We’re eight games into this much anticipated football season and about three years worth of drama has already unfolded. NC State won a hilarious football game at ECU less than two months ago and it might as well have occurred in a totally different season at this point. Remember Devin Leary and Demie Sumo-Karngbaye? Where are we? How did we get here?
For a football team that took perhaps the least interesting approach to the game possible this season, it sure has produced an eventful stretch of college football. Three different quarterbacks have now won games for NC State, but only one has won a game as a starter. It doesn’t get a lot weirder than that.
Everybody’s college football fairy tale is coming off the bench as a backup quarterback and leading your team to a comeback win. State has done this twice in the last three games. One of these guys is a true freshman who did not enroll early. He started learning the offense in August. The other is a 25-year-old walk-on. Both took full control of the offense trailing in the second half and led three scoring drives to win the game. Chambers did it without completing a pass. Morris completed 20 for 265 yards and three touchdowns. Two remarkably similar stories that could not be more different.
All of this occurred within three games following State’s first ever top-10 matchup and second ever appearance on College GameDay. For a program that seems to be eternally under the thumb of mediocrity, this sure ain’t boring.
State has basically had to reinvent itself twice already this season, once when Devin Leary went down and then again when the coaching staff finally understood that it wasn’t going to win games 9-6 all year. The roller coaster ride this program has been on since the morning of October 1st makes so little sense that it would probably cause a lesser team to just get confused and wander off. Is NC State good? Is NC State bad? Has the coaching staff done a great job with these players? Has the coaching staff totally dropped the ball this year?
This team is so full of grit and spunk, it’s 3-0 in one-possession games against all odds. It should have lost all three. State’s resiliency over the last three years is a testament to the coaching staff, the same coaching staff that talked all offseason about taking what was theirs and then proceeded to refuse to move even one chip to the center of the table.
This whole attitude of “don’t make a mistake and let the defense and special teams compliment the offense, and that will be enough” just doesn’t instill a lot of confidence in the players. If you really believe in the defense, you’re willing to live with them in a few bad spots in the interest of actually creating offense. This approach was manageable enough with Devin Leary, but State morphed into this terrified, ultra-conservative shell of an offense following his injury. It didn’t help matters that it actually managed to beat Florida State playing this way.
Thursday’s 18-point deficit finally forced them to actually try stuff again, and M.J. Morris bailed them out by randomly throwing the ball like the gun-slinging Devin Leary we watched in 2020. This kid showed up in the second half like he had been-there done-that and immediately started firing the ball into tiny windows.
Being down to your third-string quarterback is a terrifying proposition when you’re beholden to field position and the turnover margin, but when you stop overcoaching and let the players play the game, good things can happen. And in the blink of an eye, it was a totally different team again.
The thing that stands out about the Virginia Tech game is that State earned it too. UNC in 2021 and Florida State this year were wild comebacks, but both efforts were supplemented by an outrageous implosion on the other sideline. The Florida State game didn’t instill a great deal of optimism, mostly just a sense of survival. Thursday felt different. State went out and took this game from Virginia Tech, and yeah, Virginia Tech is crap, but there’s no such thing as an unimpressive 18-point comeback. M.J. Morris came out and snatched the game, and now we’re all eager to see how far an 18 year-old kid who was supposed to redshirt can take this team, just like we all expected.
NC State is baffling this year. How it managed to be this bad on offense and how it managed to win some of these games despite that are both things with valid explanations that still create more questions than answers. State’s final four drives on Thursday were the first instances of offense against a power five defense all year that didn’t feel like the team was trying to play in quicksand, and it came out of absolutely nowhere.
So this is where we are now, the hope has returned after seemingly evaporating for the fourth time this year. Big things are still on the table for State, but I’m not even going to venture a guess as to what happens next, because it’s probably going to be weird.