It was a big week for NC State players in the NFL last week. Week 2 featured a showdown between two of the most recognizable players to ever wear the Red & White, Philip Rivers and Russell Wilson. Here is a breakdown of each player:
Philip Rivers QB San Diego Chargers 28-37 284 Yds, 3 TD’s, Passer Rating 124.2
I was lucky enough to tune into this game, that feature a showdown between the San Diego Chargers versus the Seattle Seahawks. I must admit that I was extremely surprise at the performance that Rivers put together in the process of absolutely dismantling a formidable foe in the Seattle Seahawks. Why was I surprised though? Philip has been a stud since his days in Raleigh and has been the corner stone of the Chargers franchise for the past 8 seasons.
I guess just the facts that Rivers was so extraordinaire against a defense that has been an absolute nightmare for so many quarterbacks, that it was refreshing to see Philip light them up. The whole game Rivers made big play after big play, his pocket presence was uncanny, his vision never faltered despite constant pressure. He stood tough in the pocket and delivered accurate strikes to his receivers. His go to option was Tight End Antonio Gates, who has been with the Chargers ever since Philip arrived in 2004. The Rivers to Gates connection was right on time, especially on 3rd down. Rivers found Gates for 3 TD’s all on 3rd down.
On many occasions Philip simply would not go down, even though he had defenders draped all over him. One thing that I admire about Rivers game is the fact that he is so good inside the pocket. He has a great ability of stepping up, side shuffling, and maneuvering to give his receivers an extra second to get open before hitting them with darts. Rivers was the main reason the Chargers were able to pull the upset of the defending champs the Seattle Seahawks.
Russell Wilson QB Seattle Seahawks 17-25 202 Yds, 2 TD’s, Passer Rating 119.1
Russell was good against the Chargers this past Sunday. He just simply didn’t have enough opportunities in the game, in large part to the brilliance of Philip Rivers and the Chargers offense. The Seahawks were only in possession of the ball for 17 minutes versus a whopping 42 for the Chargers. Its hard to win a game when you get beat so handily in the time of possession battle.
When the Seahawks did have the ball Russell was accurate and capable of moving the ball down the field. However the offensive line was plagued with a variety of blitzes that did not allow Wilson much time. Russell had one fumble, not lost, and was sacked twice. Unofficially he was under pressure the whole game and without the run game playing in their favor, the Seahawks were forced to pass. This only lead to even more pressure as a result of obvious passing downs.
All in all Russell played a great game. His numbers were efficient and respectable. Look for the Seahawks to establish the run game early and often this coming week in order to set up the big play with the play action pass. You can really see how much work Wilson has put in on the play action fake, next game you watch pay attention to how much detail he puts into each fake. It’s difficult to tell the difference between a hand off and a play action, mostly due to Wilson’s great ball handling ability.
Mario Williams DE Buffalo Bills, 1 Tackle, 1 Sack, 1 QB Hit
The Buffalo Bills marched onward to a 2 and 0 start as they beat the Miami Dolphins 29 to 10. The Bills defense was magnificent in pressuring Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked a total of 4 times and held to only 4.9 yards a completion. Mario and his defensive line unit did a great job of containing the pocket and did not allow Tannehill to roll out of the pocket to extend plays.
Manny Lawson OLB Buffalo Bills, 3 Tackles, 1 Pass Deflection
Manny was flying all over the field this past weekend. He was used in a variety of ways as he lined up on both sides of the field and used in coverage a couple of times. He made a great play on the ball in order to deflect it from being completed. Lawson is used a lot in situational 3rd downs and is a great utility player for the Bills
Nate Irving ILB Denver Broncos, 11 Tackles, 7 SOLO
Nate Irving has been a pleasant surprise for Denver. Many were expecting more out of him after a lack luster training camp and preseason. However Nate has been playing lights out to start the season. This past week he complied a total of 11 tackles against the Kansas City Chiefs. Nate is second on the team in tackles with a total of 16 for the season and 1 sack. Look for more of the same this week as the Broncos look for a victory in the Pacific Northwest against the Seahawks.
David Amerson CB Washington Redskins, 4 Tackles, 2 Pass Deflections
Amerson was very solid in coverage as the Redskins dismantled the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars. Chad Henne quarterback for the Jaguars was held to a passer rating of 69.5 and was sacked 10 times. A big reason why Henne was sacked a total of 10 times was a result of the coverage downfield which forced him to hold on to the ball. Amerson and the Skins secondary will be tested against the highflying Philadelphia Eagles this week.
