The 2023 version of NC State premiered at UConn on Thursday, and things went mostly well. There were a few areas that they went as expected, and others not so much. Let’s go over some pros and cons, shall we?
Neither Pro nor Con
New quarterback Brennan Armstrong carried the load, not unexpectedly. He falls into both the pros and cons. As the season progresses, one would think he will need to find ways to avoid wear and tear. During his breakout season in 2021 at UVA, he was that team’s leading rusher, so it’s no surprise he had that tendency to tuck it and run. With 19 carries for 96 yards, I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or not yet. At first I thought that someone with his advanced tenure, he should have a bit more patience to wait for things to develop. Upon further review, it was disappointing that the offensive line didn’t seem to hold their own against a team like UConn. Not getting push up front against a non-Power 5 (I guess Power 4, now?) opponent in a season opener is a harrowing reminder of last year, and doesn’t quite bode well.
This TD run shows that Armstrong can pull a good result out of a bad situation, thus why this is in the “Neither” category.
As for the air attack, Armstrong’s 155 yards are a far cry from the 400 he averaged two years ago. Nobody expects him to reach those high heights, but the Wolfpack will need a lot more than the 17 completions he finished with in order to compete in the ACC, not to mention only attempting 26 passes. The team did enough offensively to win, and hopefully there is room to grow. I may not be a football expert, just a guy with a laptop and a TV, but I think your QB shouldn’t have more rushing attempts than completions in order to be successful long term. Food for thought.
As for some good things to mention,
Trent Bradley Rozner is going to have himself a year as long as he gets WAY more than the two targets he got in the game. The guy has been in school for 13430329 years (approximate), and while he had only had one reception, this 14 yard catch looks like a flash of good things to come. While moving to his right, Armstrong high pointed the ball to a streaking Rozner to pick up a third down conversion. We were expecting a full out air raid attack with Robert Anae’s offense. While we didn’t get that, as the second half wore on, we did see glimpses of what could be in store if these kinds of plays are in the book.
Julian Gray needs more touches, we’ve been known this. He had 3 targets for 2 receptions, a long of 9 and 14 yards total. But this 40 yard return in the third quarter showed what he’s capable of in space.
This Delber Mimms TD showed that the Pack can run the ball in the red zone. It took several tries and a DPI to get a new set of downs, but the team was able to punch the ball in to go up 10 in the second half. The stat of the night was that NC State had 8 rushing TDs all last season, and had 3 in this game. We expected these red zone attempts to go through the air, but ultimately I don’t really care how it gets there, just put the ball in the endzone. The blocking on this play was superb, with fellow RB Demarcus Jones sealing the edge against two opponents so Mimms can waltz in. He might have gotten in witout it, but this commitment is a good sign for these types of situations.
The loss of Demi Sumo will be felt this season, but Mimms could really help to balance out the running attack with Jordan Houston and Michael Allen. I wouldn’t be surprised to see more of these short yardage attempts go to him moving forward.
- Late in the game, Armstrong found a wide open Terrel Timmons. This third down could have led to a potentially game clinching first down, but the oopsie-dropsies kicked in. These drops along with average offensive line play will hamper a potential passing attack as the season progresses.
2. On the opening drive of the season, the NC State defense allowed UConn to drive straight down the field and proceeded to give up a 31 yard touchdown run only saved by the QB stepping out of bounds. We knew the defense would take some time to replace the likes of Isaiah Moore, Drake Thomas and Tanner Ingle, but it’s surprising to see them so consistenly out of position.
3. So you got a mulligan after he stepped out, so you’re going to seal all the gaps and not allow a gashing run again, right? Right...? Wrong, apparently.
4. After the other big runs, this third quarter run is pretty much unacceptable. If this becomes a trend then hold on to your butts this year. We got spoiled by the sixth sense that Drake Thomas had to sniff out runs and stuff them before they got started. Payton Wilson is a phyiscal beast, but he benefitted by playing alongside Thomas who had the overall higher game IQ. If we could somehow merge that IQ into Wilson’s physical abilities, we might have an all American LB.
Also, not having Ingle back there to clean things up is showing already. He was a heat seeking missile who always found the ball. To be honest, giving up a 71 yard touchdown run against UConn is pretty unacceptable. Yes, UConn is much improved but if NC State expects to contend with Clemson in a few weeks, or go into Winston and look to (finally) win at Wake, the effort play to play will need to improve.
At first, I saw LB #2 Jaylon Scott drop down to the line to cover the edge and thought he was out of position. But really, #26 Devon Betty looked to cover the right edge when that side was already going to be blocked. When he moved out of the mike position it left a wide open gap once the RB cleared the line. Scott did his best to catch up but it was too late. Betty has played well over the years, mostly in reserve for the more experienced LB’s ahead of him. But he’s also had lapses that have resulted in chunk plays given up. This is really his year to step into the limelight, so the team will need to see more to succeed. It’s tough when the margins are so thin, but in this defensive scheme your success hinges on the LB corps.
Overall, a solidly good performance, and yes a W is a W. but I hope that the team learned enough from this game to be ready for the fighting Sam Hartmans to come into town next week.