NC State head coach Dave Doeren is making a change this week. He’s decided to give redshirt sophomore Bailey Hockman his first start at quarterback. Hockman signed with Florida State out of high school and then left for a junior college when he was buried on the depth chart. Although he’s appeared in four of his team’s five games this season, he only saw significant time in the Wolfpack’s last game in Tallahassee against the Seminoles. Hockman is young, he’s inexperienced, and he’s making his first-career D-I start. While NC State has a solid running game, the aerial attack has left something to be desired — that’s why Doeren is making the change. With all of this in mind, Brian Ward would be wise to dial up some pressure to try and force the Wolfpack offense into some costly mistakes.
Eliminate Explosive Plays
While forcing turnovers has been a strength for the Orange defense, stopping the big play has most certainly not been. Just look at SU’s two losses this season. Against Maryland, Syracuse gave up 10 “explosive” plays, that’s any play resulting in 20 or more yards. Along the same lines, Clemson produced seven explosive plays inside the Dome, in addition to getting eight more plays of between 15 to 19 yards. In other words, it’s been a problem this season. Fortunately for the Orange, the NC State offense has struggled to make big plays. The Wolfpack has produced a grand total of just eight offensive plays this season that fall under the category of “explosive.” That’s ranked among the worst in all of FBS football. In order to go on the road and pick up a win, Syracuse needs to keep that number down and make the Wolfpack work for everything they get.
Clean It Up
I’ll go back to one of the things we discussed before the bye week. Leading up to the contest with Holy Cross, the SU players talked about the need to play a clean game. They wanted to focus on minimizing penalties and eliminating turnovers. The Orange didn’t really succeed at either. Syracuse was penalized seven times for 74 yards against the Crusaders and committed three turnovers. Those mistakes didn’t hurt them against an FCS opponent, but mistakes like those will prove costly on the road in the ACC. Playing a clean game starts up front for the Orange. The offensive line needs to protect Tommy DeVito, especially given the fact that DeVito is still not considered 100% after leaving the Holy Cross game early with injury. If the O-line can do its job in the trenches, that’ll make it easier for DeVito and company to operate efficiently. Syracuse doesn’t need to be perfect to beat NC State, but the Orange would be wise to avoid the self-inflicted wounds if it hopes to pick up its first conference win of 2019.
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