NC State Offense Still Looking For Answers

NC State

Sometimes it isn’t always pretty, but as the NC State Wolfpack showed on Thursday night, a win is a win. Last year, when the Wolfpack played Syracuse, the two team’s combined for a total of 92 points and 1,102 yards of offense in a 51-41 Syracuse win. However, this offensive explosion wasn’t to be repeated on Thursday, as the Wolfpack won a sloppy game, 16-10. When it was all said and done, there were 600 yards in punts alone. But as head coach Dave Doeren said with a chuckle, “We were able to score enough points to win.”

NC State Offense Still Looking For Answers

NC State came into this game against the Orange looking for answers to a multitude of offensive questions. There were times on Thursday when it looked like some of those questions were being answered. But once the Wolfpack took a step in the right direction, they seemed to take two steps back. The offensive struggles in the second half and the inability to score in the red zone almost cost them a win in a game that they should’ve won comfortably. Quarterback play also continued to be questionable, and the only offensive touchdown came on a pass from receiver Thayer Thomas. But luckily for the Wolfpack, the defense continued to shine — only allowing 10 points and recording eight sacks.

Quarterback Play

Bailey Hockman

After a gutsy performance against Florida State in week five, sophomore quarterback Bailey Hockman was named the starter for the match-up against Syracuse. Hockman did enough to help the Pack win on Thursday, but his performance left a lot to be desired. However, it should be noted that this was Hockman’s first career start, and rookie mistakes are to be expected.

What Hockman did provide for NC State, was the ability to throw the ball downfield. Coming into this game, the Wolfpack had completed just ONE pass of 20+ air yards. On Thursday, the Pack completed three passes of 20+ air yards — two of them completed by Hockman. The FSU transfer finished the game 16/27 for 205 yards and one interception.

“I’ve just got to get better,” Hockman said. “That’s the only thing on my mind right now, just keep working and keep getting better.”

Devin Leary

Although Hockman showed some potential, Devin Leary‘s accuracy and alertness in the pocket was clearly superior. However, it was disappointing that he was only on the field for one possession. In that possession, he completed one of three passes for 23 yards. Leary maintains the best, most accurate arm in the NC State quarterback room, and should get another opportunity soon.

Running Game

At times, the Wolfpack’s running game has been a bright spot for the offense, but has lacked big-play capability. Consequently, the Wolfpack’s longest run this season was a mere 34 yards. But as much as they have lacked this big-play ability, they have also struggled at times on short-yardage downs. Against Ball State in week four, the Wolfpack were facing a third down and needed just one yard to move the sticks in order to ice the game. The Pack then attempted back-to-back runs, but they proved unsuccessful and, as a result, turned the ball over on downs.

The Pack’s running game did show some good signs against the Orange. Even though they were missing sophomore running back Ricky Person Jr. (ankle injury), freshmen running backs Zonovan Knight and Jordan Houston carried the load. The pair combined for 115 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. These numbers might not be eye-catching, but considering their youth, what they did against the Orange was impressive.

Red Zone Struggles

A large part of the Pack’s red zone struggles has been the inability to run the ball inside of the 20. After losing tight end Dylan Autenrieth for the rest of 2019, the red zone running has regressed even further.

“We’re just not able to run the football down there and it forces you to throw,” said Doeren. “It’s an area to improve.”

Moving Forward

Although the Wolfpack have yet to find a consistent offensive rhythm, there is still plenty of time to get things right. If they can get healthy, find consistent quarterback play, and balance their run game with the passing attack, expect the Wolfpack to challenge some teams in ACC play. They enter Week Eight with a 4-2 record and look to be in a prime position to secure a six-win season and become bowl eligible for the sixth straight season.

Next up for the Wolfpack is a trip to Chestnut Hill to take on the Boston College Eagles. The game kicks off next Saturday at noon and will be televised on Fox Sports South.