SHOT #1: Win the turnover battle
I thought about just saying “don’t turn the ball over”, but the truth is that a turnover (or heaven forbid two) can be generally overcome as long as the Wolfpack have fewer of them than Syracuse at the end of the game.
Let’s be real, though. NC State will most likely be starting their backup QB in this one.
Now maybe Dave Doeren and Tim Beck were playing 4D chess against Florida State last week in how they ran (uhh... literally) the offense once Jack Chambers came in the game in place of Devin Leary. Perhaps they purposefully avoided passing plays and chose a vanilla, ball-control offense to limit exposing the plays that Chambers does best while helping to salt away a victory over the Seminoles. There’s a chance Beck is crafting a game plan similar to what he did when Bailey Hockman opened the 2020 season against Wake Forest, springing an offense that put up 463 yards and 45 points on a Demon Deacons squad that didn’t have much film on the QB they were about to face.
But... let’s be honest. That’s probably not the case here. First off, that 2020 Wake Forest defense (77th in Defense SP+ with a rating of 29.5) was much worse than this year’s Syracuse defense (45th, 24.3). Secondly, Wake Forest had zero game film of Hockman with which to prepare while Chambers has 915 pass attempts worth of tape at Charleston Southern that the Orange defensive staff can utilize.
All that together means that the Wolfpack can ill afford to provide any opportunities for Syracuse that aren’t earned by meticulously moving the ball down the field with their offense. Win the turnover battle and State will have given themselves a solid shot at victory.
SHOT #2: Force Syracuse to beat you through the air
Welcome to the third consecutive installment of the Wolfpack defense being featured on “ACC QB Having a Breakout Year”! This week’s candidate: Syracuse QB Garrett Shrader!
Yes, I’m basically copying the same thing from a week ago, but it still holds true. Last week I wrote:
Like Clemson QB D.J. Uiagalelei, Florida State’s Jordan Travis is having himself an incredible year under center, reaching a previously unseen ability to sling the ball all over the field effectively and efficiently. Given that, this might seem counterintuitive; however, NC State’s defense is strong at stopping the pass (9th in the nation in pass efficiency defense). Just last week, the Wolfpack held Uiagalelei to a 67.1 pass grade (via PFF), significantly under his 85.7 season pass grade.
FSU’s Travis will present another high-level challenge, entering last week’s game against Wake Forest with a 92.2 pass grade, which was the 2nd highest grade among FBS QBs at the time and he did nothing to hurt that rating against the Deacs.
Well, here we go again... again.
Schrader started the season by being the highest rated P5 QB in each of the first two weeks, going a combined 38-of-48 for 528 yards, 5 TD, and 0 INT while rushing 25 times for 147 yards and 3 TD. Since those first two games, Shrader has continued to spin it incredibly well by tossing 5 more TDs with just a single pick. His growth as a QB this year has been tremendous, but it’s a short track record of success and a far cry from his 113.7 QB rating from a year ago.
Schrader’s legs, however, have never been an issue. In 17 games as Syracuse’s QB, he has rushed for exactly 1,000 yards (non-sack adjusted) and 19 TDs.
Oh yeah, Syracuse also just happens to have some dude named Sean Tucker who ran for 1,496 yards and 12 TDs last year. Having a super mobile QB and the best running back in the ACC makes for a heck of a ground attack. That’s why if you’re State, you take your gamble and force Schrader to beat your great pass defense. Spy Schrader all game and sell out to stop the run. If you get beat, get beat forcing Schrader to prove what he’s done in 2022 is no fluke. That’s the best shot at victory.
SHOT #3: Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
When I think of Syracuse, I think of cold. You know where else is cold? Scotland. You know what’s even colder? The South Pole.
So this week, we’re going with Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, named for Sir Ernest Shackleton, an Irish explorer (who loved his Scotch) who led the first expedition to reach the South Polar Plateau. Shackleton is best known for the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition to Antarctic, otherwise known as the Endurance Expedition. That expedition... well, it didn’t go as planned. To sell it incredibly short (you should really read up on it), the lead boat, the Endurance, was caught in pack ice which eventually crushed and sank the ship, forcing the 28-man crew to be stranded on the ice and eventually seek refuge on Elephant Island. The wreckage of the Endurance was actually found earlier this year.
The story of survival really is well worth your time. A great feat of overcoming incredible odds and adversity. No, I won’t make a parallel between surviving for months on end in frozen nothingness with starting a backup QB, but feel free to if you want.
If you’ll remember in the UConn “Three Shots” article, I made a brief mention of the now-defunct Dingle Brewing Company and their Tom Crean’s Irish Lager. Well, Tom Crean (not that Tom Crean, who will be played by Nick Kroll when his made-for-tv movie is eventually made) was one of the crew members on that expedition and one of the five who braved the 800-nautical-mile open-boat journey (in a freaking lifeboat!) to get help and save the lives of all 22 men who were stranded on Elephant Island.
Oh, yeah. I was talking about Scotch.
Shackleton (the Scotch, not the man) is, as the name suggests, a blend of several Highland single malt whiskies. It’s incredibly solid, with a slight smoky finish that’s perfect. It’s actually crafted based on the Scotch that Shackleton brought with him for the expedition. Shackleton had 25 cases aboard of that scotch, which was also made by the same company that makes this deliciousness.
So have a glass, have a shot, and go State!