Coming off its bye week, No. 17 Duke football is gearing up to take on in-state rival N.C. State. The Blue Zone brings you a key player on each side that could swing the game:
N.C. State: Payton Wilson
Following a hard-earned win against Marshall, N.C. State is eager to take a trip to Durham for Saturday night’s battle against Duke. The Blue Devils’ offense has been explosive throughout the start of their season, and Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren will need to ensure he presents a sharp defense to put up a fight. Graduate student linebacker Payton Wilson will prove to be a crucial asset to N.C. State’s defensive operations.
After suffering a minor injury in the 2022 season opener, Wilson was forced to miss Week 2, but he showed no mercy when returning to the field. As a semifinalist for 2022 Comeback Player of the Year, he took every opportunity to refine his defensive tactics. This year, the Hillsborough, N.C., native claims an ACC-leading 70 tackles, including 33 solo tackles and 3.5 sacks. After tallying double-digit tackles in the five of the team’s six games thus far, he will be looking to exploit any weaknesses in Duke’s offense to continue his success.
With junior quarterback Riley Leonard most likely out with an ankle injury, the Blue Devils should expect consistent pressure on redshirt freshman quarterback Henry Belin IV — coming straight from Wilson. Wilson consistently aids the Wolfpack defense in its efforts to limit opponents scoring opportunities, especially on crucial plays in the red zone. If the 6-foot-4 powerhouse can lead his crew to even more aggressive defensive strategies, they are sure to keep their in-state rivals on their toes.
Duke: Jordan Moore
If Duke wants to make a strong comeback after its recent loss against Notre Dame, it must return to its fast-paced offensive approach that led the team to victories in its first four matchups. N.C. State’s defense is one of the strongest forces in the conference, meaning head coach Mike Elko’s crew needs to bring confidence and consistency to the field. Junior wide receiver Jordan Moore is a reliable offensive weapon that the Blue Devils must utilize this weekend.
The 6-foot wideout’s past quarterback experience has only benefited his good hands and ability to separate from the defense. Moore’s knack for finding ways to make successful plays allows Duke to turn to its passing game. The Sykesville, Md., product has scored for the Blue Devils in three out of their past five games, each time assisting Duke in establishing a lead against its opponent. A leader for the offense, Moore has tallied 313 total receiving yards and averages 13.04 yards per reception.
To counteract the Wolfpack’s strong defense, expect quick connections between Belin and Moore. Even with N.C. State’s defensive prowess, the veteran receiver is sure to be tricky to contain. Moore must make trouble for the Wolfpack’s cornerbacks right out of the gate in order to provide himself with room to score. If the Blue Devils’ offense, with Moore’s leadership, can manage to seize and maintain momentum, Wallace Wade Stadium will be home to an electric matchup.
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