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Taking stock at the midpoint of NC State’s 2020 season

North Carolina State v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

NC State is 4-2 with five games remaining on the schedule and a bye week to hopefully help it get healthier and better prepared for a solid stretch run. We’ve also got some time to assess how the Wolfpack has played up to this point.

In the preseason, I figured the first half of the schedule to be the tougher half, what with four road games tucked in there. I had all sorts of scenarios running through my head depending on the quarterback play, and I’d have admitted it wouldn’t be a stretch for State to start the year 2-4 or 1-5. So to be here at 4-2 with a couple of road wins in there, yeah, I’m pretty good with what this team has accomplished.

The biggest development was Devin Leary, who proved that he did in fact take a big step forward during the offseason, which was a huge relief after the 2019 debacle. State’s offense has been much more consistent and far more dangerous this season with Leary running the operation.

That’s the most substantial difference this year, and the reason why State sits with a winning record. The Pack has won games that it definitely would have lost last year, under some tough circumstances. There was the last-minute drive to rally past Pittsburgh, and the bounce back after that incredibly poor first half against Duke. Winning those games showed that this is a different team, far from the pushover it was a year ago.

There are still lingering problems, of course. The secondary remains injury-riddled and otherwise iffy, and the run defense has disappeared at times. NC State has been non-competitive in two games—both losses—and that is disheartening, though Leary played sparingly in one and not at all in the other.

But we’ve had quite a bit of fun in 2020. Exacting some revenge on Wake Forest and Duke was satisfying; the turnover bone emerged a hero at Virginia; the aforementioned finish at Pitt was thrilling; and we’ve had big-time highlight plays like Alim McNeill’s Thick Six and Thayer Thomas’ Telephone Touchdown.

Would I have taken all of this if you’d offered it to me back in August? Yes, absolutely.