The offensive line gave Bam Knight a crease. The freshman running back did the rest.
Even before Knight hit the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown in the Kay Yow Spring Game, he had caught the attention of at least one former N.C. State player on the sidelines.
“He’s pretty fast,” Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines said.
Knight was the star of the day with 139 yards on 17 carries and the long touchdown run.
Hines, N.C. State’s all-ACC 1,000-yard rusher in 2017, was impressed. So was coach Dave Doeren. About the only one who wasn’t with the performance was Knight.
“I felt like I could do more,” Knight said. “There were a couple of runs where I missed the read. That kind of set me back. Overall, I feel like I had a decent performance.”
After a slow start, due mostly to a shortage of offensive linemen and an array of new quarterbacks, the final score was 34-21 with “N.C. State” beating the “Wolfpack.”
Sophomore quarterback Matt McKay threw for a touchdown and ran for another. Without all five expected starters on the offensive line, it was tough to make heads or tails of the quarterback race.
Freshman Devin Leary has the best arm of the group and sophomore Bailey Hockman was steady, making some nice throws in the second half. McKay finished 14 of 24 for 182 yards and also ran four times for 28 yards.
McKay looked “comfortable” was the word Doeren used repeatedly.
“I started slow but I feel like I picked it up,” McKay said.
Leary was 12 of 23 for 104 yards with a touchdown and interception. Hockman finished 12 of 23 for 135 yards with a touchdown.
“It’s kind of like you thought it would be,” Doeren said of the quarterback race. “Matt is ahead probably because he has played the most and has taken the most reps in this offense. Common sense would tell you that the game is slower to him right now.”
Doeren wasn’t crazy about some of the decisions that Leary made and some of the chances he took with his passes.
“This summer and this fall camp, he’s got to have some exponential growth because you can’t just have a great arm and make bad decisions,” Doeren said.
The quarterback race will continue through fall camp but Doeren might have found a keeper in Knight.
“He’s an explosive guy,” Doeren said. “He gives us what we had when Nyheim was here in the backfield. He’s a guy who can change the game if you miss him.”
At 6-foot, Knight is taller than Hines and maybe a half-step slower.
“I would like to see those two race just for fun,” said sophomore receiver Thayer Thomas, who had five catches for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Knight enrolled early after a standout career at Southern Nash. With running back Ricky Person sidelined with an injury, Knight had the stage mostly to himself.
He could have been at his prom on Saturday but decided the spring game was more important. That he got a chance to show off for Hines, all the better.
“Obviously, he’s in the NFL and that’s my goal,” Knight said of the comparisons to Hines. “That just motivates me to strive for greatness.”
It was only a spring game but Saturday was a good start for the freshman.