I reached out to the good folks over at the Two Man Wolfpack (follow them @TwoManPackPod on twitter, their Texas Tech preview episode is live and very much worth the listen!) for some insider information on what Texas Tech is facing. Bobby and Anderson answered the call, and give a read on their thoughts before game time!
The start of the year for the Wolfpack was a narrow win over ECU. Lots of folks, myself included, thought NC State was fortunate to get out of there alive. What went wrong in that game, and how has NC State addressed it?
B) The 2nd half of the ECU game was a mess. I primarily put that on the offense. Play calling from Tim Beck became very bland, almost like they seemed content being only up 2 scores at half. Playing “not to lose” would be an accurate statement. Still moved the ball down the field but couldn’t finish drives. 6 plays at the 1 yard line and no points to show for it. This improved against Charleston Southern, 4/4 in the red zone. Playbook opened up slightly more and hit some more targets down field.
A) Before the Pack headed down to Greenville to face the Pirates, there was only one way a limited ECU team was going to come out of that game with a win, and that was the Pack being ineffective on scoring opportunities. That is exactly what happened, and without the elite NC State defense, the game would have been blown, and the season already ruined in week one. State got lucky, something that many fans are not used to seeing, but luck only gets you so far. A team cannot go scoreless for a half, turn the ball over in the redzone, be stopped on 4th down conversions, and expect to have a successful season. ECU was a lucky break that the team needed and perhaps it exorcized some past demons. Addressing the team’s glaring offensive flaws before facing a much better squad with Texas Tech was a top priority for the coaching staff, something that maybe was solved with a 55-3 tuneup against Charleston Southern. Then again, only time will tell how many problems were solved.
If the Red Raiders are going to win, a lot of the work will be done by the defensive line. How is the North Carolina State offensive line looking so far?
B) Offensive line has been solid. Losing a guy like Ickey Ekwonu leaves a big gap obviously, but still have some experience across the line to fill in that void. Still a few question marks in run blocking.
A) NC State’s quarterback Devin Leary has only been sacked once over the first two games. While run blocking has been an issue over the past two seasons, pass blocking has not been a weakness in the slightest. Even after the departure of 1st round draft pick Ikem Ekwonu, there is a ton of veteran leadership on this offensive line. Leary is going to have time to throw the ball without a doubt, but will running backs be able to find holes against Texas Tech? I doubt it. Demie Sumo-Karngybaye, has been a welcome surprise in the backfield, but this rushing attack has not had to face a foe as defensively talented on the front end as the Red Raiders. The Wolfpack struggled against ECU on the ground, and in much the same way it can be expected they will struggle again. Expect the Pack to really focus on attacking through the air, and then trying to open up the run game. Offensive coordinator Tim Beck has a real tendency to do that in primetime games.
Tech’s offensive line has been poor frankly, allowing a ton of pressure against an aggressive UH front. What kind of pressure should Tech expect from the Wolfpack?
B) State’s defensive front hasn’t been great through the first 2 games, but not bad either. Has gotten some pressure at times and made the QB get out of the pocket or force some throws, but no sacks to show for it. Linebackers for State are the heart and soul of the team. Drake Thomas, Payton Wilson, and Isaiah Moore are all high quality players. If a play is made in the backfield, there’s a high probability one of those guys was in on it.
A) NC State generally operates with a 3 man front, opting to send in a linebacker or two to rush the quarterback. While this system has been received with mixed reactions from fans, the defensive scheme has really worked well in the ACC. Expect some sacks and TFL’s from Drake Thomas, Peyton Wilson, and even safety Tanner Ingle. These linebackers are elite in their coverage and are elite especially when they are sent after the quarterback. Like with NC State probably struggling with establishing the run, Texas Tech might see some those offensive line struggles continue. With that being said, defensive coordinator for the Pack Tony Gibson did not have all that much success until he got to Raleigh and faced ACC opponents. While at West Virginia in the Big 12, his teams struggled in most seasons while he was at the helm. NC State has faced one air raid team since Gibson has been in Raleigh, which was a 24-10 loss against Mississippi State last year. While 24 points is still a decent showing, there is a concerning history that Texas Tech may be able to exploit.
Devin Leary is maybe the best quarterback in the ACC, what makes himself so effective? And which of his receivers should Tech be on the lookout to make the biggest impact?
B) Devin is a very smart QB. Doesn’t force much and has enough arm talent to get away with throws he does force at times. His interception against ECU was one of his rare poor decisions though. He looked better against CSU having 6 total touchdowns (4 passing, 2 running). The consistency factor in the receiving corp is Thayer Thomas. He’s the safety valve. Big play threats would be Anthony Smith or Julian Gray, both of those guys are very young though. Biggest name is probably Devin Carter, he’s got a little bit of everything a good receiver needs but has had some drop problems.
A) When a school produces NFL quarterback talents like Philip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Jacoby Brissett, and Mike Glennon on a routine basis, you have to do a lot to stand out. Devin Leary stands out and then some. His arm talent is elite, he takes care of the football, and he makes the flashy big time plays to win ballgames. He is a coaches dream. With that being said, this NC State recieving core leaves much to be desired. Star Emeka Emezie departed the team at the conclusion of last season, and his presence is definitely missed.
What’s the matchup you’re most looking forward to watching? What matchup are you most anxious about?
B) I’m really looking forward to seeing State’s defense against Tech’s quarterback. I’ll be honest he scares me. Good arm talent and he can run. I think for State to be successful he has to be contained. Turnover numbers for him are up a little bit so I think trying to win the turnover battle is the key to the game (cliche I know).
Lastly, call your shot! Does the Wolfpack hold serve at home? Or is Texas Tech about to shock the nation? What’s the final score and who gets it done?
B) It will be closer than the spread. I think the atmosphere at Carter-Finley will be an advantage for State and could prove to be the deciding factor. Back and forth game, but a 4th quarter stop comes up big for the Pack. 37-31 in a shootout.
(Anderson went too hard on the first questions and missed the last two, still very much appreciate his insights!)
Thanks again to the Two Man Wolfpack for helping us out! Give them a follow and listen to their Texas preview, some additional insights and thoughts from them are there!
Will the Red Raiders win? What are your thoughts after our experts weighed in on the Wolpack? Sound off in the comments or let us know on twitter!