Stephen Tulloch ILB Detroit Lions, 10 Tackles, 7 Solo, 1 sack, 3 Tackles for Loss, 1 QB Hit
Tulloch was one of the few bright spots for the Detroit Lions this past weekend. In his return to the State of North Carolina, Tulloch was very impressive in his ability to fly around the field and make plays sideline to sideline. The Lions depend heavily on Tulloch to make plays and for his outstanding leadership. His presence will be important this weekend as they face division rival Green Bay.
Terquavion Smith is a Top-10 Scorer in the NBA G-League
Former Wolfpack scoring guard, Terquavion Smith is going off in the NBA-G League, and is now the 9th best scorer in the NBA G-League.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) November 26, 2023
He’s averaging 24ppg, shooting 40% from the floor and 37% from long range. He’s also adding 5 rebounds and 2 assists per game. But putting the stats aside, his performances have been electric.
Terq Smith with the hammer SLAM. pic.twitter.com/lglY7PHGOk
— Delaware Blue Coats (@blue_coats) November 26, 2023
His team, the Blue Coats, are an affiliate of the 76ers. The Sixers are being led by Joel Embid (their center), their PG Tyrese Maxey, and PF Tobias Harris. Smith is a SG, and honestly, I think there’s a shot he gets his chance at some point this season. Kelly Oubre Jr has been out with a broken rib, and his replacement, De’Anthony Melton is doing alright, but his stats aren’t all that different than Terquavion’s.
Melton is averaging 12 points per game, shooting 40% from the floor and 40% from 3pt range. He’s adding 4 rebound and 4 assists.
Smith is the more explosive player, but it’s likely the 76ers want to see a little more offensive efficiency before they start thinking about moving him up.
Former NC State SS Trea Turner Set Phillies’ Record in NLDS
Former NC State All-American Shortstop Trea Turner set a Phillies’ postseason record, collecting 4 hits in Philly’s Game 4 3-1 victory over the Braves. The Phillies first went to the playoffs in 1908, and Turner is the first player to ever have 4 hits in one game.
Turner was 4-4, and was a triple shy of the cycle.
Most people will remember Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos from the NLDS, but it’s Turner that’s slashing 500/.539/.942 in the 2023 playoffs thus far.
Trea Turner gives the Phillies the lead in the 5th inning! pic.twitter.com/x6ExY5XmYp
— Phillies Tailgate (@PhilsTailgate) October 13, 2023
Trea Turner joins the homer party! pic.twitter.com/q3SHTEJ9Lw
— Phillies Tailgate (@PhilsTailgate) October 11, 2023
Trea Turner is worth every damn penny. pic.twitter.com/OyDKWosJRS
— Phillies Tailgate (@PhilsTailgate) October 8, 2023
MLB 2023 Season PackPros Roundup
Five former NC State baseball players played in the Major Leagues in 2023. Here’s a roundup of how it went for the four of them.
Shortstop Trea Turner signed an 11-year $300 million contract with Philadelphia heading into the 2023 season. Turner was coming off of his 2nd All-Star game appearance. 2023 was a little bit of a mixed bag for Turner. Through much of the season, the Phillies looked like they had made a terrible investment in Turner, but he finished the season extremely well. He finished his first season in Philly with a batting average of .266, which is the lowest of his career, if you don’t count the .225 he batted in his first year in the MLB, batting .225 in only 27 games. With that being said, his 26 home runs were the 2nd most of his career, and he stole 30 bases for the first time since 2021. Turner’s 102 Runs ranked 10th in the National League, and his 30 Stolen Bases ranked 9th.
Turner was taken with the 13th overall pick in 2014.
Carlos Rodon’s first year in New York was his worst season in the MLB to date. After signing a 6-year $162 million with the Yankees in the offseason, expectations were high for what Rodon would bring to the Yankees. He was coming off of back-to-back All-Star seasons in Chicago and San Francisco. Injury has plagued Rodon at times throughout his career, and the injury bug struck three times this season. As a result, Rodon only started 14 games. He finished the season with a 3-8 record, and a outrageous 6.85 ERA.
Rodon was taken with the 3rd overall pick in 2014.
