more surprised when he doesn’t catch the ball, which is rare. Leary also throws such a nice teardrop right into the basket.
c. Ricky bouncing back outside for the touchdown gets State on the board. Love the vision, his adjustment, and also the blocking by the receivers adjusting on the fly. I saw a stat that said this was NC State’s first rushing TD in ACC play, and first since LA Tech. Is that right? It goes to show how the redzone offense has shifted so pass heavy, and has been largely successful.
d. On this angle, watch how Ickey blocked two guys at the same time to create the corner, then the receivers realized what was happening and responded with the blocks of their own.
e. Ricky also had the tackle on the ensuing kickoff return. True team players.
f. Mutombo that dude.
4. a. Pick six! Drake Thomas with the interceptino. The pass was almost thrown directly to Drake, who had lightning-fast reflexes to catch it. On the return, Daniel Joseph tripped on Drake’s legs, he went down but Drake didn’t, thankfully.
b. Looks like the classic situation where the QB is looking at his own receiver and doesn’t even see the defender standing right over the middle. Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader would probably like that one back, but no dice.
c. Excuse me, Mr. Thomas, but can you please sign my bone?
That's the team-leading third interception for Drake Thomas this season. Also the first defensive touchdown for the season for NC State.— Cory Smith (@RCorySmith) November 20, 2021
Just go ahead and permanently sign his name on the Turnover Bone at this point. pic.twitter.com/RRSVWH1tej
5. Syracuse RB Sean Tucker with a 55 yard TD that looked easy, with a block from his QB (perhaps a little grabby? Maybe it was okay). This was not fun to watch, but the defense overall limited his damage.
6. a. Bam! Kickoff return TD! Initial cut had very good blocks, that initial one from Jordan Houston gave him the first opening. Then the crowd created a hole, he absorbed contact, spun out of it, and kept his feet. Once he bounced off it was a foot race and they’re not catching him.
b. Besides the blocking, one thing I like here is any time Bam thinks a defender might be coming near, he adds a second hand to the ball. He’s looking to make a big return, but knows securing the ball is paramount.
7. a. Big pass to Devin Carter. This is why we’ve been asking for them to take more shots down field. Good things can happen.
Also, here’s the list of receivers for Leary in this game. The guys have been saying for weeks now that they don’t care who gets the ball, as long as they can all help the team win. Devin Carter is likely to be the primary receiver next year after Emezie leaves, but in this game this was his only catch.
b. The ball was slightly underthrown, but overall can’t complain. I would expect next year this same pass to be a touchdown. Leary has officially been cooking for the last several weeks.
c. Toudle TD! Leary threads the freaking needle.
d. Leary shakes off the sack, keeps his head up for the pass. Seemed like a dangerous pass, and was he throwing it to Emezie but overshot him? I don’t think so, but it seemed like that at first glance. Credit for Chris Toudle cradling it in and maintaining the catch.
8. a. A delay of game and a 10 yard sack led to third and 24. This pickup of 15 yards got them back in FG range. This was a good recovery, good route by Thayer to go 15 yards then stop and turn short of the DB. Little things like this help keep continually putting points on the board.
b. Good to see Chris Dunn back in full swing, pun intended.
9. a. NC State gets the sack. Watch the red jerseys keep their eyes trained on the QB, and shift with the play. Sometimes we get super frustrated with the defensive play calling, but there’s no doubt the guys are trained very well. To the point that I’m lowkey worried Tony Gibson is going to get hired away this offseason. Let’s pretend I didn’t say that.
b. Duck, duck, GOOSE!
