Orange Fizz


Meet the Enemy: NC State’s Facts and Players to Know

Get amped, Fizz Nation. Saturday’s matchup between #18 Syracuse and #15 NC State is the first matchup between two top-20 teams in the Dome since 1998. How long ago was that? Well, 1998 saw “Seinfeld” air its final season, the first iMac, and the founding of Google. Over 45,000 tickets have already been sold for this game, here’s what to expect from the enemy.


The Wolfpack have established themselves as one of the premier programs in the ACC over the past few seasons. NC State has been bowl eligible in seven of the last eight seasons and has found itself ranked at least at one point in five of the last six. That stretch, combined with Clemson’s down year a season ago, had several people including some here at the Fizz thinking that the Wolfpack could take home their first ACC crown since 1979. But a loss to the Tigers a few weeks ago as well as shaky performances against East Carolina and Florida State have subsided those expectations. Still, NC State is easily the toughest opponent the Orange have had on the docket so far.


Doeren’s time in charge with NC State has for the most part been solid, but there have been a few bumps in the road. The Wolfpack have won four or fewer games twice in Doeren’s previous nine seasons at the helm, but every other year they have won at least seven. And Doeren has been at his best in the past two years. A top-20 finish last season had NC State enter this one at #13, and it peaked at #10 before its loss to Clemson. Still, the Wolfpack hadn’t been ranked that high since 2002. Doeren is also 7-2 in his career against SU. Let that sink in.


There’s an asterisk by Leary’s name because his status for Saturday’s game is up in the air. The New Jersey native left NC State’s contest with Florida State in the third quarter last weekend. But if Leary plays, look out. He torched the Orange and then some last season. Leary threw for over 300 yards and a pair of scores while completing 70% of his passes as NC State ran Syracuse out of Raleigh. If this gunslinger plays this weekend, he is priority #1 and then some for Tony White’s defense.


Do you know what pairs really well with a good quarterback? A top-tier target to throw to. Just look at Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs two hours west on I-90. Thomas is that guy for Leary. While his 301 yards receiving on the season isn’t eye-popping, it clears second place on the team by over 100 yards. Did we mention he has cooked Syracuse in each of the last two seasons? Thomas has compiled nearly 200 receiving yards and four touchdowns in these teams’ last two meetings. With or without Leary, the secondary must keep its eyes on Thomas all game long.


NC State has a very talented linebacker group, and Thomas has stood out as the best of the bunch this season. A former three-star recruit, Thomas leads the Wolfpack in solo tackles and total tackles, is tied for the team lead in quarterback hurries, tied for second in pass breakups, and is third in quarterback hurries. It’s hard to get more well-rounded than that. He’s also coming off his best game in the season in which he had 14 (!!) total tackles and a pair of pass breakups. Safe to say Thomas will look to cause chaos for the SU offense.


The final piece on the Wolfpack roster we bring up, Ingle is a menace over the middle. The Orlando native is tied with Thomas for the team lead in quarterback hurries, has 4.5 tackles for loss, and 31 total tackles. He’s been pretty consistent too. With the exception of a game against UConn that was over quickly, Ingle has at least five tackles in every game. Garrett Shrader completed all of his passes against Wagner two weeks ago. You don’t typically want to throw it in the area of a tackle machine like Ingle though, and QB1’s job is tougher for it.

What a scene we have set up for Saturday. Two top-20 teams, a crowd that is going to be going nuts, and plenty of attention from the national media? What more could you ask for? Syracuse has a chance to come up with a huge win and show College Gameday who’s boss, but by golly, it won’t come easily.

The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.


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