SHOT #1: Protect the QB
Whether it’s M.J. Morris, Ben Finley, or Jack Chambers under center for the Wolfpack on Friday afternoon, the quarterback needs to be able to operate with a clean pocket. UNC has yet to register more than two sacks in any game this year against an FBS opponent, but NC State’s offensive line has struggled this year. On four different occasions, the Wolfpack have allowed more than two sacks, including a season-high five given up in last week’s loss to Louisville.
The line has been especially poor since the loss of center Grant Gibson. Not only has pass protection been suspect (at best), the run game has suffered.
Take care of the former, though, and the latter will take care of itself by forcing the Tar Heels to drop more into coverage. A clean pocket will give whatever NC State quarterback has the ball a good shot to pick apart a not-great UNC defense.
SHOT #2: Get pressure on QB
QB Drake Maye has been phenomenal this year for the Tar Heels. That’s just a fact.
He is, however, coming off his worst game at the collegiate level. Georgia Tech held him to 16-of-30 passing for 202 yards, 0 TD passes, and 1 INT, while also notching 8 carries for 44 yards (sack adjusted).
The Yellow Jacket defense did this by bringing consistent pressure to minimize the time Maye had to get the ball off. While UNC’s passing offense pretty much did what it normally does in terms of depth of pass and yards/completion, the shorter pocket times resulted in more incompletions and more sacks (6 for -31 yards). That put UNC consistently behind the sticks and made the team more one-dimensional, even though the Tar Heel running game was still successful in the game.
Notre Dame followed a similar path to success against Maye and the UNC offense earlier in the year, although the Tar Heels were able to put up three late TD drives once the Irish went into a milk-the-clock prevent style of defense.
Given that the Notre Dame and Georgia Tech games were by far the worst two of Maye’s season, following a similar blueprint would seem to be the Wolfpack’s best shot at slowing him down in this game.
SHOT #3: John A.P. Conoley American Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey
This was the only choice for this week.
The Bogue Sound Distillery, located in Bogue off Highway 24 not too far from the bridge that will take you over to Emerald Isle, is owned by Richard Chapman, a former NC State football offensive lineman who opened the distillery in 2018.
I visited the distillery for the first time this past summer during a trip down to Emerald Isle. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Chapman, his family, and their lovely dog. Sitting outside on the front porch enjoying a few drinks was a nice way to spend a summer afternoon.
Bogue Sound’s John A.P. Conoley American Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is a distinct offering, truly unlike anything else I’ve had. It has a sweet aroma, a spicy oaky flavor with a hint of fruit, and a good burn on the finish. The Old Fashioned I had at the distillery was fantastic, but I prefer to drink the whiskey neat, or possibly over a single small ice cube to give it a bit of chill and have the water open it up.
But the good people and the good whiskey aren’t the only reasons this is the choice for this week.
When you walk up to the bar at Bogue Sound Distillery, far to the left by the wall in a glass case with a wooden duck on top sits the game ball from NC State’s 1968 win over UNC. The ACC Champion Wolfpack dismantled the Tar Heels by a final score of 38-6 in a game that, as Mr. Chapman told me, was only as close as it was because Earle Edwards didn’t want to run up the score.
If you’re down in the Bogue Sound area, head on over and support your local distillery. If you’re not down that way, check if your local ABC store carries their products and pick up a bottle to support a former Wolfpack player.
Grab some turkey, grab a shot, and Go Wolfpack!