10. a. Great play by Leary to hang in the pocket and get a first down to Chris Toudle. The right edge of the pocket folded, by the time he stepped up the LG McMahon had lost his block as well. Even though the hit was coming he still made a good throw to keep the chains moving.
b. Porter Rooks on the corner route for third and 4 completion. They have run this play for Thayer tons of times, including last week. They have now ran it a couple times for Rooks as well. Rooks runs a good route, making a great cut to the outside. This is the benefit of having depth on the team. Rooks went to the Thayer Thomas school of Route Running and his progression is showing. Expect his touches to take a leap next year.
c. Thayer TD. Good call at the right time. Tim Beck showed a lot of offensive variety in this game. I’m trying to just focus on enjoying this game without thinking about what could have been in previous game where the playcalling wasn’t as well done.
d. Good blocks all over. Especially the RT Bryson Speas running the defender out of town.
e. Gimme more.
11. a. Third and 20, NC State brings a blitz. This was the exact situation I complained about last week, yet this time it paid off with a HUGE sack. NC State shows 5 rushers, Drake Thomas at the mike stunts the gap and Vi Jones pulls back to spy. As he drops back he and Tanner Ingle (sorry, “Tingle”) rush in. The amount of ground Jones covers so quickly to close on Schrader is so impressive. If Payton Wilson and Isaiah Moore come back next year and in full health, this LB corps will have stud reserves led by Jones. Get ready for June headlines like “Best LB Group in the Country”.
b. Peek-a-boo! I see you!
12. Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader scored a 48 yard scamper for a touchdown after the game was well in hand. It was a decent play in early garbage time with the game well in hand.
After that, NC State added some extra cushion to the lead with another long drive, going 66 yards in 9 plays and taking 5:00 off the clock, ending in a field goal. This is the type of situation where Doeren has played it very conservatively, running the ball exclusively to milk the clock. yet, this drive was helped by two long pass plays (and a Cuse penalty).
a. Beck has been using these screen passes to the RB’s as extensions of the running game, to great effect.
b. Gibson and McMahon on the blocks again.
c. I love this pass to the second level for Rooks. Everyone saw how wide open Trent Pennix was in the flat so it seemed obvious Leary would go there. But Rooks had made a great cut on the post route, look how he makes his cut just behind the LB, and Leary finds him.
d. Leary hit the LB’s with a pump fake and hit Rooks in stride. This was good play design to have two levels of receivers as options for the QB. Then he decides based on what the defense gives him. Plays like this show his progression with Tim Beck’s offense, time he missed out on last year. After that, an unsportsmanlike penalty on Cuse plus two short runs set up the 21 yard chip shot for Chris Dunn for the final score.
- Bam Knight putting in work. He said he was surprised they kicked to him, as we all were. These types of kickoffs seemed to be common during the Amato era, but almost always were called back because of a block in the back or holding. It’s been nice to see clean blocks and huge runs.
Last @PackFootball player to have 2 KO returns for TDs was 2012, when Tobias Palmer scored vs. Wake Forest and vs. Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl.— Tim Peeler (@PackTimPeeler) November 20, 2021
2. Thomas Bros. putting in work.
#PackFact: Drake (INT return) and Thayer (reception) Thomas both had TDs today, they are the first pair of Pack brothers to both score a TD in the same season since Dave and Don Buckey in 1975.— NC State Football (@PackFootball) November 20, 2021
Whoever does these hype clips for the NC State social media team needs a raise:
3. The defense stifled Syracuse, finishing with 14 TFL’s and 5 sacks.
4. The team scored in all three phases of the game: Offensive, defensive and special teams. Not sure when was the last time that happened. That should be some kind of notable stat, right?
5. One game away from finishing undefeated at home. Doeren noted this was a goal coming into the season, and they’re one game away from finishing that.
We’ll have more to discuss during the week as to all that weighs on the final game vs unc. But for now, let’s just enjoy one of these wins where it seemed like everything was going right. The team is clicking right now. It didn’t seem like that against Wake Forest, but this is a good quad playing at a high level. And there are enough pieces to keep it rolling next year. I for one am enjoying our identity as a football school. I’ll just keep looking at clips of this team from December through March 2022, not like any other major men’s sports are happening at that time...