Matt McKay Shines in First Career Start for NC State Wolfpack

Matt McKay
RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA - AUGUST 31: Matthew McKay #7 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack against the East Carolina Pirates during their game at Carter-Finley Stadium on August 31, 2019 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

One big question mark for the NC State Wolfpack heading into the 2019 season was the quarterback position. However, after Saturday’s 34-6 win over the ECU Pirates, that question has been answered. Making his first collegiate start was redshirt sophomore quarterback Matt McKay. And he did not disappoint, completing 25 of his 37 passes for 308 yards and a touchdown (0 interceptions), with a Passing Efficiency Rating of 146.41. He also rushed six times for 35 yards and two touchdowns.

Big Shoes to Fill

After losing senior quarterback Ryan Finley, there was no doubt that the Pack had a hole in their most critical position. Finley was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Last year the Wolfpack had four quarterbacks starting in Week One of the NFL season — Phillip Rivers, Russell Wilson, Jacoby Brissett, and Mike Glennon. At the time, that meant one-eighth of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks graduated from NC State. This sealed NC State’s claim as the current “Quarterback U.” in college football.

With all the NFL talent that has come through NC State at the quarterback position, there is no doubt that McKay has big shoes to fill if he wants to put his name on that “QBU” list.

Winning the Quarterback Battle

Throughout the spring, one thing was certain. Whenever head coach Dave Doeren had a press conference, he was asked about the ongoing quarterback battle between McKay, Bailey Hockman, and Devin Leary.

McKay entered the spring with a slight advantage over Hockman and Leary. For starters, McKay already had two years of experience in the Pack’s system. Including 2018, when he took snaps in five games, completed seven out of eight passes and rushed for a touchdown. Also, playing backup to an intelligent, NFL caliber quarterback like Finley gave McKay an upper hand. “He (Finley) paved the way for me,” McKay said. “I’m just following in his footsteps and just trying to be Matthew McKay.”

However, McKay still had to earn the starting spot with his play on the field. And the 6-foot-4 naturally athletic quarterback did just that. Whether it was the hard work in practice, impressive start in the spring game, or just being a vocal leader for his team, McKay earned the title of “QB1”.

Being vocal was a big factor in why McKay got the starting nod. For someone that was usually described as “quiet,” McKay has matured into the leader this young Wolfpack team needs. “I used to be quiet,” McKay said. “It’s up to me to be that voice and push them and encourage them.”

Matt McKay Makes History in First Start

During Saturday’s game against ECU, McKay made some interesting history for the Pack. He became the first Wolfpack quarterback to make his first career start at NC State since Mike Glennon (2011). The Pack’s last four starting quarterbacks since Glennon began their career’s elsewhere — Finley (Boise State), Brissett (Florida), Pete Thomas (Colorado State), and Brandon Mitchell (Arkansas).

McKay also became the third quarterback in school history to throw for 300+ yards in his first career start.

Outlook for Matt McKay

After McKay’s impressive outing against East Carolina, good things seem to be in store for the young quarterback. Even if it was against a young Pirates team that finished the 2018 season 2-10 and has a first-year head coach, McKay showed promise and potential. After all, this wasn’t your ordinary first collegiate start against a “cupcake” opponent in week one. This was against an in-state rival and a hungry team after the Wolfpack smacked the Pirates in 2018, 58-3. McKay showed no nerves as he was on point from the beginning.

“I feel like I did a pretty solid job,” McKay said after the game.

“He’s a confident guy,” said Wolfpack offensive tackle, Emmanuel McGirt. “He’s got a lot of poise. He’s only 19 or 20 years old but he’s pretty confident in the huddle.”

“As practice went on throughout the week you could see him getting more and more confident,” Doeren said. “On Thursday he had his best practice that I’ve seen since he’s been here. I told the guys, ‘If he throws like that we’re good Saturday’ because he was throwing dimes.”

It’s way too early to know what kind of career McKay will have with the Pack and if he can join the “QBU” list from NC State. But, if he can continue this stellar play throughout the fall, expect this young Wolfpack team to cruise to 8-9 wins and earn a respectable bowl berth. The Wolfpack appear to be in good hands with McKay under center.

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