Leary Showing Growth as a QB and Leader

Brett Friedlander

Devin Leary showed visible growth as a quarterback during the second half at Georgia Tech on Thursday.

First, though, he experiened growth as a leader in the locker room at halftime.

"He stood up in the locker room and talked to his teammates as a leader," coach Dave Doeren said. "They're playing hard for him now and they believe in him. I think that's something we obviously didn't have early when we're going through all the stuff we're going through. So that was a huge positive."

Leary's coming of age moment came during the fourth start of his tenure as the Wolfpack's third quarterback this season.

It was inspired by yet another frustrating half in which the offense showed signs of being able to move the ball, but failed to finish drives and put points on the scoreboard. With his team trailing 20-3 and heading nowhere fast, the redshirt freshman decided that the time had come to speak up.

"I just put my word onto the team, saying that we just have to keep pushing. That eventually it's going to break through," Leary said. "We just had to continue to trust one another and make sure everyone is following and trusting one another."

Leary's teammates clearly got the message.

With its young quarterback leading the charge, the Wolfpack outscored Tech 23-7 over the final two periods and came within a missed two-point conversion of tying the game. 

Leary completed 10 of his 16 second half passes for 163 yard and a four-yard touchdown toss to tight end Cary Angeline. He finished the game at 19 of 31 for 227 yards.

"Just week-by-week I'm embracing my role more and more," Leary said. "I'm learning the game more. Everything is slowing down and just being able to earn everybody's trust, Speaking in front of everyone is really big for me."

Even though State lost the game 28-26 and had its bowl hopes officially dashed by the Yellow Jackets, Leary's performance and the offensive awakening it sparked were the sliver lining to an otherwise dark night in the hope it provided for the future.

Starting with Saturday's 2019 finale against rival North Carolina.

"I think just overall we showed that we have fight in us," Leary said. "And we never back down."

Although the comeback in Atlanta took hold in the second half, Leary said that the momentum actually began just before halftime when State drove 93 yards on 18 plays over 8 1/2 minutes before setling for a short field goal by Christopher Dunn.

"As long as we can get into a rhythm, we know what we're capable of doing offensively and how explosive we can really be," Leary said. "I felt it in the first half, which is one of the reasons I stood up in front of the team at halftime.

"Obviously things weren't fully clicking in the first half, but I saw it all the way through. I knew that as long as we trusted each other, it was eventually going to break out."