Last week I discussed how N.C. State was still learning how to win on the road and finding their footing away from Raleigh. A perfect opportunity presents itself to the Wolfpack to do just that when the Pack travels to Tallahassee to face a reeling Florida State team. Florida State is not having the season many ‘Noles fans hoped for this year but they should not be underestimated by the Wolfpack. The Seminoles are just as talented as any team in the ACC, yes, the ACC is down that much this year, and could easily pull out a victory on Saturday night.
As if opening conference play on the road, playing under the lights at Doak Campbell and trying to figure out how to win on the road wasn’t enough, there is another challenge looming on the horizon for this N.C. State team and Dave Doeren. That being what to do a quarterback. Matt McKay has been at the helm for the team’s 3-1 start but there is still something missing. His inability to hit receivers on the deep ball and the lack of utilizing his run game has left some of the fanbase wanting more. More as in Bailey Hockman or Devin Leary. But is that the right thing to do at this point in the season?
Let us not forget that McKay only has four starts at N.C. State and when you ponder that, it puts what he has done thus far in perspective. Let us also not forget that he is trying to follow in the foot steps of Ryan Finley who is now in the NFL and while McKay is throwing to some very talented receivers, they are not Kelvin Harmon, Jakobi Meyers and Stephen Louis all of whom are now on NFL rosters. When all of this is taken into consideration, then McKay is doing exactly what he should be doing at this point in his college career, going through his check-downs, being smart with the ball and performing as a high-level game manager. But even with these points there are still those calling for Hockman or Leary to be thrown into the starting role.
The issue with this theory though is that no one really knows what Hockman or Leary can do as a starter at the college level. Hockman has mainly seen the field in garbage time this season and Leary has yet to step between the sidelines in the red and white of an N.C. State uniform. So, this begs the question, ‘is what you don’t know better than what you do know?’. Currently there are many in Wolfpack Nation which feel that yes, what we don’t know is better than what we do know while the coaching staff has not waivered and remain confident in where McKay can take this team.
Dave Doeren reiterated that confidence in McKay earlier this week in his press conference about the upcoming game against FSU. When asked about the potential of using Hockman more in games, Doeren stated “We haven't talked about it yet. That's what we do today is game plan…I was excited to get him in the game [against Ball State]. Like you'd mentioned during a series that wasn't mop up duty and allow him to play was good for him. And obviously, did some good things, had a nice scramble to get us a first down and then the interception, which he'll learn from and grow from. But we don't have anything in stone yet.”. Coach D was later asked about the idea of using two quarterbacks throughout a game to which he responded “We've talked about everything. Yep.”. Those responses basically convey that the coaching staff has discussed these scenarios some but are not ready to openly discuss them or make a change on the field just yet. Whatever Coach Doeren is thinking about the current state of the quarterback position, he is choosing to keep it short, sweet and close to the vest.
Which finally brings me back around to the game this Saturday against Florida State. N.C. State will do everything in its power to outplay and outsmart the Seminoles to come away with their first road victory of the season but don’t forget about the game within the game. Will McKay have a short lease in this game if things aren’t going the Pack’s way? Does Coach Doeren plan to paly Hockman, or Leary, any prior to garbage time? And most importantly, what will happen at the quarterback position as a result of this game? Saturday night will be an interesting one for NCSU fans for several reasons but don’t be surprised if more fans than usual are paying attention to what is going at the quarterback position rather than score on the scoreboard.