TheWolfpackCentral - Monday morning quarterbacking: NC State 16, Syracuse 10
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Monday morning quarterbacking: NC State 16, Syracuse 10

NC State football jumped out to a 16-0 lead, and then survived a late Syracuse threat to prevail 16-10 in a much-needed win for the Pack.

It’s time for a final look at the contest with some Monday morning quarterbacking.

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Key Moment Of The Game

The end of the first half may have been the difference in the game. Operating in the two-minute offense, NC State needed just three plays to cover 61 yards for its lone touchdown of the night. After NCSU took over at its own 39-yard line leading 6-0 with 1:45 left in the first half, freshman running back Zonovan Knight had back-to-back runs of 11 and 18 yards.

NC State called a timeout with 1:23 left, and it dialed up a trick play. Redshirt sophomore receiver Thayer Thomas took the lateral from redshirt sophomore quarterback Bailey Hockman, and he then threw it back across the field to a wide-open redshirt freshman running back Trent Pennix. The pass may have been slightly underthrown, but it did not matter — Pennix could have walked in for the score.

Syracuse, now trailing 13-0, seemed intent to go into the locker room at that point after running twice for a net of no gain. NC State sensed a potential chance to get the ball back one more time and called timeout with 18 seconds left. Syracuse then went for the bomb and connected, with quarterback Tommy DeVito finding Trishton Jackson for a 52-yard gain to the NC State 26-yard line.

That set up a 44-yard field goal attempt by the reigning Lou Groza Award winner as college football’s top field goal kicker, Andre Szmyt, but his 44-yard clanked off the left upright as time expired. That missed field goal would loom large late in the game.

Three Things That Worked

1. Defense for three quarters

Syracuse entered the third quarter with just 10 first downs, five rushing yards, 178 total yards and an average of 3.9 yards per play. It had punted on seven of its nine possessions.

2. Special teams

Syracuse may have the best special teams unit in the ACC, if not the country. It boasts a kicker-combination that could both be first-team All-ACC and has a dangerous returner in receiver Sean Riley. Yet, NC State was the team that delivered a flawless performance on special teams, while Syracuse had several mistakes (missed field goal, two short punts and a kickoff that went out of bounds).

3. Surviving

A short-handed Wolfpack team saw its starting corner Chris Ingram, a junior, go down with an apparent knee injury on the long pass to Jackson to end the first half.

The young, inexperienced NC State team seemed headed to a defeat not dissimilar to the heartbreaking loss to Wake Forest last year, but the Pack held defensively on the game’s final drive to preserve what could prove to be a crucial victory.

Three Things That Did Not Work

1. Red zone offense

Yes, NC State scored both times it reached the red zone, but they were both field goals. In the past two games, it has just one touchdown in six trips inside the 20. Scoring TDs against Syracuse would have iced the game before the fourth quarter started and probably left a lot of observers feeling better about the Pack’s performance.

2. Fourth-quarter defense

Whether it was because they were tired or Syracuse found a rhythm, the bottom line is the defense allowed more yards in the fourth quarter (180) than it did in the first three combined (178).

3. Emerging unscathed

Two starters on defense, Ingram and fifth-year senior defensive end James Smith-Williams, left the game with injuries. Smith-Williams was playing just his second game back since returning from an injury that cost him two games earlier in the season. Ingram was the third corner to go down, with fellow starter Nick McCloud, a senior, having been out since the opener and redshirt freshman Taiyon Palmer being lost for the year after getting hurt at Florida State.

This is on top of an offense that is without five players, including three projected starters going into preseason camp that are out for the year. Every college football team goes through a season where it is terribly snake-bitten with injuries. This is beginning to look like one for the Pack.

Position-By-Position Battles

NC State’s offensive line vs. Syracuse’s front

This was a very difficult assignment for NC State. Syracuse boasts one of the ACC’s best defensive fronts, and the Pack was playing two first-time starters at offensive tackle. Syracuse winning this battle was to be expected. The Orange had three sacks, but kudos to the offensive line for opening up some running successes.

Syracuse’s offensive line vs. NC State’s front

Whereas the Orange have one of the best defensive fronts in the league, its weak spot is its offensive line. NC State exploited that with eight sacks and held the Orange’s running game in check. The Pack’s front dominated for the second straight game .

NC State’s wide receivers vs. Syracuse’s secondary

Junior Emeka Emezie, redshirt freshman Devin Carter and Thomas all had their moments, each of them making challenging downfield catches. Overall it was one of the better performances for the Pack wideouts this year.

Syracuse’s wide receivers vs. NC State’s secondary

NC State was hit hard by a couple of bombs from DeVito, one of them coming off a free play after the Pack had jumped offside. Those two passes resulted in 88 yards, with the other 27 completions going for just 212 yards. Overall, considering the injuries, the Pack secondary had a solid performance .


Nobody really shined Thursday. DeVito ended up with that gaudy stat of 300 yards passing, but that was not reflective of his performance. (To be fair, there were reports going into the game that he was not 100 percent healthy).

Hockman, making his first career start, finished 16-of-27 passing for 205 yards and an interception. Redshirt freshman Devin Leary showed off his promising arm for a second straight game, perhaps earning more time at Boston College.

Running backs

The NC State true freshman duo of Knight and Jordan Houston ran a combined 28 times for 115 yards, a solid 4.1 yards per rush. They were more successful than their counterparts from the Orange.

Tight ends/fullbacks

Redshirt junior Cary Angeline finished with a couple of receptions for 31 yards and was the best tight end on the field in the passing game.

Special teams

As noted above, this was a victory for NC State and a major component of its winning formula.


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