A new quarterback, stout run defense and Syracuse’s strong weekday record: Previewing North Carolina State

first_img Published on October 9, 2019 at 9:57 pm Contact Andrew: [email protected] | @A_E_Graham Syracuse (3-2, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) heads south to start ACC play in earnest with a matchup at North Carolina State (3-2, 0-1) on Thursday at 8 p.m. Both teams are coming off idle weeks and, as Dino Babers noted Monday, in the process of retooling their teams.Here’s what to know about the squads before kickoff.All-time series: 10-2, N.C. State leads.The last time they met: Syracuse won, 51-41, in the Carrier Dome last season to become bowl eligible for the first time in five years.After losing four-straight to the Wolfpack prior, the Orange started hot and built a lead large enough to withstand North Carolina State’s surges. After Eric Dungey was benched for Tommy DeVito in the fourth quarter the week prior, Dungey erupted for 411 passing yards and three touchdowns, plus another rushing score. He, along with then-Wolfpack quarterback Ryan Finley, each set individual series highs for passing yards between the two teams (Finley threw for 473, also a career-high). In the end, SU connected on more big plays and earned a pivotal win in the program’s recent history.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe North Carolina State report: The Wolfpack are in flux at the most important position on the field: Quarterback. Despite quarterback Matthew McKay leading the Wolfpack with seven touchdowns through five games, NCSU went 3-2 and lost badly to two Power 5 opponents on its schedule. McKay has been benched in favor of Bailey Hockman, who is making his first career start on Thursday.McKay’s benching came in the middle of a lethargic performance two weeks ago against Florida State. Hockman came on in relief and completed 21-of-40 attempts for 208 yards and one score. Behind Hockman on the depth chart is Devin Leary, signaling that the Wolfpack have three quarterbacks — or maybe just two, now — that they are comfortable playing.McKay got the hook for being ineffective, getting blown out by West Virginia, 44-27, and setting up the 31-13 beat down against Florida State that Hockman tried to avoid. It remains to be seen how effective the remaining two signal callers can be.Without a clear quarterback situation, N.C. State will likely rely on the defense, one that has allowed the eighth-fewest rushing yards per game in college football (71.8). The Wolfpack also sack opposing quarterbacks 3.6 times a game, tied for 11th in the nation. Without an offensive identity established, the Wolfpack should try and grind this game out.How Syracuse beats N.C. State: Keep the tempo fast and score quickly, early.The Orange blew the doors off Holy Cross and accumulated 52 points against Western Michigan by getting back to Babers’ desired tempo: Ludicrous speed. The Orange came out and marched down the field against the Crusaders and the Broncos, getting calls in and plays off before the defenses could get completely set.That, coupled with SU’s turnover-happy defense and a growing pass game should put SU in a strong position to do what it does best. DeVito needs to come out sharp for it to work, but SU’s been good at getting him comfortable, completable throws early that also play into the pace.Create possessions, score quickly on them. Do that and take a first quarter lead and North Carolina State will likely struggle to climb out of that hole.Stat to know: 83.3 percent — Syracuse’s win percentage (15-3) on weekdays since the 2010 Pinstripe Bowl. The last time SU lost was 2016 when Lamar Jackson came in and played like a Heisman winner, but since it has won five-straight weekday games. Babers specifically is 2-0 on Thursdays.Player to watch: Bailey Hockman, redshirt sophomore quarterback, No. 16Making his first career start, all eyes are on Hockman. It was known that North Carolina State would struggle to replace Finley, the fourth-round draft pick. Unfortunately for Hockman, it’s meant getting dropped into the starting lineup midseason. He gets the good fortune of making his first start at home and looked competent against Florida State, but took some unnecessary risks. How he fares against SU’s defense might decide the game. Comments Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more