There are only 108 miles between N.C. State and Wake Forest University, so I know this rivalry pretty well but last night I learned an interesting fact about today’s game. Today will be the 4th time that Wake Forest will play N.C. State as an AP Top 25 team. That easy enough to remember but what’s ironic about that factoid, is that in the previous three meetings Wake is 0-3. Very interesting trend if you ask me. Naturally, I dove deeper into this cross-state rivalry to see what other trends I could find and I came across some pretty interesting items.
Fear the Backups
What perks the ears of an opposing defense and fan base more than hearing that a backup quarterback is getting a start? Not much unless you are N.C. State. Twice this season N.C. State has faced a backup quarterback getting their first start of the year, both of which the Wolfpack lost. The first occurrence was when the Wolfpack traveled to Tallahassee to face the Seminoles and Alex Hornibrook started in place of an injured James Blackmon. Now granted, Hornibrook is a seasoned veteran from his time at Wisconsin but still this was his first start at Florida State and managed to throw for over 300 yards and 3 TDs against NCSU. The second was just two weeks ago at Boston College when Dennis Grosel stepped up for his first start in place of the sidelined Anthony Brown. Grosel wasn’t spectacular but he managed the game well enough to lead Boston College to victory.
Well later today the Wolfpack will square off against yet another backup QB but this time it will be his second start of the season. Sam Hartman has taken over the quarterback position for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons due to Jamie Newsome being out with a shoulder injury. Much like Hornibrook, Hartman is an experienced quarterback but has not seen a lot of playing time this year. He did however, lead the Demon Deacons to victory over Florida State last week in his first start of the season.
As you can see N.C. State’s track record against newly appointed starters has been very poor but for State to win today, they will need to do something different to break this trend of backup quarterbacks being successful against them. I expect, and pray for, a blitz heavy game plan from the Wolfpack to hopefully disrupt the timing and decision making of Hartman.
Reinvigorated by Fresh Faces
It is not a secret that State has had its share of quarterback woes this season but with each new face usually comes a win. As you all know, Matt McKay began the season as the starter which resulted in an opening week win vs ECU. Once Matt McKay’s shine wore off Bailey Hockman got his first nod of the year which led to a spirited win over Syracuse. In this week’s episode of ‘As the Quarterback Turns’ it is Devin Leary’s turn. (Anyone get that reference? Probably not)
Leary will be the first redshirt freshman to start for N.C. State at quarterback since some guy named Russell Wilson did it back in 2008. From what has been seen at the quarterback position thus far, Leary is by far the most accurate and through only one start has a team leading 3 TD passes (tied with McKay). Will the new face at quarterback victory trend continue against Wake? Maybe, but Leary will have to be smart with the ball and continue to make good decision if the Wolfpack are going knock off the #23 in the country.
On the road again? Not again!
This trend has driven every N.C. State fan crazy for the past few years. I bet you can guess it before I even say it. Road wins. In 2019, the Pack is 0-3 away from Raleigh and playing in Winston Salem has not done them any favors in recent years. In fact, looking all the way back to 2001, they are only 2-7 when playing at Wake Forest. Yikes. The frustrating part is that in the past two decades Wake has traditionally been worse or on par with N.C. State talent wise but why the Wolfpack struggle to win there, no one can figure out. A win in Winston Salem today might be the spark to break a bad habit of losing at BB&T Field and start some good mojo for the Pack playing away from Raleigh.
As you can see there are multiple trends that the Wolfpack will hope to continue today but others which they desperately need to stop. I just hope that they pick the correct trend to follow.