Criticism comes with the territory of playing quarterback. That’s the way football works.
When you win, the quarterback gets a lot of the glory. And when you lose, the quarterback gets a lot of the blame.
After an 0-2 start in the ACC, there are plenty of questions for N.C. State senior quarterback Jacoby Brissett. His passing yards and completion percentage are down in conference play, and the Wolfpack’s offense has sputtered in disappointing losses to Louisville and Virginia Tech.
With a week off to fix some problems and get back on track, the biggest question for N.C. State is: What’s wrong with Brissett?
“What’s wrong with me?” Brissett asked. “As far as what?”
Brissett’s not playing dumb, or being coy; he just has a different view of N.C. State’s slow ACC start. When the offense works, as it did in the first four games of the season, it’s a collaborative effort, and when it doesn’t, it’s a “we” problem, not a “me” problem.
“We just have to make those plays,” Brissett said. “That’s pretty much what it is, making those plays at the most crucial time of the game.”
To Brissett’s point, N.C. State has had a chance in both ACC games – entering the fourth quarter down one touchdown in each – but it has not been able to generate enough points.
After averaging 46.3 points per game during the first four games, four wins over inferior competition, the Wolfpack has scored 13 points in each ACC game.
Brissett’s numbers have dipped in ACC play. In the first four games, Brissett completed 77.9 percent of his passes (74 of 95) for 202.3 yards per game. He had six passing touchdowns and no interceptions.
In ACC play, Brissett has completed 52.8 percent of his passes (28 of 53) for 148 yards per game with two touchdowns and one interception.
Production is a team issue, said N.C. State offensive coordinator Matt Canada, who repeatedly deflected questions about Brissett.
“What’s wrong with the offense is me,” Canada said. “It falls on me.”
Canada also echoed Brissett’s pronoun use of “we” when talking about the problems on offense.
“We need to play better,” Canada said. “It’s everybody. There’s a million things that you can sit and look at: Was it this? Was it that? Was it whoever?
“Jacoby certainly has some of that, but we all do. Everybody has to play better. The results have to change for us to win games.”
Brissett has looked tentative with the ball in the past two games. He was more involved in the running game against Virginia Tech with 39 rushing yards, but he hasn’t had the same effectiveness he had earlier in the season or at the end of the 2014, when he was running and passing with equal precision.
Brissett said he’s using the off week, with a visit to Wake Forest on Oct. 24 next on the schedule, to improve his mindset.
As far as what hasn’t worked in the first two ACC games, Brissett was short on specifics but understood there’s room for improvement.
“When you lose, you definitely don’t think you’re playing your best,” Brissett said. “There’s always something you can improve on. That’s some of the things I’m trying to do and get better every day.”
While running backs Matt Dayes and Jaylen Samuels have stepped up as the Wolfpack’s top options, the Wolfpack hasn’t had a receiver emerge as a go-to target for Brissett. Last year, that was Bo Hines, who transferred in the offseason to Yale. Hines led the Wolfpack with 45 catches for 616 yards last season – 18 more receptions than any other receiver.
Brissett, who remains good friends with Hines, was quick to dismiss the notion that he missed Hines.
“No, Bo’s not here,” Brissett said.
Hopes for tight end
As for the need for a go-to option to emerge, some sort of security blanket, Brissett said that’s not necessarily the case.
“That’s what I think is so cool about this (receiver) group,” Brissett said. “All of those guys are pretty smart guys, and they know the offense, and they know where to be at certain times. Over the summer, we spent a lot of time talking where I want guys in certain situations, especially on scramble routes.”
One player Brissett would like to get more involved is junior tight end David J. Grinnage. Last year, Grinnage was second on the team with 358 receiving yards on 27 catches and was tied for the team lead with Dayes with five touchdown catches.
Grinnage, who has been dealing with some lingering injury issues, has five catches for 60 yards this season. He has two catches for 22 yards in two ACC games. A big target for Brissett at 6-5 and 265 pounds, Grinnage adds an ability to work the middle of the field.
“Of course, he’s a mismatch, and everybody says he needs to get more touches; a lot of teams are keying in on him,” Brissett said. “When he gets his touches, he’ll get his touches, and I’ll know he’ll do something with it.”
When Brissett talks about Hines or Grinnage, he gets off the script from his usual answers. He has an almost automated response, even robotic, to specific questions about his game. But he’s clearly more concerned with the results on the field than any criticism – or praise – for his individual play.
“It’s just whatever,” Brissett said. “My job is to make sure we win, make sure we get in the end zone. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio
What’s up with Brissett?
N.C. State quarterback Jacoby Brissett has seen his numbers dip in ACC play. How his first four games compare to the last two:
First 4 games
Past 2 games