NC State quarterback Devin Leary has entered elite territory this season

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  • Devin Leary
    American football player
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    Marcus Mariota
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Oct 16, 2021; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary (13) passes the ball during the first half against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 16, 2021; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary (13) passes the ball during the first half against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

RALEIGH — It's time to start appreciating what Devin Leary has accomplished this season.

In eight games, the N.C. State quarterback has completed 189-of-286 passes, (66.1 competition percentage) for 2,161 yards and 21 touchdowns with only two interceptions, leading the Wolfpack to a 6-2 record and 3-1 mark in the ACC.

For some perspective, only six other quarterbacks since the College Football Playoffs began in 2014 — Marcus Mariota, JT Barrett, Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa, Zach Wilson — have put up similar numbers to Leary.

Only Ohio State's Barrett was not a first-round draft pick.

Leary, who leads the ACC with the fewest interceptions this season has been even more impressive over the last six games, throwing 18 touchdown passes and no interceptions. That puts him in another elite class with Tagovailoa, Justin Fields, Trevor Lawrence, Mariota and Baker Mayfield — the only college quarterbacks since 2014 to have a similar or longer streak of no interceptions.

Basically, Leary is playing elite football, and for coach Dave Doeren, elite football translates to mistake-free play.

“Protecting the football is the best way to win, period," Doeren said Monday. "All the other stats that are out there, that is the one that gives you the best opportunity to win games, and when your quarterback is doing what ours is from that standpoint, he’s giving us the best chance to win not just because of his arm or his accuracy, because he doesn’t help the other team."

It hasn't always looked great.

N.C. State's offense was held to seven points in the first three quarters against Louisville until Leary caught fire in the fourth quarter with three touchdowns on consecutive drives.

More: NC State takeaways: Pack rallies from 4th-quarter deficit to beat Louisville, stay in ACC Atlantic Division race

It was the second time this season Leary has thrown for four touchdowns in a game. He had a similar performance during a 27-21 double-overtime win against Clemson

“He doesn’t get rattled," Doeren said. "The moments aren’t too big for him. I think there are some people out there that get uptight, and he’s not one of them."

Leary's consistency will be even more important going forward as the Wolfpack's running game continues to struggle. Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person combined for just 44 yards on 19 carries against the Cardinals and weren't much better — 17 carries 70 yards — in the loss to Miami.

It'll help that Leary has so many options on offense. He threw to 10 different players and had four touchdown passes to four different receivers in the win over Louisville, including a breakout game from tight end Tren Pennix, who had three catches for 55 yards and a game-changing 29-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter.

"It goes to show that in this offense, and with me being the signal-caller, that I trust everyone out there," Leary said. "Anyone who is out there should expect the ball each and every play."

N.C. State will travel to Tallahassee this week to face Florida State (3-5, 2-3 ACC), a team that had a three-game win streak snapped last week during a close 30-20 loss to Clemson.

A win against the Seminoles would set up an exciting matchup next week for control of the ACC Atlantic Division against No. 10 Wake Forest.

“November is an important month,” Doeren said. “It’s the first time in my time in the league that it’s been wide open for who is going to represent each side of the division. So it’s exciting right now in our conference.”

David Thompson is an award-winning reporter for the USA Today Network covering NC State and Duke athletics. He can be reached at dthompson1@gannett.com, at 828-231-1747, or on Twitter at @daveth89.

This article originally appeared on The Fayetteville Observer: Devin Leary NC State: QB marked as one of ACC's best this season

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