This week, we get to sit down with Will Thompson aka @thrillis4 on Twitter and Backing The Pack. I did a Q&A with him over at BTP, go check it out! Great site, great people, great goal-line cameras! All around great.
Lets get into it:
BSD: I have to start with this: how awful of an idea is this by the ACC and ESPN to have teams play on such a short week this late in the season?
BTP: It’s a quick turnaround for sure. TV unfortunately rules everything these days in major college sports, so it kind of comes with the territory. It’s also a valuable recruiting tool, as this is essentially one of if not the only college football game on television that night, so it’s a good showcase opportunity for both programs to have a bigger reach recruiting wise. We might see some sloppier football due to the short week, but there are some benefits to this type of game, certainly.
BSD: What’s been the biggest difference about this team since Wake played them last year?
BTP: The defensive line all got drafted in the NFL, so there are a lot of newer faces but that hasn’t affected what State likes to do on defense too much. If anything, the biggest difference is that the receiving corps is even better than it was last year, and Ryan Finley has a plethora of options to whom he can throw the ball. Although the names are different in a lot of positions on both sides of the ball, there are still some awesome play makers on this team that Wake Forest will have their hands full with.
BSD: Who do you look for to make an impact in this game on each side of the ball?
BTP: On offense, I really think we’ll see a monster game from Kelvin Harmon. He had a good game against the Deacs last year in Winston, grabbing over 100 yards receiving on eight catches. Although the Pack came up short against Syracuse this season, he pulled in over 200 yards receiving and two touchdowns. This will most likely be Harmon’s last night game with the Pack at home, so I believe he will go out with a bang.
Moving to the other side of the ball, Germaine Pratt will also be playing under the lights for the last time as a senior, and he’s had a fantastic season. Against Syracuse Pratt had fourteen tackles by himself and registered 2.5 sacks. He’s averaging almost 10 tackles a game, and has close to double the amount of tackles as the next closest person on the team. NC State needed someone on defense to step up in the absence of Bradley Chubb, and Pratt has delivered.
BSD: What’s to be expected out of Ryan Finley in this game(please don’t throw for 600 yards)
BTP: I’m beating a dead horse here, but this too will likely be Finley’s last night game for the Pack, and with the way he’s played at home, I think you’ll see a big night. I don’t think you’ll see quite the numbers he put up on the road at Syracuse, but I think he will once again lead a steady offense for the Pack that moves the ball up and down the field Thursday night. Finley’s averaging 8+ yards per pass attempt at roughly about a 68% completion rate on the season. He very rarely makes mistakes, and that has helped him have another stellar season. Wake has only forced three interceptions all season, so they will have to put some major pressure on Finley if they hope to get any turnovers there. The Pack’s offensive line has played very well this season, so that’s going to be a tall order for the Deacs.
BSD: What realistic expectations did the NC State faithful have coming into this year, and well whats been hindering them?
BTP: This has been a really weird year, hasn’t it? Most of us felt like the Atlantic division was going to be a bit of a murderer’s row, and with the way the schedule shaped up, an 8-4 record seemed like it was going to be a really good year. Then the season started and the Atlantic division with the exception of Clemson turned into a mess. Suddenly all that stood in State’s way of a division title was Clemson, and Clemson obliterated the Pack. Follow that up with a tough loss on the road to a really good Syracuse game, and all of those dreams flew out the window. Fortunately, NC State rebounded with a comfortable win over Florida State, and the rest of the schedule still shapes up well for the Pack with Wake Thursday, @Louisville, @North Carolina and finally a make up game that nobody wanted against ECU. Ten wins is still on the table, which if you had told any Wolfpack fan before the season started was possible, we’d all have taken that.
BSD: How big does the base/yourself think this game is relative to the rest of the schedule
BTP: Under no circumstances should NC State take this Wake game lightly. There’s still a lot to play for like I mentioned above, and it’s senior night. Never want to have players in their last game at home lose. Each one of these last games is important for where the Pack ends up in a bowl. Currently, ESPN projects NC State to the Peach Bowl against LSU, which is mildly terrifying but also awesome at the same time. That’d be a big time opportunity for the program. But to get there, they have to start by beating Wake Forest Thursday.
BSD: NC State wins if they come out and do what?
BTP: Takes control of the game early. The atmosphere should be pretty rowdy on a Thursday night, and NC State needs to capitalize on that by putting Wake Forest away from the jump. If Finley puts together a long seven plus minute drive to open the game that ends with a touchdown, I really like the Pack’s chances. Any added help from the run game from Ricky Person and Reggie Gallaspy, and I’ll feel pretty good about a win.
BSD: on the other hand what can they not do if they want to win this game?
BTP: The Pack in the two losses (and in a few other games too) has started flat and let the game get away from them and could not recover. Absolutely cannot give up turnovers to Wake Forest early and give them life.
BSD: Who scares you the most on the Wake Forest team?
BTP: Greg Dortch gives me some concern. He’s put up big numbers against teams with less than stellar secondaries, and NC State’s secondary is probably the weakest part of the entire team. In the last two games he’s combined for 17 catches for 230 yards and a touchdown. In NC State’s last three games, they have given up 1281 yards of passing (which is extremely not good). Wake will and should be looking to throw the ball all over NC State’s defense, particularly deep passes - there are a lot of opportunities to be had there, no matter who plays at quarterback for Wake Forest.
BSD: If you have to take two coaches in a fight against the rest of the season, why does everyone turn on Bobby Petrino
BTP: Man, did things go south quickly for Bobby. Pretty incredible how Lamar Jackson essentially covered up every flaw imaginable on that team. Bobby’s not doing himself any favors, and I think teams are thoroughly enjoying beating the crap out of them each week because of his general attitude to everyone else. If the ACC coaches were in a Royal Rumble, everyone would grab steel chairs and make sure Petrino got tossed out of the ring first. Brian Vangorder would run in to try and save the day but his inability to have any form of a successful defense whatsoever would lead him to be tossed out of the ring next anyway.
BSD: Lastly, who wins, why, and score?
BTP: I think NC State has too many weapons on offense for Wake Forest to overcome. If this game was being played in Winston I’d be exponentially more nervous about it because a) as we all know, NC State almost never plays well there, and b) NC State hasn’t been great on the road this year. But this game is in Raleigh under the lights of Carter-Finley, and the atmosphere and the emotions of senior night all lead me to believe the Pack will get the win, 45-17.
Thank you so much to Will and the rest of the BTP crew.
If you guys have any questions y’all want answered the rest of the way, leave them below!