Here are quick hits and notes from the NC State football 41-17 win over Syracuse in front of a crowd of 54,083 fans at Carter-Finley Stadium on a chilly Saturday night in Raleigh.
NC State Football Defense Continues To Shine
Syracuse may be the most one-dimensional offense that NC State has had to defend this year.
For the third straight game, the Orange had 66 yards or fewer passing. Sophomore starting quarterback Garrett Shrader completed just 8 of 20 passes for 63 yards and had a pick-six, thrown to Wolfpack sophomore linebacker Drake Thomas.
Overall, Syracuse finished with 236 total yards and averaged 4.4 yards per play. Both of their touchdowns and 103 of the yards came on two plays: a 48-yard QB run by Shrader and a 55-yard TD from likely All-American sophomore running back Sean Tucker.
Syracuse finished with its second-lowest total yards output of the year, and its third-fewest yards per play. That continues a theme however for most of the season for the Wolfpack defense:
• South Florida’s 271 total yards and 4.2 yards per attempt against NC State are the second and tied for second fewest, respectively, in its 11 games played.
• Mississippi State’s 316 total yards and 4.9 yards per play are both the second fewest in 11 contests, including seven SEC games, for the Bulldogs.
• Clemson’s 214 total yards is its second-lowest output in 11 contests and the 4.4 yards per plays ranks third fewest.
• Boston College’s 291 total yards is its fourth-lowest total of the year thus far through 11 games, and its 4.2 yards per play is third lowest.
• Miami’s 420 total yards (tied for fifth) and 5.9 yards per play (sixth) were more middle of the pack in the team’s first 11 games.
• Louisville’s 434 yards was its fifth fewest in 11 games, and its 6.2 yards per play was fourth lowest.
• Florida State’s 271 total yards was second fewest for them, and the Noles’ 3.8 yards per play the lowest among 11 contests.
• Wake Forest’s 406 total yards tied for its second fewest in 11 games, and its 4.5 yards per play were a season-low.
The one outlier of the year, among Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams, was Louisiana Tech, who is a surprising 3-8 and yet had one of its best offensive outputs of the year on the Wolfpack.
Thomas’ pick-six was joined by an eight-yard touchdown reception from redshirt junior receiver Thayer Thomas in the third quarter to make it the first time since 1975 that brothers scored in the same season for the Wolfpack. The Buckey twins, Dave and Don, who once graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, did it then.
Sophomore running back Zonovan Knight’s 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown catapulted him to the top of the school record book for most career kickoff returns for a score (three).
He is the first since former receiver Tobais Palmer in 2012 to have two in the same year.
The last time NC State scored in all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams — was its 2016 Independence Bowl win over Vanderbilt.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Devin Leary became the first NC State quarterback since Russell Wilson in 2010 to have five straight 300-yard passing games. Leary completed 17 of 24 passes for 303 yards and two scores in the win.
Leary now has 31 scoring tosses on the year, moving him into a tie with Wilson and Mike Glennon (who did it twice) for the second-most TD throws in a season at NC State. He needs three more to tie Philip Rivers’ 2003 mark.
Spotted At The NC State Game
A bowl scout from the Cheez-It Bowl in Orlando, Fla., was in attendance. The game is played Dec. 29, 2021. There were also NFL scouts from the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans credentialed.
The Wolfpack baseball team that reached the College World Series before being unceremoniously kicked out of Omaha due to a COVID-19 outbreak was honored during a media timeout in the second quarter.
It was also Military Appreciation Day, and numerous veterans were honored throughout the game on the field.
Lineup-wise, because redshirt freshman Shyheim Battle was ejected in the second half of the loss at Wake Forest last week, he had to sit out the first half of this game. Senior Chris Ingram made his first start since getting injured against Syracuse in 2019.
Ingram finished with three tackles, including one for a loss, and a pass breakup.
NC State Football Freshman Watch
Players in the 2020 and 2021 classes, both listed as freshmen on the roster because eligibility was frozen a year ago, can play up to four games and preserve their redshirt status.
The following players in the freshman class with asterisks by their names played on Saturday.
That included quarterback Aaron McLaughlin, who played the final two snaps. Typical second-string signal caller Ben Finley has already appeared in four games, and the next that the second-year freshman plays would burn his redshirt.
We will keep track of this list throughout the season to see who burns their redshirt. Thus far linebacker Devon Betty, defensive back Devan Boykin, nickel Joshua Pierre-Louis, receiver Porter Rooks, receiver Anthony Smith, defensive lineman Davin Vann and corner Aydan White have officially played more than four games and cannot redshirt.
White on Saturday, incidentally, did not play for the first time this season.
Safety Devan Boykin (class of 2020) — 10 games played*
Receiver Porter Rooks (class of 2020) — 10*
Receiver Anthony Smith (class of 2020) — 10*
Defensive lineman Davin Vann (class of 2020) — 10*
Nickel Joshua Pierre-Louis (class of 2020) — 9*
Cornerback Aydan White (class of 2020) — 9
Linebacker Devon Betty (class of 2020) — 8*
Quarterback Ben Finley (class of 2020) — 4
Receiver Julian Gray (class of 2021) — 4
Running back Demie Sumo (class of 2021) — 4*
Tight end Ezemdi Udoh (class of 2020) — 4
Receiver Joshua Crabtree (class of 2020) — 3*
Cornerback Nate Evans (class of 2021) — 3
Linebacker Caden Fordham (class of 2021) — 3
Linebacker Jayland Parker (class of 2020) — 3
Linebacker Jordan Poole (class of 2021) — 3
Safety Sean Brown (class of 2021) — 2
Receiver Jalen Coit (class of 2020) — 2
Center Lyndon Cooper (class of 2021) — 2
Defensive lineman Claude Larkins (class of 2020) — 2
Offensive lineman Patrick Matan (class of 2020) — 2
Quarterback Aaron McLaughlin (class of 2021) — 2*
Receiver Jakolbe Baldwin (class of 2021) — 1
What The Win Means
NC State football is 8-3 overall and 5-2 in the ACC, while Syracuse falls to 5-6 and 2-5.
NC State leads the all-time series between the two, 13-2, including 7-1 in games in Raleigh. The Pack is 7-2 vs. the Orange since Syracuse joined the ACC in 2013. All of those games have come under head coach Dave Doeren, whose first league victory at NC State came against the Orange in 2014.
It is the fourth time in five years that NC State has won at least eight games and finished with an above-.500 record in the conference.
As for the still unsettled ACC Atlantic Division race:
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