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Wolfpack facing uncertainty after dispiriting loss at FSU

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N.C. State left Tallahassee on Saturday with a loss in its Atlantic Christian Conference opener against Florida State along with more questions than answers. 

The Wolfpack gave it a go with redshirt sophomore Matt McKay as the starting quarterback despite some murmuring among the fan base regarding the Wakefield High alum’s accuracy. 

McKay missed on a few throws and his afternoon was short lived. 

Enter Bailey Hockman. 

The transfer who began his career with Florida State posted numbers not too different than McKay’s effort in N.C. State’s other road contest, a lopsided loss at West Virginia.

Hockman had seen some time on the field in the Wolfpack’s home win over Ball State in the previous week and was scheduled to get some action against the Seminoles, but the game dictated he take the field in a different way than what was envisioned beforehand. 

“We had to bring him in earlier than we had planned,” N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren explained after the loss. “Matt wasn’t doing what I thought he was going to do. It was obvious he was off, and at this point we don’t have time to wait anymore.”

The Wolfpack managed only 13 points against a Florida State team that had allowed 135 points in its first four contests (almost 34 per game). The lone touchdown that N.C. State scored came in the fourth quarter and was essentially inconsequential. 

Florida State led 17-6 at halftime. As the gap widened in the second half and N.C. State had to air it out in an attempt to chase points, the Seminole defense pinned their ears back and attacked Hockman. 

Ultimately, Doeren was left with a decision to pull the redshirt sophomore in favor of the third-string quarterback. Devin Leary came in late and connected on four of his five passing attempts to further muddy the water as the Pack looks ahead. 

“Bailey and Devin give us that, they do, so yeah,” Doeren said. “(Leary) looked great. It possibly does (complicate the issue of who starts at quarterback). I don’t know.”

Whether it is McKay, Hockman, or Leary moving forward the biggest issue with N.C. State is clear. The Wolfpack, which currently has five alums playing the quarterback position in the NFL, needs its passing game to improve dramatically if the program is to reach a bowl game for the sixth straight season. 

“Every missed touchdown or drive we don’t score is a missed opportunity,” Hockman said. “We just have to go out there and keep playing. We have to execute. Coach talked about penalties and they hurt us there to the end. To execute, we have to get our execution perfect and keep working hard. We have to get ready to make a run here for the rest of the season.”