The offense put on a dominating performance in a 49-21 win over the Troy Trojans on Saturday, but which position groups performed the best or the worst?
Senior Jacoby Brissett had a great game, completing 21 of 23 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. Brissett threw almost exclusively short passes, and overthrew his one deep shot, so it's hard to judge that aspect. We would be overly picky to drop his grade just for doing what is necessary and doing it very well. Jalan McClendon came in for the fourth quarter, completing one of his two passes for 3 yards despite constant pressure when he dropped back.
Without senior incumbent starter Shadrach Thornton, junior Matt Dayes carried the load and did a fine job. Dayes finished as both the leading rusher and receiver, with 24 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 5 catches for 65 yards. The loss of Thornton meant that sophomore Dakwa Nichols got a small chance to shine, with 5 carries for 30 yards, including one for 14. It was also the debut of freshman Reggie Gallaspy, who carried 13 times for 50 yards, coming within centimeters of his first career touchdown.
Perhaps the biggest question heading into the season, the receivers did what was necessary on Saturday, but not much above and beyond that. Jumichael Ramos and Bra'lon Cherry combined for a solid 73 yards on five catches, including Ramos' touchdown. Much hyped Nyheim Hines had just the one catch for 5 yards (and two runs for a small loss), but is clearly being eased into his role. Third receiver Johnathan Alston added 2 catches for 5 yards. There was only one drop on the day, and it came from Jaylen Samuels.
In somewhat of a surprise, junior tight end David Grinnage was only targeted once, but he did gain 15 yards to inside the five yard line when he was thrown to. Hard to judge much more than that.
Yes, he gets his own position. After a three touchdown performance, the jack-of-all-trades deserves his own title. Samuels carried the ball four times and scored on three of them for 37 yards total. Samuels wasn't his usual self in the receiving game, picking up 10 yards despite 4 receptions.
The group has three seniors, a sophomore, and a redshirt freshman, so their performance against Troy was about as expected. Solid but unspectacular all around, pretty good in the run game and good enough in the passing game. They did allow two sacks of Brissett, which is fine, but they will be facing much better pass rushers in the ACC season.
The defensive line is supposed to be one of the strengths of the team despite its youth, but failed to produce a sack in the opener. They made a few big plays in the run game, particularly one from senior Mike Rose and one from true freshman Eurndraus Bryant, but did allow some long runs to the Trojans' backfield.
The two returning starters, sophomores Jerod Fernandez and Airius Moore, were quiet on Saturday, but that was not necessarily a bad thing. However, they were not involved in any sacks, turnovers, or big losses. Overall, solid, but not overly visible.
While the defense gave up its share of big plays, the defensive backs were the highlight of that side of the ball. Obviously everyone is talking about Dravious Wright's sack and fumble recovery, and rightfully so. Another star of the secondary was Mike Stevens who made a great pass breakup and then a nice interception late in the game. Juston Burris and Hakim Jones each made a few good plays, while cornerback Jack Tocho surprisingly struggled a bit.
Kicker Kyle Bambard made each of his extra point tries and did not get to attempt a field goal. Punter AJ Cole performed well, and while his average yardage was below 38, he pinned Troy deep twice. Nyheim Hines had two returnable kicks for a very solid average of 26 yards and Bra'lon Cherry had a 33 yard punt return that was almost a whole lot more. Overall, a solid performance in the kicking game for the Wolfpack.