Catcher Patrick Bailey made his MLB debut this season. He was called up from Triple A to the Giants on May 19. While Bailey’s offensive numbers won’t ‘wow’ you, he was one of the best fielding catchers in all of the MLB this year. In 97 games, Bailey posted a .233 batting average, with 7 HRs and 48 RBI. In fielding, Bailey was the best in the Majors in Framing, 2nd in Pop Time, and 2nd in Caught Stealing Above Average. He ranked 6th, throwing out 15 base stealers.
Bailey was taken with the 13th overall pick in 2020.
Catcher Andrew Knizner entered the year on thin ice with the St. Louis Cardinals organization and the fanbase, but by seasons end, he became a fan favorite. Despite the fact that he is behind starter Willson Contreras, Knizner played 70 games, and looked like a starting MLB catcher in many of them. Knizner finished with a career high in batting average (.241), Runs (30), 2B (11), HR (10), RBI (31), SLG (.424) and OPS (.712). Technically Knizner doesn’t become an undrafted free agent until 2026, signing a 1-year $1.1 million contract in arbitration prior to the season.
Knizner was taken in the 7th round in 2016.
Pitcher Evan Justice was called up to the Colorado Rockies for a brief stint in his first season of professional baseball. Things didn’t go well after the call up, posting an 8.59 ERA in 9 appearances, striking out 7 batters in 7.1 innings. As a result, he was optioned back down to Triple-A. In 2023, Justice pitched in A, AA, AAA and the majors. In the minors, he had an impressive 6-1 record with a 3.49 ERA, striking out an impressive 63 batters in 38.2 innings. Opponents batting average against him was a putrid .131, and his WHIP was 1.11.
Justice was taken in the 5th round in 2021.
PI EXCLUSIVE: AJ Cole Shares His NC State Story
Former NC State Punter A.J. Cole is now a Pro Bowl Punter for the Las Vegas Raiders. Cole averaged 42.2 yards per punt while serving as the Wolfpack’s punter, which ranks 4th in school history. Since going undrafted in 2019, Cole was signed as a free agent by the Raiders, and he’s been their starter ever since. Cole was named to the Pro Bowl in 2021 and 2022, and earned 1st Team All Pro honors in 2021.
I caught up with Cole, and he shared how he ended up as the punter at NC State, what his time in Raleigh meant to him, how being a Wolfpack football player prepared him for the NFL, what it’s like to play with and against former teammates, and what NC State means to him today.
I’ll let him share his story in his own words.
“I went to the NC State camp in the summer going into my Senior year. They were looking to scholarship a punter. I had started punting in December, right after my Junior season ended, so I was still super raw. The coach that was running the camp set up a competition for Coach Doeren to watch the Punters. To qualify for the competition, you had 2 chances to hit a 38-yard punt with 3.8 seconds of hang time, which is not that hard. I was pretty nervous though, and shanked my 2 qualifying punts. So they eliminated everyone that didn’t qualify and brought up the guys that were going to kick in front of Coach Doeren. Well, the coach running the camp yells at me to ‘come over,’ and I told him I didn’t qualify. He said “You sure? I’m pretty sure you did. Hop in the line.” So I hopped in the line, and kicked really well. Coach Doeren brought me up to his office after the camp, and offered me a scholarship on the spot
It was pretty funny though, because I had never punted in a game before. So when I got home, they asked me for my hudl highlight tape, so they could watch it as a staff, and I had to tell them I had never punted in a game before, but I’d send them my tape after a couple games.
My experience at NC State was incredible. The biggest thing I always tell people about State is the people are great. From teammates, to coaches, to professors, to the other students, I really just enjoyed the kind of person that NC State attracts. I had a chance to pursue 2 dreams while I was there. I got to chase an engineering degree and play football. Obviously, I’m doing the football thing right now, but if that hadn’t worked out, my NC State degree would have served me well. Raleigh, North Carolina means a lot to me, and it really helped shape me into the man I am.
I feel like NC State prepared me well for the NFL. Being in a consistently competitive environment in the ACC definitely helped adjusting to the level of competition in the league. The facilities are world class, and the strength and conditioning program helped me make some super crucial changes to my body that allowed me to reach my potential.
Playing with Jakobi Meyers again has been awesome. It’s cool to play at this level with guys that you knew from college. We always talk about how the Pack is doing, and we do some reminiscing on the Raleigh days. There’s so many NC State guys in the league right now, it feels like every week I’m seeing an old teammate. That’s really special.
I absolutely still keep up with NC State. I watch all the games I can, and my friends from college are still my best friends.