In their final game of 2021, the Bruins could face their toughest opponent yet.
UCLA football (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12) will play No.18 NC State (9-3, 6-2 ACC) in the Holiday Bowl on Tuesday, after scoring three consecutive wins in the season regular but not having a lot of playoff experience on the roster. Opposite coach Chip Kelly is Dave Doeren, who is leading the Wolfpack for the ninth year in a row and looking to score double-digit wins for the first time in his tenure.
Offensive coordinator Tom Beck rose through the ranks in Nebraska, Texas and Ohio State before joining NC State ahead of the 2020 season and being recognized as one of the nation’s top assistants in his first year there. -low. Defensive coordinator Tony Gibson coached in Michigan, West Virginia, Pittsburgh and Arizona before arriving in Raleigh, and he’s also in his second season as coordinator.
So, with the 2021 season, the history of the staff and these coaches in mind, here’s a quick look at what NC State could look like on Saturday night.
NC State Offense Against UCLA Defense
NC State Passing Yards / Game: 288.4 meters
NC State Rushing Yards / Game: 126.6 yards
UCLA Allowed Passing Yards / Game: 260.2 meters
UCLA Rushing Yards Allowed / Game: 126.8 yards
A generally balanced Wolfpack attack has relied heavily on its strengths this season, and strength # 1 is the passing game.
That passing attack is led by quarterback Devin Leary, who has recorded 35 touchdowns with just five interceptions this season with one of the ACC’s best passer efficiency ratings this fall at 157.0. At 6-1, Leary is a bit undersized for a guy who isn’t exactly a double threat – rushing for negative yards the season – but he makes the most of his stature with a big and really solid arm. precision and decision making.
Just because Leary doesn’t release a lot of rushed stats, NC State always has him run a spread offense that requires him to be somewhat mobile. Leary performs a decent amount of zone reads, and there are plenty of bootlegs and designed deployments that he uses to hit cross receivers flat or beyond sticks.
Leary lines up almost exclusively in the shotgun, and for good reason – he has one of the best blockers on the blind side in the country in the form of Ikem Ekwonu on the left tackle, and he could very easily be one day. an NFL draft pick this spring. With Ekwonu on the left tackle and still reliable cross Grant Gibson keeping things going, the Wolfpack’s pass blocking is elite, and giving a smaller, stronger passer like Leary all the time he needs has helped him through. the next step this season.
Dylan McMahon and Derrick Eason are subclasses that will start with guards and Bryson Speas is a solid straight tackle veteran, and they collectively form a unit that will be hard to beat with pure rushing abilities.
The racing game wasn’t as successful, even with all that continuity and skill up front.
Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr. have 1,389 rushing yards this year, which is far from bad, but as a team NC State is averaging 3.8 yards per attempt. Knight and Person combined for 396 yards and two touchdowns on 49 receptions, with Person being more the receiver. The talent is there in the backfield, but the team’s overall success is not, so the pair will likely be more of an issue when it comes to checks and thirds and shorts.
As strong as the full-backs are to catch the ball, wide receiver Emeka Emezie is the true No.1 option in the passing game. With a weight of 6-3 / 3 and 220 pounds, Emezie has a pro-level body and also racked up 802 yards and six touchdowns on 60 catches, clearly standing out as one of Leary’s favorite targets who can almost win. any 1v1 clash as a reliable fifth-year player.
Receiver Thayer Thomas is the faster and more dynamic of the two, and the Wolfpack rely on him almost as often as Emezie. With 596 yards and eight of 51 touchdowns to go with a few carries too, Thomas is someone who can expand defenses with the space he covers. Porter Rooks is the big play catcher who can have his moments and Devin Carter is also good at some game catches.
Overall, with as tall, physical, and talented passer Wolfpack as they are – along with their very strong offensive line and superior quarterback – NC State has a clear path to carving out UCLA’s defense. They’re going to throw the ball early and often, and to disrupt that and force the Wolfpack to rely on less efficient ground play, the Bruins are going to have to put a lot of pressure on with a lot of different looks throughout the night.
NC State Defense Against UCLA Breach
UCLA Passing Yards / Game: 226,2 meters
UCLA Rushing Yards / Game: 219.7 yards
NC State Passing Yards Allowed / Game: 207.1 yards
NC State Rushing Yards Allowed / Game: 124.3 yards
Gibson’s 3-3-5 defense may bear some similarities to the ones the Bruins have played against in practice or in games this season, but it really will be a whole new look for them overall.
The idea of the roster is to stop the big running games, and UCLA has relied heavily on those of two running backs Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown, as well as quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. NC State will go out of their way to make sure these three don’t interrupt key games, and they certainly need to be talented to achieve that goal.
At the start, defensive lineman Cory Durden does his best to plug holes and push back lines, racking up 31 tackles and 4.5 tackles for a loss this season. Alongside Durden is roster Daniel Joseph, who sits second on the team with 5.0 sacks and 9.0 tackles for a loss while also forcing two fumbles.
As disruptive as these two linemen and the other rotating linemen are, it was the three linebackers who brought the Wolfpack’s defense to where it comes into the playoffs. Drake Thomas has 99 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, six sacks and three interceptions, so not only is he roaming the field, but he’s also one of the top playmakers in his job across the country.
Vi Jones hasn’t been as elite as Thomas, but he still tops the team standings with 8.0 tackles for a loss and 6.0 sacks, and true freshman Devon Betty was the one of their best guys to come full back behind the line of scrimmage since taking the start in the second half.
Those six players up front are key to stopping the run, expanding, and allowing their veteran, high IQ players to find the right holes and close them regularly. With as creative as Kelly and offensive coordinator Justin Frye are with the running game and move around the O linemen, maybe UCLA can cause enough confusion to outsmart NC State on the field.
Then the problem becomes the secondary Wolfpack.
The Safety Tanner Ingle has 82 tackles, so he clearly has the intelligence and athleticism to fight his way to any spot on the pitch. The upper-class man also had one interception and four passing deflections in 2021, so he’s more than just a deep tackle machine. Even with multiple players needing to rotate at the opposite point of safety, Ingle’s talent makes her a big enough presence to carry the group into position no matter what.
Around the corner, NC State started Derrek Pitts and Shyheim Battle, both of whom have multiple interceptions during the season. Nickel full-back Tyler Baker-Williams also has two choices, and his replacement Joshua Pierre-Louis has one of his own, so no matter which side Thompson-Robinson throws, he’ll likely face a guy with real playing skills. .
Trying to get the upper hand on the Wolfpack defense will be tough with a player as reliable as Ingle patrolling the deep ball, and the rest of the defensive backs have enough human cover skills to make things difficult in other clashes as well. . Thompson-Robinson showed a much improved ability to protect the ball and take what defenses give him, so the Bruins are certainly able to still move the ball, now it’s just a matter of how far and how many. times they reach the end zone.
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