No. 18 NC State was dominant on Saturday, but that was to be expected given the opponent. After barely scraping by ECU on the road, the Wolfpack needed to not only win on Saturday but do so convincingly. And it did exactly that, beating Charleston Southern 55-3.
Let’s take a look at some of the standouts from the Pack’s big win:
Devin Leary (6 total TDS, 258 total yards, 16-25 passing)
Redshirt junior quarterback Devin Leary didn’t look fantastic against ECU, going 17-33 for 211 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Simply put, fans expected more from their veteran QB.
Leary looked far more like fans expected against CSU, throwing four touchdowns and spreading the love. 10 different players caught a pass from Leary.
“It all starts with execution,” Leary said. “The week prior, we didn't really execute well on certain plays that we were trying to take shots on, where we kind of made that a focus this week in practice. It all starts up front, so credit the offensive line, giving me time, me just giving my receivers a chance, letting them do their thing. As soon as we get that rhythm down, that connection, it all starts in practice, it should translate into the game.”
The veteran also got it done on the ground, rushing for 20 yards and two TDs, doubling his career rushing TD total.
“That's kind of what he did all through fall camp,” head coach Dave Doeren said. “We were really happy with how he was sliding around the pocket and extending plays and I think he kept his eyes downfield and made some things happen. So very happy with what we saw from him today.”
Leary did the vast majority of his damage in the first half, playing just one snap after the break. The single play, however, was a 27-yard TD pass to redshirt sophomore tight end Chirs Toudle.
Not a bad way to spend your birthday.
“I think what topped it off though, was our band actually played Happy Birthday to me after the game. I never really experienced anything like that. So shout out to them for sure. That really made my day,” Leary said.
The entire defense
The Buccaneers might have broken the shutout with a third-quarter field goal, but it was still a solid defensive performance across the board.
“We felt like we didn't play up to our standard that we know we uphold in our defensive room, so we knew we had to come up this week with a new hunger, new motivation and just go out there and just play the way that we know how to play, which is fast and physical,” senior defensive back Tyler Baker-Williams said.
Graduate defensive back Derrek Pitts, Jr.’s eight total tackles, seven of which were solo, led the Pack’s defense. The Wolfpack was able to almost entirely eliminate the Buccaneers’ run game, holding the visitors to just 36 rushing yards.
“Defensively, had to defend a lot of kind of weird things, I guess, a lot of empty formations and motions that they didn't show on tape, but I thought the guys managed that well,” Doeren said. “It's good to see the takeaways, three takeaways on defense.”
The Wolfpack also came away with a pair of interceptions and a forced fumble.
Tyler Baker-Williams (Forced fumble, INT, 1.5 TFL)
Adding to his interception against ECU, Baker-Williams forced a fumble with a massive hit on CSU quarterback Ross Malmgren and then picked off the QB on back-to-back drives to start the second half.
“Really excited for Tyler back-to-back series, to force the fumble on the pass rush, we blitzed him and then the next series to get an interception. It's two picks,” Doeren said. “You guys know how we feel about him as one of the best DBs in the country and definitely a guy that eliminates people’s slot receivers on a consistent basis, so it's good to see him get some production. A lot of times the ball doesn't go his way.”
Baker-Williams also added 1.5 tackles for a loss.
Jordan Houston and Demie Sumo-Kangbaye
The Wolfpack's 1-2 punch at running back looked very good. Junior Jordan Houston did a lot of his damage in the passing game, linking up twice with Leary for 47-yards on a scoring drive that ended with a 24-yard wheel route TD.
Sumo-Kangbaye wasn’t nearly involved in the passing game but continued to look very solid on the ground, rushing for 70 yards on seven carries. Like he showed against ECU, he is a tough man to bring down.
Redshirt sophomore Delbert Mimms III also had a solid game with 89 total yards, with most of his production coming during the third and fourth quarter.